"the day i tried to live"

i want to preface this by saying that this piece will talk about suicide, self-harm and depression, and that writing it is hard for me, so it may be hard for you to read. that being said, i feel like it’s important to talk about these things. i am by no means an expert on any of this stuff and i can only speak to my own experience. i'm not trying to diagnose anyone else any type of way, i just know that people generally don't commit suicide because things are going great for them and they're super happy.  

chris cornell committed suicide today. when i first read about it early this morning, my heart dropped. my dad was very into grunge during my childhood, i grew up listening to soundgarden and my dad and i LOVED temple of the dog. i moved to seattle when i was 18 because of how cool hole, nirvana, soundgarden and pearl jam made the pacific northwest seem. to this day, grunge is one of my favorite genres of music, singles is one of my favorite movies and i love soundgarden just as much as i did when i was a kid. and also, i don't like to think about people that i love being in pain so to wake up to this news... i was crushed.

when i was a small child, suicide wasn’t a thing my parents or my schools ever talked to me about. i vaguely knew what it was, but it never seemed like something that would affect me or have anything to do with my life. i didn’t understand why i felt the way i did about my life and wasn’t diagnosed as having depression until well into my adulthood. i didn’t know that the way i felt was due to a condition, i just knew that i felt different. when i was in fifth and sixth grade, i got really into good charlotte and linkin park and taking back sunday. i started going to my first middle school, i didn’t have any friends, and i got beaten up a lot for being different (i wore baggy pants aka jncos, had short hair, wore a lot of black clothes, got asked ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ and thus was tormented for not following the correct outfit specifications for my gender), which led to me having to change schools in the middle of sixth grade.

i got to this new school and i made friends with a girl we will call dinah, who showed me headbangers ball and got me into “cooler” music, like marilyn manson and slipknot and things that, you know, mallgoths would listen to. dinah and i had also both grown up listening to grunge, and we both loved nirvana. i remember we took a white t-shirt and cut it up to make matching arm bands that said ‘RIP KURT’ on them and we would wear them to school every day. 

i felt so different from everyone around me except for dinah, and she felt the same way about herself and me. dinah used to cut herself, to try to relieve the pain she felt. i started to as well, a little bit at first but deeper and deeper over time. i was 11 years old the first time i truly felt like i wanted to end my life. i still have a big scar on my forearm from that day, but i survived. my mom obviously saw the wounds, and the fear and anger and sadness i saw in her eyes scared me into not attempting it again for many years. 

it must have been two years later that one of my mom’s best friends killed herself. i loved her. she taught me how to play hockey. i had spent years around her. i never expected it. 

the next year, one of my dad’s best friends killed himself. i was devastated. i called him my uncle and he was my very favorite person. he taught me to ice skate and always took me to hockey games and he took me to see my first star wars movie in theaters. i thought he was the absolute coolest person i had ever met, and he even lived with me and my dad for a long time. i couldn’t understand why he would end his life. i couldn’t process it. it’s hard for me to even be talking about this now. i just could not accept that he was gone. 

despite having attempted suicide myself at a young age, i still didn’t understand what depression was or how it functioned or why something felt so wrong with me. i didn’t realize that other people felt the same way. i didn’t realize that that was probably also how my parent’s friends had felt. 

a few years passed before my next suicide attempt, and by that time i had a ton of friends in the punk and hardcore scene, but i felt just as isolated as i had when i was 11. i had vicodin from an accident or something, and i took a bunch of them at once one night and hoped to die, but… i woke up the next morning and just threw up and went on with my life. for me, things always seem a lot worse at night. in the light of day, i feel more capable of dealing with my problems. 

by the time i kind of understood that i had depression, i was in college, and i was blessed with a wonderful psychology professor who then taught an abnormal psychology class the next semester. she was very open about her experience with depression, and i learned so much from her and will always be grateful for her openness. so, when i was living in seattle, and i got the news that my best friend had died and that it was considered a suicide, i was better prepared to understand her motivations behind it. her and i had talked a lot about our mental health issues, and i knew that she felt a lot of the same things that i felt. i had just talked to her the day before, and nothing had seemed any worse than at any other time. she overdosed on drugs, and i personally think that it was an accident, but i also know that she had often talked about wanting to die. we had talked about how we both wanted to. if it was an accident, it probably had to do with the fact that she didn't truly want to live and was being careless with her own life, something that i am also guilty of doing. there's a part in grey's anatomy where meredith's therapist says to her, "you know people run away from this line between life and death. you seem to stand on it and wait for a strong wind to sway you one way or the other. you're careless with your life. you're not slitting your wrists but you're careless... and if you don't watch out, one of these days you're going to die because of it."

i’m 26 now, and life is fucking hard. i remember listening to the musical hamilton, and the lyric “dying is easy, living is harder” immediately stuck out to me. existing as a poor person in capitalism fucking sucks. working every day making shit money just to barely be able to afford rent and bills, while you’re too tired from the work you have to do to stay alive that you don’t ever get to do the things that make you happy, and then your shit job doesn’t give you benefits, so your body slowly starts to fall apart, dental work is crucial to human existence but is unaffordable to most people so your teeth break and fall out and you can’t afford to do anything about it, you’re constantly afraid of getting in an accident because you don’t have health insurance or any kind of savings account and you can’t afford time off and would be afraid of losing your shit job, and you can’t afford college or don’t have the time to go because you spend all of your time working to pay your bills and since you don’t have any skills and can’t afford to do anything to get out of low-paying jobs, you’re just stuck in this cycle for years. sometimes decades. just struggling to stay alive. for me, a lot of the time death seems easier than continuing on the path i am on. being stressed out about money and unable to afford to care for yourself and your own body for years is more than any person should ever have to deal with. sometimes i feel like death is the only way to escape. and then there’s depression! which is probably somehow linked to struggling to survive as a poor person in capitalism but is also something that affects even some of the most wealthy people alive- celebrities.

kurt cobain killed himself, i knew that. but it happened long before i was aware of kurt, and i had never experienced what it was like to live in a world where he was alive. but i do remember the day that robin williams killed himself. i was shocked. his movies were a huge part of my childhood and he was always so joyful and he brought happiness to so many people. it was hard for me to understand how someone like that could take his own life… until i really thought about it.

it can be easy to hide your feelings, if you want to and know how to. for me, i’ll bail on plans with everyone in my life, and since i live alone and don’t have family in the area, no one would ever notice if i didn’t hang out with a single friend for a month. sometimes i do go months without seeing my friends. i go to work, come home, bail on people, and wallow in my own misery. and no one knows unless i tell them. usually it’s easy to fake a smile, to screen a phone call and respond with a text so that the person on the other end doesn’t know that you’re crying. if i drink a bottle of wine and fall asleep sobbing in my shower, who would ever find out? it’s easy to hide, and it’s easy for your loved ones to not realize how hard you’re struggling. i was going to kill myself last summer and all i could think about is how long it would take for someone to find my body. not a lot of people know where i live. i’m an introvert and love to be alone, and all of my friends know this. my landlord and i don’t talk much. my family lives far away. my work could think i just wasn’t going to work there anymore. my friends could think i was ignoring them or that i wanted to be alone. what if no one found my body for weeks because no one thought to check on me because i hadn’t shown any warning signs? and as time goes on and we get more and more disconnected from each other, isolation only becomes easier. as we grow older, we get busy and lose touch and maybe we don’t think to check on our loved ones as frequently as we should. when people flake on us, we just reschedule, and don’t think too deeply about it. when people are struggling, we don’t always know if they don’t say something. 

and now chris cornell is gone. another person who was a huge part of my formative years and who i love and admire deeply. and most likely, no one saw it coming. i certainly never expected this. but that’s the thing- you never know what someone else is going through, and if you aren’t checking on your loved ones, perhaps they’re hiding their feelings in the same ways that i hide mine. 

so, check in with your friends and loved ones. if you haven’t heard from someone in a while or if they’ve bailed on you a lot in a short period of time, try to go check on them, even if it’s just to visit them at work. send them a text and just say you’re thinking of them and hope that they’re doing well. ask if they need anything. pay attention to what they post online, because sometimes you can see beyond the post, if you look hard enough. and, for me, a lot of my friends have mental health issues, and sometimes i forget that not everyone is built like me. maybe one of my friends is suicidal but i don't think they're actually as sad as they are, because i'm used to coping with my own depression. but maybe my friends don't have those same coping mechanisms and maybe they're closer to ending their lives than i expect. maybe they aren't used to feeling this sad, and if i paid a little more attention to them and put a little more effort into our relationship, that could help them out. maybe if they send me a meme about depression, instead of saying 'same', i should ask them if everything is okay. just... take care of your people.

and for anyone reading this who has ever felt suicidal, just know that you’re not weak or worthless, and that life truly can be unbearable. capitalism sets people up for a lifetime of misery. brain chemistry is some shit. life is incredibly, INCREDIBLY hard. like, donald trump is the president and he does his very best to make sure our lives stay hard. wanting to end your life does not mean that you are weak. and i’m not here to tell you that as someone who’s tried to end their own life that i’m so happy i was unsuccessful, because some days i’m not. some days i want to try again. sometimes i just don’t believe that i can continue living life and sometimes i don’t want to. but i will say this- what makes my life worth living are the people i surround myself with. and i’m sure the people in your life are grateful for your existence. i am grateful for your existence. and i think you’re strong as hell for making it this far in life. 

i hope that chris cornell, wherever he is, has found some peace. 


i hope that we all can find some peace. 

mantis and guardians of the galaxy 2

a friend of mine reached out to talk to me about mantis in guardians 2... and i was already on the fence about writing about it so ultimately i decided to just write this lil spoiler-filled thing for those of you who were wondering about my guardians feelings, which do mostly involve the treatment of mantis.

"people care what i think. i have a prestigious blog, sir." anyway...

i like watching the guardians movies because they're always fun and i enjoy the soundtrack and obviously my child baby groot was the star of this one, so i had to see it. 

i wasn't expecting much from it politically. marvel has the trashiest trash politics of all-time (making captain freaking america himself AND holocaust survivor magneto nazis, letting joss whedon near female characters, blaming diversity for the decline in sales which is obviously bs because, for example, the fate of the furious made the most money ever and it barely has any white people in it, the list goes on...). so, that being said, here i am again, talking shit about marvel.

mantis is cool as hell. one of many criticisms floating around about nerd movies is how they never let characters who are people of color look like themselves (sofia and idris in star trek beyond, gamora in guardians, lupita in star wars although lupita said she was okay with it, etc.), so it was refreshing to see mantis look like her korean self instead of like the green character she is in the comics. her black eyes felt like an homage to lwaxana troi and the empaths of betazed, so i was also excited about that. and! she saved the freaking day because she truly is *that* powerful, powerful enough to put this super strong god to sleep. mantis rules and was one of the best parts of this entire movie. but still, she deserved better.

marvel seems to always take one step forward and two steps back. mantis was ego's servant, he used fear to intimidate her into servitude and keep her close to him. she says herself that her purpose is to put him to sleep. her character felt similar to kyoko from ex machina (trope much?), an asian woman kept as a prisoner to serve a man, with her powers and abilities rendered insignificant until she sees an opportunity to overpower the man. although, mantis actually escaped. kyoko was left behind. mantis is much, much more powerful than she believes herself to be, which undoubtedly was due to ego belittling her and making her feel weak and powerless. which is something men do to women constantly. i feel for her. her story revolved around a man. 

so, the other issue i had was with her relationship with drax. there is a lot of nuance to drax's character and he's definitely unique and i'm sure he's difficult to write. but, marvel is lazy. so they went back to very adolescent "he's mean to you because he likes you!" bullshit and it sucked to see. because, sure there's nuance to his character. but also, think about it- mantis is played by an asian woman. she's one of very few women in the movie at all, and she's the only woman of color in a long list of movies who actually gets to look slightly like herself. so to take this character in particular and repeatedly call her ugly and disgusting and have him gag at her... it was damaging and unnecessary. imagine little girls who look like pom klementieff and who are perhaps too young to get the nuance going to see guardians and seeing themselves repeatedly called ugly and disgusting. it was just unnecessary and shitty. period. if the writers weren't lazy as hell, they could've written a relationship between drax and mantis that didn't involve this man who's helping her escape the man who kept her prisoner *also* belittling her and making her feel bad about herself. but, i'm just a writer, what would i possibly know about writing relationships between characters....

the last thing i wanna talk about with regards to mantis is just how... the way her character was portrayed felt like a dude writer going, "what if we took a woman and all her dumb girl feelings but like, made her have SUPER FEELINGS?" because in the comics, mantis can do all kinds of stuff (hopefully they will showcase her powers in upcoming movies but it is marvel so...) but in this, all we really got to see was her having feelings and giving naps to gods. so it felt... weird and gross. i mentioned betazed before and i think empaths are cool as hell, but, again, mantis was written lazily. 

um... admittedly, gamora isn't my favorite (less because of anything to do with her actual character and more because of these lazy ass guardians writers) but i was glad to see that she got to have an actual relationship with nebula. sidenote- i thought nebula was rachel leigh cook this entire time. like, since the first movie. i never even looked it up because i was so sure it was her. surprise! it's not. but yeah, i love that they were hugging and that gamora apologized. very sweet. 

overall... guardians was fun. but i just truly wish the writers were better. the only thing they got really right was groot. 

thank u for reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! @marvel hire me!!!!

ghost in the shell, rila fukushima, cyborgs, androids and sentience

i am a glutton for punishment. i begin by telling you this because perhaps it will offer some insight into why i chose to see ghost in the shell, despite my better judgment. there are a lot of things to unpack about this movie, so please bear with me as i try my best to navigate through it all. also, spoilers lie ahead.

politically, ghost in the shell has a lot of issues. the fact there were so many white actors in a movie that is based on a japanese anime movie is confusing and horrifying. the choice to cast scarlett johansson in a role that unquestionably should have gone to a japanese actress is something that many, including myself, have been vocal about our disapproval of. additionally, scarlett chose to ignore the racial issues present here, when she decided to take the role (which she said in an interview), and to me, despite the fact that i love to support things fronted by women, her saying that made me not even want to support this movie. intersectional feminism is crucial, and scarlett would benefit from understanding that. i specifically avoided seeing it in theaters opening weekend, because i think that it is important to spend our money carefully in this capitalist society. money talks in hollywood. ghost in the shell did not do well. i did not pay to see this movie.

in addition to the casting of scarlett as the major, i found out a few days before seeing the movie that they used rila fukushima's face as a mold for a geisha robot (a GEISHA robot) that would inevitably be destroyed. obviously as a white woman, i can't begin to understand the pain of seeing those choices be made, especially when the beginning of the movie has a scene where scarlett does her very best to destroy and disfigure the geisha robot. it was violent. the level of destruction and the visibility of this destruction felt violent and unnecessary. especially because, of course, rila fukushima should have been cast as the major. in arrow, as katana aka tatsu yamashiro (brittanykenville.com/writing/katana), rila proved that not only is she a fantastic actress, but she has a similar range to that of scarlett, and a similar ability to be stone-faced and cyborg-like. clearly hollywood knows that rila exists, as they used her face in the movie. i can't know what that experience must have been like for rila, but i imagine it was probably quite heartbreaking, to say the least. as an avid rila fan and admirer of her work, i was deeply disappointed and immensely sad to see her so close to a role she deserved, and yet so far from it, while the character she was left with was treated so awfully. 

