Performative Allyship

The word ‘Ally’ is thrown around a lot these days.  People may claim they are allies to any one of the marginalized and persecuted groups in America.  Allies to Black Lives Matter.  Allies to the transgendered community who lost 27 to murder last year and 22 so far this year. Allies to women, who are routinely harassed and sexually assaulted in the workplace and out.  Who can’t walk outside without being seen as in a male space, so in some way are intimidated or seen as a sexual object.  There’s a fear in not being nice to a man who is telling you to smile, that you’re pretty, because if you aren’t nice they can react with violence.   If you are pleasant, as we’re trained to be, then it’s somehow an invitation to further molestation up to, and including rape and murder with “but she smiled at me!” used as defense.  This is a no win situation.

Recently in the horror writing community there have been more outing of men who have harassed women at cons and through online mediums.  Tim Miller and Matt Hayward are the latest names to cross my feed, in a string of male names since even before MeToo started. 

Being an ally, loosely defined, is aligning yourself with another, usually from a different group than how you identify yourself, to show support and exercise support in some way.

Performative allyship is buying a BLM t-shirt but not being vocal when you see a black person on the street getting harassed by a cop or anyone else, or even just crossing the street when a black person approaches and telling yourself it’s because of Covid when you’ve done it for years even before there was the coronavirus to allow you the ability to rationalize your racism.  Is wearing that cool “Male Feminist” pink pussy hat and still catcalling, sending pictures of your penis to others.  Or, in a less extreme way, it’s posting about how you didn’t realize how scared women were of men and posing yourself as caring to centralize the conversation around your learning and praise for your allyship, saying you’d never do that, and then messaging a female explicit details of your sex life.

That last one recently happened to me.  I’d been wanting to write my thoughts on allyship for a while, and how I’m done with it.  How it’s so not the right word or the right action.   How I feel it’s another ribbon a good white man can give himself to feel better about benefiting from white supremacy, how a “good person’ of any identity can make themselves feel better by slapping on that sticker, reaffirming there is a line between ‘me’ and ‘them’ but that hey, I tolerate ‘them’ so I’m fine.  Who may post about not understanding how hard it is to be a woman, and gathering together women’s stories, all their emotional labor and excitement that a man wants to realize how bad it is for us, and then turning around and continuing in your ways anyway, wasting all our effort and time. It’s also a way to claim moral superiority over others.  So I don’t want this post to be all about what happened, but I do want to acknowledge it.

An extreme horror writer, in responding to what Tim Miller and Matt Hayward had done, posted on his Facebook that any woman can come to him at a convention if they are harassed.  Many people rallied around about what a good person he is, which, thankfully, didn’t seem like the reason why he posted it.

Other men followed suit posting similar things and affirmations of surprise and solidarity with women.  One of these men and I messaged on occasion, so we talked about it one and one.  Suddenly, I’m getting details of his sexual history in my inbox.  Details I did not invite, ask for, or want.  It took me a while to process this before letting him now that this is the opposite of what he was saying on his public page.  That this is the bullshit women go through all the time. My exact response was:

Btw, that’s another thing women have to put up with a lot and let slide, so I’m not going to let it slide here. For some reason men often just dump their emotional baggage and way TMI on women, I don’t get it, we’re either a punching bag or dumping ground and we’re used to glossing it over because it’s common or from a good guy when really, it’s not a good guy thing to do

I was mild in my response because – what would he do next?  I was upset.  I still am.  This guy started a conversation on how often women get harassed, seemed shocked, then turned around and did it.

He was living solidly in performative allyship.  Saying something, aligning with allyship, but then not actually doing it.  It was just a performance.

I don’t like the term allyship.  It is reinforcing a division.  It is saying that those who benefit the most don’t HAVE to do the work, it’s a choice they make out of the goodness of their heart, not that it’s NECESSARY work on their part to stand by, or in front of their neighbors to ensure they don’t get one more punch at their face, to ensure not one more woman is raped, not one more black man is killed, not one more black child as the statistics about a black male reaching age 25 are staggering, with 1 in 3 expecting to go to prison.

I do not believe people can call themselves an ally, that I can call myself an ally to someone who is subject to inequities.  It should be mine, and your duty to stand alongside each other.  Our obligation as a citizen, as a neighbor, to do as much as we can to help those around us.  Allyship is not a badge to  wear, a title to put on our resume, a way to make ourselves feel superior to other “insert your identity here”.  It is a must.  For my survival.  For our survival.  We must stop seeing it as a choice to make and realize people are going to be more and more critical of people who lay claim to that title of ‘ally’ as allies continue to perpetuate the same damn actions.  Too many people are dying for that bullshit, “I want an Ally ribbon and fancy t-shirt,” mentality to feel without having to act.   Do it so more people can walk outside and breathe and not be afraid.

Stop performing, and start being.

Links to a few items that informed my thinking:

Statement Regarding Matt Hayward

There is no such thing as a white ally

9 reasons why acting for solidarity for racial justice is preferable to allyship


Film Review: Mute

Overview:  A young man falls off a boat and hits his throat somehow.  He loses his voice and his parents don’t believe in modern surgery (Amish, I think they say) so he grows up to be Alex Skarsgaard but can’t speak.  He falls for a woman, she has secrets and disappears, he searches for her.

The other storyline, merging at the end, is of Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux as MASH Remake doctors from a failed pilot (or that’s what it feels like).  Both are american GIs, Theroux says ‘Babe’ a lot and is a pedophile.  Rudd has a daughter. AWKWARD.

The storylines merge.  Background of the film is some techno future dystopia.  We see the underbelly only though.

The Good:  Celebrity spotting.  Alex Skarsgaard.  Justin Theroux.   Dominic Monaghan in caked Kubuki makeup.  Paul Rudd.  That part is fun.

There are elements of his disability that are done really well, little moments that show how society alienates people with disabilities moreso than others.  Technology has evolved a lot, and is based on spoken word.  When our hero wants to order food (part of his attempt to find his girl, so it can deliver to her) he can’t because you have to speak the phone number.  There are those little moments where you see how everyday things we take for granted are hindrances to others.  The ending ruins a lot of the commentary, and I really wished they had pushed this more in the film, but it’s interesting.  How and for whom does technology evolve?  Who are we leaving  behind?  What new barriers are we creating when we say we are improving access for the masses?  Those questions are ready for exploration.

