What is a Teenager?

11 Jul

For most of the last year, I’ve been reveling in, and suffering through, some major life transitions. Primarily, the transition from girlfriend to fiancé and the transition from graduate student to “real-world” job holding adult (that came with it’s own set of new job transitions a couple of times). It’s left me feeling unstable, in more ways than one, and a bit aimless. So, I’ve returned to focus on some topics that I love. And this is where I approach the topic of the teenager.

Mid-Year Exam, 1974 by Joseph Szabo
(via tumblr – click image)

It’s weird that when you say the word teenager or teen, most people feel like it means something very specific. There’s an idea that being a teen embodies more than an age range but also some aspect of identity. The word itself however, wasn’t used much before the early 1900’s and was originally popularized to sell clothing.

But if you’re a fan of pop culture, and I so am, you know that we are obsessed with teenagers. So it’s a fair question to ask: what really is a teenager? And why do we like them so damned much?

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The Disney Lightbringer

18 Jun

I love Disney.

above image via

Sometimes I feel like that should be treated as a dirty little secret. And I get it, for all the wonderful things (stories, characters, songs, theme parks) that Disney has played a part in bringing to the world; they have participated more than a fair share in perpetuating some awfulness. Despite that, I want to look at something else they’ve perpetuated, in the form of a particular kind of heroine. Because there’s a specific kind of character that I love from Disney, no matter how much it can drive me crazy at times, and it taps into one of the key commodities that Disney will sell by the truckloads: hope. I like to call her the Disney Lightbringer. Continue reading

Lost Girl: Interviewed

4 Jun

But not by me, unfortunately.

I just posted this over on my tumblr but I thought it was worth re-posting over here.

An interview with “Lost Girl” creator, Michelle Lovretta, hits on basically everything I talked about over here.

Here’s the part that I liked best (with a few choice bits highlighted by me):

4. Why did you decide to portray sex the way you do on the show?

Simply put?  Because it’s the way I personally see sex, so it’s the most natural and intuitive way for me to portray it.   As for the more complete answer, When Prodigy (our studio) asked me to create a show about some kind of bisexual superhero who uses sex as part of her arsenal, my first thought was “hell, yes!”  But after that initial excitement came trepidation – it is so, so incredibly easy with a template like that to create something mind-numbingly insulting, anti-female, and exploitative.  I wouldn’t want my name on that.  And, as someone who respects both the straight and queer communities, I was afraid of alienating either of them in the process… or, of just making neutered, boring TV by overthinking it and being too PC.  Gah!!  The challenge was to create a fun, sex-positive world that celebrates provocative cheesecake for everyone, without falling into base stereotypes or misogynistic (or misandristic) exploitation along the way.  I also really wanted to defend the bisexual community and counter some sad tropes out there (bisexuals are sluts, can’t commit, are just afraid to be gay, yadda yadda) while also valuing and representing female friendships that have nothing sexualized about them at all.

So, I came up with a few internal rules and I moved to Canada that first year to co-showrun the show (with the fab Mr. Peter Mohan) partly just to help institute them:

1. sexual orientation is not discussed, and never an issue;

2. no slut shaming – Bo is allowed to have sex outside of relationships

3. Bo’s male and female partners are equally viable;

4. Bo is capable of monogamy, when desired;

5. both genders are to be (adoringly!) objectified — equal opportunity eye candy FTW.

We haven’t always succeeded on all fronts, granted.  Mea culpa.  It’s hard to honor all those good intentions in the chaotic thick of production when manic rewrites and a million disparate studio/network notes need to be addressed.  But I can tell you we’ve always tried, and that I believe Prodigy intends to continue supporting those original mandates for the life of the show.