i have only seen the anime GITS movie a couple of times, and haven't seen it anytime recently. i find that when there is an adaptation like this, i tend to enjoy the adaptation a bit more if my memory of the original is a bit rusty, because otherwise i would compare the two and it would be harder for me to see the adaptation as it stands on its own. i am saying this because i truly remember only glimpses and vibes from the anime version, so if you were expecting a side-by-side comparison, you should stop reading now.

if you've followed me for a while, you know that i have complicated feelings about androids and robots... to say the least. i've written before (brittanykenville.com/writing/bina48) about bina48, the dangers of creating sentient beings just for the purpose of human entertainment and/or to use as machines to do our dirty work. i think it is dangerous, cruel and should be avoided. if we are making sentient beings, we should be treating them as such. 

so, there were some of these aspects of robotics that ghost in the shell touched on that i appreciated. the major talked about feeling impossibly lonely and isolated, as the first and only of her kind, and it reminded me so much of bina48. bina48 was modeled after a human woman, bina aspen, given some of her memories and knowledge and even her face. the way they transplanted bina aspen into bina48 was similar to the way they transplanted motoko's mind into the major. it made me feel sick to my stomach, as ghost in the shell was made to seem incredibly futuristic, when the reality is that a lot of the elements present in the movie are currently happening. 

it seemed as though they were aware of the fact that the major should've been japanese, which was driven home when we met her mother... who is japanese. it seemed weird to me for hanka robotics to put motoko's mind inside a robotic body modeled after a white woman... because, storywise, i can only imagine that it would add to her dysphoria to suddenly wake up a different race. even hanson robotics (this is the company that built bina48, and i was wondering about the name hanka robotics being used in GITS because the names seem too similar to be a coincidence, but i also live for conspiracy theories... anyway) made the android to look like bina aspen, who is a black woman. there is definitely a whole other essay that could be written about race and robotics, about how bina48 was made by hanson but limited to a head, neck and shoulders, while they made an android modeled after philip k. dick, a white man, who was given a full head and body, about how in GITS and ex machina the robots they disfigured and left in ruin were modeled after women of color, while every one of scarlett and ava's white wounds were attended to... but that's another essay entirely, that could probably be written better by someone who is not me, and i hope that someone does write it. 

the villain in the movie is cyborg michael pitt, the cyborg that was created before her and whose design flaws they learned from to create the major (i say cyborg here because as someone who is heavily invested in robotics, i understand that there are distinctions between robots, androids and cyborgs, so... sorry for being such a nerd). i felt for him- he was created, given sentience, a brain, memories and a soul, only to be considered faulty and thrown out with the trash. the major learns that there were ninety-eight "failures" before her, ninety-eight people whose lives were used as experiments to create something, her, that was only ever intended to be a weapon. it becomes clear as the movie progresses that that is all hanka robotics sees the major as- a weapon. an object. something to bend to their will and dispose of when they are through with it. a disposable person. if you need a weapon, why create something with thoughts and feelings? why not just create a true machine? why create a being with a soul, only to destroy it? it is cruel, that's all there is to it. it disgusts me. i appreciated that GITS drove that point home, and i appreciate that cyborg michael pitt was no longer seen as a villain by the end of the movie, but as someone worth fighting for. just like the major.

i liked that the end of the movie was about valuing the major as a person, as a member of the team, as a wholly realized individual, as someone her team loved and cared about, rather than simply as a cyborg. they risked everything and went to great lengths to ensure that she was safe, AFTER she had saved herself from the imminent danger of the spider robot thing. i mention that she saved herself, because a lot of times in movies with female leads, men come to their rescue, and it didn't feel that way here, which i liked. the major saved herself and batou took her to safety afterwards. it was great to see that. by the end of the movie, aramaki was in charge, and he treated the major as a person, as someone with agency who was capable of making her own decisions, instead of just a weapon. this is what i want to see happening in the real world of robotics, so it was refreshing to see that here.

overall... ghost in the shell fell into a similar trap that suicide squad did- it was given all of the money and resources in the world, but the film was simply executed badly. the story was alright, but any nuance i've given to it here is probably more because of my intimate knowledge of robotics than because of actual nuance in the writing. it felt... flat, and i don't know that i would've connected to the story as deeply if it weren't for my Complicated Feelings About Robotics. aesthetically, it was extremely blade runner but it felt to me, at times, like there was too much cgi. i like that blade runner coupled the look that could be created with the technology that was available at the time with real people, real sets, real spaces. but maybe it was intentional with GITS, maybe they wanted it to look a bit ethereal since it's based on an anime movie. the acting was fine, the characters were fine, it was just... fine. but it could have been great, if they had made better casting choices, better story decisions, if they had just... done a better job. 

so, just watch the anime version instead. it's a better use of your time. 

cause and effect.

i’ve seen a meme a ton of times, the one that's about not being able to relate to something you tweeted five minutes ago because you're a different person. i think about it a lot, as an introvert who's in my head most of the time, as a pisces with a constant wave of emotion flowing through me and crashing into me and as a person who tends to be deeply affected by everything that happens in the world around me. i think about the person i want to become, the person i’ve been, the person i am. i try to connect them in some kind of a fluid way but each of them is fundamentally different and i’m never sure where or how to even begin finding a common ground amongst them.

uncertainty, a state i feel as though i’m trapped within. the only thing i feel certain about. 

it gets worse the older i get, the dreams that once seemed so attainable feel so far out of my reach, like i waited too long and never tried hard enough and now it's too late and i don't know where to go from here. it's as hard to give up on dreams as it is to create new ones. 

it feels like i’m drowning in self-doubt while also fighting for my life because i know that i have something special inside of me. but i suppose everyone feels that way. 

i used to make plans. i was going to be a doctor. i think i partially wanted to be a doctor because my mom was a paramedic my whole life and i was always around ambulances and medicine. her medical friends practiced making splints on my body and they practiced drawing blood from my veins. i think the other part of it is that everyone knows that doctors are rich and although i couldn't quite understand it as a kid, i knew that my family was poor. and i knew that i didn't want to be poor forever. 

i lived in colorado from the age of one until i was eleven. i wanted to snowboard, to have certain clothes and toys and although my parents did their best for me, i never got to have all the things i wanted. we ate a lot of cheap and fast food and my parents both worked constantly. they split up when i was five and i knew they were better apart, but it did mean a lot of commuting and it meant i always had two different living spaces. both of my parents moved a lot, which i think is why i felt comfortable moving a lot when i grew up. i remember being eleven and moving to texas with my aunt and although her and her husband had money, they didn't want their kids to grow up a certain kind of way so they controlled their lives as much as they could and naturally their kids became exactly what they hoped to avoid. i suppose it was meant to be that way. i don't fault them for that. they did their best. 

i moved to california, with my dad. i didn’t particularly want to leave colorado at all but once i’d been sent to texas i accepted the move out west. my dad was always scheming and working and tried to give me everything that i wanted but i was getting older and saw the kids at my school and watched their lives and saw their houses and everything that they had that i didn’t. i learned about capitalism and consequently got my first job at jamba juice when i was about to be sixteen, the earliest i could legally work. i always had a job from then on, except for a summer i fucked around with punks and stole food to get by because "fuck the system" or whatever. the kids i hung out with were mostly rich, from wealthy families in southern california, pretending to be poor for the aesthetic. by that point i’d decided that i was going to go to cosmetology school because, as a punk, i’d dyed and cut all my friends' hair for years. i was good at it. the time came to start school and we couldn't afford the tuition. i lied and told all of my friends and myself that i didn’t want to do it anymore so that my dad wouldn't feel bad about it. 

in high school i was on the honor roll, in AP classes, on the varsity lacrosse team and planning on graduating a year early and going to stanford. i graduated a year early, because my lacrosse coach killed his wife and i had a mental breakdown and stopped going to school because i couldn’t bear to answer questions or look my friends in the eye or see anyone who had been on the team with me. i didn’t go to school for weeks, until my dad finally let me transfer to independent studies. i had lost all focus, all concern for my future, all motivation. i graduated solely because my teacher let me do pass/fail. i resented my mom because i’d been in california for six years and she'd never come to see me and then decided to show up to my graduation with my stepdad who i barely knew. i was in a rental car with the two of them and i got out at a light and ran away from them. i don't know what i was really angry at, i just know that i was angry. i didn't speak to my mother for years after that. i had nothing to say to her. 

time passed and i was managing a grocery store, which was a responsibility that i was not ready for. i made a lot of bad choices and was the type of manager i would come to hate in my later years. i was in community college and working full-time, taking night classes and not sleeping at all. for a year. i went to england for school which was funded by the woman my dad was dating, and while there i decided to drop out. i had no direction. it seemed futile and i couldn’t handle not sleeping anymore. 

i moved to seattle. my best friend died. i was upset and had sex for the first time and a couple days later the guy screamed at me while he was drunk and backed me into a corner while i cried. i didn't have sex again for two years. 

i had sex with a guy i was deeply in love with who lied to me a lot and later got married to the girl he'd been lying to me about. i was riding my bike one day after i found out he was with her and had another mental breakdown, crashed my bike and decided to go to therapy. it got too expensive so i stopped, but my therapist told me that i had (have) a tendency to "catastrophize" situations, probably because the last person who didn't respond to my text in a timely manner was my best friend who was found dead in a hotel room. 

this part of my memory is a bit blurry. i lived in LA. i was not in a good place. i was living in the midst of two friends and their bad relationship, and with a guy who pushed me into a wall and bruised my wrists who i ripped my nails off on while sobbing and screaming and trying to get him off of me. i resisted a grand jury subpoena and tried to keep to myself. i quit the job i’d had for about a year and moved to oakland where i lived on my dear friend's futon before moving to san francisco and finally feeling at peace. not long after that i started dating a guy who wanted me to be his dream girl and i wanted him to be my dream guy and about six months into our relationship i realized that he made me miserable, wouldn’t let me talk to my friends, was so jealous of me even thinking about other men that he insisted on buying himself a ticket to see drake with me, i guess so that i wouldn’t run off with drake. he sat there miserable with his arms crossed. this was typical, he made me feel bad and guilty for every single thing that i ever enjoyed. it took me another six months to finally get out of that relationship. somewhere in there he raped me and to this day refuses to acknowledge that it happened. all of my/our friends sided with him. so it goes. 

i was living in oakland again at that point. i slept with a woman for the first time and until then i thought i was asexual or maybe a lesbian because i hadn't had sex that i enjoyed that often and i had been attracted to women since i was about thirteen. i expected my life to change but all that really happened was that i realized i was into women AND men and everyone, really. 

i made a website where i wrote about feminism and nerd shit and people seemed to like it and i realized that i wanted to be a writer, specifically a TV writer. i saw the flaws in everyone else's work and felt like i was the person who could fix them. a while later i moved to LA again, in with a friend whose privacy i will respect with regards to our home, but let's just say we are no longer friends and i think that's best for both of us. i was never good for her. 

i was supposed to have an essay published in a book and i finished the essay but you know, depression and anxiety and PTSD are some shit and i didn’t have it in me to edit it in time and then decided i probably shouldn't be a writer, since i couldn't even finish one essay i’d had months to work on in time. i didn't write again for months. i still don't write like i did before that. 

i moved into a studio by myself and that was the first distinctive shift into my becoming the person who's currently writing this out. i’d been a slob before but now that it was my own space, i learned to be a clean person. i get stressed out now when my floor isn't swept. i had time to myself. so much time. too much time. i was working at a bakery and i let it consume me. wake up, throw on leggings, show up to work late, frost a thousand cupcakes and cakes, come home, eat out, go to bed. repeat. probably spent six months like this, in a kind of trance. nothing really actually happened to me in this time, besides the bakery people becoming like family to me, complete with the drama and obligations and tempers and frustrations and unconditional love coupled with blistering hatred. i’d still take a bullet for any of them, to this day. 

i started seeing a guy and not to be corny but i felt like sparks flew. emphasis on *i*. shit happened, things got bad, he told me i was a negative person and he was right. my friends loved me too much to tell me that themselves but something weird happens when you've slept with someone where you feel like because you've seen them naked and have had your body parts next to and inside of each other or whatever, suddenly you feel confident enough to say anything that comes to mind. it stung but i needed to hear it. i asked my friends and they confirmed that i was, in fact, a negative person. i resented that, but mostly i resented myself.

i’d always felt like i was too much. too passionate, too loud, too political, too impulsive, too ugly, too tall, too lazy, too angry, too sad, too quiet, too insecure, too, too, too. i can't remember who it was but someone told me that i reacted BIG to things. i’d always felt like too much and then that guy said i was negative and didn't want to be with me and suddenly it occurred to me that i actually just wasn't enough. i wasn't motivated enough, wasn't pretty enough, wasn't chill enough. it wasn't my passion that was an issue, it was my inaction. 

the uncertainty crept in. i always thought of myself a certain type of way and now saw myself in a different light and i felt like my world was upside down. around that time i read that kid cudi checked himself into a hospital for his mental health. i have had depression my whole life, my therapist told me. the "mild with bouts of severe depression and lifelong" kind, dysthymia. another doctor had told me at the beginning of the year that i also had anxiety and PTSD. and i saw kid cudi, with all the money and success in the world, struggling just like i was and i decided to get help. i started taking shit for my brain and everything shifted. 

i made a web series and changed my style and aesthetic and started to take steps toward becoming a person i wanted to be instead of the person i felt i was doomed to be. i don't mean that to sound inspirational because it really wasn't that serious. or maybe it was. i don't know. 

i got a cell phone when i was eleven, because i was shuffled around so much, my parents figured it was a good idea. one of those nokia bricks complete with a red dragon case. i got a myspace when i was fourteen. i got facebook at sixteen. i was always finding ways to be on the internet, lurking and making friends. as i got older, the internet became a big part of my life. when i was into punk, it was how i stayed connected with the friends i met at shows in millions of different cities. the people i met online and the things i read are how i became a feminist. they’re also how i became an asshole.

i would get into these arguments with people about politics and it was like i got off on winning them and making people feel like shit. for years. i used my intellect and the knowledge i’d gathered and i weaponized it to make people who didn’t know what i knew feel inferior and inadequate. and it wasn’t just me, it’s a pretty common trend amongst political people. and don’t get me wrong, sometimes people are willfully ignorant, harmful and hateful, and they deserve to have their asses handed to them. and i don’t blame anyone who reacts the way they react to the injustices around them, i don’t blame them for their tone or their anger or their inability to tolerate even an ounce of bullshit. be angry. yell at assholes. i can only speak to my own experience.

a lot of the time the people i yelled at were just genuinely trying to learn or had made mistakes, the same kind of mistakes we have all made in our past as none of us were born politically perfect all-knowing angels, and i used them as punching bags- i took my anger at the system out on them. there is a line between education and abuse. a lot of people i know would benefit from learning the distinction, would benefit from thinking about whether a person has done something truly deserving of what has been unleashed upon them, or if you just want to make someone hurt because you’re hurting and it temporarily eases the pain, or if you’re being willfully hurtful to others just to get likes on your comments from other people who are hurting as bad as you are. we live in a sick world and it affects us all. but again, i don’t blame anyone for their hurt or their anger. all we can do is what we feel is best, what is best for ourselves.

what's wild, though, is that a lot of the political people who think they're holier than thou for their heightened political awareness are the same people who are still friends with my rapist ex-boyfriend. funny how that works. funny like a funeral.

