shadowkat: (Default)
[personal profile] shadowkat
1. I found myself agreeing in part with this assessment of The Josh Whedon Wonder Woman Script by the Mary Sue.

Except, I'm starting to think during various discussions with people about various topics...that we don't necessarily define words or concepts in the same way, and people have different perspectives based on background, etc.

For example? Years ago I had a lengthy discourse on the nature of the human soul on my journal, or rather it was a lengthy discourse on what the term soul actually meant. Because no one agreed or defined the story the same way.

Here, I think...it's possible not to see Whedon's script as either sexist or misogynistic and see that he may well be commenting on it and our societal view of it. Which he's been doing in various ways in his work for quite some time -- commenting on it. Whedon's work tends to have a meta-narrative element, which many people don't realize, and often a satirical element, that many take literally. He is familiar with the comics and history, also how our world handles powerful women -- so he wrote his script through the point of view of a modern everyday male encountering a woman who is more powerful in many ways...and how does he deal with that? A question Whedon asks himself.
While the writers of the movie, made it more about the woman and less how she's viewed by society.

2. There's a fascinating podcast on SmartBitches about branding and why we read what we read, what attracts us to a novel. It's promoting a story anthology that doesn't reveal who wrote which story until September. And each author writes something in a genre or on a topic they've never written before or are uncomfortable with in some way.

What's interesting is it is a challenge to their readers. Because with genre readers, people tend to read one author whose style they like, or one genre. They don't tend to jump or take risks. So by requesting the author's take risks, their reader's do as well -- both jump outside the comfort zone.
Also the writers mention how unrecognizable some of their fellow writers works are -- style wise, they've changed their style.

Some writers can do this, some can't. Like some actor's can do it, some can't. For example? Cary Grant was always playing well Cary Grant. But Dustin Hoffman is often unrecognizable. You always tend to know it is Elizabeth Taylor, but Meryl Streep disappears in her roles.

They mention a "No Name" series that Louisa May Alcott wrote for, and in 1911, there was a concert series that works were presented anonymously.

I think it is harder to be anonymous on the internet. Though in a way by adopting an pseudonym, we are doing that here, aren't we? I feel freer here under my internet name, than under my real one on Twitter or Facebook or Good Reads. Here...I can say and write things with less...worry, somehow.

Date: 2017-06-17 07:32 am (UTC)
elisi: (Grrl power)
From: [personal profile] elisi
While the writers of the movie, made it more about the woman and less how she's viewed by society.
And quite right too. It's *her* story. Making it all about a man, and how he copes, is just one more way of stealing women's stories from out under them. *cheers for the film that got made*

Date: 2017-06-17 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mefisto
Excellent points.

Date: 2017-06-17 03:04 pm (UTC)
cjlasky7: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cjlasky7
One of the traps in writing an archetypal character like Wonder Woman is to treat the character like an archetype. In other words, she's not an individual with feelings, desires and goals, she's something to be discussed, commented upon, contextualized. No matter how well intentioned, this approach deprives the character of agency; she is the focus of attention, but she is not the protagonist.

The new Wonder Woman movie avoids this trap in the simplest way possible -- by telling a story about the character's emotional journey. She's not an archetype, she's not (sing it like the 70s theme music) "Wondah Wo-man!", she's Diana of Themyscira.

I do agree that the sexism of WWI England was downplayed in the movie; but in retrospect, it's a smart decision, because worrying too much about what the men think would make it about them, not her. This is her story; questions of how the rest of the world sees it can come later.

Date: 2017-06-17 09:22 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Superhero Fred (BUF-SuperheroFred-evilfuckinbitch)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
I like the Smart Bitches site a good deal even though I almost never read romances (even the m/m stories I've bought have often been things like detective or mystery stories). I think the way it's been evolving has been interesting to watch. I think that when a site develops a good comments section it's often a cue that it's found the right audience.

