Design and Demographics: An Ongoing Debate

Audio Edition Coming Soon!

Character designs from 1985 vs. 2018 for She-Ra, Bow, Glimmer, and Catra. (Images from @SheRaUpdates)

Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 are going to be pretty exciting! A whole slew of television that I love will be airing, either as a continuation of shows I already love, or brand new offerings to enjoy: The Dragon Prince, Star Wars: The Clone WarsCastlevania, Doctor Who, The Expanse, Young Justice, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, and Star Trek Discovery, to name a few.

However, the one that caught my attention and sparked this entry was discovering a controversy over the upcoming animated reboot of She-Ra. (Controversy? On the internet? I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you!) It seems like it boils down to the relationship between aesthetic design and sexism. Some people were stoked about the new animation style for the show, courtesy of Noelle Stevenson who worked on the comic book series Lumberjanes and the graphic novel Nimona. Others were… less enthusiastic. Apparently there’s been a great deal of backlash because the new design for She-Ra isn’t “sexy” enough. (Since She-Ra is apparently actually supposed to be 16 years old, the new design looks far more age-appropriate than the original, who I would have assumed was in her 20s.)

Personally, I think the entire debate is a bit ridiculous. I’ve never seen the original TV show from the 80s, although I did have some of the dolls (and totally made up my own stories because I had no idea who they were.) But something struck me as I was reading articles about this design battle. There was talk of how She-Ra is a “girls’ show” and “this is why girls can’t have nice things” and “why can’t men let girls have role models that aren’t based on sex appeal?” This controversy over gender separation (such as the color-coding of children’s toys in stores and the difference in design between male and female characters) has popped up in various forms over the years.

Is there really a difference anymore between “his” and “hers”? It seems like folks on both sides of the She-Ra debate think that there is. What I want to know was if this was a result of old-style marketing, environmental/societal values, or genuine difference of interest between boys and girls.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Grim and Grandiose: The Gothic Novel

Audio Edition Coming Soon!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been living in the world of Jane Austen. As of today I have read all of her novels except for Emma, which I’m about halfway through. She is not my favorite 19th century author (that distinction goes to Charlotte Brontë), but I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the literary mastery and elegance of craft that her work exhibits.

However, I will admit that I prefer seeing the film adaptations of her novels, particularly the ones with the screenplay written by Andrew Davies: Pride and Prejudice (1995) with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Northanger Abbey (2007) with J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones as Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, and Sense & Sensibility (2008) with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Right now I’m just a little bit obsessed with Northanger Abbey (and yes, I am totally blaming that on J.J. Feild’s Mr. Tilney.)

An interesting side effect of that obsession was exposure to an area of literature that I had left virtually unexplored up until this point: traditional Gothic novels.
Continue reading

Bizarre Genre Combinations

Click HERE for the Audio Edition!

Some people like to party on New Year’s Eve, myself included. However, my idea of a party is plopping down on the couch with a bottle of wine, a pound of fudge, and a stack of anime films on VHS. Yes, my brother Daniel and I went “old school” for the last day of 2017. And believe me, having a couple glasses of wine makes watching 1990s anime even more hilarious. The previews were a blast even before the feature presentation started. I haven’t actually sat down to watch any anime, new or old, for a while, and a thought struck me during our viewing: anime combines some weird-ass shit.
Continue reading

Living in the Future: The Fate of Science Fiction

Click HERE for the Audio Edition!

 

Plenty of genres will remain relevant in the future:

Horror, because we still like to be scared.
Fantasy, because magic retains its fascination since it can’t materialize in the real world.
Romance, because we still love, long for, and lose.
Humor, because we need to laugh.
Historical Fiction, because we want to experience other times and places.

But what about Science Fiction? During its Golden Age, this genre presented the perfect opportunity to extrapolate on emerging technologies and speculate where they might take us in the future. Some of those postulated futures turned out to be eerily prescient. But now we live in an age where automated cars and soft AI are becoming reality. Where we carry powerful miniature computers in our pockets that connect us to virtually any person on the planet. Where 3-D printers create entire houses in a matter of days and drones deliver packages directly to your home. Everything keeps getting (or seems to be getting) faster, sleeker, and more efficient, changing the social and economic landscape at an astonishing rate.

Continue reading

#BlogHop – Favorite Genre

This is the fourth installment of the #BlogHop for #Writers hosted by Ruth Snyder!  This week’s topic is “My Favorite Genre.”

I posted about my favorite genre way back in 2011, and honestly, not much has changed.  Fantasy remains my favorite, hands down.  I do read science fiction, nonfiction, some YA and realistic fiction, but fantasy is my realm. I’m not especially picky about which subset of fantasy it is either.  Urban, swords-and-sorcery, traditional epic, dark, paranormal romance, remade fairy tales, or any combination of the above…I enjoy them all.

The first book I remember reading was D’Aulair’s Book of Greek Myths when I was four.  I also remember my Dad reading books of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, most of which are rather dark fare for children.  But with fairy tales, no matter how gruesome things get, the hero (or heroine) always beats the odds.  Evil-doers are punished and the good are rewarded.  There is a direct relationship between ones actions and the consequences that appeals to my sense of justice, and tends to carry over into the rest of fantasy.

Modern fantasy has gotten much darker, perhaps even too dark at times.  But the stories and authors that I love the most never lost that sense of fair play and wonder that captivated me as a child.  Mercedes Lackey, C.S. Friedman, Barbara Hambly, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Elizabeth Haydon, and R.A. Salvatore all explore different aspects and takes on traditional fantasy mores that help enrich the genre.  Some find fantasy too repetitive or stifling (I’ve certainly found a lot of teen paranormal romances to be that way), but I enjoy the comfort of what is familiar and delight in seeing how authors will take that familiarity and stand it on its head.  For example, you can find dragons in many different fantasy novels.  But being a dragon is about the only thing that they have in common:

In The Halfblood Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton, dragons are a fully sentient race capable of shapeshifting and molding rock, but have emotions, desires, and speech very similar to their human counterparts.  They think, feel, love, and hate much like we do.

In The Winterlands Quartet by Barbara Hambly, dragons are deeply alien beings, tied to the music of their names, unique in coloring with thought processes very unlike our own.  Their love of gold is not from the perceived monetary value, but from the music inherent in its essence that soothes them.

In The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon, dragons are one of the Firstborn Races, born of the Earth, immortal and elemental.  There are relatively few of them and they usually remain hiding deep within the earth.  One did change into the form of a human and gave birth to half-human, half-dragon children before returning to her own form and her own lair.  They are not as human as Lackey’s dragons but not as alien as Hambly’s.

The dragons of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels aren’t actually natural creatures at all, but genetically engineered from an indigenous species known as fire-lizards to help combat the deadly parasitic Thread that falls from a nearby planet every few decades.  They are more intelligent than horses or dogs, but are dependent on the psychic link with their riders.  The origin of the dragons and the lack of magic makes Pern more part of science fiction than fantasy…but it still has dragons and shows another way that the traditionally magical beasts can be used.

Just with these few examples, you can see the wonderful ideas that can spring out of what appears to be an old stereotype on the surface.  And I think that’s part of why I love fantasy so much and have continued favoring it for over two decades:  it offers a fresh new way of looking at the familiar and finding the wonder within.