Tag Archives: fangirl

Princesses Aren’t the Problem

(If I could have gotten the embed to work, this would have been the image I would have used for this post. Click to see it in full awesomeness and pretend.)

A private all-girls’ school was kicking up a hoopla lately with what is being termed a “girl power campaign.” It features minimalist posters depicting references to fairy tale characters, with lines like “You’re not a princess” and “Don’t wait for a prince to save you.”

Considering it’s an ad campaign designed to draw attention (and donor money) to the school, I’d say they did a good job.

But these posters are also being lauded in general for their “down with princess” terminology. And I have a problem with that.

Judging from some pundits, being a huge fan of Disney movies and fairy tales in general should have made me into a simpering, sparkly, pink-wearing fanatic who doesn’t know how to change a tire or earn an income and spends her whole day writing “Mrs. Prince Eric Charming” over and over on my TrapperKeeper.

And yet… I am not that. I’m a feminist, socially conscious, job-and-a-half having, multicolor-wearing woman — and I’ve never even owned a TrapperKeeper, nor have I figured out whether to take my fiance’s last name or not. (And yes, I do happen to like sparkles. Tasteful sparkles, anyway. Moderation!)

*GASP* How can this be?

Because, frankly, the characterization as “princess = weak and disempowered” is a complete misattribution of these characters.

A quick sample:

  • Snow White: importance of kindness; friendship; value of hard work; internal beauty to match external beauty (she’s the most “princessy” of all the princesses, but the movie came out in 1937…so history is at play here)
  • Belle: intelligence/book smarts; value of reading; kindness; family loyalty; facing your fears; standing up for what you believe in; opposing bullies
  • Jasmine: not a prize to be won; clever; ability to look beyond monetary value; fights back against a giant magical snake; protects her father
  • Ariel: goes against outdated “separate but equal” policies (segregation between merfolk and humans); plays up her talents; exploration/discovery; doesn’t value her looks (unlike her sisters); not afraid to show her enthusiasm; refuses to give up; saves a man from drowning
  • Mulan: values her family over her own life and her culture’s strong dictates against her decisions; refuses to give up in the face of a challenge; smart and adaptive; creative; unlike the men, values her romantic partner for more than what he can do for her (also: not a princess, actually)
  • Tiana: businesswoman/entrepreneur; overcoming racism; friendship despite differences; courage; belief in following her dreams

It IS a problem that a girl in a Disney movie can’t make it through without finding a forever beau (Merida escaped the trend, though, so there is hope!). It IS a problem that toys are separated into “girl toys” and “boy toys,” when, in practical situations, kids will happily play with both. It IS a problem that for a company to sell to girls, they think they have to make things pink (especially when pink was the “boy” color until the 1950s!). It IS a problem that dress-up choices for girls can fall almost exclusively on the “princess” spectrum.

But just because a girl admires a princess does not mean that she is a wussified, pathetic, glittering freak.


Filed under Feminism

Love like Palmer/Gaiman

I had this whole other thing I was going to write about, and then Amanda Palmer happened.

Well, to be more accurate, Amanda Palmer has been happenin’ for quite awhile now, but what happened was I read her book/marriage review of her husband’s impending book: Neil Gaimain’s “The Ocean At the End of the Lane.”

It’s a beautiful, heart-rending piece, and despite her claiming she’s not much of a writer, she is so visceral and emotive that I can’t help but admire her. She’s like a rock star e.e. cummings.