The Bad:  The rest of the film.  There is an interesting background that doesn’t matter.  The story could have taken place anywhere or at anytime, and if we have dystopian future with sex robots – I want it to matter.  The doctors are doing backyard surgeries for mafia or underground people, but there’s nothing novel.  Justin Theroux does some prosthetics replacements for kiddos, but it’s an aside.  It feels like a waste of technology, especially after a steady diet of Black Mirror and other shows where technology matters when introduced on the screen.  There is one sex robot and a robot stripper but that’s it.  It’s just not integrated.

When it comes to stories, they are disjointed and unfocused.  Or, in the case of the missing mystery girl story, too focused with nothing new.  It’s an age old noir tale – bartender and waitress fall in love, girl disappears, has a shady past, guy has to figure it out.  The twist of him not being able to speak is nothing new.  And he has laser focus trying to find her.  The other story, about Paul Rudd (Cactus Bill, I think his name was) trying to escape with his daughter – well, you don’t even find that part out until later on and most of the movie is spent on him dialoguing with his pedophilic buddy like they’re caught in a Wes Anderson movie, or would like to be, down to Theroux’s character (yes, I don’t remember anyone’s names because it was too bland) being a mimc of the Owen Wilson type character with shaggy short blond hair and lackadaisical speech patterns and a constant repetition of ‘Babe’

The two stories come together (It’s easy enough to figure out partway through, if not sooner, so won’t spoil it).  There’s a conclusion.  A forced surgery to give our hero a voice, which should be devastating but instead, by ‘fixing’ him, allows him to save someone.  .  which is what makes the movie more disturbing. I HATED that he was ‘fixed’ and then smiling at the end.  This idea that what one group defines as a disability must be fixed  to be part of society, or useful (throughout he is insulted by others for not speaking) is tiring.

The Female:  There are two.  One has a long name, and is the impetus for our mute hero to go on his journey.  There’s a daughter, Paul Rudd’s daughter, who he is supposedly trying to get out of the country.   So, in short, females are only there to provide motivations for our male characters and have no agency on their own.  They’re throw-a-ways, shown literally when the main catalyst female is found in a garbage bag (spoiler, I know).

There are attempts at queering up gender expectations a bit, but they fall flat or are portrayed for humor- such as as Dominic Monaghan’s character in Kabuki who likes being manhandled by Alex Skarsgaard’s character – it’s a cliche at best, can see mustering up energy to find it offensive, but really just comes off as a lazy throw-a-way.  He has sex robots staged on a bed- oooh, risque.  He likes the abuse of a tall swede- risque, trendy, whatever.  There is another character or two who come across as genderqueer, but there is no background or information on them.  They are friends of the female who is missing, one says they love her and have given her money but – meh.



Film Review: Wonder Woman

Overview:  Princess Diana of Themyscira is the only child on an island of Amazon woman.  Her mother, Hippolyta, seeks to keep her safe and away from the art of war that all the others on the island are adept at, as they await the return of Ares, God of War, to destroy their island.  But in keeping her safe Hippolyta is also keeping secrets, such as the true nature of Diana’s birth and her very purpose for being.

When a mysterious man washes up on shore, equally mysterious for BEING a man, and warships behind him many on the island are slaughtered and Diana feels the urge to go and enter the war to find Ares and thus, as her legends say, end war forever so they can come out of hiding.  In the process she learns her true nature, love, and just how messed up humans are.

The Good:  Themyscira.  I teared up in those opening scenes seeing the women, old and strong and scarred and beautiful fighting and living together and loving the world.  They may not have been allowed to be really old women on screen, but showing Connie Neilsen and Robin Wright as warriors, when I grew up with them in various other roles, was amazing.  Watching them all warrior out when the men with their guns attack was so energizing!  Sure, I may have wanted them to have more scars or wrinkles but still, that many women in one place?  Just great.

While DC movies like to be dark both in color and in tone, I could actually see the action that was going on here, unlike some of their other films.  Dear DC – sunlight exists and is wonderful, use it more often please.  There were also great touches of humor throughout, such as with every line the horribly under utilized Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary.  The story touched on PTSD and other aspects of war as well.  The subversive nature of Steve Trevor was also great, and I’ll talk about more in The Female section.

The Bad:  The CGI fight scenes were pretty damn bad.  It was like it switched to a 90s video game with some of Diana’s moves, and especially within the final battle.

The Female:  While the opening scenes are magnificent and filled with women, we then go back to having only one woman in each circle.  For the Germans and thus, bad guys, it’s Dr. Maru – the woman creating the poison to win the war.  For Steve’s work world, it’s his secretary and for the battlefield it’s Wonder Woman.  While there are elements that elevate those women beyond the norm in movies (that fact that at least in Dr. Maru and Wonder Woman these are women of power, but at the same time that reinforces that to be allowed into a man’s world you have to be beyond exceptional and, in Wonder Woman’s case, a literal gorgeous God).  Below are reviews of each of the women in the film.  Steve Trevor is there because he gets attributes generally given to women in films.

Princess Diana, AKA Wonder Woman:  She plays two roles here, the innocent holder of emotions who is shocked by the world, a role traditionally given to women, and a warrior and leader of men.

In her first role she shows the emotions others have become inured to to the point of inaction.  When villages of women and children are being destroyed, she cries and is horrified but then leaps to action, leading the men who are telling her not to bother into battle, and a winning one.  Most of her role is reactions to the world around her, and mainly sorrow and disbelief.  However, where this role becomes powerful is how it DOES lead to action and results.  Traditionally, emotions are relegated to women as a weakness with this idea that if you are crying you can do nothing else and that by being moved to emotion by the plights of others means you can’t objectively assess the situation and come to a positive conclusion for change.  Think clinical distance in doctors, and why women couldn’t be doctors for so long, this idea of emotions as a hinderance.

