If 50 Shades of Grey were actually written by a Seattleite

Standard

Mr. Grey’s profile picture on OKCupid was a shot of himself standing in front of a huge window. Ana laughed at the terrible photoshop job; he had crudely pasted a shot of Seattle’s skyline behind him, not realizing that the view point was actually somewhere in the middle of Puget Sound.

puget apartment

While Ana was waiting for her meeting with Christian Grey to begin, she idly flipped through a copy of The Stranger. Dan Savage was writing about kink problems again. Why couldn’t the people who wrote to him ever just talk to each other?

*

Ana walked downtown to meet her lover. She passed approximately 50 telephone poles covered in posters for burlesque shows and kink nights at The Cuff.

*

Ana walked past Babeland. “I know I should support a local feminist-run sex toy store,” she told her friend, “but I can get the same products cheaper on Amazon.”

“Let’s go in,” said her friend. “I want to see which strap-on harness fits me best.”

*

Ana went to the gay pride parade with her friends. It was one of those rare, hot June days, and she had forgotten to bring sunscreen. So had some of the men on floats; the shirtless boys would have leather harness-shaped tan lines for weeks.

*

“You’re never going to believe this,” Ana told her friend. “I showed up to the restaurant, and this guy was wearing a suit. With a tie and everything. And he kept interrupting to take ‘important business calls.'”

“Oh my god, what a douchebag,” said her friend.

“And he kept insisting on paying for dinner. I hate it when guys do that, it’s like they think if they pay then a woman’s obligated to put out.”

“Tell me about it,” said her friend. “Do you think you’ll see him again?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. He’s pretty cute.”

*

Ana showed all her friends the pushy text messages that Christian had sent her. “Can you believe it?” she asked them. “This guy says he’s a dominant.

*

Ana bought some high-quality hemp bondage rope from a local artisan. She couldn’t wait to use it on her new boy toy.

In praise of criticism

Standard

If you don’t follow the book blogging community closely, you may not be aware that there have been multiple recent incidents of authors stalking and assaulting book reviewers for daring to give their books negative reviews. This is deeply fucked up, and many book bloggers understandably chose to stop reviewing books for their own safety.

All writers have blind spots when it comes to their own work; it’s a psychological fact that we’re awful at spotting our own mistakes. It certainly stings when someone else points out a glaring flaw in the piece you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into–but as an author, it’s your responsibility to deal with that pain like a mature adult.

So in light of everything that’s gone down, I’d like to take a moment to talk about my favorite book and movie critics. These reviewers have made criticism an art form in its own right; their breakdowns of the things they love (or love to hate) are amusing, educational, and sometimes even profound.

Red Letter Media: Plinkett Reviews

Mr. Plinkett is the creation of film reviewer Mike Stoklasa. He’s a crotchety old serial killer who’s taken time off his murder spree to review films in intense, almost excruciating detail. Plinkett doesn’t waste much time trying to determine whether a film deserves critical acclaim; he’s more concerned with whether a piece is effective at holding the audience’s attention and appealing to our emotions. His reviews of the Star Wars prequels are brilliant breakdowns of exactly how the films manages to fail so spectacularly on so many levels. I’d also recommend his reviews of Avatar and Titanic for a nuanced look at the filmmaking techniques that are best for appealing to your audience’s emotions.

Jenny Trout: Jenny Reads 50 Shades of Grey

Jenny Trout is a successful romance writer who’s penned her own kink-focused series. Her chapter by chapter take-down of 50 Shades of Grey is brilliant because she knows exactly what’s not working and why. Jenny lays every misstep out for us: the misused romantic tropes, the unhealthy relationship dynamic, the awkward and inappropriate phrasing, the obvious plagiarism of plot points and characters, and more. Sometimes writers need to see a story taken apart to understand why it works (or in this case, doesn’t work), and this review is a perfect dissection of an imperfect specimen.

Lindy West: Film reviews (various sites)

Most of Lindy West’s articles these days are broader cultural criticism, but every once in a while she picks a movie or book and goes deep into everything that went wrong, and she’s brilliant every time. You’re going to have to read her work for yourself–there’s no way to reduce her quirky, incisive humor to a few pithy sentences. Here, I’ll try: one time she interviewed a fart. I still think about Sam Tarly’s thyroid every time I reread Game of Thrones. Her review of Love Actually is devastatingly correct and contains phrases like “the Misuse-of-government-funds-mobile” and “cock-blocktopus.”

Marvel might get it right

Standard

So, Marvel just announced a Captain Marvel movie. Are you excited? I’m excited. Let’s be excited together.

captain_marvel

Yes, I am aware that Sony and WB/DC beat Marvel to the whole female superhero thing; Sony announced a villainess-focused Spiderman spinoff some time ago, and DC managed to get its Wonder Woman announcement out a few weeks ahead of Marvel’s mic drop. The problem is that Sony and WB/DC have been cranking out consistently lousy movies. Sony’s Spider-Man movies have been declining at the box office, largely because the movies are failing to to anything new or even do the familiar competently. The DC movies have managed to do better at the box office despite pans from critics. And of course, Fox hasn’t even bothered to include a woman-led movie in its lineup, even though it has all of the X-Men to choose from (and it’s worth noting that Days of Future Past had a female lead in the original comic).

I don’t think studio executives will reexamine their views about lady-led superhero movies until one dominates the box office. There is still this belief that women can’t helm a successful science fiction movie, and it’s because the few movies we do get are exceptionally poorly done. Take the pitiful crop of recent super-heroines. Lucy was a racist, nonsensical disaster. Before that, the last superhero movie with a female protagonist (not counting My Super Ex-Girlfriend) was Elektra, all the way back in 2005, featuring the love interest of one of the biggest superhero flops of its time. Going back further, Catwoman was a legendary mistake with a miserably bad script in 2004, and that was the first female-focused superhero movie in eight years. There’s a lot riding on these upcoming superheroines; if these movies flop, we’re probably not going to see another leading lady in the genre for a long time.

So I’m excited to see Marvel, the studio that has consistently been turning out both successful and satisfying movies, finally getting around to putting a woman front and center. What’s concerning is that Kevin Fiege, the current president of Marvel, said that Marvel was too busy to make a female superhero movie in an interview in August (although it’s possible that he was being purposefully evasive to keep this week’s big announcement under wraps). This could mean that Captain Marvel is a very new addition to a lineup that was supposedly meticulously planned. Will it get the same consideration as the other movies slated for release, or will it be another disappointing afterthought?