euphoriafish: Avar photo I took in Japan of the Great Buddha statue in Kamakura. (Default)
For the past few months, our neighborhood has been invaded by two kittens. One tabby-n-white and one grey soft tabby, both female, would sit out on my car every day and go into our across the street neighbors' garage at night. As the weather got colder and colder, it wasn't enough to be on the car anymore (they wanted inside it...when I was going somewhere) and it wasn't enough to say hello in the driveway (they wanted to wind round my legs and crutches all the way to the front door which they would enter as I was trying to manage my bag or Mom brought groceries in).

So we were enjoying them as sometimes cats but thinking they belong to someone we would always kick them out after they had come in and eaten some of our cats' food. They were an adorable nuisance and I called them the Wyrd sisters like I'm not a cat whisperer at all and they're just magically attracted to our perfect garden with a frog pond in the back yard. I also named them Winner Winner Kitten Dinner and The Mousing Most because it amused me and I didn't want to get too attached to Not My Cat. But it kept getting colder and aside from that there was a tom cat singing to them outside. They weren't old enough to get pregnant but it was only a matter of time.

Then it got really really cold and finally Kentucky's typical mud winter of discontent gave way to actual snow and near zero temperatures. My mother couldn't stand seeing little kittens wandering around in snow up to their shoulders, so she collected them and brought them inside. This is the sort of madness my family subscribes to regularly-- we feed raccoons in the spring and then stop when they get big and ugly until next year, we feed opossums, we have three bird feeders, two hummingbird feeders, a suet block and sometimes a squirrel feeder. Mom gardens and dug her own pond in the back yard and planted bamboo around it. We routinely attract and care for local wildlife and suburban critters.

If these kittens belonged to anyone, it certainly didn't look like anyone was taking care of them, and even though they have fur coats, their toes and noses are exposed to the cold and they could lose their sense of smell which would endanger their lives, we thought.

Winner Winner Kitten Dinner has the annoying habit of sucking on my hand any time she gets the chance. She was probably taken from her mother too soon, and she has an anxious, hyper personality anyway. She also comes across as super smart and clingy like Shadow, my molly cat [citation needed, as Wikipedia tells me molly means spayed female but needs citation also though it just sounds right!] who looks like she could be her mom. She is braver than Shadow though, and I'm afraid she had a run in with that tom cat already because she growls and attacks both Odin and Kishou, our gibs. Shadow, unfortunately, is not friendly and has been frightened by the kittens and hides upstairs until they invade her room and she has to chase them out again.

The Mousing Most is a sweet little cat with bunny furwho is not as adventurous as her sister. She doesn't attack our cats but is aloof around the gibs and avoids Shadow entirely while Winner Winner Kitten Dinner is curious about Shadow and has growl-offs with her under my bed when she follows me up there late at night.



All this cuteness aside, were we doing something wrong? They seemed well fed so surely they belonged to someone. Our across the street neighbors let them in every night, so we were worried we had stolen their daughters' kitties and they might be worried. We're shy though, and I had a project deadline, and there's a lot of snow and ice on the ground so we let them out in the day time when they wanted to but also let them back in at sundown before it got too cold. Eventually it got too cold in the daytime too, and they mostly just wanted to eat or sleep in a chair during the day and wrestle or knock stuff over at night.

Worse were the stories we were making up in our heads about the way people treat animals in this community. It has seemed to my parents over the years that people on farms think of cats as rats and give them free run of a barn but don't treat them as pets like we do. We don't expect them to cater to them with clingy attachment like we do and feed them canned food twice a day with dry kibble in between for snacking. But it breaks our hearts when they're not vaccinated for rabies at minimum and worse when they're not spayed or neutered and have kittens that are subsequently dumped on the highway. If they ARE dumped on the highway near our neighborhood they always find our yard because our yard is cat heaven with all the birds and frogs they can eat and some suburban shelter from the coyotes out in the farm fields and neighbor dogs across the highway. What kind of people lived in our neighborhood? Did they kick cats or hit them with brooms or just never ever let them in the house or kick them out as soon as they grew and had kittens?

Finally, Mom went over there and spoke with our across the street neighbors who are not monsters at all and in fact have three chihuahua dogs and an elderly tabby gib upstairs. We found out they had been watching these kittens for another neighbor down the street who didn't want them, and our across the street neighbors couldn't take them because of all their dogs and their tabby didn't like the kittens either.

So hooray! The kittens are ours, much to our own cats' chagrin. There haven't been any huge fights though. Lots of growling, and the little grey one swats and hisses at Odin and Kishou. The worst fight was caused by the grey kitten swatting Odin, who didn't retaliate against the baby but went straight upstairs to take his frustration out on Shadow. My poor little old kitten cat lost two or three tufts of fur in that fight and seemed a bit sore the next day. And she's chased the babies out of her room a few times. I'm hoping they will reconcile eventually and Shadow will take naps with a bitty kitty that looks plausible as her own daughter, but they're not related so that scenario is rather improbable. Kishou mostly avoids them and they mostly avoid him.