Yet, here, it’s Diana’s emotions that become her strength throughout, and even in the final battle.  It is through her emotions and connection to them she CAN see and assess what everyone else (AKA – the MEN) have ignored in preference of ‘the plan’ they have created, or had handed down to them.  She gets past the ‘This is the way it has always been’ and ‘this is the way it is’ to actually act and move forward.

In Warrior mode she leads the men to battle on multiple occasions, and becomes a leader to the point where the men ask where she is before going forward,

The Amazons:  They are awesome, if only shown in the beginning.  Strong warriors protecting ‘The God Killer’ and preparing for when Ares shows up again.  However, by living in isolation they are also woefully behind the times when it comes to being warriors so are taken down by men with guns, which was disappointing.  Strong women are shown as an anachronism and not integrated into the world, which is what makes Princess Diana such an anomaly that amazes men.

Dr. Maru, AKA Dr. Poison:  She is the woman on the ‘bad people’s’ side.  The evil genius working on a poison to not just kill others, but to make her side stronger.  Ares whispers to her and she takes it as inspiration to move forward.  She has a deformity and wears a mask, and it’s an interesting dynamic to have the ‘good’ woman be the most beautiful in the room and the ‘bad’ have a disability.  It’s also very structuralized to have the ‘bad’ women be ugly and the good beautiful.  So there’s that reinforcement.  If there was any backstory given to her, I don’t remember it.

Steve’s Secretary:  She is comic relief, the bumbling bustling secretary who does what she’s told, although with Diana around she gets to be feisty.  Still, not much backstory or agency shown.

Steve Trevor:  I’m putting Steve here because he gets the role most often given to women.  The hero rescues him – multiple times.  First when she dives into the water where he has landed, ala the Little Mermaid, and brings him to shore.  Then when bullets are fired, she’s there with her wrist bands to deflect the bullets.  She saves him multiple times throughout the move.

Steve also introduces her to new emotions, and traditionally it’s the woman who, by her existence, allows the man to have feelings.  Steve teachers her, through his existence, about love and that helps her move forward.  Again, this is something mostly given to women.  Think, for example, of the 5th element where the trope is so on the surface in the ending when we discover ‘the 5th element is love’ and that is embodied by LeeLoo.  This allows the male hero in 5th Element to save the world.  Well, here Steve teaches Diana about love and that helps her save the world.

*SPOILER for next part*




Steve, as the love interest, dies and this spurs the hero to save the world.  Again, the dying so the hero has anguish to fuel the fight is saved for women in about every other film.  Think of the Bond films and how many times his wife/girlfriend has died.  It’s a common trope and here, the roles are reversed and it’s through his death that the hero, Princess Diana, can win the battle against Ares.

Final thoughts:  I’d see it again.  It’s a good film and was a lot of fun and, though women are still not allowed to interact outside of an island, it’s definitely a step forward from other superhero franchise films!  Here’s hoping they stay the course and Wonder Woman doesn’t get overshadowed or relegated to a more traditional role in the Justice League movie(s).

Movie Review: Autopsy of Jane Doe

Overview:  2 men examine a female body to find out why she died.  Then they further examine her body and realize she’s trying to explain her experiences and make them empathize with them.

Seriously, at one point a male character actually says she’s making him feel what she felt as he examines her unspeaking body.  Because the only time men care about women is when they are dead.

And, since this is a horror movie, until the men ACTUALLY feel what she felt the movie won’t end, and mysterious things happen and cats die and the like.  Because to actually go through what a woman goes through is horror to men.

MORE PLOTTY OVERVIEW:  A naked female body is found half buried in a basement.  She’s brought to a morgue where a man and his son examine the body and find weirder and weirder goings on.  Lights flicker, cats die, there is a localized storm.  They keep flailing her body and mutilating her to find the reason she died, and as they do there is greater threat to their safety.

The Good:  I like isolated horror.  This takes place mostly in one dark basement room, the morgue.  It’s claustrophobic from the beginning:  a long elevator ride down, all the other dead people in the freezers, the colors are all subdued dark but not so dark you can’t see what’s going on.  Tension mounts throughout in nice beats that up the ante, so suspense is great even though we all know not everyone is going to make it out alive.

The Bad:  This ties in with the female.  The ‘lead’ female is a body on the bench getting repeatedly violated by men.   It’s a classic suspense film, with no females.  There are also definitely some cliches such as the son deciding this is his LAST autopsy with his dead before quitting the biz (Classic ‘I’m one day from retirement!).   There’s the shaking set, the cat dying (what up with cats having to die?), and of course – some of that dialogue around the men trying to figure out what happened to the Jane Doe and empathizing with what she went through.

The Female:  There were three.  This is no way came close to passing the Bechdel Test (2 women, speaking, to each other, and not about a man)

Jane Doe:  She’s a naked body with her mouth agape the entire time.  Oh!  And they comment on how small her waist is.  Sure, you can say this is a plot point because they realize it’s due to corsets and sets light to her age being older than now, but many times they comment on her waist.  Because waist size is important.  Her eye color is also important (and it’s important to note they never get it right, lol, because it’s clouded until like, 3 seconds of brown and then clouds again).  She is cut open.  They try to set her on fire but she resists fire.  She has charms branded on the inside of her flesh.  And she’s dead, she never talks OR gets a real name.

Random Girlfriend:  The young guy, son of the main morgue guy, has a girlfriend.  He wants to leave with her or something.  She might have died, I couldn’t tell.  I think she did, it was hard to tell.

Female Police Person:  I think?  Not quite sure.  Maybe had one line.

So, it was a’ight but nothing to write home about.  And it was not progressive when it comes to gender at all, if anything it REALLY reflected our times, where men think they can examine a mute female and feel sympathy for the life she lived and what led her to that position, w/out actually talking to other females in their lives.  Oh, and they can be horrified by what it’s like to live as a woman but still make her the villain of the movie.

Movie Review: Power Rangers


Jason Scott is the star football player ready to bring Angel Grove to victory.  But he wants to be something more than the answer to his father’s dream of sports.  He steals a bull with a friend and brings it to school.

