Representation in Stories is Overrated

By Nathan On February 26th, 2015 | 25 views

Marvel Comics recently announced it was launching a new title with an all-female Avengers team called A-Force. It seems like it will feature many of the House of Ideas’ most famous superheroines—like She-Hulk, Black Widow, and Phoenix—many of whom have been members of the main Avengers team.

I’m not opposed to this idea in concept. If Marvel thinks they can generate good stories with a team like this, I’m all for it. The problem, I think, is that doesn’t seem to be their motivation. This reeks of political correctness. It’s an attempt at “diversifying” their titles because they think it’ll appeal to a wider audience. (Ironic considering this team technically isn’t diverse because it has no men on it).

The comic book industry has been dominated by men since its inception. Generally speaking, male authors write male protagonists because they’re drawing upon their own experiences as a male. Now, that doesn’t mean they haven’t written any female characters well. I’d argue there are plenty out there. Unfortunately, comics have a reputation for presenting those characters as sexual objects. Some of it is deserved, but I’d say some of it isn’t. It depends on the individual creators, companies, and/or eras. Regardless, my point remains that it’s understandable that superheroines are a minority in comics because most creators are male (and that’s not a bad thing).

This comic, whether it’s good or not, seems like it’s based on the notion that particular demographics won’t enjoy a story unless the protagonists share their gender, ethnicity, religion, and/or whatnot. In this case, they could be assuming that women won’t read the regular Avengers titles because there are only a few women on the team at any given time (in the first movie, there was only one). This extends to other demographics (i.e. only black people will enjoy stories featuring black characters).

I reject this idea. I’m sure it’s true for some people, but I don’t think most audiences care. What I look for is a good story with characters I like and/or identify with. This goes way beyond skin color or reproductive organs. A truly great story is one that focuses on human experiences, which transcend those outward superficial differences. I read/watch The Hunger Games because it has a good story; the protagonist’s gender had little or no effect on my enjoyment. Everyone has dealt with stuff like trauma, pain, joy, love, and rejection. Those things aren’t a respecter of persons, whether they be fictional or real.

One of my favorite characters in the Star Trek franchise is Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine. Obviously, he’s a black man. But guess what? I never notice. What do I notice? His soft-spoken demeanor, his furious temper, his love for his son, and the pain of losing his wife in battle. All universally human experiences. Read this excerpt from the show’s bible that describes the character. Nowhere does it mention his ethnicity. It was only brought up in the show when it was necessary. That’s how it should always be handled. A character’s ethnicity, gender, and/or religious beliefs can be used to create drama (or comedy), but it shouldn’t define them. It’s only a small part of who they are. Trying to base the character around those traits will, in fact, alienate audiences.

Adding arbitrary diversity also hampers stories. Case in point: Tauriel in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. She’s not from the book or any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings canon. She was created by Jackson and his wife, Fran, because they wanted to add a woman to the almost all-male cast in the hopes of attracting a female audience. She’s completely extraneous to the story. What little purpose she has is to serve as one point in an unnecessary love triangle between her, Kili, and Legolas (who also wasn’t in the book, but I’m willing to accept him here because it’s arguable he was one of the Elves in the story). In other words, Jackson seems to think women want to see cliché “love stories” that go nowhere. Tauriel might be an okay character in concept, but ultimately she’s just part of what amounts a big-budget fanfiction. Instead, Jackson should’ve focused on Bilbo’s growth, which anyone can identify with. Stories don’t need to have romance to be appealing to women.

Pandora-155w-100dpi-C8In the very early stages of writing my first novel, Pandora’s Box, I thought the protagonist would be male. But as the story progressed, I realized it’d be better if the “hero” was actually a heroine. By doing that, I believe I made the story much stronger and more interesting. I didn’t do it to broaden (or narrow) it’s appeal or make some sort of statement—I did it because it was what the story needed. That’s why one of my author mantras is, “Story is king.” Whatever my tale needs, I give it. If it’s a female protagonist, then a female protagonist. If it’s a German scientist, then a German scientist. If it’s a trope-tastic ninja, then a trope-tastic ninja. :P

So, if you’re concerned with having diversity in your story, don’t bother unless it’ll serve it well. Focus instead on telling as good of a story as you can. That will get you an audience from all races, colors, and creeds.

