Are Strong Female Characters in Supporting Roles Mostly Useless?

MatrixTrinityA friend pointed an article my way called “We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome,” citing a concern that, while storytellers in film have come a long way in empowering female characters, those characters are often reduced to mere plot devices.

There is an essential truth to this: they ARE plot devices.

And the reason for this is just as true: secondary characters support the Protagonist’s story.

Before we crawl under the hood, understand that I am not advocating the treatment of Strong Female Characters in many works – the author of the article makes a fair point of this – but we’re not talking about Ripley from Aliens or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” because those are their stories. We are also not talking about “Women In Refrigerators,” a trope concerning violence against women in comics as a plot device to “hurt” Strong Male Characters.

The article outlines eight questions writers should ask themselves about Strong Female Characters, everything from “(can she be) seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it” all the way to “deciding to have sex with/not have sex with/agreeing to date/deciding to break up with a male hero” pointlessness. The article contends that writers should rise to the occasion to create someone worthy of the name Strong Female Character, but these could all be reduced to a single, far simpler question: Can your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced by a Strong Male Character? If yes, all’s good; if not, why not?

Continue reading “Are Strong Female Characters in Supporting Roles Mostly Useless?”

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Female Characters: Good for Television, Bad for Movies?

equalitynowThe casting for Star Wars VII is out, and besides everyone’s favorite former bikini-clad slave princess Carrie Fisher, there is only one new female character in anything resembling a major role… out of SEVEN. Throw in the original Boy’s Club cast of six and that’s two out THIRTEEN principles.

This shouldn’t be a big deal, right? There ARE women in Star Wars, just not many with relevant or speaking parts ON FILM. Oh, and the so-dubbed “expanded Star Wars universe” was declared null-and-void and not official movie canon, so apparently there ARE only two relevant women in the entire galaxy. Worse yet, those two are related and the younger one (SPOILER!) died after childbirth – because, you know, that’s what women do: have babies and die. Really?!

MovieVsTelevisionSay, isn’t this a J.J.Abrams production? What’s interesting is that his television programming (“Lost,” “Alias,” “Fringe”) have meaty roles for ladies and often many of them, but his film production credits (Star Trek, Cloverfield, Super 8, Mission Impossible) seems to only have room for a chosen few in an ensemble, often ONE. Playing devil’s advocate, maybe this is an informed choice: are relevant female characters too complex for most screenwriters to simply throw them up on-screen and present them believably in a film format?

Continue reading “Female Characters: Good for Television, Bad for Movies?”

The Bloodlist (Fun With Photoshop)

KevinAsReddington-Edit3-300pxBrandedI’ve done professional renderings for various companies, but now I usually only do this kind of work for myself.

This is a cosplay I’m putting together for conventions, based loosely on James Spader’s excellent show “The Blacklist” on NBC. I mentioned to my wife that it’d be fun to get suited up and do a fake poster called “The Bloodlist” with the tagline “Never trust a horror writer,” so she dared me.

Done and done.

You: “I don’t think you’re telling me everything.”

Me: “I’m never telling you everything.”

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Less Is More: Creating a Vampire World

I just wrote a piece over on Vamped.org about my take on vampires. Here’s a bit:

One issue I’ve noticed in a lot of paranormal fiction is scale: getting too big too fast.

All the vampires have a werewolf bodyguard, legions of angels are waiting behind every storm cloud, and the sewers are bursting with more vampires than rats.

In these kinds of stories, it’s almost a given that the protagonist will catch the eye of someone too big for them to handle, setting up a final confrontation with world-changing ramifications. To quote Riley from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.”

I offer a different viewpoint: less is more.

Read the rest over at Vamped.org!

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MovieCrypt Now Updated Weekends!

With so many other writing and creative projects going on, I’m setting aside time specifically on weekends for one or more updates for MovieCrypt to avoid it falling into neglect. My goal is at least one review, one Reaper Rants video, and one additional post of some type.