I mean, just look at this:

and for a second i felt what it must feel like to wait in a line for five hours and have him sign a book that changed your life.
to stand not in admiration of the husband writer, the writer who wants his tea but not with the milk hot because then it’s just wrong, the writer who won’t remember what time he said he’d meet you, the writer who has to sign 12,000 copies of his new book that’s a bestseller before it hits the shelves and actually that’s really annoying because i’m slightly jealous of his instant success no matter what he does, the writer who gets irritated when i leave too many clothes on the floor and he can’t get to the bathroom, the writer who is awkward and has a hard time in party situations when he feels he doesn’t understand the social hierarchy, the writer who is not really a writer are you kidding me he’s just some snoring heap of flesh beside me, sweating and breathing and grinding his teeth and probably dreaming the kinds of dreams that neil gaimans dream, full of dreams and wishes and magic and wonder and all the shit that can drive me crazy if i’m not in the right mood for it….no…the WRITER. the man who actually takes a pen to a paper and writes things and creates a believable world that sucks you in and spits you out, its logic embedded in your mind forevermore. that. i saw THAT. and i love THAT so much, the fact that he can DO that…and i don’t get to see that most of the time. i’m too busy looking at the man. as it should be, i think.

Now I probably should just leave it at that because he’s one of my all-time favorite authors and I have the absolute privilege of being one of those people who gets to stand in line for 5 hours so he can sign my book next week when he comes to town to talk about his book on his last-ever book tour, and if I keep writing there’s a slim slim slim chance he might actually read what I say and then I’ll be embarrassed later.

But I’ve thought this awhile so I’m going to just go ahead and say it: I am in awe of that pair.

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. How can you not love them?

I’m pretty much in awe of them separately, of course.

I mean, Neil Gaiman, master of  your dreams and nightmares. He taps into literary visions you only wish you could grasp. He’s got an impossible mop of hair, a sonorous voice I wish I could bottle because I’d listen to it every night, a consistently black wardrobe, and a charming dry wit. He’s just precious, and yet also scary, like a beautiful snake that you think won’t bite you but seems like maybe it’s poisonous; at least, it’s been somewhere you’re afraid to go.

And then there’s Amanda Palmer. Frankly, she scares the pants off me. She’s so unafraid, unflinching in front of a crowd or a feeling. (Go watch her TED talk if you’re not sure about that). She does this beautiful zany thing with her eyebrows, and her music is so daring and interesting (ok, I admit that I don’t always get it. But I do always feel it). I’m terrified of her, but I also wish I could be like her, so avant-guard and free and magical.

And then they had to go and get together. And now they provide a whole ‘nother kind of inspiration.

Now, I’m not a big fan on spying on celebrity’s lives: I figure they probably deserve their peace just as much as any of us, thankyoukindly, and sometimes more. But I admit an intense fascination with these two. I don’t go seeking information on their relationship, but I’m always quietly thrilled when one of them writes something about the other, or someone posts a hypnotic picture of the pair, because I try to imagine what being in that relationship is like.

Like a pairing of two titans, I think. Electric.

Though Palmer talks about them having “rough” times, the part of their relationship I (and the rest of the internet, presumably) see is so effusive it’s grandiose. I want to be like that. I love my fiance dearly, and I wonder, if all our secret private talks were open to the world (and if someone cared to read them) would I sound as loving and intense as they do? Or is their affection for each other something special, out of reach for the rest of us?

If, by some slim chance, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer/Gaiman read this, I want to say thank you. Thank you for the courage to love with vivacity, with abandon, with depth, with honesty.

And thank you for giving us glimpses of that love. May the world be blessed with more like it.


Filed under Uncategorized

High School as Hell: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This summer, I’m taking time to do something I should have done a long time ago: watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I know, I know, I’m way behind on this one. The first season came out in 1997, when I was not cool enough to watch amazing television, apparently.

So I’m making up for lost time, thanks to the wonders of Netflix and the ability to binge-watch shows.

Years ago–probably when everyone else was busy watching good TV–I remember hearing Joss Whedon say his vampire-slaying, demon-fighting, world-saving show was actually about normal high school drama. I remember smirking and being all “pssh, whatevs. The only vampires in my high school are teachers who suck out our lives with too much homework.”

Well, Mr. Whedon, I finally get it, and I apologize for my teenaged smart-aleck sass. This show really IS about high school being hell. For every vampire-related monster-of-the-week catastrophe, Whedon folded in some kind of completely normal high school problem.