I hadn't heard this podcast but I agree it's interesting for the reasons you mentioned. I read very little romance because I find it disappointing. I've found one author I particularly like, and I try to read within genres I'm already interested in (which has also proven disappointing).

Whedon's work tends to have a meta-narrative element, which many people don't realize, and often a satirical element, that many take literally.

That's a good point. It's super obvious in something like Cabin, but his habit of trying to disrupt tropes and expectations is just the same thing on a smaller scale. I didn't care for his script as a whole for reasons I went into but I did really like how he viewed Diana's likely impact and interaction with the world given the sort of life she's led and culture she is familiar with. It was just entirely different, and presented her as the alien she is. And regarding the feminist issue, my favorite bit of the script addressed it in a way you don't see at all in the current film:

"A cute little girl of 10 stands nearby at the bottom of a gnarled tree. She calls out "Lady?" (points up) "My cat is stuck in that tree."

Diana looks up, sees the cat stuck on a branch, looks back at the girl with dismissive incomprehension.

"Climb it."


I think that speaks very well to your point about what he was trying to do (and why his script would likely never get made, then or now). He notes the girl is 10, not a very small child, and the tree is gnarled, not some tall straight thing that would be unusually difficult to climb. Diana can't understand why this girl wouldn't solve her own problem, because she's never lived in a society where women are raised to be dependent on others. It reminds me of a comment I just posted about regarding the effect of the movie on kids. From the photo, I'm guessing the daughter is about 6:

"Just last night she said out of the blue, ‘I thought girls were always weak, but actually we’re strong plus lots of other things, even trouble-makers in a good way.'”"

Who would have taught her girls were weak? No one on Themyscira, that's for sure. A warrior people who have nothing to do with the modern world and have banned men for very good reasons don't seem likely to be the good fairies that Diana largely is in the film. I did like the movie and am super happy it's done well. But it was a very safe film in any number of ways, whereas Joss was not going for either safe or likable which is a very different approach (not to mention setting and plot).

Although I raised some similar points myself, anyone who thinks this wasn't as much Steve Trevor's film as Diana's needs to reconsider a number of elements, including some mentioned here: http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/06/are-all-the-men-really-necessary-a-critical-look-at-wonder-woman/

Date: 2017-06-18 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mefisto
Ah. I knew you didn't like Storyteller but I never knew why until now. I kind of agree with your point about The Zeppo, but somewhat disagree on Superstar and disagree quite a bit about Storyteller.

As I see Superstar, it's not really about Jonathan or his perspective. It's using Jonathan as an archetype in order for Buffy to reach the conclusion at the end: "Jonathan you can't keep trying to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once. Things are complicated. They take time and work." That's something important to Buffy in that moment because of her (and his) experience in WAY when Faith had sex with Riley. At least that's how I see it.

As for Storyteller (which you know I love), this is a cut and paste of my own episode analysis, slightly edited:

Like your other examples, Storyteller is shot (mostly) in a POV other than Buffy's. But as I see it, we're supposed to recognize that Andrew is the most unreliable of narrators. For example, the fact that Andrew can somehow read Tuareg is silly, but remember that this is Andrew telling the story – he’s a fantasy hero, able to what he thinks is necessary to save the day. What “telling a story” actually means, though, is that Andrew has abdicated his own role in life. He is living in a fantasy, “lost in the story”, as he says in the cold open.

We only leave Andrew’s POV when he and Buffy are alone at the Seal, when she forces him to shut off the camera. Buffy forced him out of his fantasy and made him respond to reality instead: “Stop! Stop telling stories. Life isn't a story. … You make everything into a story so no one's responsible for anything because they're just following a script.”

From that point on in the basement, we see events with Buffy as the storyteller – “I’m making it up”, she says, knowing that she’s lying to him about the Seal’s need for blood – rather than events as they are transformed in Andrew’s imagination.