Since they are going to stay here, they get kinder names and I get to be as attached to them as they've been to me. Winner Winner Kitten Dinner is now called Gina, and Chi is named for the title character of Chi's Sweet Home for reasons that are obvious if you've ever seen that anime. They like wrestling each other, tossing fur mice around, and checking in with me periodically with a nap, an obnoxious suckle off my knuckles from Gina, or wrestling my hand from Chi.

The cuteness is palpable as so much bunny fluff.


Gina and Chi
euphoriafish: Avar photo I took in Japan of the Great Buddha statue in Kamakura. (Default)
Reading Hollywood Reporter, I came across reaction punditry on the recent UCSB shooting and defense of a movie that had nothing to do with the shooting. Ugh at this in all directions. Please hear me out because I'm going to play both sides and search for my own opinion.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/seth-rogen-slams-film-critic-707117

I really like Seth Rogen, first of all. He's right in so far as it was a really poor example to use in an article. Judd Apatow comedies have nothing whatsoever to do with shootings and the sort of characters Rogen plays are actually a good example of what personality to adopt to be well-liked and win friends. Sometimes he's a jerk but mostly he's a brother figure who's a good man to have in a tight corner and wins over the ladies with his humility, worldly wisdom, and good sense of humor. Why don't would-be shooters go watch Undeclared and find themselves through collegiate friendship?

Anne Hornaday chose the wrong example. She already had a good example by connecting American Psycho, a movie which has a message about how jaded we are about violence and how hypercapitalism has both made and ruined American society. Why else is it important to not be rejected by a house of sorority girls or frat boys? She could have done better by going into exact details about that and also connecting Natural Born Killers which would actually have been the perfect example of the media looking at how the media is breeding violent masculine fantasies and a devaluation of human life in return for a brief ploy for attention.

By choosing a recent movie and a comedy that promotes good feelings more than negative ones, she just got in her own way. It's somewhat fair for Apatow to say she's being self promotional just because she chose a trendy new movie rather than finding the best example. "Neighbors" centers around a young couple of parents, not an alienated macho soldier. It's no "Taxi Driver." It is, however, about revenge against frat boy hazing and exclusion, which is relevant to Ann Hornaday's argument if she had focused on alienation and elitist exclusion instead of the reckless violence. The Eliot Rodgers video made before the shooting seems to place him in both camps, the excluded outcast and the entitled elitist son of an industry professional. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder about popularity and sexual conquest he feels entitled to but hasn't achieved. So it's relevant to discuss Hollywood entitlement, but bad form to connect it to a current movie that has good intentions to send a message overall about the need to come of age and accept adult responsibilities while developing mature coping mechanisms for emotional disappointment.

HOWEVER.

It doesn't look good for two men to attack a female Pulitzer-nominated journalist who is making valid points about the underrepresentation of women in film.

Also, I think "Neighbors" is still going to make a lot of money. Rogen and Apatow are not at their first rodeo and have already tasted success. And outside of her poor example, Ann Hornaday had a good point to make about the still overwhelmingly male fantasy dominated tastes of studio executives or whatever factors lead them to greenlight overwhelmingly sexist stories.

Hornaday's quote that particularly spoke to me is:

" If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives
who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses
take luridly literal form in the culture at large."

It reminded me of an article on Aaron Sorkin that one of the entertainment industry professionals linked to a month or so ago,

http://observer.com/2014/04/aaron-sorkin-says-hollywood-lacks-female-heroes-because-lady-scripts-arent-good-enough/#ixzz2zmGsHhUb

wherein he said basically that he doesn't know why there aren't more films with strong female characters being made. My friend got angry with me for my comments where I was trying to understand why Sorkin answered the way he did, and for commenting in a way that could be taken as defending The Man who has the power of the patriarchy and is still keeping women down. I was also speaking intuitively and citing generalities from a place of inexperience, and for that I deserved to be shouted down. I myself was ignoring the important points made because I was distracted by the confrontational biased language the reporter was using in her article. Ann Hornaday makes similar points in her article but used a really bad example of movie that is just as distracting and confrontational.

But it's not just one man's success keeping empowered female characters off the screen. He doesn't write any of the popular super hero movies or police procedurals on television[maybe one of those?], and I thought maybe if we could understand where he was coming from, that understanding would lead to asking the right questions and exposing men whose perspective doesn't encourage thoughts of equality to think harder about diversity in film and helping create a supportive atmosphere and tell stories that appeal to a wider and more diverse audience. What about the hypercapitalist nature of the Hollywood system that leads people to make these decisions based on what has made money before rather than based upon what we haven't seen yet and what is good art?