Now, those who follow me on Facebook might remember that yesterday I posted a joke about what you call a masturbating cow (Beef Stroganoff).  That joke came back to haunt me during the ‘bull’ scene.  Yes, the movie opened with a joke about jerking off a bull.

He ends up crashing his car trying to escape the scene of the crime, blowing out his knee and gaining an ankle bracelet plus detention.  It’s in detention that he meets Billy Cranston, a teen ‘on the spectrum’ as Billy explains, who is being bullied.  Jason protects him, and then smiles at Kim Hart – the on the outskirts Kimberly, future pink ranger.

Turns out Billy and his father used to go to the mines and dig around at night so he takes his new friend out there to help out.  Kim is there, as are two other kids.  Lo and behold, Billy blows some stuff up and they find the coins that make them Power Rangers.

Now, this is a nostalgia film for us kiddos who grew up on the PR, but updated with modern superhero (read, Marvel Cinematic, not DC tragedies) sensibilities.  So they quip their way through training to become the rangers.  Billy provides many fun moments, from his not wanting to say swear words to just general energy.

Rita Repulsa is a corrupted ranger back from the grave to get the Zeo crystal – think of it as an infinity stone if you’re a Marvelite – a source of universal power.  And it’s buried in Angel Grove!

The Power Rangers form and do battle and learn to work together to save their town.  They also almost die and/or really die for a wee bit in the process.

The Good:  

There are some great one-liners throughout, and ones that recognize some of the more problematic issues of race in the original series.  For example, when Alpha is explaining to the teens that why they are Power Rangers he says “five colors, five teens.  Five teens of different colors.” (not exact quote) and later, when the new black ranger, portrayed by an Asian man, proclaims he’s black, Billy Cranston, a black teen, calls him on it.

In the original series, back to nostalgia land, there was also great diversity and it might have been one of the first non sesame street show to have heroes who weren’t just white blonds.  However, the black ranger was black, yellow asian, etc.  It was very on the nose.  Plus we didn’t learn much about the characters.  Zak, the black power ranger, speaks Chinese in the film when talking to his mother, who he’s caring for as she’s ill.

The action was also great fun.  Elizabeth Banks, for her part, did a crazed Rita Repulsa and we learned her backstory.  In fact, Gordon and why the Zords are Dinos was also neatly explained.  Goldar is also made of liquid gold that continuously move.  He’s pretty cool, too, even if I missed the kind of gold flying monkey rubber suit of the series.

The Bad:

While there is more character development here than in the series or other movies, maybe it’s more character exposition.  In fact, it’s made explicit that they can’t become rangers until they know more about each other, so cue the fire pit where they sit around and talk about how they miss their fathers, Trini, the yellow ranger talks about questioning her sexuality, etc.  Kim, however, never tells her secret in front of the group, just to Jason.  Her’s is that she forwarded what we’re led to believe is a picture of another cheerleader in a sexually compromising photo, to the school.  Something that made me wonder the age group they were going for.  I think it was 8th or 9th grade when my friends started watching the show, middle school, which would fit for this type of exposition.  However, we felt we were watching it ironically and that it was really for 8 year olds.  For 8 year olds, there were things (like that opening bull hand job joke) that were over their heads or out of line.  The movie was by far darker than the others.

I always wondered where the F- the parents were in the Power Rangers.  It was like they were all made drones and forced to be only background characters.  While we learn of the death of a couple of the parents, Jason’s father is the oppressive ‘be my football star surrogate’ father in the beginning, then he’s a fisherman during a storm, then pops up only later for Jason to save (so Jason can feel he’s fulfilling his own destiny instead of his fathers, get it?  The film realllly wants to make sure we get it).  Trini is beaten badly in her house, and explains how protective her parents are.  We see her walls are smashed in (and smashed in with her body).  This happens at night, yet no one rushes in to help or call the police or anything.  Billy talks about loving his mother but we don’t see her, that I recall.  At least Zak spends time with his.

I also wonder about the branding.  What up Krispy Kreme?  You pay them so good money?

The Female:

There are females here and not just for male consumption!  The female power rangers, 2 out of the 5, wear jeans and t-shirts and the basic teen attire, just like the males.  They aren’t forced into tights and fashionista styles like females in other teen movies.  They speak!  to each other!  and about being super heroes!  I think there’s a scene with the two of them together alone, hmmm.  Most of the time it is the five, but they talk about being super heroes and stuff, nothing about boy/girl girl/girl relationships, really.

Rita Repulsa is scantily dressed and gets a whistle from a guy at a mine, obviously sexualized.  She blows up the place and doesn’t respond to the whistle.  There is also a hint at a history we don’t see on screen between Rita and Gordon.  See, they used to be on the same team (nostalgia heads, remember how Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, was originally evil and got his power from Rita?  Well, where do you think she got it?).  At one point the kiddos say they’ll take her back for Gordon to decide her fate.  She yells that he is not going to judge her again.  Now, there’s strength in a female declaring that she is no longer letting a man judge her.  Makes me wonder the system she escaped from.  At the same time, Gordon is telling the Rangers she’s pure evil for turning away from him.  There’s subtext going on here, folks.  I want to know more about what the hell happened.

Final Comments:  I think it was great fun and a nice reboot to the movies.  Apparently Saban Entertainment has 5! more planned already, depending on this success.  I think they fit somewhere between DC and Marvel universe films in terms of tone.  Jokey with some darkness thrown in, but an established world and history with those of the generation who now hold jobs and can afford to pay for their nostalgia.  I enjoyed it, and it was way more slick and professional (as in, not as kid like) as the other Power Rangers movies, or even the series.

Series Review: Santa Clarita Diet

Overview:  Californian suburban dweller, real estate agent, wife, and mom (not exactly in that order) doesn’t feel so good one day.  After a copious amount of vomit during a  viewing of an apartment she discovers that she is a zombie. What follows are her madcap adventures trying to stay fed, dealing with her new and increased libido, and keeping her family intact.  She is helped by her supportive if freaked out husband, her daughter and her daughter’s ‘friend’ and possible romantic interest, a geeky next door neighbor boy.