Buffy’s storytelling, like all great art, produces the cathartic moment. She uses the classic Aristotelian duo of pity and fear to effect Andrew’s emotional identification with Jonathan and the purging of Andrew’s own escapist fear. The imagery of the basement scene, with the tears of the repentant sinner halting the spread of evil, is brilliant. That’s the point at which Andrew can begin to have his own story to tell.

If the episode were solely about Andrew, it would be beautiful. What takes it beyond that is what it tells us about Buffy. What I’m about to say in the following 3 paragraphs is influenced by a post written on livejournal by beer_good_foamy. You can find it here (SPOILERS AT LINK) and I recommend it. I’m going to give both a shortened version and my own interpretation, so b-g-f isn’t to blame.

What Storyteller shows us about Andrew is that he’s trapped by the narrative. He spends all of his time living in a world some geek (namely, himself) invented. That narrative imprisons him. It takes him away from reality, such that he can’t ever move forward.

That’s Buffy’s problem too. She’s trapped by the narrative in two ways: within the show itself she’s limited by the conventions of the Slayer line and the ways in which the Watchers, including Giles, interpreted the Slayer’s role. If we take this another step and break the fourth wall, we can see that Buffy’s trapped by the narrative created by Joss Whedon (see his comments I quoted in the chapter on Normal Again) and developed by the other geeks writers on the show: “Buffy, Slayer of the Vampyres”, as Andrew calls it. Her fate is determined by what they decide she’ll do; she’s “just following a script”. Buffy herself has no agency, as they say.

And that’s Buffy’s basic dilemma in S7. She needs to be able to create her own life, her own self, to put it in existential terms. To an existentialist, “creating her own life” doesn’t mean living in one’s fantasy world like Andrew: “BUFFY: You make everything into a story so no one's responsible for anything because they're just following a script.” No, it means acting within the world as it truly is, it means taking responsibility for one’s own actions. In order to do that, she needs to be able to break the narrative structure which limits her development, just as she was finally able to break Andrew’s imaginary narrative and put him on a path to adulthood and maybe even redemption.

Date: 2017-06-20 01:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mefisto
Well, I'm in good company. It would just be better company if you were in it. :)

Date: 2017-06-18 05:47 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: BuffyWillowLollipop-jadeleopard (BUF-BuffyWillowLollipop-jadeleopard)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Another writer who writes contemporary and 1960s astronaut romances

Wow, that is...astoundingly specific!

Some do, but usually it's because they, on some level conscious or unconscious are looking for or need to hear whatever it was I needed to say. If they don't want to hear it, are resistant to it, or have no interest or are looking for something completely different -- they most likely will not like my story, and either have an ambivalent or negative reaction to it.

I agree, and I think this is why I've generally not found romance novels rewarding. Two things I really hate is stupid protagonists and plot contrivances (both of which tend to go hand in hand). So in romances the point is to keep the couple from committing to a relationship until the very end of the book, and what keeps them apart can be clever, pedestrian, or dumb. Unfortunately in most cases I either don't care about either character or whether they will get together, or else I actively can't stand one or both of them because they are clearly idiots. There have even been a few times when I just wanted one of them to punch the other, walk away, and find someone else much much better for them because in no universe would I ever put up with that sort of crap from another person, and I can't respect a character who does. This is not because people can't be difficult but because in certain stories, there's generally no good reason for them to be together other than an improbable sexual attraction, which I can't share given I can't see the character, and probably wouldn't react the same even if I could.

I tend to do better with fanfic because the first part of the problem is already solved. I'm reading the story because I already care about these characters and, in most cases, am reading because I like this particular ship. (In other cases, I need to be convinced that the ship makes sense). So unless I find the story is changing the characters in order to hit some trope (which I don't share) really hard, or unless the story basically has no characterization and is just a running commentary of what happens next, I'll usually be somewhat satisfied with it because I'm reading it to spend time with those characters. In many cases I don't even care if they get together because a well told gen story is way better than an unsatisfying ship one.