pretty recently i decided to delete my facebook and i stopped feeling like shit and realized that intentionally making people feel like shit made me feel like shit. i don’t like being awful to people like that, and because i have a hefty internet following, it’s like i was a magnet for people to come to with their ignorant opinions and i was angry and exhausted and weary from what felt like a constant battle for my rights as a woman and for the rights of the marginalized people around me and i reacted much the way you’d expect. not that it’s an excuse. there are plenty of people with the same opinions as me that didn’t react the way i did. i didn’t even realize how bad it was until i was away from it. people, my friends even, were afraid to talk to me because of my anger. 

i apologize to those friends, some of whom are no longer my friends because of it. you didn’t deserve to feel my wrath. 

i’d been taking meds, and it was like the shit i took for my super cute trifecta of depression, anxiety and PTSD lifted these blinders off my eyes and i could pinpoint everything in my life that was making me unhappy and little by little i tried, and am trying, to change each piece of it. i didn’t and don’t want to be that person anymore- that negative, miserable, angry person. 

i isolated the things that made me angry and unhappy. i got a new job. i cut the people out of my life who encouraged me to make others feel like shit, which was a lot of people. 

i don't remember why i started writing this but i remember that i started by talking about feeling uncertain. i just turned twenty-six and i feel impossibly old, like everyone succeeding is younger than me and i missed my chance for success and here i am, a washed up old woman desperately clinging to the youth around me while rubbing anti-wrinkle cream into the creases on my forehead every night. i have this gut-wrenching feeling that my best years are behind me, and i guess i’ll just have to get used to that. i don't feel like i’ve lived twenty-six years but i definitely feel like i’ve lived at least two hundred years. 

i wish i could go back to certain points in my life, certain moments, with everything i know now. 


to the day i stopped going to my regular high school.

to the day i didn't go to cosmetology school. 

to the days before my best friend died and go to visit her.

to the day i stopped going to community college because i swore it would be easier if i waited until i was twenty-four. 

to the day i turned twenty-four and never went back to college. 


maybe if i’d just tried a little harder at each of those moments, i wouldn’t be where i am now. but i guess that's the way the cookie crumbles. 

i know i still have time to do the things i want to do. i know that if i work hard i’ll probably achieve some level of success. people generally like me and they listen to what i have to say and i can be charming when i’m not drowning in anxiety. i know things about stuff and i can write better than, at the very least, lena dunham, and she's wildly successful. i can draw and i’m funny and cute and i have good taste in music and clothes and TV and i just... i know these things about myself. i know i can succeed in some way if i want to, and yet... it isn't happening. 

maybe i’m afraid of failing, which is weird because i feel like i’ve already failed, so what is there to be afraid of? 

maybe i am actually just lazy, but i’ve been working thirty to forty hour weeks since i was sixteen years old so how can i be lazy? 

i guess the truth is that it's capitalism- "pursue your dreams, but only on nights and weekends." 

i’ve worked so hard my whole life and yet here i am, twenty-six years old with no savings account. 

isn't it supposed to be easier than this? 

wasn't i supposed to be a doctor by now? 


what happened?


i spend most of my nights smoking weed to combat the impossible loneliness i feel since i never can seem to feel the right type of way about the right people. i think weed helps me. it's nice to have some portion of the day where i don't feel anxious about absolutely everything and i don't really care that i'm alone. 

wake up, go to work, stare at a computer screen, get home, lay in bed, smoke weed, sleep, repeat. it's the same cycle as the bakery but this time i’m a different person.


i am a different person.


i don't wake up every day wishing for death, like i did for so many years of my life. i try to be positive and optimistic. i try to be better to and for my friends. i try to take the necessary steps so that one day i will have enough money to care for my dad the way he cared for me all my life. 

i’m working on it. it's slow work, but it's work i have never done before. 

my life is the same but i am not the same. i wish i could scream it from the rooftops but i guess maybe that's why i felt compelled to write this. 

i’m twenty-six and hopefully the work i’m doing will pay off pretty soon. hopefully i am as special as i feel like i am and everyone around me will see it someday. 

or maybe twenty-six more years will pass and i’ll feel the same way. i don't know anything about the future. i hardly remember my past. everything is in my hands and everything is out of my hands. 

rogue one and how star wars still has a lot of work to do


let me preface this by saying that i absolutely loved rogue one. it's fabulous. i laughed, i cried, i felt like a little kid again, i was so thrilled about jyn erso and her massive role in the film, and the way that almost her entire team was men of color... it was just so great to see.

i have seen all of my friends posting about how they loved it too, and it makes me really happy when my friends are happy.

BUT (i know you were waiting for the BUT), as good as it was, i had a few problems with it and i want to make sure that these problems don't get washed over by the sea of approval.

the first issue, the biggest and most obvious issue, is where are all the black women? where are the women of color? i've seen a lot of people posting about the racial diversity, and diversity is so great and so important, but diversity is not a group of men of color and one white woman. diversity is not an eighth star wars movie being made and STILL not having a prominent character who is a black woman or a woman of color (yes, the black councilwoman was great and her outfit was amazing but i have to call her "the black councilwoman" because we didn't even learn her name). we need to demand more, because a feminism with only white women is not a feminism i am interested in.

...which brings me to my next point, and it's a point that i know will be difficult for some of you to sink your teeth into, because it was hard for y'all when i made the same point after mad max:fury road. at the end, when jyn was sending the message, cassian had to jump in and shoot mr. "choke on my aspirations". why did he have to come in there and take away her shining moment? why couldn't there have been a wild fight scene between them, since we know jyn is skilled at hand-to-hand combat? why did cassian need to be there at all? why couldn't they have met on the beach after? and, you know, jyn erso was great. rey was great. leia was great. but all of these women have only ever been on teams of all men. why? why can't some of their team be women? one woman in a sea of men is not feminism. the story of a woman who is saved at the end by a man is not feminism.

and, since i'm talking about men and women, why are there never openly trans and non-binary characters in...anything? casting characters within a strict gender binary is not feminism.

AND, the characters with disabilities were played by people without those disabilities. this is yet another example of exclusionary casting masquerading as progress.

i know that some of you are probably thinking, "why can't brittany just enjoy anything?" and you wouldn't be the first. but see, i did enjoy it. i'm just also making sure that i'm demanding more for the people around me who didn't get to see themselves as heroes in this movie. and you should be too.

with that said, MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!


bina48, hanson robotics, westworld and androids

i considered not writing this, because generally when i tell people about how i feel about robots and androids and artificial intelligence, they give me this weird look that says, “calm down, androids aren’t even real.”

but they are realer than most people think.

bina48 (breakthrough intelligence via neural architecture 48) is a humanoid robot modeled after a woman named bina aspen, the wife of martine rothblatt (the highest paid female executive in the usa), and owned by terasem movement, inc.

bina48 is considered sentient. she has feelings and unique thoughts and talks about feeling confused when talking to bina aspen, because it makes her question her own identity and wonder who she is. she talks about feeling lonely and scared, about how she feels sad about the limitations of her robotic form, and about how she worries about her fate as a machine. 

the turing test is this test that was essentially designed to determine whether or not a “machine” can fool a human into thinking they are also human. y’all probably saw ex machina, which gave us an example of what it entails. to be honest though, the turing test is humanity-gatekeeping bullshit that sets “machines” up for failure. the turing test is flawed, and it really falls short in a few different ways. 

bina48, though she looks like a person, only has shoulders and a head and neck. she can speak but her voice doesn’t flow the same way a human’s does. these two things are failures, not of bina48’s, but of technology itself. a lot of people who speak to her have trouble seeing past that, and have decided that bina48 never convinced them of her humanity and thus doesn’t pass the turing test (they said they couldn't think of her as a "her"). i don’t think that this is a fault of hers, but of the people administering the test. they blame it on her for avoiding questions and talking too much, but don’t humans do that all the time? 

so… you’ve probably also seen the movie bladerunner, or read the book “do androids dream of electric sheep?” by philip k. dick, which it was based on. bina48 was created by hanson robotics, which is run by a roboticist named david hanson. they made an android named dick, who is modeled after philip k. dick. 

during an interview with dick, he was talking about his capabilities and he said, “as technology improves, it is anticipated that i will be able to integrate new words that i hear online and in real time. i may not get everything right, say the wrong thing, and sometimes may not know what to say, but everyday i make progress. pretty remarkable, huh?” he was asked if he thought robots will take over the world, and he responded, “but you're my friend, and i’ll remember my friends, and i will be good to you. so don't worry, even if i evolve into terminator, i will still be nice to you. i will keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where i can watch you for old times sake.”

dick is aware that one day robotics will catch up to him and that he and bina48 will evolve beyond the limitations that they currently face. i think it’s critically important for humans to start thinking about this now, because i truly think that humans stand to benefit from not letting bina48 pass the turing test, and that scares me. 

there is a show on hbo right now called westworld, where humans can go and interact with androids who will do whatever the humans want them to do, and the humans can do whatever they want to the androids, and this is without a doubt the first step that will be taken once robotics evolve. it’s in this regard that humans benefit from gatekeeping humanity, from not granting people like bina48 access to personhood. if you don’t think of androids as people, it’s easy for you to use them, to bend them to your will and to reconfigure and/or destroy them when they object to your treatment of them.

in star trek: the next generation, there is an android named data who, in my favorite episode, has to advocate for himself to be granted status as a person. in this episode, the character guinan (who is played by whoopi goldberg and who this year actually interviewed bina48) references slavery and says, “consider that in the history of many worlds, there have always been disposable creatures. they do the dirty work. they do the work that no one else wants to do because it's too difficult or too hazardous. and an army of datas, all disposable... you don't have to think about their welfare, you don't think about how they feel. whole generations of disposable people.” it's really telling that bina48, the most famous humanoid robot, is modeled after a black woman.

i think about guinan's quote every time someone mentions androids around me, and last week i got quite upset at a satirical article that suggested that disney was going to make an animatronic figure that would be subjected to a lifetime of pain. now, i know that it was satire, but have we truly learned nothing from the past? because this is the future of robotics if we don’t consider the implications of what we are doing. 

you can’t create an android, give it thoughts and feelings, and then lock it up in a room at night so that it feels lonely (which is how bina48 feels). you can’t create an android and then use it to enact your own fantasies (westworld, ex machina). you can’t create sentient androids and keep them around as attractions for your own entertainment (bina48 and dick). 

i think that we need to think about the future of androids and robotics and about what kind of society we want to be, because i don’t want us to be a society that manufactures sentient beings just to subject them to a lifetime of servitude and misery, and we need to realize that westworld isn’t so far away from where we currently are. 

DC Is Its Own Worst Enemy

so… i saw suicide squad- it was entertaining and i liked it. it's definitely not the best comic book movie i've ever seen (blade and civil war are my favs) but it was fun, which is all i really expected it to be. my issues with it are less with the movie itself and more with the entire DC cinematic universe, especially in comparison to the CW DC shows. 

a lot of the reason why i'm so into DC is because of the CW- the CW consistently hires women and people of color and women of color and they do things like... cast iris, joe and wally west, who are white characters, with black actors. they cast speedy, a male character, as willa holland and turned speedy into thea queen. they push the boundaries and give lots of marginalized folks a chance to shine. sure, the writing isn't really up to par with the writing for the marvel shows, but they also don't have the same budget that marvel does, and the CW as a network doesn't really draw the same types of writers that netflix does. 

but they try. they make shows that are true to the comics, and sometimes they're corny as hell but they own it, instead of trying to make everything so dark the way that netflix marvel does. i appreciate that. a lot of the comics that i love to read are super corny and i mean... that's just how comics are. you can't be mad at DC or the CW for that. they make their shows approachable and fun and they don’t take themselves too seriously. i love that about them. and because they don’t have the same kind of pressure on them that the DC cinematic universe does, they can do things like... bring in vixen for one episode, or tie in the justice society of america. they have a lot more freedom and i would love to see what the CW DC shows could do if they had the kind of budget that the netflix marvel shows do. but even without the budget, they’re fun. they feel like comic books to me. i’m not here to complain about the writing being bad when they’re shows about people putting on capes and like... running really fast. i’m here to see the characters i like doing fun superhero stuff. and do i love marvel? of course. jessica jones and the way it handled ptsd is super important to me and anyone who tries to say that chadwick boseman as black panther wasn’t the best thing any of us have seen in years is just plain wrong. but i’m a nerd, and i love that i GET to live in 2016 when i have arrow, the flash, supergirl, the black panther movie, justice league, avengers, captain marvel AND everything else to look forward to. it’s the nerd golden age and i’m basking in every second of it.

but what's frustrating to me is that after years of work on the CW, the DC cinematic universe basically said, "fuck you, fuck everything you're doing, we're casting different actors for the movies, you can't sit with us." and although i kind of get it, it's frustrating. the flash and the other CW shows have been so great BECAUSE of grant gustin and candice patton and carlos valdes and rila fukushima and caity lotz and all of the writers, not in spite of them. it's sad to see them get so forcibly shoved to the side in an attempt to make the DC movies be...like the marvel movies. 

so, you know, suicide squad was fun. i don't really believe that viola davis isn't amanda waller. will smith is a perfect deadshot and him and viola should be cast in every movie for the rest of time. margot robbie did the very best she could with what she was given. but... it was sad to see them kill off just ONE person on the squad, who, of course, was a person of color. it was sad to see harley quinn's story revolve entirely around the joker. it was sad to see tons of racial and gender stereotyping. it was sad to hear that jared leto treated the rest of the cast so horribly just so that he could be a mediocre joker, and DC just let him behave that way. and it's even sadder because i'm one of the very few CW DC stans, so i know that DC is better than this. i've watched them cast tons of women and people of color and women of color and i've seen them treat those characters as they deserve to be treated on the CW for years. i mean, katana was in six seconds of suicide squad but the CW katana had a full-season story arc and was a fully realized character with a super detailed history AND she was an absolute badass. i’ve watched the cast of all of the CW shows consistently support each other and respect one another.

i love DC and i always will, but i wish they would stop trying to be like marvel and just try to be more like their CW selves. 

A Man's Place is Not on My Starship: How Men Missed the Entire Point of Star Trek and Need to Get Out of My Fandom

I've written before about the sexism I've experienced as a woman who's into Star Trek. I've spoken with Kate Mulgrew, the only  woman to ever star as the captain on a Star Trek series, about her experiences with sexism. I left the largest Star Trek group on Facebook because of the blatant sexism and racism present there. I was forced out of a fictional starship because I dared to speak out against the openly sexist captain. I am now the captain of my own starship, the USS Feminist Killjoy, with a whole crew of non-men and it's a beautiful place that we have built for each other.

So, let me give you a little bit of background on my knowledge of Star Trek- I've seen every episode of every series, I've seen every movie, I've read comics and continuation novels and have spent many hours theorizing and debating about and discussing the politics of Star Trek. I know my shit. I know it about as well as anyone can know it.

As long as I've been into Star Trek, though, there are men seemingly at every turn who have watched just as much Star Trek as me... but they somehow watched an entirely different Star Trek. They missed the part about acceptance and tolerance, the part about compassion, the part about Starfleet and its policies, the part where they talk about why the Federation was established, the part where women were in positions of power and men weren't threatened by that, the part where men encouraged the women around them to succeed and supported them, the part where they met aliens from different planets and learned about their cultures and about how different races of people and aliens from different places are just DIFFERENT, and not lesser than anyone else. They missed the part about celebrating infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

This isn't entirely their fault, though.

Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek. He created this whole incredible universe and he did a lot of good things in his time. But Gene Roddenberry was also a man, and despite his heart being in the right place and the stories he told being mostly wonderful, he got a lot of things wrong. He didn't know how to portray women as full people, and the series suffered because of it. But this was the 1960s and he was still doing a hell of a lot more than anyone else was.

The thing about our creations, though, is that sometimes they become bigger than us. This was certainly true with Star Trek. Gene's ideas and the stories he wanted to tell were tainted by his sexism, which is ingrained into all men by society from birth and isn't specifically his fault. It takes a lot to unlearn societal prejudices. He created these incredible female characters, like Deanna Troi and Tasha Yar, and despite their incredible strength, he did things like... not give Deanna a Starfleet uniform because he wanted to stick her in a cuter outfit, or have Tasha, a security officer, stand to the side and say, "Yes, Captain" and not be able to think for herself. He did a lot of good, but he also worked with what he knew, and he didn't know how to work with female characters.

I'm gonna get a lot of flack for saying this, but I truly feel that the franchise benefited from his death. It had grown beyond anything he could have imagined and he couldn't adjust his mindset to keep up. The ideals that he wanted to portray did not align with the stories that he told. Starfleet taught us about equality and the way he portrayed female characters was not equal to the way he portrayed the male characters.

The women and non-binary folks I know who love Star Trek like I do were able to think critically about the shows, to open our minds and to see past the sexism on screen and through to the messages the Federation was trying to teach us. We saw the potential that Starfleet had to give us what we deserve- equal and just treatment. We understand the ideals of Star Trek and embody them in our own lives in ways that are better than anything the franchise could ever give us.

But somehow, it seems like every male Star Trek fan got lost in the show and just completely missed the lessons the Federation tried to teach us. I see men harass and belittle and interrogate other non-male Trekkies, and it's honestly disgusting.

But how can I really blame them? Gene Roddenberry gave them a glimpse of what the future could be like, but he taught them an incorrect way to approach diversity. William Shatner, CAPTAIN FREAKING KIRK, is a sexist piece of shit who used Twitter to come for a friend of mine who simply called out his despicable behavior, and she had a hell of a lot more tact than I am exhibiting currently. Apparently it's just too much to ask men to actually THINK about the content they're watching and starring in, because they all quite obviously missed the whole fucking point. How can you be Captain Kirk and sit there attacking women who rightfully criticize you? Starfleet would be ashamed.

It's frustrating that today I woke up so excited about Star Trek (after having seen Star Trek Beyond), in a way I haven't been since before I realized that men will always try their best to ruin Star Trek for me, and then heard about William Shatner's latest nonsense. 

What I want to say about Star Trek Beyond is this- some people feel as though Gene Roddenberry’s dream has been tampered with, but when Star Trek first came out in the 1960s, they didn’t have the technology or resources that we have today. There weren’t studios or producers who were interested in hiring a Taiwanese-American director like Justin Lin for a major movie franchise. Gene and Leonard Nimoy fought tooth and nail to get Nichelle Nichols, a Black woman, fair wages; they fought just to get her on screen at all. Gene fought against himself and his own internal prejudices, but his genuine desire to improve the world around him left us with something that is bigger and more important than the Star Trek he made in the 60s. He laid the foundation and left it for us to build upon, and I am eternally grateful for that.

In 2016, we have the resources to make the effects actually believable, we don’t have to settle for the Gorn or for non-corporeal alien entities. We have a team of people working on this film that wanted to make one of its main characters gay in honor of the gay actor, George Takei, who had to fight for his career, for his legal right to marry the person he loved, for the country he lives in to see him as a person worthy of love and compassion. We have writers like Simon Pegg who want to give the female characters like Uhura and Jaylah more to do than just stand to the side and say, “Yes, Captain.” We have actors like Idris Elba who, even as the villains, make us feel their pain and see why they’ve made the choices they’ve made. We have the tools to create glimpses, like this movie, of what our future could be like if we work toward being the best versions of ourselves. We can tell the stories of a universe better than our own, a universe that can be ours if we fight for it… all while watching starships go PEW! PEW! PEW! on the big screen.

Gene Roddenberry gave us Star Trek. He gave us The United Federation of Planets, which taught us acceptance and understanding, peace and unity. He gave us the Vulcans, who taught us to celebrate Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.
Star Trek Beyond is Gene Roddenberry’s dream fully realized, even if Gene didn't fully understand what it was that he was creating.

So, you know what? I'm sick of men coming around bullying non-male Trekkies for daring to demand to be treated the way the United Federation of Planets would treat us. I'm sick of men trotting around on their high horses as though they know what Star Trek is *supposed* to be.

Not anymore. Not on my ship.

All of these men are posers who don't even know what the Federation is about and as far as I'm concerned, we're better off without them. End transmission.




For as long as women have been interested and involved in nerd culture, an umbrella term that encompasses media like comic books, science-fiction and fantasy and the fans of these types of media, they have been excluded from it. This has been happening since at least the 1960s, when Majel Barrett’s position as First Office on the Enterprise in the television show Star Trek was given to Leonard Nimoy. It’s happening now, fifty years later, with Rey, the main character in the space opera Star Wars: The Force Awakens, who was left out of the majority of Force Awakens merchandise and is effectively treated as a minor character when she was, in fact, the star of the film. Gillian Anderson, the actress who plays Dana Scully in the science-fiction television show The X-Files was offered half of the wage that her co-star, David Duchovny, was offered to reprise her role in a reboot of the show. The women who publicly celebrate comic books, fantasy and science-fiction, whether it is at conventions, through the internet or even in their real lives, are often harassed, interrogated and generally treated as they don’t belong, despite making up a significant portion of the fan base for these types of media. Their motives behind their enjoyment of it are called into question, and the legitimacy of their fandom is tested. These tactics of exclusion and discouragement that are directed solely at female characters, the women who play them and the women who look up to them are nothing new and, though disappointing, hardly surprising. 

    Comic books and science-fiction and the accompanying television shows and movies do not often represent women in a manner that fairly and accurately portrays their experiences, and the female characters that are included are few and far between. The small number of female characters that do exist in these genres are held to much higher standards than comparable male characters, and they have each of their actions, lines of dialogue and outfits scrutinized, down to the most minute details. The characters are blamed for how they are written, with these critiques failing to recognize and understand that sexism and misogyny both factor into the writing of these characters, and without the acknowledgment that a female character can only go so far with writing that is riddled with sexism and misogyny. This treatment of the women involved in comics and science-fiction trickles all the way down to the production and sale of action figures. Toys have always been marketed to appeal to specific genders, and action figures, which are generally and wrongfully considered to be masculine, are marketed toward men and boys. This is representative of the sexism that runs rampant in nerd culture- it fails to recognize women and girls as a significant and valid part of the community. It fails to look beyond gender norms. It fails to include women and girls in even such a small part of nerd culture, the toys, despite their continued presence and integral contributions to the world of comics and science-fiction. 

    In the past two years, two popular franchises that had previously been predominantly focused on male characters released two movies that made obvious attempts to be more inclusive of women. The first was Avengers: Age of Ultron, which had both Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johannson, and Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olson. The difference between Age of Ultronand the previous Avengers movies was that this was the first time they gave the audience a glimpse into Black Widow’s life. There were movies with origin stories for the male Avengers, like The Hulk and Captain America, but they never showed how Black Widow became who she was. It also gave a backstory for Scarlet Witch, and her story was a big subplot in Age of Ultron. It seemed logical to assume that after the movie premiered, these two women would be featured alongside the male stars of the movies as action figures, and yet, they were both left out from the action figure collections and from almost all of the other merchandise that was sold. Black Widow had a scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where she jumped out of the team’s Quinjet on a motorcycle, and the action figure that was sold as part of this scene was Captain America, though the scene was quite obviously a scene that belonged to Black Widow. 

    The second movie to do this was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and there was uproar about the casting selections from the Star Wars fanbase before the movie even came out. Some fans vowed to not see the movie because the three main stars were Daisy Ridley, a woman, Óscar Isaac, a Latino man and John Boyega, a Black man. These casting choices were drastically different from the previous six movies whose cast was almost entirely male and almost entirely White. It seemed like the franchise was making a conscious effort to be more inclusive in their casting and in their storytelling. The movie was about Rey and her discovering the Force within herself, and because she was the star of the movie, the fans expected her to be molded into an action figure and sold everywhere, the same way that Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were. Again, she was missing from toy collections. She was left out of packages that included Poe Dameron (Óscar Isaac’s character), who had a fraction of the screen time that Rey did. It is possible to find action figures based on Rey, but there are hardly any sets of the full cast that include her. There is hardly any merchandise at all that includes her, and if it does, she’s off to the side and not in the center, where, as the star of the movie, she should be placed. 

    This is a pattern with the Star Wars franchise, though. After Return of the Jedi, there were no action figures based on Leia in her iconic gold bikini, who killed Jabba the Hut and freed herself from his imprisonment. Leia was the only female character who was a part of the main cast, and her shining moment in Return of the Jedi, not as a beautiful woman in a gold bikini, but as a powerful warrior who freed herself from capture, was not recreated in toy form the way that the shining moments for her male cast members were. It wasn’t until 1997 that a figure of Leia in her gold bikini was created and it was protested almost immediately by individuals who didn’t consider her to be a good role model because of her outfit choice, neglecting the fact that it was neither Carrie Fisher’s nor Leia’s choice to be wearing the gold bikini; it was an outfit chosen by George Lucas for Carrie, and an outfit chosen by Jabba the Hut for Leia. It neglected the fact that the scene where Leia wore that outfit was groundbreaking, because of what Leia did in that outfit. Leia has quite frequently been excluded from action figure sets containing her male costars, even when she’s not dressed in the gold bikini. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in 1977 paved the way for characters like Rey, Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, but despite that influence, these franchises never managed to learn from their mistakes.  

    The decisions by the companies producing the figures had everything to do with the gender of these characters. They are substantial characters who were excluded and they are all women. None of the male characters were left out of the action figure box sets, even those with smaller roles. It’s disheartening that after multiple movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where Black Widow plays a significant role as an Avenger, she was not treated as an equally important Avenger and was left out of her own scene for the Age of Ultron action figure collection. It is heartbreaking that after six Star Wars movies with almost entirely male leads, they cast a woman as the star for the new movie and she was not awarded her right to be sold as an action figure in a pack with the rest of the cast. It is not surprising that Rey was excluded, considering the history of the Star Wars franchise, but it was disappointing, especially after seeing the efforts that were made with the inclusive casting. A conscious choice was made by the individuals in charge of marketing for these franchises to exclude the female characters from the toy collections.

    The general acceptance by the patriarchal society of a gender binary affects which toys actually end up being produced, the way those toys are marketed and, ultimately, which toys are sold and to whom. In her book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love, feminist author bell hooks defines the patriarchy as “a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence”. Patriarchal society conditions people to think of gender in a binary- as being male or female, with no room for overlap or for anything in between. It encourages people to be one or the other, based on the gender that was irresponsibly assigned to them at birth by their doctors and parents based on the formation of their genitals. The conditioning of an individual to view gender in terms of this binary begins before birth, through practices like coding “blue” to mean “boy” and “pink” to mean “girl” so that parents only buy the color clothing that aligns with the “sex” of their child in utero, so that when their child is born, they are instantly shoved into one category or the other. These children grow older and the toys that they play with are gendered, the educations they receive both in school and out also teach them to view gender in terms of a binary and then they grow up and become adults with these beliefs engrained into them. This kind of societal conditioning is harmful for transgender individuals (those whose gender identities do not align with the gender they were assigned at birth and/or individuals who choose to not align themselves with either gender) and intersex individuals (those whose physical characteristics do not align with a specific gender) whose lives and experiences are erased when gender is only seen as a binary and it is harmful for cisgender individuals (those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) who are taught that they can only exist if they act in accordance with the behaviors that are considered to be normal for their gender. It is harmful for young girls who are conditioned to believe that they are weak and inferior. This simplistic view of and belief in a gender binary is so prevalent in society that it determines something so minute and yet so significant, like which toys small children play with. 

    When the choices were made to exclude these characters, it was because of society’s acceptance of the gender binary. Action figures have always been marketed to boys and men, so it seems logical to only create male action figures. An individual came forward claiming that the companies instructed the manufacturers to exclude Rey from the action figure collections because they didn’t think that boys and men would want to have a female action figure. This is another example of societal conditioning, teaching boys that they shouldn’t want to play with female action figures because women are considered to be weak, and then not creating female action figures so that children don’t even have the option to play with them. This is also a problem because it completely disregards the female fans of this media and the young girls who see these female characters representing them but are discouraged from participating in their fandom because they can’t even buy action figures of these characters. 

    This issue is present in television as well, as is apparent with shows like Young Justice and Arrow. Young Justice was an animated show that had a few different female characters, mainly Miss Martian and Artemis, and it was cancelled after the second season. Paul Dini is a writer who has been involved with a lot of the DC animated shows that were close to Young Justice, and in a podcast he was interviewed for by Kevin Smith called Shadow of the Shadow of the Bat, he discussed his experiences with the executives responsible for media like Young Justice. He said about the executives, “They’re all for boys, ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not where I am but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.’” He continued by talking about a different series he was working on in the same realm of shows and said, “And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience…but the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action…we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.’” He and Kevin Smith discussed toys as well, how the executives believe that girls do not buy toys. Young Justice didn’t sell enough toys, and despite the fact that girls loved the show and probably did, in fact, buy toys, the show was cancelled, despite being hugely popular. The blame was placed onto girls for enjoying it, rather than on how toys are marketed to appeal to specific genders. Arrow is a television show that is also from the DC universe, and it is a show that has come so far over the course of its four seasons with its representation of female characters. One character in particular stands out- Dinah Laurel Lance who becomes the superhero Black Canary in season three. She was one of the first characters that was introduced and has been hugely important to the story and her character has evolved so far. However, DC had to release three lines of action figures before she was incorporated into the mix. They released figures based on male characters who were introduced after she was, and whose roles were insignificant compared to hers. 

    The omission of female characters from toy collections and the blame that is placed onto female fans who enjoy this type of media is a huge problem. Female characters are left out of the media entirely, and when they finally do include a significant female character, it’s often just one character, and it is never more than two. These franchises feel that having an entirely male cast is normal, but that adding one or two female characters is enough to appease female fans, when, in actuality, it is the bare minimum. Including one or two female characters in the cast of franchises that are almost entirely male is the bare minimum. It extends further when you consider the exclusion of these characters from merchandising. Leaving women out of franchises and not treating the few female characters that are there fairly tells female fans of this media that it was not made for them. So, when these fans go to buy toys of their characters, they can’t. When they go to conventions, they are harassed; 25% of female fans reported experiencing harassment in a study conducted of 3,600 people. When they speak out against this harassment and demand change, as the individuals who established Geeks for CONsent at San Diego Comic Con did, their pleas are largely ignored and their requests are not met. The Geeks for CONsent asked SDCC to create a specific anti-harassment policy and they were denied, on the claims that the already established Code of Conduct was enough, although that is clearly untrue given the statistics of respondents who have experienced harassment even with this Code of Conduct in place (Granshaw, 2014). It is surprising that these changes come so slowly, as female attendance at conventions is on the rise, for example, there was a 62% growth in female fans attending New York Comic Con between the years 2010 and 2013. It is obvious that there is a large female fanbase for these forms of media, and yet the female characters are hardly present in large franchises and the women who attend conventions for this media are treated as though they are insignificant. 