The Good:  Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant make a great bickering but loving couple who are ‘working through this’ and will do anything for each other.  He makes her spaghetti and meatballs entirely out of people!  She works hard to not eat him!

The humor is light and gory at the same time.  It’s like Pushing Daisies in terms of the whimsy and fast-dialogue (do we have Gilmore Girls to thank for that?) and showing bickering as love.  However, it’s much more horror focused in terms of gore shown and language used.  Still, there’s that air of nonchalance with which things happen.  Drew Barrymore’s character vomits, a lot, and then she’s a zombie.  There’s an attempt at a possible back story to the zombieness in ancient Serbian pictures found on a wall, but no real follow-through, and that’s okay, it’s not about that.  It’s about how a family adapts when one partner changes, either through illness or something else.

And perhaps this could be some sort of allegory about how you deal with a dying family member when the grossness of the human body is suddenly front and center in a relationship.  You struggle to love the new person living with you.  You change yourself and do things you never thought you would, or could do.  You underestimate your children’s ability to accept you and they find out, get mad, and act out.  Your body starts to deteriorate and you hide it because you can’t even face it yourself.

Also – great cameos.  Nathan Fillion.  Portia De Rossi.  Patton Oswalt.  Far too underutilized (although there’s hope for more Portia) but great shining moments.

The Bad:  There are some jabs at suburban life, but not really.  It’s not as biting in skewering that lifestyle as other shows can or have been.  Some of the side characters just become annoying and wasted talent – such as Mary Elizabeth Ellis (the Waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who is reduced to that bored wife of an obnoxious cop.  None of the side characters really rise above their caricature this first season, which is too bad.  While there are some fun jabs (the drug dealer who wants to sing folk songs)  they aren’t sustained.

There isn’t a lot of movement, either.  While my attention was kept the entire series and I didn’t even notice I was five episodes in until I realized I had to go to a meeting, it started with her being a zombie and ended with not much more understanding of why or what it meant.  There is an opening for it, with the husband exploring hopes for a treatment for his wife and the beginning of deterioration in Drew Barrymore’s character’s body, but it gets dropped early and then picked up at the end in what appears just a bid for the second season continuation.

The Female:  Drew Barrymore is the lead and demands a lot of attention.  Her sexuality is also front and center, although it is attributed to her being undead and stressed multiple times that it’s not her normal libido.  She has female friends she talks too in her neighbors, who are not developed.  One just wants to sleep around with everyone, another wants to follow John Legend on tour.  She also has her daughter who is learning to be ‘strong’ and that ‘strong’ doesn’t just mean knowing karate, as so many in show biz define ‘strong’ women.  There are conversations between mother and daughter that are not about men, so that’s good and it passes the Bechdel Test (two women, who talk to one another, and not about a man).  There are also some great comments about Drew doing all the killing, with her husband, after his first kill talking about how men can do it too.

Overall this is fun fluff, not groundbreaking, but good to satisfy the casual horror fan or those who want something to veg out to for a few hours.

Series Review: The OA

Overview:  Surprise!  Netflix has released a slipstreamy sci-fi/fantasy drama just in time to ignore the family for 8 hours over the next holiday.  Or when you’re on the verge of catching what’s going on at work so are a bit too congested to fully sleep.

In the OA a woman is found and she turns out to be the missing child of an older couple named Prairie.  The only thing is, when she left she was blind and now she can see.  She also now wants to be called The OA instead of Prairie and won’t talk to her parents about what happened over the past seven years.

Prairie AKA THE OA gathers together a group of misfits who want to believe in something and choose her.  There’s Steve – the 17 year old bully beating up people he’s jealous of and on the verge of being sent to military reform school; Jesse the orphaned stoner kid; French the super smart non-white kid who might just make it if he can keep that scholarship, who also has to support his drunk/drugged mom who spends time at school meetings sleeping with the fathers there; Buck, the transgendered kiddo who really wants to believe in good; and Betty, the older teacher who has lost sight of why she teaches – to save those lost souls, per the movie.  Together, they meet at an abandoned house (one where construction has stopped after the bubble burst) to listen to The OA tell about her life story, how she got her sight back, and teaches them modern dance.

Her story is long (6 of the 8 hours!) and goes from Russia, to a place of captivity with 4 others, across the universe and to Saturn, and focuses on seeing the inner self and finding the correct movements to transcend, to protect against evil.  This with a focus on Near Death Experiences (NDE) as that is when she has gone all Slaughterhouse Five and traveled to other worlds to learn the dance moves to save her friends and, ultimately, herself.

Other aspects of the show include the frustration of her parents at what’s happening, the town’s reaction both to her being with their boys and the fascination with her return.  A little time is given to the boys current stories, at least a few of them, and Betty.


The Good:

I was really engaged from the beginning.  The story is king of cool, like a Millennial Orlando without gender politics, but rather wealth politics and the like.  She was the daughter of a Russian oligarch who taught her to ‘outcold the cold’.  But she was still wealthy and loved him.  But then all the children of the Russian oligarchs were killed in a bus crash, she alone survived only she didn’t – she agreed to go back to earth only blind.  When he has to disappear, she’s first at an opulent school for the blind, then later at the house of a relative in the US which is part brothel, part illegal adoption ring.  She is adopted as a miracle and raised in the suburbs.  She has premonitions of the future.  She goes to NYC and is captured by a man obsessed with those who have had Near Death Experiences and put in an ecosystems with others.  They plan their escape and it takes those 7 years for her to leave.  She dies a lot, but always comes back.

There are a lot of theories at play and I was as enchanted as the kids in the show, sitting there listening to those tales and wondering what was next.  I also like and buy into the story of the outsiders who come together to better themselves through a book club (only, in this case, it’s an oral history).

I also like the way trauma is addressed, and how different people view it without asking the one who went through it.  The OAs parents are at a loss and follow the doctors advice to monitor closely, not even allowing her on the internet.  Then the OA meets with an FBI counselor who talks to her about creating her story and believing it and finding others for help.  He tries to get her parents to take her out, treat her as human, when they want to see her as fragile and in need of protection.  There is the public fascination with the trauma of others, how they weave the stories they want out of scant information for sensationalism, to soothe themselves that while monsters exist, they exist to harm others, not them. That part was intriguing and I could have used more of it.