Attacking the Idol

By Nathan On February 24th, 2015 | 94 views

I’ve seen many internet trolls in my time. Often I’ve defended someone from internet trolls. Admittedly on rare occasions I’ve been a troll. However, this week I’ve become a troll magnet, especially on YouTube.

Since my YouTube show is titled, “But I Digress…,” any video I post that is either unrelated or only tangentially-related to the usual things I cover on the show (writing, creativity, reviews), I call them “Digressions” (admittedly, the titles were inspired by the podcast “Derailed Trains of Thought” hosted by my friends Nick Hayden and Timothy Deal who have tangential episodes called “Side Tracks.”) Since it was Valentine’s Day, I decided to post two videos: one where I go on an exaggerated angry rant about why I hate Fifty Shades of Grey and the other my annual (bad) karaoke of a love song.

The former was intended to be satirical. I meant everything I said in the video—that I objected to Fifty Shades as a writer and (Christian) moralist—but the rage was exaggerated; it was acting. I was channeling internet personalities like Angry Joe and the Angry Video Game Nerd. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say I was trying to be Mark Levin. Now, I’m willing to admit that I may have not executed the video well and/or that the joke was lost on people. It was the first time I’ve tried something like this. Most people on YouTube don’t know who I am, so as far as they might know I’m always crazy like that. But the majority of the comments I got were from trolls. If I had to summarize everything they said, it’d be thus (except with lots of spelling errors and some profanity): “You’re an angry Aspie faggot virgin idiot with an imaginary girlfriend who won’t put out.” I’ve rarely run into such a potent concentration of human cruelty. As of the date of this blog, I’ve de-listed the video. I may re-list it later, but even then the comments will be disabled so the trolls can’t have any more “fun.”

I made a response video, and while I thought it was clever, most articles I’ve since read on dealing with trolls have said doing such things is usually a bad idea. It will be the one and only time I “feed” trolls.

“Don’t feed the trolls,” however, isn’t the biggest lesson I learned this past week.

First, satire, like sarcasm, has difficulty surviving on the internet. It’s not the most ideal environment for it since much of the nuance and context that make it work is lost. Although, satire by definition is “a genre in…which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement” (Wikipedia). It’s the one form of humor that simultaneously dulls its barbs and sharpens them. It both entertains and holds a mirror up to the audience so they can examine their ideas and perceptions. Some will get the joke; some won’t. Some will get it and lash out (as happened in the tragic Charlie Hebdo shooting last month).

Which brings me to the second, more important lesson: when one takes an unpopular moral stand, backlash should be expected. To paraphrase my pastor when I talked with him about this, “You attacked their idol, and they will defend it at all costs.” Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over 100 million copies (typing that almost makes me want to vomit), and the movie grossed a record-breaking $85 million domestically (though it has since plummeted). ;) This means I’m challenging a huge fanbase who, for whatever reason, love this crap. I find most erotica like this to be literary pornography, which is addictive. Criticizing it is like taking cocaine from a junkie: expect a fight. I’m sure many of the trolls were fans of this trash (or simply porn addicts). Like religious zealots, they attack anyone who seeks to destroy their idols—in this case pornography—with an incredible fervor. They had to strike back because I said something that was threatening to them. But many of them cared nothing for E.L. James’ books. These trolls simply smelled blood in the water and swarmed me in a feeding frenzy. They’re opportunists who scour the internet looking for someone to take pot shots at because they find sadistic enjoyment in it. They’re the most dangerous kind of trolls. There’s no defeating them.

But I’d argue that these consequences are worth it. As a Christian, I expect persecution (heck, sometimes it comes from fellow Christians). It stems from being different and/or having a dissenting opinion. I would rather be the target of trolls because I took a moral stand than because I—gasp!—enjoy Michael Bay’s Transformers movies (though I do have my issues with them). That, I think, is key. While bullying is wrong regardless of its motivation, there is honor in suffering for a good reason.

Digression 10: Haters Gonna Hate

By Nathan On February 21st, 2015 | 28 views

After stirring up a bit of controversy in my previous video where I went on a satirical rant about why I hate Fifty Shades of Grey, I respond to some of the internet trolls in this snarky follow-up.

If this video receives any insulting comments–especially any related to autism–I will disable the comments. No trolls will have fun with this.

This is intended to humorous, but I do stand by what I say. I only criticize what was said and how the trolls behaved.