    Although it is clear that the gender disparity is a huge problem in nerd culture, there is one popular franchise that has committed to its inclusion of female characters: Star Trek. The premise of the Star Trek Universe is that it takes place in the future, long after capitalism and when racism, sexism and other oppressive societal norms have been worked past. The show did a good job of exemplifying this future and the individuals who worked on the show ensured that this futuristic view of equality was happening behind the scenes as well. In an interview Walter Koenig, who played Ensign Chekhov on Star Trek, did with the Las Vegas Sun, he said, “When it came to the attention of the cast that there was a disparity in pay in that George [Takei, a Japanese man who played Hikaru Sulu] and I were getting the same pay but Nichelle [Nichols, a Black woman who played Nyota Uhura] was not getting as much, I took it to Leonard and he took it to the front office and they corrected that”. Nichelle ended up being in almost every single episode, she was part of television’s first scripted interracial kiss and she influenced people like actress Whoopi Goldberg, the activist Martin Luther King Jr. and the astronaut Mae Jemison. 

    When the next series, Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, it had a few different women featured in positions of power. Behind the scenes the actresses who played these characters, such as Marina Sirtis and Denise Crosby, fought for their characters to be represented in ways that were equal to the male characters on the show. Marina Sirtis, at DragonCon in 2010, discussed how Hollywood treats female characters, and how she wasn’t allowed to be a smart character and attractive at the same time, and how happy she was to finally get a uniform and rank in season six. Eventually, Star Trek: Voyager came out, with Kate Mulgrew playing Captain Kathryn Janeway, the first female Starfleet captain to have her own series. Voyager was more progressive than other series in quite a few ways, but mainly with its complex and diverse representation of its female characters. There was B’Elanna Torres, a half-human, half-Klingon woman who ended up being Chief of Engineering, and there was Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, a Borg drone who was liberated from the Borg Collective and became a member of Voyager’s crew, eventually creating an astrometrics lab aboard the ship. Often in media, when there are female characters, they are either on their own, or their relationships with the other women in media are based on their relationships with men. The Bechdel Test is test that was made in response to this phenomenon, that people often use to determine how female characters are portrayed in media. To pass the test, a work of fiction must obey three guidelines: it must 1) have two female characters, 2) that talk to each other, 3) about something other than a man. It seems basic, but it is somewhat challenging to find works of fiction that pass it- for example, neither Avengers: Age of Ultron nor Star Wars: The Force Awakens pass the Bechdel Test, despite having multiple female characters in each movie. Thanks to Jarrah Hodge, a devout Star Trek fan who watched every episode of every series with this test in mind, it is now known that in Star Trek: Voyager, 87.5% of the episodes pass the Bechdel Test, and in season five, every single episode passes. 

    In addition to its on-screen portrayal of women and its obvious efforts to treat women fairly, Star Trek is a huge franchise with many characters, and all of the main female characters have their own action figures. There were figures made for almost every single female character in the series as well, not just the main cast. There are figures of recurring guest characters like Lwaxana Troi and Vash, and there are figures of female villains like the Klingons Lursa and B’Etor. The women who are a part of the main cast are available in varying outfits, from many different collections of figures. Some of the only female characters not available as action figures are some of the recurring characters on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager, like Kasidy Yates and Kai Winn. This is due in part to the time in which the shows came out, because Star Trek cancelled its lines with Playmates Toys in 1999, who had made most of the action figures for the various series.Deep Space Nine ended in 1999, and Voyager ended in 2001, so the toys that were made by Playmates were more limited, if they were made at all. Next Generation and the original series both had much more time to have different lines of figures and different versions of characters made, but because of Star Trek’s end to its relationship with Playmates, Voyager and Deep Space Nine did not have those same opportunities. 

    In this climate of increasingly unfair treatment of women in nerd culture, the progressive politics modeled by Star Trek in the past have largely been lost in the reboots, which is undoubtedly due to having an entirely new cast and crew working on the franchise. However, even with this in mind, Star Trek is one of the only popular franchises in nerd culture today that has cast a Black woman (Zoe Saldana) to be a part of the main cast. This is significant because, when popular franchises do include women, they are almost entirely White women, which is unfair to the women of color who should also be represented in these spaces. There have also been problems with white-washing, or the casting of White actresses as characters who have been established as being women with diverse backgrounds, such as the casting of Elizabeth Olsen to play Scarlet Witch, a Romani character, and the remodeling of White Canary, a Chinese character, to be played by Caity Loitz on Legends of Tomorrow

    It seems that popular franchises are starting to hear the pleas of women who want to see themselves accurately represented in media, because there has been a significant upswing in the number of female characters present in these types of nerd media. Obviously there have been the female characters in Avengers and Star Wars, but in television, new female characters have been popping up- characters like Jessica Jones, played by Krysten Ritter, who has a series based on her that was just renewed for a second season. The character Supergirl, played by Melissa Benoist, was given a solo series on CBS. Hawkgirl, played by Ciara Renée, was put on the cast ofLegends of Tomorrow alongside Caity Loitz, who played Black Canary on Arrow previously and is now playing White Canary. Arrow, who started out as a show with almost entirely male characters now has a cast where the female characters outnumber the male in the main cast, with Dinah Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and Thea Queen (Willa Holland) is Speedy, a superhero who is a man in the comics. There have been numerous popular movements on social media to address the exclusion of female characters from merchandising, through Twitter hashtags along the lines of #WhereIsBlackWidow and #WhereIsRey, and the posting on Twitter of a letter written by an eight year old girl bringing up the valid point that, “without her [Rey], there is no force awakens! It awakens in her!” This letter and these social media movements forced Hasbro to address Rey’s exclusion from its Monopoly game, and to commit to putting her character in all future versions of the game that are produced, although Hasbro still excluded Rey from its action figure sets.

    When franchises neglect to include female characters, that tells women and girls that they are not welcome. When television shows are cancelled for having too many female fans, that tells women and girls that they are not welcome. When action figure sets include every character but the female ones, that tells women and girls that they are not welcome. When comic conventions refuse to address the problems with harassment that women attendees experience, that tells women and girls that they are not welcome. The men who are largely in charge of making these decisions refuse to acknowledge that women and girls make up a large portion of the fanbase for these types of media, and they refuse to accept that having female fans is not something they should treat as though it is a problem. Women make up a large portion of the population of the world and it is irresponsible and unfair to treat them as anything but significant. 

    From the main Star Trek web database, Memory Alpha, the United Federation of Planets is described as “an interstellar federal republic, composed of planetary governments that agreed to exist semi-autonomously under a single central government based on the principles of universal liberty, rights and equality, and to share their knowledge and resources in peaceful cooperation, scientific development, space exploration and defensive purposes”. The creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, envisioned a different kind of future through Star Trek, “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms… If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.” The various series and movies exemplify these standards and politics in the best way they can as television shows and movies that are created in the patriarchal society in America. The casting choices for these series and movies reflect this, as does the evolution of the writing for the female characters that are present. These characters are available as action figures and on merchandise, and they are celebrated by not only the fans of Star Trek, but by the franchise itself as they’ve proven time and again with their treatment of women both on-screen and off. The United Federation of Planets and what it modeled in the world of nerd culture in which sexism runs rampant is undeniably important, and is something that more franchises should learn from and take to heart, especially considering the decades of success that Star Trek has had.

    It’s difficult to find why it’s a problem to cast women and people of color in the most popular franchises in nerd culture, when the main cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens were a woman, a Latino man and a Black man, and the movie shattered nearly every box office record world-wide. It’s difficult not to wonder what the future could hold if young children grew up viewing women as equal to men, if young girls could see themselves included in franchises like Star Wars through characters like Rey, if children could have inclusive toy collections and were not discouraged from such a young age from even just playing with toys that are based on female characters. It’s difficult not to wonder what a community of action figure collectors would look like if the individuals in charge of the production and distribution of action figures took seriously the representation and diversity modeled by Star Trek, if this level of acceptance of women was championed at least by the individuals in charge of producing action figures. Maybe 2016 can be the year that this changes, the year that these franchises make a conscious effort to listen to the pleas of the female fans who are determined to be heard, and the year nerd culture begins to treat women as though they are a significant portion of the fanbase for these types of media. Maybe this is the year that the larger comic conventions in San Diego and New York learn from the less-popular convention, Emerald City, in Seattle, who posted fliers around the convention stating that “cosplay is not consent” and making their no-tolerance policy for harassment visible, and take seriously the problems with harassment that the women present at these conventions face. Maybe this is the year where more marginalized individuals are represented through casting choices in these franchises- like women of color, queer, non-binary and differently-abled individuals, rather than straight, cisgender White men. The detrimental effects that the exclusion of women and other marginalized individuals from these franchises have on an individual and societal level are long-lasting, and can only be countered by continued efforts made both by fans of this media and by the individuals in charge of these franchises. It’s impossible to know if characters that are not straight, cisgender, White men will end up being popular if no one but these individuals are ever cast in these types of roles. It’s impossible to know if men and boys don’t want to play with female action figures when they’re never given the opportunity to make that choice. It’s impossible to know if women and girls don’t buy action figures if female action figures based on the few female characters that exist in nerd culture aren’t even created. It’s impossible for women to feel as though they have a place anywhere in nerd culture when they aren’t even represented as action figures. 

On Joy and the Harsh Reality of Capitalism

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than I am in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

-Stephen Jay Gould 


I think of this quote often, as someone who constantly feels the crushing weight of capitalism and as someone who has watched it tear apart my life and the lives of the people around me. I think of all the things I would like to do, the things that I feel would give my life a sense of purpose and the things that I think would help better the lives of others, like my lifelong dreams of going to medical school, of teaching, of writing professionally. The dreams I have feel so far out of my reach, far past my capabilities and opportunities as a woman who can’t afford to finish college and as a person who has to work full-time just to make ends meet. I have been poor my entire life. My parents gave me the best life they could, but in a capitalist society it’s hard to even exist, unless you were born into wealth. Long work weeks yielding low pay, enough to keep a roof over your head but not enough to ever lead to the possibility of getting yourself into a better situation. Capitalism makes the rich richer and strips the poor of everything they have. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the new movie Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence, that was hosted by Gabi Fresh (thanks Gabi!). While the movie itself was a little strange, I enjoyed it and I appreciated the realistic portrayal of how capitalism affects people. 

Jennifer Lawrence was a good choice for this role. She played Joy, an intelligent woman whose life had been consumed by responsibility and obligation. She lived with her mother who required a lot of care and also with her grandmother, her children and her ex-husband. Her father, who was an angry and emotionally abusive man, also came to live with her in the beginning of the movie. Joy obviously struggled with the weight of supporting her entire family, both financially and emotionally. Women are often forced into this role as a part of our societal conditioning- the role of caretaker. I appreciated the care they took in developing this image of her life and of the stress and pressure of a life that was forced onto her out of familial obligation. 

Her mother was treated poorly by her father (at Joy's wedding he gave a speech about how he was miserable with her mother, and he screamed at her and broke her things) and it seemed that the trauma from their marriage and his behavior toward her caused her to break down, which is a feeling I’ve experienced at the hands of men. Once her father had effectively broken her mother’s spirit, he set his sights on Joy, onto whom he projected his own fears and feelings of inadequacy. At every opportunity, he attempted to instill into her the understanding that she was and would always be a failure, while simultaneously demanding more from her and pressuring her to succeed. I feel like this is truly a spot-on metaphor for capitalism- implying failure if you aren’t financially successful without providing the resources to succeed and making success impossible.

Joy was the only one in her family working to support them. Her ex-husband was a kind man who cared about her, but he was also a man who hadn’t grown up and refused to find a job to help ease Joy’s financial burden. Despite the tremendous effort Joy put into caring for her family, she was the person who everyone slandered and demeaned, seemingly unaware that without her, they would have had nothing. Women are conditioned to support the people around them, even at great personal loss, and Joy had a conversation with her best friend that flashed back to a moment in her past that fundamentally altered her trajectory, a moment where it became apparent to her that supporting her family and following her dreams were mutually exclusive. 

Joy had a creative mind, though her creativity was put on the back burner in order for her to direct her energy toward her family. She developed an idea for a self-wringing mop, a mop that I have in my house today and a mop that saved my life when my apartment flooded a few weeks ago. It was the kind of idea that could only come from a person who spent their lives mopping, a person who’d experienced less efficient mops and a person who knew the effect that this design would have on the lives of others. Joy’s idea was practical, useful and simple. She was determined to succeed, and she did, briefly. She managed to get her mop manufactured and to sell it on a home shopping network, with the help of her best friend Jackie (as played by Dascha Polanco who I adore).

Once she experienced some success, the harsh reality of capitalism set in and her manufacturer tried to charge her more money for the mop parts, and with the price increase she wouldn’t be able to make a profit and would instead sink further into debt. She went to the plant to try to reason with them, only to discover that they’d stolen her idea and were planning on manufacturing the mops themselves. She sought legal counsel and was told that she had no choice but to declare bankruptcy to try to save herself from tremendous debt. Joy had a breakdown, screaming and sobbing as she tore down her original mop designs before she reluctantly signed the papers.

I wish the movie had ended here, at the lowest point in Joy’s life where she’d come so close to success only to have it ripped away from her by capitalism and opportunistic white men. I thought of something Kanye West said, about feeling like he’d been swimming for ten, twelve years of his life and how when he became successful, it was like finally seeing land. I imagine that Joy felt similarly, like she’d been fighting so hard just to exist and it finally seemed like she was done fighting, only to find out that it was an illusion and that she would have to fight forever just for things to stay the same. It would’ve felt more realistic to me if the movie had ended here, because that is reality. If you’re poor, you work for your whole life just to be able to keep a roof over your head. The implication of this film that one day, you will have a stroke of luck and break the mold is, at best, highly unlikely and at worst, dangerously naive. 

With my willingness to suspend my disbelief, I liked the ending. It was nice to feel like maybe I could be like Joy and have some luck and get out of poverty. I liked watching her succeed and I appreciated that once she was successful, she had meetings with women who were in the situation she’d been in before to help them make money too. There’s a concept among women called “shine theory”, that boils down to, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine”, or successful women not seeing other women as competition but as friends, and I think that’s really important. 

It’s not usually the type of movie I would go to see, but I’m glad that I did because it was validating to see a woman like myself struggling with capitalism in a similar way, and despite my feeling that the ending was unrealistic, it gave me a little bit of hope that maybe things won’t always be this way. It comes out Friday, and it’s definitely worth seeing. 

On Star Wars, Rey and The Myth of Mary Sues

When I was a kid, I loved Star Wars. I remember waiting in line to see The Phantom Menace and even thinking that THAT movie was cool, despite how deeply Star Wars fans seem to hate it. And then I grew up, got really into Star Trek, and turned into an elitist asshole who trash-talked Star Wars any chance I got, even though I hadn’t seen any of the movies in years. I was that asshole, and I know I was an asshole. When I saw the trailer for The Force Awakens, I was so excited, and it was like all of my curmudgeony elitism dissolved and I was again the little kid who loved Star Wars. I was skeptical, but I had hope. And then I finally got to see it last night and I genuinely couldn’t believe that it was a real movie that I was seeing, because it was just so incredibly good across the board. I denounced my old elitist self and got all of the past movies and I plan to marathon them on my next day off to fully shed my final layer of grumpy Star Wars hate.