I had different reactions to all three stories you mentioned. I liked Superstar the best because it was the most humorous (to me) of the three, and mostly because I found it more of a commentary on fan fiction and the Mary Sue trope than anything else. (And given that it was written by Jane Espenson, I'm pretty sure that's what she was going for -- there was a similar type of episode in Dark Angel that was amusing for the same reason). I liked The Zeppo alright because it gave Xander some development, and was also a type of story found in fanfic. Even though Xander's a central character in Buffy, it was somewhat like an "outside POV" story where you never get the full scoop on the central story because your character only sees parts of it and they have their own story coloring their perspective.

I liked Storyteller the least for several reasons. First, I never felt Andrew's appeal the way some do (and definitely not as much as Joss and the writers clearly did). He was a comic relief character but one who was not much more than just that, a character kept around for comic relief. It didn't help that the writing was subpar during S7 in many ways. Storyteller was the effort to make Andrew a more fully rounded person, and it did that part ok, plus he got to be the audience stand-in commenting on various things, whether it was the ambivalent state of Xander and Anya's relationship, or how tired everyone was of Buffy standing around and speechifying (because there were more episodes in the season they had to fill so they couldn't have her attacking the First yet, though that part went unsaid). But as an episode it was honestly a welcome break from a lot of the other frustrations I had with the season. I think a lot of people hated it because they wanted that time spent on Willow or Xander or Giles, which is the big beef most had with the Potentials as well.

Date: 2017-06-19 12:00 am (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Phryne & Jack Profile (MISSFISH-Phryne&JackProfile - sexycazzie)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Ah yes, I saw your post that you've begun watching it and enjoying. I'm glad because I know you were hesitating due to the S2 cliffhanger but I think it's a novel enough show (with a good assortment of characters) that it's worth the experience.

Speaking of this and romances, I can't recall, have you watched the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries?

Date: 2017-06-19 03:59 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Phryne and Aunt Pru (MISSFISH-PhryneandAuntPru - sexycazzy.jp)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
That's actually the experience I had as well. I watched the first episode, thought it was ok, but didn't get back to it for some time. Then someone else talking about it reminded me of it and I decided to give it another go. And after a few episodes I really liked it, and by the end loved the characters and the romance and miss the show.

It's not going to stand up well against Sens8 right now because it's such a different genre. But it's definitely a show about women, and rich in kind characters as well as fun.

Date: 2017-06-19 04:05 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Our Romance Spike and Dru (BUF-OurRomanceSpikeDru-_ophellia)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
I'm able to do that in terms of genre -- it really doesn't matter to me the genre so long as I find something grabs me about the storytelling or the characters. But I'm never able not to see the writing problems with something. It matters most to me when something smacks of laziness -- that the writers don't have any respect for their characters or the audience but want us to handwave obvious problems and jerk the characters around on strings to make them do what the plot requires.

I also have the reverse problem though, which is stories or shows that I wish I could like more, but they just don't engage me.

Date: 2017-06-19 07:39 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: SamSoScrewed-no_apologies_86 (SPN-SamSoScrewed-no_apologies_86)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
That's interesting what you said about the appeal of historicals versus contemporary. I'm sure you're not alone in that preference for those reasons. Because I gather regency romances are the most popular subgenre and I think there was once even a post on Smart Bitches speculating as to why.

My own contribution was that it allowed for indirect language about sex. This occurred to me because I was reading fanfic at the time where the author even called mocking attention to the fact that the terms and form of discussion about it hadn't been heard outside of an 18th century novel. And I suddenly realized that you just couldn't do that in a contemporary novel. Well, I mean, you could but really it would seem so absurd and pretentious and completely unlike how you know men actually discuss it.

Oh I agree about other genres, and I wasn't even thinking of romances when I wrote that. In fact I was thinking of fantasy TV shows. And I expect that it's for a similar reason, which is not enough time to get stories done properly. I understand that writer's rooms are not common for British TV shows but they also are scheduled in a very different way (not just shorter seasons but also longer shooting times), and they often begin with the entire season already written.

Re: Regarding fantasy tv shows..