Digression 9 & 9.5: ’50 Shades of RAGE!’ and ‘V-Day Karaoke 2015′

By Nathan On February 14th, 2015 | 89 views

It’s been a while since I posted a Digression–and boy, is this one a doozy! I go on an angry rant about why I hate “Fifty Shades of Grey” and I’m boycotting the film adaptation.

Agree or disagree? Leave comments below!

The annual tradition returns!

This year for your listening (dis)pleasure, I sing the classic “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey–and learn that I should never sing tenor ever again! I freely admit I’d be an “American Idol” reject. I hope you find it funny and sing along.

Please comment, subscribe, and share!

Proxy Characters and Wish Fulfillment

By Nathan On January 29th, 2015 | 124 views

(My apologies for the risque art).

Robert E. Howard.

I once read that Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, considered his most famous creation to be the idealized version of himself. In other words, Conan was who Howard wished he was, which could mean a lot of things, both good and bad. Conan is strong, determined, and powerful, but he’s also a violent, womanizing brute at times.

Regardless, Howard isn’t the first or last author to live vicariously through his stories. Whether unintentionally or not, many authors have created proxy characters for themselves or written about activities they’ve wanted to do or places they wanted to visit.

In the case of proxy characters, some are like Mr. Howard and write a character they see as the ideal they want to be or wish they were. This makes me a bit sad. There’s a tinge of hopelessness in this. Instead of realizing that dream, they settle for a fantasy. Now, it’s a fantasy that makes them money, but it’s a fantasy nonetheless. I have long said that story and art are powerful things that can teach writers and readers alike things about themselves, and while a little escapism is good for the soul, it shouldn’t become a surrogate reality. That’s why many people get addicted to television, video games, and the like. On the other hand, some authors write characters that are (often) thinly veiled copies of themselves. Now, this could be a case of unhealthy wish fulfillment, or it could be a literary device they use to make a point. As Gene Roddenberry showed with the original Star Trek, one can make controversial statements so long as it’s couched in story. I’ve seen authors—including one I know—either put their own words in their characters’ mouths or model the character after themselves. Heck, the best example I can think of is Natasha Hayden’s story in The Day After, which is pretty much her life except she’s not a spy (so far as I know).

If I’m honest with myself, I’ve done the same thing. While I wouldn’t say I modeled him after myself (at least not consciously), I must admit that sometimes I envy Jaysynn, a character I created for the Children of the Wells serial. I sometimes wish I was an athletic parkour martial artist. Well, I wish I at least matched part of that description. I’m sure with the proper effort, time, and money, I can learn martial arts. I’ve wanted to for a long time. But as for parkour…I don’t think I have enough athletic ability to do that well. I could be wrong. Perhaps with the proper training….

See what I mean by wish fulfillment? My priorities dictate that I spend more time writing than I do to be a star athlete, though I may sometimes want to be said athlete. So, as it stands, these quasi-secret aspirations are kept in the “writer’s well” in my crazy brain, from which I draw to craft my stories.

It is fun to pretend.

Speaking of Children of the Wells…time for shameless self-promotion!

Ever Feel Like You’re in a Bad Story?

By Nathan On January 16th, 2015 | 70 views
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(Just because cat pictures and videos are the only thing more popular than porn on the internet). :P

A concept that’s being lost in this postmodern (or is it post-postmodern?) world is the idea of the metanarrative: the idea that meaning is conveyed through the anticipated completion of a currently unrealized master plan. This is ironic because many modern stories still make heavy use of destiny. I think that shows there’s a longing for a metanarrative.

But I digress (I like I do on my YouTube show)…

People, especially writers, use book and/or story metaphors to describe their lives. “I’m starting the next chapter of my life,” they might say. Bob Seger’s famous song “Turn the Page” arguably implies life is a book. The best stories are ones with structure and purpose, so that means our lives also have structure and purpose. If our lives are stories, there must be a storyteller. Some call him God while others call him fate or destiny, among other names. There is comfort in that, assuming you believe the storyteller is a good one.

But thanks to cynicism, many people see life as either a pointless meandering or something to which they must add their meaning (if I wasn’t a Christian, the latter would be my philosophy). In other words, proponents of the latter write their stories. They grab life by the horns and wrestle it into submission. I’d argue that even then they still believe in some sort of metanarrative; just one they’re writing one themselves, supposedly.