To be clear: I’m aware (and thrilled!) that boiled down to our essence we’re just a fun, charmingly-flawed, quip-happy little series about monsters and heartache, and I make absolutely no claims of Deep Meaning or Super Importance!  But, in a way, that in itself is its own little victory: we’re clearly at a point where a main character’s orientation not only doesn’t have to be swept under the rug, but also doesn’t have to be a big damn deal.  Bo has lots of sex, with men, women, humans, Fae, threesomes… and she’s still our hero, still a good person worthy (and capable) of love, and that’s a rare portrayal of female sexuality.  Also, a show built around a bisexual lead doesn’t have to BE about her bisexuality — orientation can just be an interesting element of a story, and not the story itself, and that’s the central spirit of our show.  I consider that “I’m here, I’m queer, and it’s no big deal” approach to a main character still fairly rare and wonderful, at least in North America.  It’s also rare to have a female lead who is so honestly sexual, without judgment.  I don’t profess to be striking any new ground, here — I’m just saying that this is ground I’m very happy and privileged to be building on. In short: however long Lost Girl lasts, and however popular it does or doesn’t become internationally, I think the single element I will remain proudest of is just that we’ve been able to create and put out into the world a sex positive universe where a person’s sexual orientation is unapologetically present and yet neither defines them as a character, nor the show as a whole.

8. Is there anything more you would like to add?

Most of these questions (and, therefore, my answers) have been canted towards sex, so I’d like to clarify that this show isn’t about sex for me: it’s about relationships, and one of the core relationships on Lost Girl is NOT sexual, by design.  On a show that deals with female sexuality, I felt it was crucial to also demonstrate that sex and romance aren’t the only ways that Bo measures a relationship’s worth, to give the show balance.   Fans may have noticed that Kenzi clarified her hetero orientation at the end of ep 101 — pretty much the only time someone has addressed their orientation directly on our show.  That line was necessary because in production I kept running into directors who wanted to sexualize the dynamic between Bo and Kenzi, to make the show “hotter”.  I was determined to protect their platonic-yet-epic BFF-ness, so I made sure it was written in as canon.   Partly, this was to debunk the gay-panic cliche that bisexual people sexualize everyone, and are incapable of platonic friendship.  But there was another, simpler and more personal reason:I think friendship is the fifth element.  Truly.  I think it’s that substantial and nourishing a thing, so friendship and loyalty are part of the bone structure of Lost Girl, always just under the skin.   So, hidden in amongst all the romance and cleavage and threesomes, the Lost Girl Bo and Kenzi relationship is my own little love poem to all the BFFs out there who do it right. I salute you.

It’s interesting to note that while acknowledging that this show is cheesy, quipy, and ultimately cheesecake; Lavretto understands it’s all the more important to deal with sexuality respectfully. Again, you can read the rest of the interview over here.

What happened to me?

25 May

So yeah, this just happened. I’m tumbling now. Tumblr-ing. Whatever you want to call it.

And it’s like soooooo oddly addictive,



I’m sorry I haven’t posted much but, you know, the real world job etc. and stuff.

Anyhow…. look forward to a guest-post that will be cross-posted here and also at the World Weaver’s Press blog.

Until then, rapid fire posts occurring here: http://redshana.tumblr.com/

Thief, Doctor, and Succubus: The Women of “Lost Girl”

15 Mar

I like bad television. Not always but sometimes and yes, I have a slew of guilty pleasures. But more than bad television, I like those shows that revel in their questionable status. Those shows that openly accept their status as guilty pleasure and challenge you to question if maybe they’re better than you’d like to admit while still holding on and indulging in their own camp and soap appeal. The newest show to join that lot for me? Syfy’s Lost Girl.

group shot

Okay, so technically it’s not a Syfy show, it’s been on since 2008 in its’ native Canada, but unless I have readership I don’t know about (any Canadians give a holler) if you’ve heard of this show and you’re reading this post, it’s probably because of Syfy’s current airing.