So, to distract me from the crop tops I’m developing an unnatural desire for thanks to this show, I’ve made a list. For your viewing pleasure, this is all the episodes of the first season; the monster story and it’s real-world allegory.

  1. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”– discovering a den of vampires/being the new girl at school
  2. “The Harvest”- group of vampires have some kind of prophecy/making friends
  3. “Witch”– body-snatching voodoo-working witch/dealing with parental expectations and fitting in
  4. “Teacher’s Pet”– teacher eaten by a mantis monster/struggling with schoolwork
  5. “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”– pack of vampires are after you/struggling to balance dating vs. friendships
  6. “The Pack”-demonic hyenas eat the principal/changing friend groups and dealing with bullying
  7. “Angel”-falling for a vampire who claims he no longer feeds/developing a crush on and trusting a “bad boy”
  8. “I, Robot…You, Jane”– internet demon bent on taking over the world/online dating and the obsessive use of computers (guilty!)
  9. “The Puppet Show”– being bullied by your ventriloquist dummy/stage fright and mandatory school participation activities
  10. “Nightmares”– nightmares become literally real/test anxiety and fear of abandonment because of parents’ divorce
  11. “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”– invisible girl on a rampage/cliques and feeling like an outsider
  12. “Prophecy Girl”– fear of a deadly prophecy/not having a date to the big dance

Crop tops! So many crop tops! And ugly sweaters for Xander. At least Willow is *supposed* to look kinda dorky.

Not only is watching this show a lot of fun, it’s been helpful to remember these kinds of teen pressures as I start a YA story. I’m not much older than the YA audience, but those years might as well be decades in terms of how my priorities have changed (and hormones settled down!).

It’s also great to see a master creator like Joss Whedon develop his work. I’m a familiar Whedon-ite by now, and he was certainly already good in the Buffy days, but this show isn’t as developed from the get-go as some of his work. It’s nice to know that even the pros can learn and grow.

It’s also a helpful reminder that no great story is just about the surface level. If Buffy were really about slaying vampires–and only that–I wouldn’t be looking forward to season two. But there’s a lot of emotional depth beneath each monster fight because of this “high school as hell” subtext. Sure, she may be in a fistfight with an invisible girl, but really she’s dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation. And I’m not much of a fighter, but I can relate to feeling invisible.

I look forward to the rest of the show!


Filed under Uncategorized, writing

Lessons in Companionship

I’ve been playing BioShock: Infinite since it came out last Tuesday, and it is phenomenal. It is beautiful, challenging, has a great story, excellent mechanics, and pretty much makes me want to spend all my time there.

For non-gamers, BioShock Infinite is the third in a series of dystopian first-person shooter (or FPS) games, where you play as the shooter–basically, you are the main character. (Here’s my quick explanation from before the game came out). In this story, you are a mysterious guy sent to retrieve a girl, Elizabeth, from a sky-city. It’s 1912 and everything has a bit of a steampunk vibe. You get guns to shoot bad guys with and superpowers to help you interact with this city.

I’m only about halfway through, so I’m not sure how it’s going to end, but this game is already standing out for me, all because of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is a sassy character who is NOT afraid to beat you over the head with a heavy physics book.

She is hands-down the BEST companion I have ever seen in a video game. And maybe in a TV show. And she’s one of the best I’ve ever seen in a book, too, (excepting maybe The Lord of the Rings, because hobbits).

Compared to the other media, video games have a few extra challenges with their companions: they have to not get killed in combat; they have to have a bunch of replies/interactions depending on what the player does; and they have to be able to keep up (any gamer can tell you horror stories about glitches where they have “lost” a companion character because the game warped them ahead or behind, and they had to go back and start from a save point to try to recover them. It’s not fun).

Not only does Elizabeth manage to do all of these things well, she’s got serious personality. And she’s genuinely helpful. And, above all, she is not a damsel in distress (though she does start out locked in a tower and you have to rescue her). Check out that video if you want to see the problems with ladies trapped in towers: it can get ugly.