I sometimes wonder how my characters would react to me, the author, since I ultimately control their fates. Yes, I like to say they “talk” to me (all authors are slightly insane), but in the end, I’m the one who decides what happens to them. I made s joke on my Facebook page that I stopped writing Hope’s War once this week with the villain being held at gunpoint, so must be annoyed with me. The thing is, if he knew what my (current) plans are for him, he might murder me, assuming he was real (he isn’t, is he?) :P

All this to ask, Do you ever feel like you’re in a bad story?

We’ve seen/read/played plenty of terrible tales, from B-movies to dime store novels. We criticize them for their atrocious plots, disappointing endings, and obnoxious characters. But often I think we feel the same about our own lives. If the last decade has shown us anything, it’s that life doesn’t always go how we planned. We work hard but aren’t rewarded for it. The hero doesn’t always get the girl. If you’re like me, you’ve either feel like you’re in a bad story, a tragedy, or you’re an unimportant bit character. You can’t expect a happy ending because life isn’t a fairy tale.

But I’m here to say have faith in the Storyteller: He’s not done writing yet.

Someone giving up on life because they hate the script they’ve been handed would be like Luke Skywalker telling Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Screw you! I’m not cut out to be a Jedi!” Or Frodo succumbing to the One-Ring (okay, I know that kinda happened, but you get my drift). Their stories weren’t over yet. Whether they knew it or not, they were being guided by a storyteller to beautiful destiny.

There’s a joke among writers that says…well, I posted a meme of it. It might seem trite, but there’s truth in it. Did you lose your job? See it as a challenge to overcome. You have “readers” (Hebrews 12:1) who are pulling for you. Have you ever wanted to quit reading a book or watching a movie only for it to surprise you with how good the ending was? That could be any of our lives.

Your life’s a story. Go make it a great one!

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New Year’s Resolution: Downsize

By Nathan On January 9th, 2015 | 111 views

Image courtesy of www.emirates247.com.

It’s that time of the year when people regret all the food they ate between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve and decide they need to go to gym to lose the extra pounds—only to quit by Valentine’s Day (another reason V-Day is the worst holiday ever!)

All that to say everyone makes resolutions for the coming year (including the Children of the Wells writers and their characters), and I’m no different. My list would include stuff like:

-Finish writing Hope’s War.
-Read the 20 or so books sitting on my bedpost (at least).
-Publish at least one new book.
-Pay off more of my student loans.
-Start grad school, if possible.

But there’s something I’ve thought about doing around this time for several years. Sometimes I do a bit of it, but not enough. In fact, it weighed so heavily on me during the Christmas season it kept me awake one night (thanks, God). :P What is that?

Downsizing.

Now, I’m not a pack rat who needs to go on Hoarders (though I know people who should). However, I do tend to hang onto stuff that has sentimental value and/or I think I’ll be able to use later. I have sizable DVD/Blu-ray, book, and video game collections, and while I have trimmed those down a bit (they could stand a little more), what I specifically need streamlined is my toys.

Yes, toys.

As a kid, I collected several series of playthings, some of which are probably genuine collectors’ items (Transformers, Star Trek, etc.), but many were only popular at the time (like Z-Bots and Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad). I have most of these stashed in several trunks. I don’t keep them because I play with them, obviously, so the toys’ purposes are defeated. I thought at one point I might share them with my own kids, but I don’t know if or when that will happen. So, at the moment, they just take up space that should be freed up. I’m a storyteller now, hence why my focus is more on books and movies, and not a kid or a toy collector. I haven’t bought a toy in years.

He kinda looks like me, actually. (Image courtesy of Tumblr).

Unfortunately, I’m like Andy from the Toy Story films. I don’t want my toys—most of which I slaved to keep in good condition—to go to just anybody. I want to give them good homes; I want them to go to people who will cherish them the same way I did; people like a collector or an appreciative kid. (Wow! That was an excessive use of semicolons!) I know, it sounds weird. It sounds like I’m talking about a pet I can’t keep. These are just toy—hunks of sculpted plastic (and a sometimes metal). They’re not alive. Well, technically they’re not. But when I was a kid, with my wild imagination, I made them come to life. They were “friends” I had adventures with; characters in whatever goofy stories I would cook up on the spot (that might partially explain my zany mind). They were the avatars of my brainchildren. (Though some I keep because of the people who gave them to me, like deceased grandparents).