There ARE female executives greenlighting films. Sorkin named a handful and pointed out that that doesn't explain why there aren't more empowered female characters. And that didn't really answer the question that was asked of him about why HE doesn't write more important female characters in his movies. I only have The Social Network to go on from personal viewing experience, and women weren't important in that film at all. Sheryl Sandburg may not have been a player in the part of the story he adapted, but what about Mark Zuckerberg's wife?

Most of Anne Hornaday's article was about the repetition of a single note of power and conquest through violence in entertainment. I don't see any fair comparison between the gunman's video and Hollywood movies except that he had a decent camera in his car, perfect lighting, and he was using a sort of rhetoric like movie villains. Mostly what I heard was self absorbed apathy toward other people that probably alienated him from most of his peers. He needed mental healthcare and for someone to give him the sort of attention he wanted while trying to change his mind about how he related to other people.

So why AREN't there more films passing the Bechdel test, and didn't we used to say something else to identify a good movie portrayal of women before the Bechdel test became a Facebook and blog meme?

I am annoyed at the way these arguments are being presented but don't hate any of the people presenting them. Not even Aaron Sorkin, who is at a point in his life where he has power to make a difference and is being lazy on an issue I care about. I just think there are better ways to make people aware of their own privilege than by tasking them with an agenda outside their perspective which they have been lazy in taking on. Convincing them that it is in their best interest to is harder, but gets a result that is not trolling of feminist reporters or apathy toward the issue from someone who can make a difference from their platform.

Maybe I should stay on this for a while and cross post it to the research blog I'm starting so I'll remember to come back to my own questions.

I'm left with the following:
* How much control does the studio executive have when greenlighting a film?
* How much of the decision is based on corporate sponsorship presumably by elderly white male conservative CEOs?
* How many stories being turned down as unprofitable contain empowered female characters?
* How many submitted stories are by female screenwriters?
* How many female executives who greenlight scripts are there at each major studio? Sorkin named three, one per studio mentioned.
* Considering Aaron Sorkin has achieved a high level of success, how much of a gatekeeper is he and how can he be helping female professionals out?
* What is in it for studio executives and companies to choose against instead of for violent male fantasies?

I hate having questions but not answers, and I also hate seeing male bias and confrontational language in web articles.

Sigh.

...

I lack a platform other than this blog/Twitter/fledgling research project to influence people on, so it's back to my own scriptwriting and comedy. I'm thinking about the above stories while co-writing a web serial about super heroes titled River City Heroes. I was brought onto the project because the creator loves plotting action but doesn't enjoy writing dialogue and said he would like someone to flesh out the characters through dialogue. Matt Hibbs and I complement each other writing-wise perfectly, and I get to do what I enjoy most-- creating character details-- while he and Trevor Adler are planning fight choreography and special effects.

I haven't worked with anyone on a script before and I want to make friends with the team, so I've been trying to not alter the plot and just do dialogue passes mostly, but I'm sort of a producer on the project too and facilitating communication by asking questions and writing reports on what was decided as a group so we all stay on the same page.

I was initially turned off by some secondary female characters in the first episode. The women in the draft I was handed didn't have very many lines and were only there to be victims. So, I gave them more lines and verbal self defense. Well, for the girl in the garage anyway. I left the girl in the dream sequence alone because she is part of a male fantasy and a young male character's perspective would not necessarily be concerned with feminism. I had fun with it. I exaggerated the action movie dialogue cliches and made it funny. I think I ended up with something sort of like Ace Rimmer in Red Dwarf.

But in the reality sequences I am trying to make the women behave realistically and not be silent, and not have things said that would make me turn the show off. I'm also trying to call attention to the inherently male tropes of action movies and police procedurals, and then address them. I intend for there to be more than one female character before the story is through. It will pass the Bechdel test.

Yet, I'm worried about a joke I made in the pilot. I wrote something that is rather offensive toward sex workers and states a faulty assumption about women hanging out on the streets at night, yet I find myself defending it. It's also a dick line assigned to a hero I want the audience to like. And yet, I am defending it.

My thinking is, there are several factors in the plot that are cliches in entertainment and viewers aren't thinking about where they come from when they watch them. So I am stating and then countering assumptions through dialogue. I've decided both the hero and the victim he is slamming/saving/hitting on have arcs and his dick joke comes of speaking too quickly as a shortcut to confidence. His lines will show some evolution of thought in the scene, and he will be called out both by his partner and by the female victim. And Matt has said he thinks hero and victim should date in future episodes, so the hero will be called out further then. I think there will be more development for the woman as well. And there's our Bechdel test certification. Gold star.

But the offensive joke remains. I'm not sure how original it is but I'm hanging onto it.
I hope I won't be judged just on the episode it's in, but I probably will be. I hope nobody attacks Matt about it either, because it was my idea to put that joke in. I just want to add context and make absolutely clear what the writer perspective is on victims, female or otherwise, and feminism. This is no grand criminal plot in the first episode, just regular old street crime.

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