The Bad: 

There’s a lot of hokiness throughout and I wondered multiple times how the actors kept a straight face, because the movie is done with utter earnestness.  The film has a couple scenes of the kids doubting her story and looking for it on google, but they believe pretty quickly because, cue X-Files, ‘They want to believe.’  A good portion of the story hinges on learning dance movements (The Five movements) that can open a portal to the other world where The OA can save her friends.  She teaches these to the crew she’s assembled.  Two of the movements alone can bring someone from the dead and cure all disease, all five is a miracle.

The ending is where this comes into play and pissed me off.  I won’t say the situation, but will say it was a ‘very bad thing’ that seemed too easy per the story set up, far too easy an ending situation to have happen and overtly manipulative of the viewer.  It also followed the format of these ‘lost boys’ movies where they temporarily lose faith, then something big happens, they realize they’re all together, and they do the thing they didn’t believe before and thus save their world.  In this case the thing they did was. . .begin to dance.  All disbelief was gone, as was the good will I had developed over the course of the previous 7 hours.

The Female:

The OA:  AKA Nina, AKA Prairie.  She’s the blond blue-eyed heroine of sorts, the one whose story informs the others.  People gather around her, see her as kooky but cool, and she drives the narrative.  In fact, in can be seen as somewhat progressive if not more than somewhat that it’s her voice, her story, and whether you believe the story or not, these eight hours are about her telling it.  She is not only the lead, but the creator of the reality we are led into.

Betty:  The meek and mild school teacher whose brother died from heroin and has given up on many things, including herself.  Meeting the OA gives her purpose enough to continue on and deal with his death.

The OAs Mom:  She’s going through a lot of complicated stuff, and it’s cool that her emotions are so varied and exhausting.  The relationship is strained with both her husband and daughter, who she never understood to begin with and now really doesn’t understand.

Two Women Trapped with The OA:  I forget their names, one sings and the other sleeps with one of the guys.

Other females include moms of the kids, a sister, and a girlfriend.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?  (Two women talking to one another, not about a man)  I think it sorta does.  The women plan escape, granted that’s from a man, but there.  The OA and Betty talk about her brother, so those conversations don’t count, but then the OA talks to the spirit in the other realm who is female, so that counts.  She also, sometimes, talks to her mom.  So it’s probably a clear OK for passing.

Overall, until the ending, I dug it.  It was a good way to ignore the weather and had some interesting ideas about how we tell stories, why, and why we listen and need stories in our lives.  I just want to ignore the last half hour or so.

Movie Review: Finding Dory

Overview:  Dory is our friendly blue fish with short term ‘remembery’ loss from Finding Nemo.  In this movie, we see her as a little bulb-eyed cutie who loses her mom and dad.  One day, living with Nemo and his dad, she remembers she had her own family and decides to go forth and find them because – mom and dad!  She goes on many wacky adventures, meets many other fish and sharks and octopus that don’t want to eat her, but rather help her and


She reunites with her family, and then realizes she misses her friends so they all reunite and live happily.  Oh, and she gets over her short-term memory loss.

The Good:  This is Pixar and Pixar knows cute- so it’s really cute.  Baby Dory is cute.  They always get the right kids for the voices and the voices are super cute.  Celebrities are the main voices, so you can say, ‘oh, that’s the guy from Modern Family!  And that’s the other guy from Modern Family!’ while you watch.

The artwork is beautiful – tons of underwater beauty shots, kelp moving, etc.  Humans are few and far between.  They have fun with the camouflaging properties of Hank, the Octopus.

The Bad:  I think for kid kids, this would be good.  There’s a lot of repetition and it comes across as a children’s book.  Usually, Pixar is really good about having a movie for all ages but this one I wouldn’t say follows that pattern.  Instead, this is the pattern:

Dory searches for her parents.  Has a memory of where they are, goes there, they aren’t there.  She is then told where they are, or has another memory, so goes there.  They aren’t there.  She meets friends along the way who help.  It’s kind of a movie version of ‘Are You My Mommy.’

The portrayals of disability and treatment of those with disabilities is also troublesome.  We have Dory, who is taught at a young age to say that she has short term memory loss disorder when meeting new people.  She has lived her life with that one knowledge and now – now she’s remembering.  Now at an old age she realizes she does have memories and can remember things.  She learns to get over it.

Now, in fairness, what she remembers is long-term memories, so that can make sense.  But there are other things- She is called an ‘inspiration’ for still living her life despite the disability, which feeds into the magic inspirational disabled person.  For some reason, everyone, even natural predators, love her for trying so hard, too, and automatically want to help her.

There is a seal who is portrayed like classic vaudeville mentally ill person – googly eyes, bucked teeth, etc, who is not allowed on the same rock as the other ‘normal’ seals. He is constantly bullied and kicked off the rock in a tone that makes me think they want us to laugh at it – so here it’s okay to make fun of disabled kids.

Becky is a similarly portrayed bird.  Goofy, doesn’t talk, wonky eyed.  Therefore Nemo’s dad doesn’t trust her to do her job.  However, in this he’s wrong.  She would have brought them where they were going had he trusted her.

There is a whale, Destiny, who is short-sighted and a beluga whale who can’t echolocate because of a concussion.  The beluga learns to get over it, while Destiny learns she can get around with the help of friends.

So, a lot of mixed messages around disability and who can inspire, who you can trust to do a job, who should be shunned, who should just get over it, and who really needs help.

The Female:  They’re sea creatures, but the voices are still gendered, and there are still far too few females.  We have:

Dory:  The plucky lead who just wants her family together, and then her family and friends.

Destiny:  Dory’s whale shark friend who doesn’t eat her.  Limited scene time.

Dory’s mom:  She’s, uhm, Dory’s mom.  She loves her daughter no matter what.

Becky the bird is voiced by a male, and doesn’t do much, but has the gendered name.

Sigourney Weaver:  She voices the rehabilitation sea habitat, so a recorded voice really.