That’s the thing, though: What I cherish most are the memories those playthings gave me. It isn’t necessarily the things themselves. But barring a traumatic brain injury, I’ll never lose those memories. If they gave me this much joy, they can do the same for new owners.

I just want to make sure I find the right ones, is all. :P

(No wonder the Toy Story films appeal to me on many levels).

The Christmas Invasion (or “Santa vs. the Flying Saucer”)

By Nathan On December 24th, 2014 | 129 views

Author’s Note: Merry Christmas, readers! As my gift to you, I present this special holiday flash fiction. (Special thanks to Catherine FitzSimmons for the suggestion that led to this story). Enjoy!

The Christmas Invasion (or “Santa vs. the Flying Saucer”)
by Nathan Marchand

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image3586505Santa Claus whipped the reins, and his nine “little” reindeers ran forward and sprang off the roof, pulling the jolly fat man’s sleigh behind them. But instead of plummeting, they all threw off the shackles of gravity and arched into the night sky. As the wintry wind nipped at ol’ St. Nick’s thickly-bearded face, he was grateful for the ancient holiday magic that allowed him to perform his annual acts of grand generosity. Not since his days as a bishop so many centuries ago had he been able to do so much for the less fortunate.

“Ho, ho, ho!” he bellowed to himself. “The sun will rise soon in this time zone. This job gets longer every year. I miss the days when everyone had chimneys.”

The reindeer seemed to be slower, Santa thought, so he leveled out his sleigh at an altitude of three-thousand feet instead of the usual five-thousand. “Poor fellers must be exhausted,” said Santa. “I’ve run out of carrots from the children to feed them.” He laid down the reins and cupped his hands around his mouth. “Just one more city and it’s back to the North Pole, boys!”

All nine of them grunted affirmatively in reply.

“Ho, ho, ho! I can’t wait to get home to see Misses Claus, too!”

Santa reached back and grabbed a huge scroll, which he unrolled until he reached the “Nice” section for the final city. “Hopefully my first stop has a chimney—”

Suddenly flickering lights flashed in his eyes.

“Is that you, Rudolph?” he said, peering over the scroll. But his most famous reindeer’s nose wasn’t glowing.

Santa dropped the list and grabbed the reins. “It must be an airplane! I can’t let it see me!” With a flick of the reins, his reindeer, though tired, would take evasive maneuvers.

But he saw no more flashes. Nothing but pale moonlight filtered through clouds. Only the whistling wind was heard.

Santa stroked his white beard. “Perhaps I imagined it.”

Instantly, from out of the clouds came a spinning disc that seemed to be made of neon. Its lights blinded Santa. He held up a hand and blocked just enough of it to see it fly in front of him. He yanked the reins, and the reindeer groaned as they turned to port, almost clipping the sun-like saucer.

His heart racing, Santa rubbed his eyes with one hand, holding the reins with the other, but it took several long seconds of blinking to clear his vision. That didn’t help his headache.

“That’s no airplane!”

He looked over his shoulder. The saucer was a quarter-mile away but still bright. Santa squinted to get a better look. It was at least three times the size of his sleigh, perfectly round, and lined with windows.

“No aircraft on Earth looks like that! It’s from space!”

Leaving a trail of light, the saucer sped away—toward the city!

Santa’s beard ruffled as his face contorted with righteous anger befitting a saint. “You picked the wrong night to invade, sonny!”

He yanked the reins and banked the sleigh sideways, making a wide U-turn. “Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!” The reindeers galloped, kicking at the air, their sleigh bells thundering as they fought exhaustion to accelerate. Santa could feel their fatigue through the reins. But the saucer came closer.

“Onwards!” Santa shouted.

The saucer darkened its lights and vanished into a mountainous cloud.

“Rudolph, full power!”

The lead reindeer’s nose glowed, shooting a red beam that cut through the cloud. The saucer was silhouetted inside.

“Faster, boys!” shouted Santa, whipping the reins.

They were a quarter-mile behind now, but the city was only fifty miles away. The cold wind bit Santa’s cheeks and stung his eyes. He whipped and shouted. They inched toward the saucer. Rudolph kept it bathed in red light. Santa’s teeth rattled as the magic surged through his sleigh. His old transport felt as though it would fall apart. He only whipped the reins more.