But no; though you do start out as Elizabeth’s rescuer, she later chooses to stay with you. (She might later choose to stab the player in the back, for all I know. We’ll find out!) This completely changes the dynamic! Now she’s not just a helpless girl following her big, heavily armed hero around because she has to: she made a choice.


And then here’s where she really starts to be cooler than many TV companion characters (I’m looking at you, Doctor Who)–she’s not helpless. She has at least three sets of abilities that help you BOTH get through the game. Unlike other games where the companion character is really just something for the character to lug around from place to place (*ahem* Rose Tyler***; *ahem*Princess Peach; *ahem* 007 Goldeneye’s Natalya), you could not survive this game without Elizabeth.

Sure, she needs you; but you need her, too.

I’m not going to go too much into her powers (because, spoilers!), but Elizabeth provides a potent lesson for other game designers and writers in general: your supporting characters need to be fully developed characters in their own right.

Things I can tell you about Elizabeth:

  • She has three extremely helpful abilities.
  • She’s missing part of her little finger on her right hand. (Mysterious!)
  • She wants to go to Paris, France.
  • She enjoys painting and reading.
  • She was locked in a tower for most of her life.
  • She has a joie de vive about her, but can be a little naive.
  • She’s certainly intelligent, like, quantum physics intelligent.
  • She can fight back.
  • If you leave her alone, she’ll explore and interact with her environment, showcasing her creativity.
  • She doesn’t very much approve of your character’s morality, but she’s willing to go along with you if it’ll benefit her.

Wow. I’m only maybe halfway through the game! There’s a lot more I can learn, plus some of her abilities are growing to change with the flow of the game. I think I know more about Elizabeth than I know about my playable character.

She’s incredible. Props to 2K for creating such a fantastic character.

Other people: Be more like this. It makes me more interested in the story and more invested in your creation.

***I’ve only watched about half of the Rose Tyler episodes. Yes, I know, I’m behind. So I admit she might get better, but so far? She doesn’t really contribute much.


Filed under Feminism, video games

First Experiences at ConDFW

I attended my first-ever ConDFW today, which is amazing to me because I’ve always lived in the area, always loved science fiction, and I’d never heard of it before two weeks ago. I wasn’t nearly as plugged in to the science fiction world as I thought I was!

The morning was all about panels. I sat in on panels about writing, about game theory, and general science-y fiction-y stuff–various and sundry things. It was a pretty small con, compared to some (I did go to San Diego Comic Con a few years ago, and that was ridiculously overwhelming. This was not that.) It was cozy, and not in the your-realtor-is-lying-to-you kind of way. I think the panels could have been a little better moderated, but it was nice to be around people who can comfortably name-drop James Bond, Serenity, and Star Trek all within five minutes. These were conversations I’ve been having for years; now there were other people who wanted to have them, too? Mind. Blown.

The best part of my day was a moment of pure fangirldom. I got to meet Rachel Caine.

I’ve liked Rachel Caine for several years (I LOVE her Weather Warden series), but the moment she really transcended into super-stardom for me was when I realized she lived in Dallas and had begun writing when she was 26. Most of my favorite authors, until that point, were dead (I ❤ you Isaac Asimov!) or lived in New York in what were apparently unreachable author-y worlds of mystery and magic. It wasn’t until I learned about Rachel’s background that I realized hey, that’s something I could do. She’s kinda like me!

Since then I’ve been hoping to meet her, but it took me awhile. She was my main motivation for attending today. She signed my well-loved copy of Ill Wind and was gracious enough to chat with me for awhile. I did my best not to squee in front of her. I even got to sit in on a reading from her next book!

The next-best part of the Con was an unexpected but very welcome dinner invitation. I am a bit on the introverted side, so my goal (as recommended in Quiet) was just to have one really good connection by the end of the day. I worked hard at being friendly and chatting with people, but things didn’t really come together until dinner. I met some lovely people (hey people on twitter!) and learned a lot more than I ever could have in a panel. Mission accomplished!

I’m glad I had the privilege of attending a sci-fi literary convention in my hometown. What a treat!



Filed under Conventional