So, uhm. . .it passes the Bechdel test (two women talk, and not about a man) because Dory and Destiny talk about home and not a guy.  But if you’re doing a film with fish, it would be great to break out of standard Hollywood gender roles or ratios.  Heck, with fish you could even get rid of gender somehow or play with the non-binary.

Overall, might keep a kidlet entertained and has cute moments but not Pixar’s greatest.


A Tale of Two Readings: Sci-Fi and Literary

I did two readings the past week.  There were some noted differences that got me thinking.

Reading one:  Women in Sci-Fi

This had been planned months in advance yet became stressful in the final weeks leading up to it.  As my novella, Marta Martinez Saves the World, was born from a discussion to promote female authors and female protagonists, me doing a solo reading just didn’t seem right to me.  I called upon some awesome local female authors to join in a discussion at THE bookstore in this town to do readings, and they agreed to join in the endeavor.  As the dates approached annoyances happened, as they do – the events organizer quit and a new one was hired.  Paperwork wasn’t passed on.  They had trouble ordering my books (for my reading!) and didn’t tell me until it was too late to order more, so we had to go with the 5-6 I had on hand.  The other authors were frustrated because there was no advertising, etc.

Then – The election.

When this was planned months ago the election wasn’t in play, or at least not considered. With the outcome as it was our event, which was slightly political as it always is when women go into public spaces to speak about the need to have more female presence, became a political beacon of sorts.  We were now four women in a Trump world talking about equal rights and wanting to stand up and write, and write female characters as human- this after the past two years of Hugo vitriol saying we also shouldn’t exist (and others standing up and showing why it’s necessary we do).

The unthinkable happened at this reading.  We were between the gender studies aisle and the children’s book section.  The place was standing room only (that’s not the unbelievable part).  Violence erupted.  It was not a fight.  It was a man standing up, taking off his jacket, turning around, and letting loose on a friend of mine.  A good person who had come to support me, a white male who wanted to show he was an ally and who also wanted his kids, both boys, to learn to be allies.  And he ended up bloody with a black eye, bruised wrists and nose.  He told me about how he turned it into a lesson to his kids and I couldn’t help but cry, even now as I type this.

However, I want to focus on the awesome audience, because this goes into the comparison.  For one, the audience stayed.   Also, the audience was made up of a lot of females, yes, but there were also men in the audience, which was awesome to see. But the biggest ‘YESH!’ was that the crowd was so full of people from all walks of life, all ethnicities, a wonderful mix of the population of a midwest I used to think was so white, but learned pretty quickly isn’t.  In fact, There were probably fewer of those who looked ‘white’ than others.  And I loved it.  Because, as we got to discuss, it is a female issue but more than that it’s a representation issue and in sci-fi we have the chance to create the future we can aspire to make real.

Representation in fantasy and sci-fi is a huge issue, with places such as Fireside tackling the dialogue, starting with a spotlight on how the numbers stack up.  I see discussion and questions of what we can do to help all over the place.  And in that audience, oh man, what a thrill to see the sea of people there joining in the conversation, telling us in tears and laughter THEIR stories and how they pushed themselves to come to that reading because hope was needed and man, was there ever a lot of hope in that room.  Despite me being fearful all day, and then that fear proven true with the random attack, we ended with each other asking the same questions:  “How do we improve?  How can we support and how can we do better?” And that brought on happy tears.  Tears of relief that we are not alone.

Reading Two:  Big L literary

Some know that despite growing up in extreme poverty, living in a car and tent for a while, I grew into the academic establishment.  Ivy League degree, MFA in writing.  I publish in lit magazines as well, and had pieces of my memoir accepted into a lit magazine and went to the opening reading and reception of the issue, an annual.

The winner of the fiction prize for that issue was a Pakistani woman who came up from California to read part of her work.  There was talk about how now, more than ever (yes, that phrase was used) we need art to pave the way, to create the culture we want.  But when I spoke to the prize winner after we both commented on the same thing:  The readers and audience was mostly those who, I’m going with first glances and not known genealogy, were not nearly as varied as the previous reading.  AKA – people looked white.

The evening was lovely and I was shocked I was able to do that after what happened two days later.  No one was injured, not a bad word was even uttered unless it was in the readings.  But I couldn’t help but notice the extreme difference in ethnic make-up in attendance at the two readings.  In fact, when I first saw the room, scanning it, I made a point to do something I’ve never done before:  I prefaced the reading by talking about my PTSD, my labeling as a disabled American and how my work in this issue was me trying to translate the way my disability has my mind work into a form others could in some way begin to accept.  The reception was amazing with a lot of people coming up to talk to me afterward.  I got to meet the people who championed for my work on the editorial board.  I had someone tell me it sounded better out loud than when she read it (ha!) and it was thrilling.  But I did learn some things.


I had trouble in my MFA because it felt incredibly exclusive.  I got comments about writing about asian characters, or my characters having jobs.  Why do I have to have so many females?  Things got even worse when I asked that we read more female or experimental writing.  The capital L literary world has a huge problem with the voices it says matter as a way to ‘illuminate the human condition.’  However, it’s the Establishment, it’s the school, it’s what they teach is good and true and right in art.  The journal I was in pushed to publish people from all over the world and community, but the community that showed up was- white.  What does this say about us and what we are teaching the next generation to be?   Better yet, how does that reflect the election, where the establishment can dictate the values of our country when the populace can’t?

I did feel a mirroring.  Sci-fi and fantasy, the little l literature for the populace, the stuff that is read at a high clip and given to friends to read again before becoming movies, that was the most diverse reading I’ve ever done or gone to. It was amazing and wonderful and made me feel that, that is the field I want to be in.  It made me smile at all the comments coming out of the Hugo mess, how people banded together to say great sci-fi, great literature, can come from any person.

Another thing I learned was that as much as I hate defining myself, and probably haven’t defined myself, sometimes it is important to do that and not just pass for what others think you are.  I said in the Sci-Fi reading that as I began to get published in the genres I had to come to terms with being female and it’s true.  I was pretty much genderqueer until I realized it was an issue that I couldn’t shy away from.  I do identify as mostly female and a woman writer, perhaps with not all the markers people expect in someone with breasts, but I’m here.  I tend to like slipping between worlds, so until I started getting backlash for having a female name didn’t consider it a point of pride to be a woman.  Now I do.