The reindeers’ painful groans mingled with the peels of their sleigh bells, but now the saucer was only a hundred feet away. Before Santa could think of what to do next, the spaceship dove. Only then did Santa look down and see the city’s suburbs below.

“Down, boys!” he shouted, whistling to signal a descend.

They arched downward, but the rhythm of their bells slowed. The saucer shrank before them. Panic seized Santa. The world can’t end on Christmas Eve!

He expected to see flashes of flame, but there was nothing. Then, to his shock, he saw the saucer had stopped below them and a few hundred feet above the houses. Ten seconds later, Santa leveled out his dead-tired reindeer and floated next to the spacecraft.

With his sleigh hovering, the old saint put down his reins and stood.

“Go back to your planet, invaders, or I’ll…sick my reindeer on you!”

All nine of them moaned.

Santa slapped his forehead.

An electronic hum.

Santa looked at the bottom of the saucer and saw white beams of light shoot out.  Momentarily, his chest tightened, but then he saw what looked like strange dolls and model ships floating down the beams like they were tall slides.

“Toys!” he exclaimed.

The playthings descended along the beams, phased into energy particles, and fell into houses’ chimneys or through skyscrapers’ windows.

Santa looked up at the saucer, which now glowed with warm multicolored lights.

He smiled. “You just wanted to help deliver toys.”

A white light danced across the saucer’s hull as if to say, “Yes.”

His frozen cheeks suddenly burned. Then he burst into a hearty, “Ho, ho, ho!” and his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly.

“Thank you! And a Merry Christmas to you!”

With that, the saucer’s teleporter beams ceased and it darted into the sky, vanishing in a twinkle.

Santa sat down and grabbed the reins. “I hope Misses Claus has cups of hot chocolate ready for all of us, boys! We need them!”

The reindeer grunted in agreement.

Pretentious Hypocrisy: Thoughts on the Movie ‘God Bless America’

By Nathan On December 18th, 2014 | 254 views

Normally, I’d be writing something Christmassy, but I think I’ll save that for next week. I wanted to write about this a few weeks ago, but wasn’t able to find the time. Why? Because that’s when I saw a movie called God Bless America.

Watch trailer here.

Watch trailer here.

Don’t let the title fool you; it’s supposed to be ironic. This 2011 indie film made a splash on the film festival scene. I vaguely remember hearing about it back then, but completely forgot about it until I visited a friend who was watching it on Netflix. I missed the first five minutes or so, but I was quickly able to surmise what was going on.

This movie, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, is a satire of American culture. It follows an angry man with an apparently terminal brain tumor and his psychotic teenage girl sidekick as they go on a cross-country killing spree eliminating people they find mean and/or despicable. It takes potshots at reality TV, the religious right, and conservatives. Yet for all its sound and fury, it says nothing. In fact, I found this to be the most pretentious and hypocritical movie I’ve ever seen.

It is less a story and more a rambling, angry diatribe where Goldthwait uses the “characters” as mouthpieces. He bombards us with constant monologues declaring that modern American pop culture is shallow, mean, and stupid. I’m inclined to agree on many points, but they don’t need to be pounded into my head every five minutes through profanity-strewn speeches. It’s the sort of thing people—myself included—complain about with Christian-made movies (i.e. constant preaching), but here it seems many viewers applaud it. I say it kills what little story the movie has and buries what good ideas it presents. Even then, the movie feels more like a wish fulfillment than a story. As the so-called “heroes” go on their killing spree—with little or no suspense, I might add—I got the impression this was Goldthwait living vicariously, that he actually wanted to murder reality TV personalities for the crime of being petty.

Therein lies the heart of my problem with the movie. It might be a satire (I use that term loosely because I rarely laughed), but the movie offers no solutions to the cultural problems other than violence and death. In other words, Goldthwait is advocating a Nazi-esque “final solution.” Those who are seen as purveyors of cultural downfall should be killed. Not only is this overblown and unjust, it begs the question, “Why do you think you know who deserves life or death?” I threw that question mostly at the movie’s characters, but it applies just as much to Goldthwait. What makes it worse is there are never any mention of killing truly evil people—serial killers, criminals, etc.—who, I’d argue, do real damage to society. Nope, instead the audience is forced to watch reality TV stars, religious zealots (who are obviously inspired by West Borough Baptist Church), and conservative TV talk show hosts be murdered for being “mean.” All while being preached at by the antiheroes. Heck, they even murder a group of teenagers for looking at their cell phones and talking in a movie threatre!