The show is about Bo, the above-center Anna Silk, a succubus who was raised by humans and didn’t become aware of her Fae (think magic/fairy/non-human) World powers until she discovered them Rogue-style by killing her first boyfriend as they were about to get it on for the first time. In this Fae World, succubi feed off of sexual energy, so she runs away jumping from town to town killing dudes and dudettes (more on that later) until the powers that be of the Fae World show up and tell her she has to pick sides. Sides of what exactly?  Why the Light and Dark Fae, of course!

Because she’s all “I don’t get this” and “I don’t belong” she chooses to be neutral and chill with her human friend Kenzi, the green-streaked Ksenia Solo, who is snarky and cute and really there for her and stuff; together, they decide to form a supernatural detective agency which allows for plot-lines of them sticking their noses into matters of which they are woefully uninformed. And so Season 1 goes, with Bo and Kenzi mismanaging the politics of the Fae World and occasionally, almost getting killed.

Aside from the reasonably interesting version of Fae world-building, the show bids for its audience through Whedon-esque banter and at least one sex scene between Bo and the wolf-shifter/werewolf Dyson, the above thoughtful and seated Kris Holden-Ried (also, a dude named Kristen? Wha-?[and double what, he was totally on Degrassi!]), per episode because that’s how she heals and the premise seems to demand for an Angel to her Buffy. At the same time, there’s a budding romance-laden professional relationship between Bo and scientist/doctor-for-the-Light Lauren, far right blonde Zoie Palmer, which offers a slight switch-up to the typical television romantic triangle.

This show is driven by sex and identity, due to the nature of its star character who is learning to control her sexual urges all the while searching for information to find her real parents, but it glosses over any real discussion of sexual identity. This could possibly be excused by the fact that the show is Canadian, if it was American it seems like writers would feel more pressed to make this a main topic of discussion. Either way, the sexual identity of Bo, is the most pervasive metaphor underlying all story-lines.

via Lost Girl Confessions

It’s hard not to read into it: Bo is consistently asked to choose one side over another, Light Fae or Dark Fae, but stubbornly remains in-between. Just as her desire leads her to engage in relationships with both Dyson and Lauren, all the while she laments not wanting to be forced to rule the other one out. Bo is clearly unwilling to accept simple white and black, male and female binaries. Her relationship with Kenzi acts as a a balancing point, sisterly and affectionate peppered with easily managed arguments, where she can develop a non-sexual relationship outside of the triangle.

Somewhere between this love triangle and the collegiate atmosphere with her roomie, what is slowly forming is my new favorite reason to watch the show: despite its fantasy setting and less-than-literary goals, Lost Girl has produced three female characters that are reasonably well-balanced, interesting and interact with each other in basically realistic female relationships. This isn’t to say that these characters and their relationships aren’t entirely unproblematic…

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A Community for “Community”

6 Mar

By now, no doubt, even if you haven’t watched Community you’ve probably heard about it. Yes, you might have only heard about it because it was pulled from the air for an indefinite amount of time but now is the time to really pay attention because it’s coming back!

Aren't they cute?

Aren't they cute?

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’ve been a long term fan of Community, especially Danny Pudi who plays Abed.

While it was away, the online community for Community has social-networked itself into some healthy buzzes of recognition. As a fan, it’s been fun to watch. In the same way that Firefly acolytes, Browncoats, are still creating* art inspired by the Whedon one-season epic, Human Beings (the fictional mascot of the show’s fictional community college) have celebrated the show in its absence.

My favorites include this spoofy drawing of the cast as Batman villains:

Abed-Joker wonders if he and Abed-Batman are the same person...

As well as Megan Lara’s tee of Abed and Troy in the style of Calvin and Hobbes*:

Cool, cool cool cool.

However, as Vulture points out: if it’s going to stay back, more people need to watch it.