The same goes for my PTSD.  I feel it important now to say, “Hey, yo, you, I am labeled as disabled because of my childhood, because I grew up in extreme poverty which is itself a HUGE disability, but you know what?  My voice is important and it matters and you should listen to it, internalize it, and when you hear someone else say they are disabled you should listen to them to because really, we’re all human and we’re all talking about the human experience.  And it’s wonderful.  And it’s beautiful.  And there is heart and hope there.”

However, I do hope that one day we can get to the point where it’s not ‘woman writer’ or ‘disabled writer’ but that it can be ‘awesome writer’ and ‘Wow, what a writer’ without the identifiers.  But that isn’t happening soon, so now I kind of want it known where my voice is coming from so others who have been thinking they don’t have a ladder can begin to see the rungs are there, just clouded right now, and begin to climb.



A Tale of Two Doctors: How I Finally got a New Eye Glass Prescription

A while ago, shortly after getting my new job, I got really sick.  I was out of work for two weeks, going from Dr. to Dr. trying to figure out why every. single. thing.  hurt.  I lost ten pounds or so, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep.

Many of the doctors pointed out my weight as culprit.  I pointed out people bigger than me can sleep and eat and don’t feel like their body is on fire and many slimmer than I am have the same symptoms as I do.  So then they ran tests and said, “oh, blood sugar is high and blood pressure is high and you have diabetes and are just stressing out over it” and when I fought that they said “hey, you work in Medicine, you know people deny diabetes, that’s what you’re doing, and you’re freaking out.”

Ultimately I got medicine for a UTI, YI, and was told I might have had the summer flu at the same time.  for the next three months I had problems with my female cycle.  Oh, and another test of my A1C and another doctor told me I was pre-diabetic, so not quite diabetic but ‘close!  so lose weight.’

During the scare of having full blown ‘omg, you’re going to lose your limbs if you don’t stop drinking soda’ diabetes (and yes, that was said to me) I was told to go get my eyes checked because SUGAR EATS THE RETINAS!  OMG YOU CAN BE BLIND NOW AND NOT KNOW IT!

Doctor 1:

The doctor that I got sent too continued the scare tactics.  There was a 45 minute wait to even be brought back to the exam room, and then I was told I was going to have eye drops.  I don’t recall if I’d had them before, but I do recall telling him how nervous I was because of this whole ordeal.  I had 45 minutes to freak out about everything.  I was being told a lot of things.  I told him I did need a new prescription because I wanted new glasses, but maybe not the eye drops.  I was told that if I don’t do the drops, well then he won’t put it through insurance and I’ll have to pay 235$ so I need to do it.  Then came the fun part.

“All it does is paralyze the eyes for up to 8 hours,” he said.

I was done.  There was no way I was going to do that.  Paralyze my eyes?  I started to cry.  My anxiety had hit it’s limit.  We were now an hour past my appointment time and he was again being callous.  I left, got the money I had pre-payed for my co-pay back, and went to the next doctor I had scheduled, like a dutiful(ish) patient, to have a biopsy of my female parts because OMG they were worried about the UTI/YI and now they decided a bacterial infection with no real proof for 2 out of the three.  And that hurt like hell, too, with no results.

Doctor 2:

This is many months after that initial ordeal and I’ve been feeling fine.  A bit worn out.  That ordeal totally freaked me out but the initial sickness combined with it also sapped a lot of emotional strength so I haven’t been working out regularly like I used to do before it began.  But I still need new glasses!  So I made an appointment at my local Sears.

So different.

First off, the people running the waiting room were super friendly and came out from behind the desk to talk to me.  Yes, it was less crowded than the first, but oh man- the guy working the desk was a huge cat freak, and upon seeing my cat shirt brought out his phone to show me pictures of his giant orange fuzzball, Brutus (who does claw him in the back).  The doctor was running behind, but by 15 minutes.

This guy was older, but so friendly.  For the first time ever the glaucoma test was done on the first try.  When I commented on how that was a first for me, he joked that he’d been doing it for a while.  When I asked questions he explained them and checked for understanding.  He asked how I was doing.  He talked to me like I was a human, not a petulant child.  When I spoke of the diabetes scare he told me of how medicine has no idea about what causes diabetes in the first place and showed empathy about me going through that.  He explained the eye drops process, but that first he would do an exam without it and see if it was necessary to do the drops.  If it was, he could help me arrange a time and way to make it comfortable for me.

Oh My God.  I didn’t realize it could go well, not after the last time.  I was burned, and here he was being so nice and explaining along the way everything about what may happen with my age (I’m at the time when I start having to move things away from me to read them, or take off my glasses and he said it’s not bad yet, but showing).

Part of the workshops I run with my students in health care programs (Medical school, nursing, social work, pharmacy, etc.) involve having patients and students sit down to write about times they’ve had illness, at the same table, eating the same meal, and talking about illness.  It’s struck me how uncomfortable it makes students to talk about times when they were sick, even while the patients are saying, “I like when my doctor acknowledges sickness happens to them.”  One patient wrote a story about how it was the waiting room and front desk reception people who made him feel welcome enough to know that he could get well there.  This often leads to many questions about the importance of the doctor, which he addresses in his story (the doctor is 15 minutes of interaction, the waiting room and reception desk actually do the work and where his time is spent) and again – WOW.  It seems so new to learn that they are not the center of the patient’s health, that the patient wants them to be human and come off the pedestal of perfect health.  As much as we talk about patient-centered care, it’s easy enough to see it’s not sinking in because of so much hierarchy and patriarchy in the field.

I do use my own life a lot in the workshops, and this situation with the two eye doctors ended up being a perfect example.  I was made to feel welcome and heard throughout, and because of it, got a full comprehensive exam.  I’m not afraid to go there.  I’ll be compliant and trust this place.

My other doctors?  I’m waiting until I can choose a new health insurance before I see a doctor again, and will try a new system because the one I was in did not work.