I might’ve been able to stomach this had the “heroes” realized later that they were becoming who they hated, or perhaps even worse. It would’ve introduced thought-provoking conflict and moral dilemmas. I expected them to commit suicide after realizing how far they’d fallen. Instead, they die in a police shootout while murdering the hosts of an American Idol-type show on live TV.

If the characters’ speeches are analyzed, it reveals many oversights and discrepancies. For someone who purported itself as smart, Goldthwait comes across as a pseudo-intellectual. The characters assume all Christians are mean because they won’t allow homosexuals to get married. Then Roxy sings (not literally, thankfully) the praises of Alice Cooper, saying he was doing things like writing songs about death and wearing dresses before everyone else. At least three times during this speech, I said to her, “And you’d kill him because he’s a Christian.” Frank lounges on a sofa and watches TV only to be bombarded with stupid commercials and shows, but it never occurs to him to shut the thing off and read a book. Each speech seems to indict just about every group one can think of as responsible for America’s downfall and worthy of death, which is bad enough, but then I realized they never attack politically liberal groups. Goldthwait might’ve been able to garner legitimacy if he was evenhanded.

In the end, this movie was an obnoxious diatribe that pointed out scores of problems but offered no hope or solutions. It’s pure nihilism. (I would say more if I could, but that would require I re-watch this dreck).

If you want to see a film that satirizes modern culture that isn’t hypocritical and is actually funny, watch Idiocracy. It won’t leave you feeling like a depressed snob.

Why the Doctor Shouldn’t be a Woman

By Nathan On December 16th, 2014 | 344 views
A female Fifth Doctor from Gen-Con 2014. (FYI: I'm not against women cosplaying the Doctor. It's cute).  (Photo by Nathan Marchand)

A female Fifth Doctor from Gen-Con 2014. (FYI: I’m not against women cosplaying the Doctor. It’s cute).
(Photo by Nathan Marchand)

My apologies, fair readers, for neglecting to blog last week and for posting this one late. I was busy last week, what with the holidays and giving a science fiction presentation last week at the Roanoke Library. Perhaps I’ll post two blogs this week to make up for it.

I’d originally intended to write about something else, but with the brewing, well, brouhaha over this topic, I felt I should say something. If you’re not a Whovian (fan of Doctor Who), feel free to skip this post. It’s one of my favorite franchises, so I felt I should give my thoughts on the matter.

Recently, some fans have been clamoring for a female Doctor. At the risk of sounding sexist and/or misogynistic (FYI: I am neither), this is a bad idea. Here my reasons why.

1) It’s motivated by political correctness

No matter what showrunner Steven Moffat or anyone else says, the big reason this is getting pushed is because of political correctness. The Doctor has been male all his life. Making him a woman is nothing more than an attempt to placate an outspoken minority of women (and possibly feminists?) who, apparently, think they need to be represented by the character. It’s stupid, perhaps even insulting. It assumes women can’t enjoy a good story unless it features a female character(s). The Hobbit films made the same mistake adding a lady elf to the cast who wasn’t in the book because they thought it’d attract a female audience. The truth is that a good story can and should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of the characters’ ethnicity, age, and/or gender. Making the Doctor a woman because it might appeal to a female audience is shortsighted.

2) Gender is not interchangeable

I could be wrong on this, but I wonder if making the Doctor female is at least partially inspired by this modern notion that men and women aren’t that different (other than their “plumbing”). This idea is, in general, false. The differences between men and women go beyond reproductive organs and hormones. There are huge differences emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. Men and women think differently. Gender and sexuality isn’t some tabula rasa (“blank slate”). Much, if not most, of it is innate. There seem to be exceptions because of the corruption of sin. God created mankind male and female (Genesis 1:27). (I realize I’m talking about fictional aliens here, but its born out of ideas related to humans). To suddenly switch that is an insult to both genders.

3) Ruins the “romantic” appeal

I was chewed out a bit in a Facebook group for saying this, but I know this is true. One of the appeals of Doctor Who (particularly the new series) is that it’s a romantic fantasy. A handsome and mysterious man who comes to young women and offers to take them on fantastical adventures. While not every Companion falls in love with the Doctor (precious few don’t on the new series), this appeals to men because they want to be the man who leads the adventure, and women want to be taken on adventures. By making the Doctor a woman, this dynamic is ruined. Either she asks (or drags) men on adventures, which won’t appeal to a male audience, or she’ll ask other women to join her, effectively making the show a “chick flick,” thereby alienating the male audience. This sounds harsh, but it’s reality.