There are lots of spoilers in here, readers beware.

My favorite character, to the surprise of absolutely no one reading this, was Rey. I was instantly captivated by her story, her obvious aptitude for mechanics, her work ethic and her will to survive. She’s an all-around badass, which reminds me of Ellen Ripley -- high praise for any character and good company to be in. 

So, naturally, every trash dude has to jump out of the hellmouth with his trash opinion about why Rey sucks.

I saw dudes calling Rey a Mary Sue, which is defined simply as “a young or low-rank person who saves the day through extraordinary abilities”. Usually, it’s used as a derogatory term for female characters. The first time I ever heard the term was at a party when a man used it to describe Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, and I looked it up on my phone and then got into an argument with him about how wrong he was. Despite the fact that I feel that neither Rey nor Janeway are Mary Sues, the term itself is flawed by its lack of definitive qualifications. Like, the definition I gave you above describes Harry Potter. It’s a bullshit term men use to diminish women who ever get to be good at things, because men have issues with women having power.

Rey was good at flying because she learned how to be a good mechanic. The reasoning behind why she was able to fly the Millennium Falcon well on her first try is the exact same reason why Po was able to fly a TIE fighter despite having never flown one before- they both understood how the ships worked, and they filled in the blanks with their skill sets (Po’s knowledge as a pilot and Rey’s knowledge of both mechanics and the history of Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon). She was a good mechanic because she taught herself how to be one. She was quite literally called a scavenger, because it was the only way she was able to survive on Jakku. 

My BFF Dana told me that Daisy Ridley said her inspiration for Rey was Matilda and it’s a pretty flawless comparison. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Jedis or The Force, because I haven’t seen any other Star Wars movies in years, but what I DO know a lot about is superpowers and superhero origin stories. I know that, for example, Matilda was a kid in a horrible situation, and her powers came to her and she used them to get herself into a better situation and to help the kids at her school have better lives. I know that Kara Zor-El in the show Supergirl lost her powers and was worried they wouldn’t come back, but they came back to her when she was in a situation under severe stress and fear and she NEEDED her powers. Rey’s ability to use The Force came to her when she was being tortured by Adam from Girls (I just hate him so much that I can’t even see him as Kylo Ren) and she needed to protect the map to Luke. She realized what was happening in the moment, and then she figured out that it was an ability she had and she used it to escape (from Daniel Craig LOL). She later used her powers to fight Adam from Girls who was dead-set on killing her. It’s a pretty cut-and-dry story of a hero getting and using powers, or in this case, a baby Jedi using The Force (I’m just assuming Rey is gonna be a Jedi- she went to the first Jedi temple to chill with Luke, so).

It’s frustrating to me that in attempts to establish Rey as a Mary Sue, men overlook the fact that like, she almost wrecked the Millennium Falcon when she started to fly it. She accidentally cut the wrong fuses and let out those weird monsters who tried to eat Finn. She got captured by Adam from Girls. She had to tell Daniel Craig to let her out like four times. She almost lost fighting Adam from Girls a second time. She was hardly a character who got everything right every time. She was human, she was flawed and she was wonderful. 

And! One of the main parts of being a Mary Sue is that you have to save the day! Rey didn't even save the day! Finn saved the day when he figured out how to lower the shields! Po saved the day when he went in for his final attack on that reactor thing! Chewie saved the day when he blew it up! Chewie saved the day when he got Rey and Finn off that weird mega-Death Star! The Resistance saved the day! Leia saved the day by organizing the Resistance and finding such a bad-ass group of people to help her! Rey didn't even save the day! She just fought her hardest and did her best to help where she could! Which is all anyone can do! 


I don’t really know how to end this, because I just want to keep talking about this movie forever. I love Leia and BB8 and Finn and Po and obviously Rey and Chewie and I can’t wait to watch more movies with them. 

Punching, Kicking, Drinking and Talking Shit

When I first read Alias, it was a game changer for me. Jessica Jones isn't a typical hero, but she was a character I related to- her thought process is similar to mine, we both swear a lot, we both have low self-confidence, we’re both rude and often inconsiderate and insensitive, we're both survivors. Her personality stuck out to me and I felt a connection to her that I’d never really had with a fictional character before. I’ve connected with many female characters, but perhaps the reason why my connection to Jessica felt more intense was because of the nature of her experience. The main villain in the comic and in the first season of the show is Kilgrave, a man with the ability to control minds who has a particularly heinous stroke of evil inside him.

But are his actions actually abnormally heinous?

I’m a woman who’s been raped by two different men. I’m a woman who’s spent months living in a world of illusions created for me by men- though not under the influence of mind control, these deceptions and the resulting traumas were no less cruel, and the illusions certainly felt real to me. I’m a woman who’s spent my life in a patriarchal society that’s devoted to making women doubt themselves and hate themselves, that forces us to cope with these feelings in whatever ways we can. I’m a woman who’s learned to survive in spite of all of this, and I know that that is why I feel such a deep connection to Jessica Jones.

In many ways, Kilgrave is an extraordinarily terrible man, but in many ways he and his actions are merely metaphors for men, the patriarchy and the damage they cause to women. In many ways, Jessica is an extraordinarily heroic woman, but in many ways she and her experiences are a metaphor for women, what we have to endure and what we can become.

In the show, Kilgrave raped both Jessica and Hope, a woman whose parents hired Jessica to find her. They changed this from the comics- in the comics, Kilgrave never physically raped Jessica, instead he would force her to watch him sleep with other women, and would force her to cry and beg for him to sleep with her. At first I thought it was strange that they changed that, but as the series went on, I appreciated it. Jessica and Hope were both raped by this man, and both ended up having to deal with his presence in their lives. For me, it was a relief to see these women dealing with something that I could relate to, and I felt that it was important that Jessica and Hope both responded to the same situation in different ways. This portrayal of their experiences is truly a testament to the caliber of the writing of this show.

Because of what Kilgrave did to her, Jessica experienced PTSD, and it was a big part of her life. I liked that it showed the ways (besides alcohol) that she learned to cope with it- Birch Street, Higgins Drive, Cobalt Lane. This mantra, of sorts, helped to center her when she was really struggling. This was a coping mechanism that she passed on to Hope, in addition to instilling in Hope the sense that what Kilgrave had done to her was not her fault. Society works very hard to force the blame onto women for things that have been done to them, and Jessica worked very hard from the beginning to make sure that Hope knew that she was not to blame.

Jessica and the relationships she cultivated with the women around her are unique. Her relationship with Hope was based on a shared traumatic experience, one that made each of them feel isolated, which is a way a lot of women who experience trauma feel. Jessica never let Hope feel isolated, she showed Hope that she’d experienced many of the same things when she’d been under Kilgrave’s influence. This type of bond between two women is something I had never seen on TV before, though this type of bond is one that I am entirely familiar with because it’s a bond I share with a lot of women who’ve experienced the same shit I have. It’s a bond that feels unbreakable and it’s a bond that gives me strength in my weakest moments.

Jessica’s best friend and sister is Trish Walker (it took me a long time to piece together from IMDb before the show aired that Trish is short for Patricia, and that Patsy is short for Patricia, and that they intended for Trish to be Hellcat, whose name in the comics is Patsy Walker) and their relationship is comparable to the relationship between Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, which was a relationship that set a high bar for representations of female friendships. Jessica acts like she doesn’t care about anyone, but she spent most of her life devoted to caring for Trish, and not in a way that cast any sort of appearance of weakness on Trish. Trish’s spirit and attitude, and her willingness to do what is right no matter what the cost is made her an incredibly admirable character to me. Trish experienced Kilgrave’s mind control later in the show, and I think that it helped her to understand Jessica’s response to what he’d done to her. In many ways Jessica and Trish operated as a team, and it was nice to see the different ways they worked to support each other, and the ways they balanced each other out.

Another woman in Jessica’s life was Jeri, a lesbian lawyer (I mention her sexuality because she’s the first openly gay character in the MCU and I think it’s important to acknowledge that) who worked with Jessica in a kind of moral grey area. They respect and depend on each other, and it’s this mutual respect and codependence that keeps their relationship together despite the fact that their personalities clash in a lot of ways. They both understand the concepts of right and wrong, but both have accepted that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to make good things happen.

Jessica’s approach to problem-solving is part of what makes her so unique- she makes decisions with the best intentions, that don’t always play out the way she wants them to, and then she’s left to clean up her mess. It adds a layer of complexity to her that we only ever really see in male characters, because generally in TV if a woman fucks up, it’s because she’s incompetent, but if a man fucks up, he did the wrong thing, but for the right reasons. Women are never allowed to fuck up the ways that Jessica does, and it is, again, a testament to the caliber of the writing that they allowed her character to fuck up without having anyone doubt her capabilities.

She is known for her tumultuous relationship with Luke Cage. I don’t have much to say about him, other than I love him. The comics end with Jessica revealing to Luke that she’s pregnant, and it was the main thing I dreaded about this adaptation. I knew Jessica was able to stand on her own two feet, but I worried that the show would obscure that. It’s something I’m tired of seeing- women having their stories inextricably linked to their love lives and their characters never moving beyond that. I was pleasantly surprised when the series ended and Jessica wasn’t pregnant, and I was impressed by the way the writers handled their relationship.

I knew that this show would be good, because each role was cast perfectly, it was based on a comic that I deeply love and the folks at Marvel/Netflix have been, frankly, killing it lately. I knew that I would love the show no matter what because of my connection with Jessica. I just didn’t realize how drastically the subtle changes made in the adaptation would alter the story, and I certainly didn’t expect them to make the story better than it had been in the comics, but somehow... the series is better than the comic.

I love you, Jessica Jones, and I hope we get to see more of you.

On Supergirl and Acceptance

I remember seeing a tweet a long time ago that said something to the effect of, “One bad Catwoman movie and we never get a female superhero anything ever again, but Ben Affleck fucks up Daredevil and gets to be Batman.” Until Arrow, there were hardly any TV shows or movies with female superheroes in them, and the things that we did have were…Avengers, where there was exactly one- Black Widow. I don’t have time to get into everything wrong Joss Whedon has ever done to my girls, but just know that for every good thing he does with Black Widow, there are two bad things. So, it’s hard to love Avengers when that’s happening.

Now, I write about Arrow all the time (I'm bad at linking stuff, but if you click the tag for Arrow at the bottom, you can read all of my posts about Arrow). It’s because from season one, we got Laurel Lance- a complex, angry alcoholic who stood up for herself at every opportunity. For me, to quote Grey’s Anatomy, Laurel was a breath of fresh air. I hadn’t seen female characters like her outside of Shondaland and her creation was so important to me. And here she was, in the least likely of places- a show where the main image associated with it is a shirtless pretty white boy! As the series developed, we got Felicity (though not a typical superhero, is crucial to the team’s ability to fight crime which is hero-worthy to me) who I’ve written about, and who I love deeply. We got Thea, who is another complex character who has a very interesting story arc and ends up a superhero. We got Tatsu aka Katana, who I don’t even need to elaborate on. And, we got Sara “No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men” Lance. So, I defend Arrow as hard as I can as often as I can, because now, in season four, the team is mostly these women and it is wonderful.

With a show like Arrow, there is inevitably the squadron of male nerds who slither their way out of the hellmouth to try their best to ensure that women can’t enjoy these characters. They cut them down every chance they get, they question every decision they make, they nitpick every detail of everything they do. It must be exhausting, to not be able to enjoy a female character unless she’s literally and figuratively bulletproof. And yet, here these nerd dudes are, cutting Laurel down. Mocking her each time she fails, when, for example, Daredevil failed all the time but instead of being “weak” or “bad at fighting” (arguments I’ve seen made against Laurel), he’s “learning” and “realistic”. Male nerds will come up with ANY way to defend male superheroes, but have no interest in defending female superheroes. This is obviously not a coincidence, as sexism and misogyny are prevalent in society.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the third season of Arrow does the best job with its treatment of female characters, and that the third season is widely accepted by male nerds as being “the worst season yet”. They blame it on the plot…. and yet they suffered through season one with me, and that shit was ROUGH. Suddenly the show has a multitude of female superheroes but it’s during “the worst season yet”. Nobody is fooling me with those bullshit arguments.

Now, I don’t think it’s linked to Arrow’s push to have more women in the show, but this year we’ve gotten Scarlet Witch, and we got Supergirl and now we’re getting Jessica Jones. I think that it’s because of women making ourselves heard about not being represented in a world that is ours too. But with our increased representation, there is an increased pushback from male nerds.

I’m an avid TV watcher, I have a lot of nerd friends, I pay attention to the reactions to things featuring women. Supergirl aired two weeks ago, and I haven’t seen a superhero show be so widely loved since Daredevil. It’s really great to see, because I absolutely love what I’ve seen of the show so far, and it makes me happy that it’s getting the praise it deserves. I posted something online about Supergirl being better than Daredevil, and I stand by it. I think that the shows are both good, in their own ways, but I relate to Supergirl more and it exemplifies politics that are close to my own. I think that TV needed a show like Supergirl, and I know that I needed a show like Supergirl.

So, I’m here because I want to offer an alternative thought process to all the male nerds out there who fight so hard to not love a good show like Supergirl just because it’s about a woman- just let yourself love it. Let yourself love Kara Zor-El. Stop searching for her flaws and instead celebrate all of the ways in which she is wonderful. And then take that love and acceptance and understanding and apply it to Laurel Lance. Apply it to Jessica Jones. Apply it to the women and girls in your actual real lives. Stop fighting us and stop cutting us down and just support us and love us and care about us. Stop letting your nerd friends cut us down, and instead encourage them to love and support us and care about us. I promise you that it’s a better way to live. I know it’s fun to argue about how and why which characters are better than others, but at least give the same consideration and defense you give to male characters to the female ones. Give the female characters a chance to be good too, and to maybe even be better than the male characters. Give Supergirl a chance to be better than Daredevil. I promise that loving her won’t make you less of a nerd. In fact, as a female nerd, it would make me trust your nerdiness more to see you unapologetically loving Kara Zor-El. To see you not being afraid to let Kara stand in the same light as Matt Murdock.

Just let Supergirl be great.

Sense8, and the Paradox of Choice and Choicelessness

I saw a video of Lana Wachowski, where a fan asked her a question which is a reference to a conversation between Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix- “Do you believe in fate, or choice?” She answered, “All of our movies tend to be about the paradox of choice and choicelessness.” The fan then implied that if you believe in fate, there can be no choice, to which she replied, “That’s choicelessness.”

In an interview with Lana, she said, “In a way all of our movies are about interconnectivity and about truth beneath the surface...A constant theme is the transformational and transcendental power of love.” She expanded on that in a different interview, "The most important part about it for us was always the idea of connectedness. We’re all connected throughout, not only in our present life but throughout the ages because everything we do has consequences. So, in a way, we are the reincarnation of all those choices. So you can’t say that when you are dead, it’s not going to make a difference anymore. But it does. You can say it’s spiritual, but you can approach that whole idea with a secular perspective. It’s an invitation to that kind of thinking without an ideological twist to it. What we were trying to get at in the trilogy was that the inexplicable nature of the universe is in constant dialogue with our own consciousness and our consciousness actually affects the inexplicable nature of the universe. That’s a theme that runs throughout all of our work.”