Sadly, neither myself nor Grim will be making it to many more of our favorite conventions this year, but next year will permit more time for that kind of thing.

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The Reaper Rants Return!

Back a few years ago, I changed over the “horror host” for my movie review website, MovieCrypt.com, from the static “Crystal Lich” (a disembodied crystal skull with an attitude) to “Grim D. Reaper” (a gleeful Angel of Death that reviews movies when he’s not reaping souls). The response was wonderful, and even outside of his film critique venue, Grim’s popularity is obvious.

One of the big changes from the Lich to the Reaper was for making videos. These started out on the simplest of tools, Windows Movie Maker. I shot film, taught myself editing, learned how to improve the sound, and so forth. One thing that never made me happy was the limited space I had to create an actual lair for the character, something I’ve now fully realized at my home in Texas.

At-home tools for both capturing sound/video and editing it on a home computer have improved drastically, so I have put my new “Reaper Rants” video series into production and set up a YouTube channel for it. The micro-set was designed and lighted (thanks to my theater experience) to make it very easy to quickly shoot the baseline footage I need, and my custom-built editing suite (fortified with Sony Vegas editing software tools) enables me to assemble and polish videos on a whim.

Check out my YouTube channel and subscribe or follow MovieCrypt.com to catch all of the Reaper’s latest videos. With Halloween coming up very soon, who knows what mischief the Angel of Death is going to get into.

The Baltimore Poe House Plight (tell your friends!)

I recently had the opportunity to listen to author Orson Scott Card at the 2012 Teen Book Con in Houston, Texas. While the audience streamed into the auditorium before the keynote speech, Mr. Card intimated to the young adult crowd that Nathaniel Hawthorne was quite terrible as a American novelist (regardless of what teachers were teaching them). He further explained that the reason was due to a shortage of great writers in early America, and Americans put Hawthorne on a pedestal because they didn’t have anyone better.

Americans do, however, have Edgar Allan Poe.

According to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19th, 1809, the son of two actors. He was briefly left in Baltimore, Maryland with his grandparents, then later taken in by John Allan following the untimely death of Poe’s mother and father in 1811 (this is the origin of Poe’s middle name ‘Allan’). After a childhood traveling to Scotland and London, England, it was 1820 when Edgar returned to America and was enrolled into the Richmond, Virginia school system. Young Edgar was discouraged from publishing his first book of poems while in school, although Poe was described as “a born poet” with “no love of mathematics.”

In 1831, Edgar was dismissed from West Point (for failing to follow orders and being genuinely disenchanted about receiving them) and eventually returned to Baltimore, moving in with his aunt in the Spring of 1833. By this time, Edgar had published three books of poems and numerous others in local periodicals but had received very little money in return. Poe was living poorly when he wrote what is generally accepted as his first tale of horror, an award-winning short story called “Berenice.”

Poe lived and wrote in other places (Philadelphia, for example), but it was in Baltimore that his known career began to emerge and, sadly, where he later died at the age of forty “after he was found in a tavern delirious and in distress, two years after the death of his young wife, Virginia, from tuberculosis.” (NY Times) The Baltimore Poe House was nearly destroyed seventy years ago when homes in the old neighborhood were being renovated, but it has since been declared a national landmark. While it is in no danger of being torn down, it may no longer remain open to the public since the Baltimore housing authority pulled their $85,000 annual operating budget; reserve funds may run out as early as this summer.

Why bring light to this now? The Raven, a film starring John Cusack as Poe himself, opens this weekend (and will likely be completely forgotten about by the time The Avengers comes out the following weekend). Could there be a more perfect time or event to call attention to the creator of the detective fiction genre, American gothic literature, and the namesake for the Edgar Allen Poe Awards of the Mystery Writers of America? I don’t think so.

What can you do about it? Glad you asked:

Any other ideas? Let’s hear ’em!