Date: 2017-06-19 11:50 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: LamazeClass-goodbyetoyou (SPN-LamazeClass-goodbyetoyou)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Yes, that's what I gathered. And really, given all the moving parts with Sens8 it would have been an utter mess without a lot of advance planning. I mean, the location shooting alone had to have been done with all the scripts in hand, I'd think.

I keep wondering why the heroine hasn't had a kid yet.

That made me laugh because it's so true. Amazingly in historical romances, no one gets a prolapsed uterus from excessive childbirth.


Re: Regarding fantasy tv shows..

Date: 2017-06-20 03:04 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: MERL-ArthurSideCut-kathyh (MERL-ArthurSideCut-kathyh)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Yes, it's unfortunate though it does make sense. The more simplistic and careless a show is, the easier it is to write for (and possibly produce). Plus, a lot of people prefer TV they don't have to follow closely or think about so it tends to repeat well. I generally think that the number of characters in a show is often indicative of how well it's received -- the fewer there are the easier it is to keep track of the storyline and the more people will occasionally watch it. Which is one big reason why the success of Game of Thrones has been such an anomaly.

A source of inspiration for Straczynski was his own experience concerning friends of his who live in different parts of the world but coordinate to watch a movie at the same time and comment to each other online about it.

Heh, so this is inspired by online fandom, especially since it sounds like they came up with this around 2009. I've always found it so underreported or acknowledged how online fandom has been having a pressuring effect on the way that entertainment is released globally.

I wonder if Straczynski will create books with the remaining seasons for Sens8?

Date: 2017-06-19 07:21 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: SomethingBlue-awmp (BUF-SomethingBlue-awmp)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Ah, that's not really what I meant though. It's more like Powerless, as an example of shows I felt were doing things right -- such as with a diverse cast -- and they had a premise that I liked, but somehow I was never very enthusiastic about watching them. I think in the case of Powerless it also suffered by being a comedy which I have a much harder time glomming onto. Funny thing really, tv_talk just made a post for comedy chat and it seems most people have a similar problem. I always thought I was unusual in that sense.

Date: 2017-06-19 11:30 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Hawkeye shoots his bow (AVEN-HawkeyeBow-isapiens.png)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
That's the one. It ended up being cancelled so that kind of solved the problem for us.

Date: 2017-06-19 07:32 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Jonathan asks who's cool now? (BUF-CoolJonathan-azuredflame)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Hah, well I wasn't trying to change anyone's mind about it, just expressing my take on those particular episodes.

Yeah, I agree that Storyteller being about Andrew makes it a particular problem if the character irritates you to start with. I thought it was interesting that at WhedonCon Nick Brendon mentioned he hated Xander in S7. He was a little ineloquent as to why, but I gathered it was because Andrew got to be funnier and Xander didn't have that much to do. But perhaps that was also my impression because I've heard it expressed by fans that Andrew got to take the comic relief role from Xander, who had otherwise usually been the one to have a good line or moment to break up tension or drama.

Clearly Whedon really liked Tom Lenk too because he's been in several of his (personal) projects, and playing a very similar character at that. (And I just realized I have no Andrew icons)

Date: 2017-06-19 11:43 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Topher Didn't Do It (OTH-Topher Didn't Do It - yourlibrarian)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Apparently Nick had been having problems since early in the show's run, which is yet another example of how actor issues end up affecting storylines (completely opposite of Lenk's). I expect Xander would have gotten a lot more development otherwise, but if you can't count on the actor to handle the material, you're not going to give them stuff to do. Of course, Brendon's idea that he was campaigning for with Joss for S7 was a romance with Buffy which I think a lot of people would have preferred not to have.