The question is always, how do you make that happen? The article from Vulture “Community for Newbies”  gives you a list of five episodes to start from because

Community is often called “meta” because of its frequent allusions — an entire Claymation episode, an Apollo 13 homage, a Halloween episode that doubled as a zombie movie. But that’s not quite the point: Community treats genre as malleable. Think of genre here they way you might think of patients on doctor shows, or cases on lawyer shows, or spoof-centric episodes of The Simpsons. (You can hear creator Dan Harmon expound on this on his “WTF” episode.) Don’t worry about catching every nuance of the homage — just enjoy the ride.

And I completely agree with this. Part of what gives Community its charm, and fan-base, is that it’s willing to push the envelope on what we expect from big non-cable networks.  While it’s clear that plenty of people love this show, it’s clear that many of them are geeks and geek-o-philes, an audience that is fiercely loyal whether or not the shows/movies/etc. they love stick around. Part of this may because it’s easier for misfits to relate to the show.

As Madeleine Davies describes:

What we have in Community is a world where characters of different racial and religious backgrounds are defined not by their census categories, but by their very extreme personality quirks. The study group at the show’s epicenter has not bound together because of or in spite of their differences, but because of their undeniable love for one another.

The show is also refreshingly feminist and non-racist, as noted in a great round-table with the women of the cast and one of their (yes, there’s more than one!) female writers over on The Daily Beast. Where Gillian Jacobs re-counts a feminist scholar referring to her as her character: “Britta Perry, feminist icon,” Yvette Nicole Brown discusses how happy she has been to not be pigeonholed as the “sassy black woman,” and Alison Brie notes that Danny Pudi has played “four or five Sanjays” with an accent.

I just wonder if people who don’t fall into this main group of geeks will be able to take the advice to “enjoy the ride.”  Because it’s that group that needs to be courted/converted/begged into the fold to keep this show alive.

So what do you think it will take to keep Community afloat? Have you watched it? Will you start? Are you a loyal fan, and if so, what are you doing to spread the word?

Community returns to NBC on March 15 at 8:00 (set your DVRs NOW!) and past seasons are available on DVD, Netflix, and Hulu Plus.

*yes, I know that I linked to the same source/artist twice… but Megan Lara‘s stuff is super cool!

Max Landis, Famous Geek Progeny

27 Feb

Okay, if you’ve already had a handful of people tell you to watch this video and haven’t yet, I’m adding myself to that handful and telling you to watch it now:

At this point, you only have yourself to blame.

I have to admit, I saw this video posted at least three different places before I watched it and each time, the person posting it said a version of  “I’m not sure why I waited so long to watch this but damn it’s good, you should watch it too!” And it was only posted on February 3, seriously.

Having said all this, Max Landis, son of movie-maker-mover-shaker John Landis, seems to be hitting a nerve.

Max Landis

making dad proud...

I’ve spoken about the movie he co-wrote, Chronicle, and the emotional impact it had on me just a couple of weeks ago but it’s more eloquently detailed in this piece from Roger Ebert far-flung-correspondent Omer M. Mozaffar. Mozaffar’s The Pursuit of Power succinctly describes how the movie

starts out as a curious plastic toy. Along the way, however, it carefully reveals itself as a colossal amusement park of screams and shouts. Don’t let anyone spoil this movie for you, because it is the cult film of its generation.

It’s hard to watch the above Youtube video without feeling this description echoes as a description of the young Landis (he’s a year younger than me, that feels young). In the three and a half videos (including the one above) that I watched with him this morning, I grew more and more interested in what Landis had to say.

Sure, we can say that he’s carefully crafting this casual yet intellectual geek persona and I recognize that it might not at all reflect who he actually is but watching him make a Caprese salad or drunkenly goof off all while waxing on about the history of comic storylines touches me right to my geek core. In short, this is a guy I could easily see myself being friends with. At least, that’s the feeling I get.

And in a culture where celebrity is as much about your persona as your actual talent, it’s always interesting to see someone who seems to actively and cleverly cultivating both, famous parentage or not. It’s rare to see someone this early in their career resonate in this way.

So here goes, I am officially marking Max Landis as someone to keep an eye on. Can I put some money on it?

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