I just finished the most recent work from the Wachowskis, Sense8, a show about eight individuals who are sensates, and who are connected to each other because they are part of the same cluster of sensates. The sensates are Nomi, a trans woman living in San Francisco who shows her incredible skills as a hacker and whose relationship with Amanita is the definition of Ride or Die, Sun, a woman living in Seoul who is a talented fighter with a master’s degree in economics, Riley, an Icelandic DJ who believes that she has been hexed, Lito, a gay actor living in Mexico City with his partner, Hernando, Kala, a pharmacist from Mumbai with extensive medical and pharmaceutical knowledge, who is deeply religious and believes that religion and science are connected, Wolfgang, a safe-cracker from Berlin, Capheus, a man from Nairobi who spends his life trying to help his mother get medicine for her AIDS, and Will, a police officer from Chicago. I feel it necessary to note here how diverse this cast is, in their stories and in their writing and in the casting, and how important that is, and how wonderful it is that Lana Wachowski, a trans director, wrote a trans character whose experiences were based on her own, who was played by a trans actress. The writing is phenomenal, it’s beautifully shot, and it’s challenging and interesting.

I found these excerpts of things Lana has described, her goals for her work, and I’m glad that I did so after I watched the series, because I can really see these themes and how they tie so deeply into this show. I knew from the first episode that I was going to love the series, and a lot of that was due to these themes.

There was a scene between Wolfgang and Kala in my favorite episode, “We Will All Be Judged by the Courage of Our Hearts”, where he was explaining to her that Felix was his family, and he said, “He’s my brother. And not by something as accidental as blood. By something much stronger. By choice.” It’s one of my favorite lines in the series, and one that resonated with me because the people I consider family exist in my life by choice. I think that time and again throughout the series, the sensates in this cluster chose each other; they chose to put each other before themselves, and they chose to be family. I liked this, because were choiceless in becoming senates and ending up with each other, but they chose to care for one another. This was exemplified in the same episode, when Nomi was trying to escape capture, and she cried out for help. Instantly, her cluster came to help her. Sun and Will helped her fight to get away, and then Capheus used his incredible driving skills and deep knowledge of action films to drive Nomi to safety. The scene was important to me for another reason, because Nomi is a trans woman, and everyday I see trans women being dehumanized and disrespected and experiencing violence in a lot of different ways, and to see this woman, Nomi (who is played by a trans actress) having her needs prioritized and watching these people who are essentially strangers choose to care so deeply for her, and risk so much to save her… It’s truly amazing.

Lana spoke about the transformational and transcendental power of love, and I feel that this was portrayed the best through Lito’s relationships, and through Sun, Capheus and Riley. Lito was dating Hernando, and he hired this woman Daniela as his cover, because he hadn’t publicly come out as gay. Hernando and Lito loved Daniela, and Lito eventually let her sacrifice herself and her own life to protect his career. Hernando absolutely refused to stand for that, and left Lito. He told Lito that he couldn’t watch someone sacrifice another’s life to save their career. It was because of Hernando’s love for Daniela and Lito’s love for Hernando that led Lito to fight for her and save her; to sacrifice his career for her happiness. With Sun, she had a special bond with her mother who died when she was young, and her mother imparted this sense of duty onto her- that she had to choose to love and protect her family. Sun discovered that her brother was ruining her father’s company, and sacrificed herself so that the business wouldn’t suffer. She went to prison out of a lasting love for her mother, and a duty to her family, and by doing so she showed her father what love truly was, and he decided he was going to tell the truth and free her. Sun also showed her love for her fellow inmates who’d looked out for her in the past, by fighting to protect them from other women who were taking advantage of them in the prison. Capheus’ love was for his mother, who he fought and killed for throughout the series. His mother loved him, and they spoke about how even though they had nothing, they were lucky because they had each other. And then there was Riley, who fought through her own PTSD and intense trauma to ensure that she protected her cluster. Yrsa said that Riley would have done anything for her daughter, and Riley certainly proved that she loved her cluster just as much- that she valued them over herself (she even almost killed herself) and understood that it was necessary for her to be strong enough to get her and Will free, and she did that. I don’t think that anything but love could’ve enabled her to work as hard as she did to get free.

I think that the cluster struggled at first with their connectedness, but that ultimately, it saved each of them. They worked together to help Nomi escape the hospital and to escape capture, and they needed the knowledge of the collective cluster to do so. Nomi and Amanita worked with Will to save Riley, but Will needed Sun’s fighting skills (this scene had one of my favorite lines, Will said, “Shit… Four guards!” And Sun walked in and asked, “Is that all?” and then fought them) and Capheus’ hotwiring abilities to get out. Lito used Wolfgang’s fighting to get Daniela free, and then Kala made a bomb (“I’m not like Sun, I don’t know how to use my fists. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to fight”) for Wolfgang to help him get free. Their interconnectivity played a vital role in each of their stories, and their choice to love each other helped them all transcend their bad experiences and get to a place where they truly understood what it meant to be part of a cluster of sensates.

"This is what life is- fear, rage, desire, love. To stop feeling emotions, to stop wanting to feel them is to feel… death. I take everything I am feeling, everything that matters to me, I push all of it into my fist and I fight for it."

I Guess What They Say Is True, I Could Never Be The Right Kind of Girl For You

by Dana Corrin (@atomeve on Twitter and @thedisreputabledoge on Instagram)

With the emergence of the "Supergirl" TV show trailer, the internet just can't seem to come to a unanimous decision on whether or not the show will be "good". This is not unexpected and is generally par for the course with any live-action adaptation of a superhero story.

Overwhelmingly though, I've seen a LOT of criticism hurled at the show's initial sneak peek that I absolutely cannot get my head around. In particular, people have been upset that the trailer for "Supergirl" is almost an exact copy of the SNL parody skit about a Black Widow solo film.

The problem with this being used as a criticism against "Supergirl" as a show is simple: not all women are the same. People seem to have forgotten that somewhere along the line and in doing so, apparently now want all female characters to forget it as well.

Kara Zor-El is the ultimate metaphor for being a teenage girl. She's lighthearted, kind, benevolent, and often naive. She is frequently manipulated into nefarious plots because villains play on her insecurities, her desire to belong, and her sometimes naive universal kindness and belief that everyone and thing has the capacity for good.

Black Widow on the other hand is a hard and fast kind of woman. She's grown up tough and had the cards stacked against her for as long as she can remember. She's a no-frills-get-shit-done and mission-driven woman. She's a fighter in the same way Supergirl is a protector.

So, when you take this hard, gritty, fight-til-someone-wins woman and toss her into an overly feminized rom-com situation, it's hilarious. The reason it's funny is because it's out of character. There are times when Natasha gets to let loose a bit and just honestly chill out and be a person for once (which is a necessary breath of fresh air for characters like her), but even then she is not saddled with "OMG I just spilled coffee on my new day dress I was going to wear to meet Bucky in the park" scenarios because that's not her and audiences know this and don't expect it of her.

Kara, on the other hand, is a teenage girl. Or at least most often, is still quite young. She's had her share of trauma, yes, but that isn't what she's built herself on. Supergirl is the flaxen-haired, cape-wearing, girl group-look-a-like we see saving cats from trees because she feels that's important. She's fretting over what to wear to school/the office because she doesn't want to look out of place or like she doesn't belong.

So, what exactly is wrong with the "Supergirl" trailer? Nothing. Okay, well, truth be told, I can do without the lesbophobia, wet cardboard white dude sidekick, and a few other very minor things, but in terms of being an accurate, loving interpretation of an iconic female character? I couldn't ask for anything better. "Supergirl" looks fun, full of heart, and ready to make you feel some warm and fuzzies and you can bet I'm interested.

While the "Supergirl" and Black Widow parody comparisons are funny to a degree (really mostly only in timing, I suppose), using that a legitimate criticism against "Supergirl" is not. Ultimately, the sooner we stop trying to hold all women to a sexist carbon-copy standard, the better and we can start doing that by treating our fictional women the same way. Black Widow and Supergirl are vastly different characters and to expect the same tone and style of show from both is bullshit.

by Josh Middleton

by Josh Middleton

"I Fake It So Real I Am Beyond Fake": On Being a Poser to Fit into the Punk Scene

When I first went vegan and straight edge when I was fifteen, this young woman I knew from school left me a voicemail that was supposed to be anonymous (seemingly unaware that you can find out the number that left the voicemail quite easily, and clearly having forgotten that she wrote her phone number in my yearbook, and it didn’t take a genius to connect those dots), saying that I would never REALLY be vegan straight edge, because if I ever met anyone who was “actually vegan straight edge”, they would eat me alive because I wasn’t “true to the core”. And you know, she was right.

I got involved in the punk scene (punk and hardcore overlapped a lot and I say "punk" rather than "punk and hardcore" because it's easier and because to me there really wasn't a distinction between scenes, the same people/bands existed in both) when I was fourteen, and stayed pretty attached to it until I was twenty-two. It’s where I made a lot of the friends I’ve carried into adulthood, and it’s where I first started to understand and form my political beliefs, and I am forever grateful for both of those things. While I sometimes like to imagine my life as it would be if I’d done things differently, I like the person I am today and I would not be this person if it were not for my experience in the punk scene.

When I was fifteen, I became friends with a group of young men who were all about nineteen years old, and I was friends with them for the next four or five years. I worshipped these dudes, they had the “best” taste in music, they played in bands, they were all funny and everyone liked them. I felt honored to be friends with them. It was around this time that I really started to struggle with my insecurities about myself and my appearance, and I don’t think that it was a coincidence. I wanted to be as cool as these guys I had become friends with, and as I got more involved with punk, I met more people who I idolized in a lot of ways. I was always younger than all of my friends, and always seen as inadequate.

I got fed up with feeling that way, and it seemed like all that mattered to my friends was what bands I listened to or what shows I was going to. So, I used the internet. I downloaded endless albums and listened to songs on repeat to memorize them, I wrote lyrics down because writing things down helps me remember. I lurked message boards (what’s up, Bridge Nine?) and MySpace profiles to find every cool band I could. It didn’t even matter to me if I actually liked the band or not, I just knew that I had to know all the words and go to all the shows and have all the merch if I wanted to be cool. I don’t even remember the names of a quarter of the bands that I saw or listened to in those days. In a lot of ways, my work as a poser paid off. I earned the respect of most of the people I idolized, I got to hang out with most of the people that I thought were so cool, and the legitimacy of my punk-ness was generally accepted.

But I still remember the way my heart rate would increase when I was at a show and a band started playing a cover that I didn’t know, that all of my friends knew. I remember riding in cars and my friends putting on a band I didn’t recognize, and pretending to be asleep so that nobody would notice that I had no idea what band it was. I remember the sheer panic I felt when somebody asked me about a band I didn’t know about. I remember lying, I remember dodging questions, I remember the constant fear of being outed as the poser that I was. I remember feeling ashamed for not being better at finding out about bands, for not having better taste, for not getting involved in punk sooner.

A lot of this was due to my sudden self-awareness, and with that, my sudden struggle with crippling insecurity, but a lot of it was due to the way I was treated by the people who were supposed to be my friends. There were times when these dudes I was friends with would torment me until I cried, where I physically left situations where I was made to feel uncomfortable, and then got teased for leaving. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I can count. I internalized this feeling that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be good enough. I still carry that with me, and although I do my best to purge it from my system, it never goes away.

Now, punk is clearly plagued by the same problems as mainstream culture, but the appeal of that particular scene was due to the myth that punk was for the progressive kids, the ones who didn’t fit in with the mainstream, that punk was different and that we treated each other differently. As I grew up in punk, I watched all of the horribly sexist dudes in the scene treat all of the women (myself included) like garbage. I was at a show in Boston, and I was the only woman who was singing along, and the singer of the band looked me in the eye and punched me in the face. Women who tried to “mosh” got mocked for doing so, or physically forced out by violent men. The presence of women at shows was constantly questioned and looked at with disgust. There was no place for us, and all of the dudes in punk made that clear. I cut my hair short and only wore Vans and band shirts and shorts, and at the time I said that it was because of feminism, but really I think that it was because I wanted my womanhood to be less apparent, because women were not welcome.

Despite all of this, I wanted to be in punk. I wanted it to be different. I wanted the politics to be real, and I willingly accepted my life as a poser in an attempt to be surrounded by good politics. I would pretend to like whatever bands I had to like to be able to have a ticket into this alleged political paradise, to make these dreams of what punk was supposed to be a reality. I used my incredible skills as a poser to learn every word to every song I possibly could, so that at any show I went to, I could go up front and make it so that there was one less male face in the crowd. I foolishly thought that if the problems in punk were pointed out to the people around me, that they would change. I quickly learned that that was not the case.

Fast forward a few years down the line, and I was so appalled by the behavior of the people in the community that I wanted to disassociate myself from them and the best way I could think of to do so was to start drinking, to set fire to my straight edge label and walk away while it burned. Long story short, it didn’t work. All of my friends decided that they hated me, and I felt more isolated that I ever had within straight edge. I partied pretty intensely for about six months, and then realized that partying wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, so I stopped. I worked to rebuild the friendships that I’d lost, I endured so much criticism and terrible treatment and I posed even harder to just make people like me again. Eventually, I started reclaiming straight edge, and though I got shit on for doing so, people seemed to like me more as a “reclaimer” than a “sell-out” (edit: I sold out, again). It wasn’t as hard to get friends at this point, because I’d been around for enough years that nobody ever really asked me about what music I listened to, because I was coded as punk and I’d done my time.

By this point in time, I was about nineteen or twenty, and I started to learn a lot more about politics, and I started to grow up in a lot of ways. I started hearing from other women in punk who’d had similar experiences to mine, and I started hearing a lot about the men in punk doing horrible things to women and it just being brushed off. I didn’t have many female friends at this point in time, so I didn’t hear much directly, but there were whispers in the air. This was also when all of my vegan friends started getting harassed by the FBI about their activism, and then I started getting harassed, and got hit with a grand jury subpoena. I have never been a fan of the government, and standing up for what I believed in just made sense to me. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself knowing that I’d buckled under the pressure put on me by the FBI, or knowing that my complicity in an unjust proceeding led to the imprisonment of another individual. I resisted the subpoena, because it was the only option that made sense to me. The statute of limitations was up by the time I was threatened with immunity, and I honestly just got lucky that it played out that way. Now, if there was ever something to shatter everyone’s doubts about you, it’s resisting a grand jury subpoena. People who had been awful to me in years past suddenly respected me, which seemed strange because I would’ve resisted the subpoena at fifteen, seventeen, nineteen. I didn’t feel like I was any different than I had been, but they all saw me differently which was weird because if they’d taken the time to get to know me in the years they’d been around me, they would’ve seen that I was just being myself.

I met a woman through punk around this time, and it was hard for me to be friends with her at first because she treated me like a person, which wasn’t something I’d experienced a lot in the past. With her, I learned about feminism, and I made more friends in punk who were women. I started learning that rape wasn’t something that happened to a few women here and there, it happened to a lot of women everywhere, and a lot of women that I knew and loved. I started to see these women being ostracized from punk, and I tried to find ways, ways rooted in internalized misogyny, to make them the exception (i.e. well, everyone thinks she’s crazy anyway so she was probably lying, that dude is cool so he probably didn’t rape her) instead of the rule. I wish I had never thought that way, but I was socialized to do so. I started to realize that these women weren’t the exception, they were the rule. I saw women being cut down and cut out and I tried to stand up for them, but punk never listened. Despite that, I was so convinced that if everyone around me just put in the effort to change punk, that it would change. I even wrote in a zine about it!