4) It’d alienate old-school fans

Doctor Who has been around for over 50 years. Like it or not, that means the franchise has built traditions, and those aren’t easily broken. One of those is the Doctor being male. By changing that, many, if not most, longtime fans who’ve been watching since the days of Tom Baker (or longer) will abandon the series. It wouldn’t be the show they loved. It’s hard enough keeping people on board after the Doctor regenerates—adding a gender swap would be killer.

5) More backlash if and when “she” regenerates back into a man

The flipside of the issue would be the backlash that would probably come if and when the hypothetical female Doctor regenerated back into a man. You can bet accusations of sexism would get thrown around. Feminists would probably say something about the show going back to its “chauvinist roots.” If this was being done because the female Doctor wasn’t well-received and, much like what happened with Colin Baker in the 1980s, she was being quickly replaced, this controversy would kill the show.

6) Female versions are usually either new characters or reboots

Gender swaps have been done before with traditionally male characters, but in most of those cases those were either brand new separate characters or part of a reboot. For example, in the mid-2000s, Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, seemed to die at the end of “Avengers Disassembled,” a tragic storyline published by Marvel Comics. A young woman who had admired Barton then took up his name/mantle and became a superheroine in his honor. Or when SyFy rebooted  Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck was a woman. The former worked well and the latter, while weird, also worked for most people. But since the 12 (or 13, depending on how you look at it) incarnations of the Doctor are technically the same person, it wouldn’t get a pass. Now, if the Doctor passed on his name to a worthy Time Lady as his dying act, I think fans could support that. (Sidenote: Ever seen a traditionally female character becomes a man?)

7) Difficult to write (and cast?) well

I’m not saying a female Doctor wouldn’t have the Doctor’s trademark quirks and witticisms, but I’d argue the usual challenges faced with recasting the Doctor—age, appearance, costume, etc.—would be worse and judged more harshly. If a young actress is cast, will that alienate older fans? Should she dress and/or act sexy? Some fans already object to how some the female Companions have been eye candy, so you can bet there’d be an uproar if the same happened with a female Doctor. Her every word and action would be scrutinized. (This isn’t to say there aren’t any actresses out there who play the part, though).

8) Need more nonviolent male heroes

As someone pointed out on the Fans For Christ Facebook page, one of the things that makes the Doctor great is he is an nonviolent hero. Most other famous fictional heroes—James Bond, Superman, Aragorn, etc.—distinguish themselves in battle. They aren’t bad characters, but the Doctor differentiates himself from them by using his intelligence and wits to save the day. This is a great thing for boys to see and admire so as to remember that not everything can be solved through violence.

9) Oversteps the limits of regeneration

While the concept of regeneration has been around since the First Doctor, the rules surrounding it have been murky. Except for a few throwaway lines implying a gender swap was possible through it, it never happened until this season when it was learned the villainous Master had become a woman (I argue this is open to interpretation). Regardless, I say a gender swap is beyond what regeneration can do. It makes sense that things like hair color, eye color, and body build can change because that’s still using the basic building blocks available. Swapping genders means adding whole new organs, glands, and hormones. In other words, it’s going from a renovation to a complete teardown and rebuilding. That’s ridiculous, even for Doctor Who.

10) Lesbianism (or Bisexuality)

As said, a staple of the new series has been Companions falling in love with the Doctor (to date only one hasn’t). If the Doctor becomes a woman, would she still have her old attractions, or would they switch too? Doctor Who is a family show, and despite Britain having a liberal definition of what constitutes such a program, I doubt a lesbian or bisexual Doctor would be deemed acceptable. Yes, there have been oblique pro-gay lines in the series sometimes, but most of those go over kids’ heads. And yes, there was Captain Jack, but even he wasn’t allowed to go full-throttle homosexual on Doctor Who (that was saved for Torchwood, which was an adult show). Again, it’s asking for trouble.

These are purely my opinions. You are welcome to disagree. If you’re a Whovian, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, whether you agree with me or not. Please leave comments so we can discuss it.