Funny you brought up Topher (though I think you meant actor Fran Krantz) as it had always struck me that Topher was an Andrew-type character. But then Joss had used Kranz in Cabin earlier (the movie was stuck in distribution limbo for a long time but had been filmed soon after Serenity) and perhaps realized the same thing you said, since Krantz got the main role and Lenk just a small part ;)

Date: 2017-06-20 02:37 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Faith is Eclipsed (BUF-FaithEclipse-elizalavelle)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
That was always a problem in Dollhouse for me, that the weakest actress was the lead. Interesting to hear about Wood's character. I would have liked to see him more with Giles and Faith but of course ASH had limited time on set, and Faith didn't appear until much later by which time the plot was ramping up.

Date: 2017-06-20 05:06 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Just Kiss Spangel (BUF-JustKissSpangel-ruuger)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Ah, well I can answer that part. It was because she was the reason the project was being made, she had a contract with FOX. So they were going to want her as the lead, and she'd want it herself I'd imagine. I agree with you about Who Are You.

Yes, the network was interested in a Faith and Spike spinoff hence the scene of the two in the basement that was supposed to be a sort of test scene for how they'd work together. But Dushku was offered money and a contract at FOX and then the WB wanted Marsters to come to Angel as part of the agreement for a S5.

Date: 2017-06-19 11:31 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Buffy and Willow says Huh (BUF-Huh-glimmergirl)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
I guess so, because I got a notification.

Date: 2017-06-18 06:21 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Loki and Thor in faded green (AVEN-LokiThorGreen-Zugma.PNG)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
I would agree with the anti-war being risky if it were being set in WWII, which is when WW actually did first appear. To me, the shift to WWI was a way of removing that risk because I doubt there are many today who would say it should have been fought. It was a safe war to oppose. Imagine instead Diana suggesting that it was Ares who was behind Hitler and she could solve humanity's problem in one stroke by defeating Ares and then everyone could simply stop fighting.

And I well understand why everyone wanted to play it safe, I was just pointing out that it's what gave us the script (or at least, final story, since who knows what the script actually said) we got. Which is apparently not what Joss was writing, but rather a story that might have worked better in the comics medium with its much lower stakes.

I agree with you about the dialogue, I also found it really disappointing and, even more so, odd given that Whedon's always been praised for it. What bothered me about some of the criticism of the script though was that it seems cherry picked. For example, I saw a complaint about Diana being in chains and her captor being genderswitched to male. Yet this disassociated that scene from the storyline and also ignored how the very same things were done in other superhero films. I think there was a good reason why Joss wanted her opponent to be male, because he wanted a clear representation of patriarchy and its concerns at the center of the story.

Her capture and the removal of her powers was a way of making a god understand the helplessness and despair of the people around her (which is why Steve also calls her a tourist earlier in the script). So this was no different than Odin making Thor mortal and casting him to earth where he learns both humility and to value the lives of "the ants" (as Loki put it) who were supposed to be under his protection. Also, as much as people are enjoying citing the Superman origins of the movie's scene with Steve and Diana in the alley, apparently no one's remembering that in the Whedon script Diana allows herself to be de-powered in order to save Steve's life and those of his friends. This is not unlike how Kal-el allows his powers to be removed so that he can live a human life with Lois in Superman II. In that film Kal soon regrets his decision because it's suggested that Lois loves him for his powers rather than himself. In Whedon's script Diana ends that story arc with a moment that seemed drawn completely from the finale of Buffy S2 where she catches the sword and replies "Me."

I think Whedon's biggest failure in the script (and there were a bunch of problems with it) is that his Steve is nothing like the film's. Whedon's was cynical and stonewalling whereas the movie's was idealistic and desperate. Whedon's path for Diana was a Jesus allegory with her metaphorically dying for the sins of man and being reborn into her own identity, whereas in the film it is Steve who is the sacrificial figure.

I personally think that the movie's biggest fantasy was not a superpowered Amazon but a man like Steve who was nothing like an American man of his time would have been (and isn't even much like a man of our time would be). The very fact that religion, for example, is never brought up in that conversation in the boat seemed yet another clear effort to avoid controversy (especially given this would be a global film) even though the entire movie is about the fight among antiquated gods.

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