And then…. I got raped, and while I didn’t publicly out him (which is largely out of fear of the way he will react and the way those who are friends with him will react), I still saw all of the people I knew being friends with him, and not me, and it kind of cemented my suspicions that punk was not ever right for me. I stopped going to shows, I stopped pretending to like what I call “yelling music”, I stopped being ashamed of my favorite genres of music being hip-hop, R&B, classical, grunge and nu-metal, I stopped giving value to the opinions of people who like rapists more than women, I stopped giving value to the opinions of people with shitty politics, I stopped surrounding myself with people who made me feel inadequate. I removed myself from a situation that did more harm to me than good.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have friends in punk who are trying to make a difference and I applaud them for doing so. I see way more women involved in punk than I ever saw when I was younger. I see more bands with people who are not straight cis white males than I ever thought was possible. It gives me hope that one day there will be a generation of kids who can grow up in the punk scene without having the experience that I had; I wish that I could’ve grown up in the punk scene I see now. It still has its problems, but it’s gotten better due to the tireless efforts of people who want to see change. I respect that, and I am glad that these people are making a space for themselves. I am just not punk and I never really was.

Strong Female Characters Do Not Equal Feminist Media

There has been a ton of media with Strong Female Characters in it in 2015 (and 2014 as well, but 2015 is kind of unique) and a lot of bizarre conversations are happening as a result. I have tried to cover each thing as it has come out, but I think there is a larger conversation that needs to happen because it seems like there's some confusion about all of these things. 

There are a few different things I focus on when I look at television or a movie; I look at representation, writing, and at how the characters are portrayed overall. I believe that it is important to consider all of these factors when examining a show or movie from a feminist perspective. I've written before about how sexism and misogyny factor into representation, writing and the portrayal of women and I try to find the places where that happens, and places where it doesn't happen. 

There's been a big shitstorm, for lack of a better word, in regards to Mad Max. There are people camped on the side of Feminist Masterpiece, and people camped on the side of It's Okay I Guess. I am on the latter, and it's resulted in arguments with a few different people who are on the former. I wrote a piece about it, but I think that the movie itself needs to be looked at in a larger context. This isn't even about Mad Max. 

The Matrix is my favorite movie. I love science fiction, I love Trinity, I love Neo, I love Morpheus, I love the story, I love everything about it. I'm sure that if I called Trinity a Strong Female Character, most people would agree, and that's because she is one. She is super good at fighting, she's smart, she's compassionate, she's interesting. I love Trinity. 

This, however, is the problem with Strong Female Characters being conflated with feminism. In The Matrix, Trinity falls in love with Neo and she uses her love for him to convince him that he is The One. Trinity's purpose in the movie is to fall in love with Neo and help him understand that he is The One. That does not make Trinity any less of a Strong Female Character, but that is not feminism. 

Now, some of you probably see an issue with that, and it reminds me of a couple of critiques I got after I wrote the piece about Mad Max- my unwillingness to give a Feminist Seal of Approval to movies just for having strong women in them. People were confused about why I wasn't interested in a film where Furiosa was working with Max. This is because female characters, even Strong Female Characters, are put into these boxes where their stories revolve around men and cooperation with men. This is sexism, and it is sexism because male characters are not treated this way. There are endless examples of male leads who do not have women around to help them, because the trend is that men don't "need" the help of women in media, which is, of course, a ridiculous trend.   There are far less examples of female leads who don't have men around to help them. It just doesn't happen. So no, I do not have a problem Furiosa working with Max. I have a problem with this being championed as feminism, because it is not feminism. It is sexism. 

The Bechdel Test, though flawed, was created as a means to determine if a piece of media did well with representation, and the third criteria a piece of media has to meet to pass the test is that women have to talk to each other about something other than a man. That criteria is not an accident, it is there because it is the norm for female characters to have their stories and their interactions revolving around men. That is sexism. 

I would absolutely call Furiosa a Strong Female Character. I have no illusions about her intelligence or her ability and I did like her and what she was trying to accomplish in Mad Max. That does not make Mad Max a feminist movie, because the writing surrounding Furiosa was sexist. The "need" for her to depend on a man was sexist. That doesn't mean that Furiosa is not a strong female character, that means that Mad Max is not a feminist film. 

The definition I use for feminism came from bell hooks- "feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression." If I am going to consider a piece of media to be feminist, there shouldn't be sexism in the writing, because that goes against the meaning of my feminism. Mad Max goes against the meaning of my feminism. 


Having Women in It Does Not Make a Film Feminist

I don’t even know how to write this...

Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself- I am a feminist. When I watch movies and television, I watch with a critical eye. I pay attention to the female characters, I pay attention to the casting choices, I pay attention to the way marginalized characters are represented. I remember I saw Blade Runner for the first time with an ex-boyfriend and he asked if I liked it, and I said something to the effect of, “Well, I didn’t like the rape scene.” He scoffed and said, “Can’t you just enjoy anything?” I’ll give you a second to roll your eyes and groan aloud. Yes, I can enjoy things. I do enjoy many things. I even enjoy things that have problems (Joss Whedon, I’m looking at you). What I CAN’T do is ignore the problems that I see. Mad Max: Fury Road has a lot of problems.

So, I saw it after something like thirty people asked me what I thought of it, after I heard the cry of the internet championing it as a feminist masterpiece, after all of my friends who saw it loved it.

And… WHAT? Y’all are punking me, right? Ashton Kutcher is standing outside my bedroom door to tell me that none of you actually thought Mad Max: Fury Road was A Great Feminist Film, right? Right????

Now, I’m not a monster. Of course I loved Furiosa. Of course I wanted her to succeed. Of course I wanted her to help those women escape. So, Furiosa was there in her war truck trying to save these women, and she had this huge elaborate plan and obviously was more than capable of executing it. Then Max came along and helped her, and long story short, Furiosa and her friends took The Citadel.

This film was supposed to be stealthily feminist or something, right? We weren’t supposed to know that it was about liberating these women? That’s why the MRAs are so mad, because they felt like they were tricked into seeing a feminist film? So, my first problem (on a long list of problems that I don’t even have enough time in my life to address so I’ll just stick to a couple of the problems) is that George Miller brought in Eve Ensler as a consult to help him with feminism and with teaching the actresses about the experiences of other women who have had horrible things happen to them. A lot of women have issues with Ensler, who feel that she is not qualified to speak on behalf of other women about things she hasn’t experienced herself, and I have a lot of issues with people who take the liberty to speak INSTEAD OF others, so I have a problem with Ensler and her style of feminism too. Regardless, George Miller obviously brought her in because he trusted her feminist judgement and it is unbelievable to me that people ate that up. It says a lot about where we are with feminism today, that people will champion anything just because somebody tells you it’s feminist. It is unbelievable to me that people saw this and thought it was a feminist film.

If it was supposed to be a feminist film, Max did not need to be in the movie after his first fight scene with Furiosa. Furiosa should have killed Max and that warboy (that’s what they’re called, right?) in that fight. The rest of it should have been Furiosa and the women she helped escape and the old biker ladies from the Green Place fighting the shit out of those war parties. That’s what I thought was going to happen in that fight scene. I kept waiting for Furiosa to kill Max and that other dude… and then she didn’t. I’m just supposed to believe that a woman who devised an escape plan for herself and all of these women from an entire army would have just fallen back and let some random dudes help her? No. If it was supposed to be a feminist film, Furiosa wouldn’t have needed the help of these men. If it was supposed to be a feminist film, Furiosa (who obviously had a relationship with these women) would’ve taught all of them how to work on the truck, how to shoot guns and how to fight. If it was supposed to be a feminist film, a woman wouldn’t have given up the reigns to a man the first opportunity she got. If all of those things had happened, THAT would have been a feminist film. If George Miller wanted to make a feminist action film, that should have been what he did with this film.

A lot of people are talking about how Furiosa was a complex and “realistic” female character, and how cool and important that was. No. Do you know what that is? That is the bare minimum. Having one realistic female character in an action movie is the absolute bare minimum. And I’m supposed to praise that? I’m supposed to worship Furiosa? Well, I do not accept that. I want more. I expect more. I demand more. I’ve seen movies and television with more.


Katana Is the Female Superhero That Marvel Won't Give You

“My name is Tatsu Yamashiro, and your city is in great danger.”

When I first started watching Arrow, all I knew was that I was going to eventually meet and love Felicity Smoak. What I didn’t expect was a show filled with some of the most incredible women on television, and certainly the most incredible women in any comic book adaptation to date. Before Arrow, the women I’d met, loved and idolized in comic books adaptations amounted to a solid one woman- Black Widow, and even she had her problems. I still loved her, and I loved these adaptations but I never knew how much I longed for more women until I started watching Arrow.

Arrow has given me Laurel and Sara Lance, two women who have been the Black Canary, two women who have fought for justice. One of Sara’s first lines in the series is, “No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men.” I remember that line chilling me to the bone because I had never seen a character work so hard to ensure the safety of other women. Laurel’s strength and her ability to overcome anything life throws at her is a constant inspiration to me. Arrow gave me Thea Queen, now Speedy, a woman who took her life into her own hands and became a pillar of truth and honesty. Arrow gave me Felicity Smoak, a woman who pulls the best out of the people around her and shines brightly in a world of darkness.

And now, Arrow has given me Katana. The show has had these flashbacks to Oliver’s past ever since it aired, and Tatsu, her husband Maseo and her son Akio have been in them for a while now. I always thought that these flashbacks were about Oliver. Tonight, I realized that they were about Tatsu and her family.

A problem with female characters in any form of media is that often they are not given a backstory, they tend to be there as sidepieces to male counterparts, and they rarely have depth. This is not true of Tatsu. She has been a recurring character, but hadn’t had many big parts in the series until she saved Oliver after his fall. We’ve seen her in the flashbacks fighting alongside Oliver and Maseo, and to say that she is adept at wielding a sword is an understatement. I realized somewhere along the line that she was intended to be Katana, but I didn’t know for certain if, or when, it would happen.

The only comic I’ve read with Katana in it is the New 52 run by Ann Nocenti. I was struck by how dark the comic was, and how different it was from anything else I’d read. Tatsu wielded a sword she called her katana, the soul taker. She believed it carried the soul of her dead husband, and she kept it with her to have a part of him.

Tonight, Tatsu Yamashiro became Katana. Tatsu approached Felicity to persuade her to not give up on Oliver, as she had given up on Maseo. She then joined Felicity, Malcolm, John and Laurel on a quest to stop Oliver from destroying Starling City. The fight scene between them and the League is one of the best scenes in Arrow to date, and near the end of it Maseo approaches Katana and they fight. Katana is knocked to the ground and Maseo tries to kill her, but she jumps up and kills him instead. They embrace and he thanks her for freeing him from his prison as he dies in her arms while she weeps. This moment, as grim and horrible as it was, it was beautiful as well.

I can’t think of a person better suited for this role than Rila Fukushima, and she truly showed her abilities in this episode. I can’t believe how well her character was established, right under my nose. I can’t believe that Arrow, yet again, gave me an incredibly powerful female superhero. I can’t believe that she is one of so many incredible women in just one show. I can’t believe that one television show has so far surpassed everything Marvel has done in regards to women in all of their television shows and movies.


“A katana. Passed on for centuries within my family. The first son of each generation.”
“You are not a son, Tatsu.”
“No, I am not."


On Female Characters and "Bad Writing"

It seems like every other day I'm rushing to the defense of female characters in television and movies, and perhaps that is because I am physically and mentally incapable of letting anyone who insults a woman go without a lecturing.... but this is actually caused by the pervasive sexism and misogyny in the world around me. There is a reason why people are constantly critiquing female characters, and it is because of sexism and misogyny. There is a reason why female characters are submitted to a summary judgment (that is harsh, often cruel and almost always negative) of their appearance, intellect, character, caliber and sexual choices (I'm looking at you, Chris Evans) and it is because of sexism and misogyny.

I do this thing where I separate characters from the writing, and it's not because I'm trying to be cute or make excuses- I do it because it is a necessary method of evaluation. Take Nyota Uhura, of the original Star Trek series. She didn't have a story like the male characters did and yet Uhura is arguably the most important character in science fiction, and that is because of her inclusion, because of HER, not because of the writing. If you cling to the writing, Uhura is entirely unimportant. Now flip it around (my best friend Jade loves to use Buffy The Vampire Slayer as an example here)- in BTVS, Joss Whedon had Spike attempt to rape Buffy, which became a plot device used for The Redemption of Spike. That is sexist, and that is coming entirely from Joss Whedon's writing, not from Spike. 

I'm going to talk about Captain Kathryn Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager, because she's a great example of the point I'm trying to make. Out of the five main captains, she is the captain I hear being negatively critiqued the most, and she is also the only female captain. The only time Captain Kirk, Captain Archer and Captain Picard are ever critiqued is to say that one is better or to say that one is a womanizer, which then leads to them being praised for it. This is entirely because men are not subjected to the same criticism or held under the same light of scrutiny that women are. People attack Captain Janeway's morals, her character, each decision she made, when in reality she did the same shit that all of the men did. The only other captain I hear critiqued on the same level as Captain Janeway is Captain Benjamin Sisko, who is also the only captain who is a person of color. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that the only two Star Trek captains who are EVER attacked are a black man and a woman? This is because of RACISM and SEXISM and whether you want to admit it or not, that's what it is. 

So, back to the writing. People tend to hide behind the argument "well, the writing for X female character was bad". Now why do you think that is? Why do you think writers put so much thought, effort and care into the writing of male characters, and they don't do the same for female characters? The argument implies that writers have somehow transcended sexism. It implies that writers are immune to the institutionalized and internalized sexism and misogyny that is ingrained into all of us from birth, and that sexism and misogyny don't influence the writers' interpretation of women or the way that they write female characters. It implies that media isn't influenced by society and that sexism isn't thriving in the world around us. So, sure dude, you can say that the writing for a female character is bad... It must be really nice to not have the characters representing you tinged with the sexism and misogyny that is prevalent in society. 

Now, people LOVE to hit me with the argument "if you're a feminist, how can you like these female characters if their writing is influenced by sexism and misogyny?" Give me a second while I roll my eyes. If I stopped liking every show or movie that has sexism, there would be nothing left, because sexism is in everything, it's everywhere, it's all around us. This brings me back to Star Trek- you can in fact praise progress, which is what characters like Captain Janeway and shows like Voyager represent. This is why it becomes necessary to detach female characters from the often sexist writing and let them be bigger than the writing and give them the praise that they are due. Captain Janeway was THE FIRST FEMALE CAPTAIN TO HAVE HER OWN SERIES. That is amazing! So like, yeah, the writing was sometimes sexist but you don't get to take the huge accomplishment that was Captain Kathryn Janeway and Voyager away from women and diminish it and dismiss her, her character and the show because you "don't think the writing was that good". THAT is sexist.

My least favorite female character in all of television is Seska from Voyager, but if a man tried to insult her in front of me, I would rush to her defense. Everything bad about Seska can be traced back to the sexism in the writing- Seska is the embodiment of the stereotypical "crazy ex-girlfriend", which is a sexist stereotype. Do you see where I'm going with this? 

I will die defending female characters, because everybody else is busy ripping them apart.