Some art for you to download and use in case you feel like sending a postcard to Mitch McConnell (317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington DC)
Some art for you to download and use in case you feel like sending a postcard to Mitch McConnell (317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington DC)
I keep being surprised to find people who love Doctor Who and Sherlock but hate Stephen Moffat. One thread seems to be to say that he has a ‘woman problem’.
One new friend posted this one her Facebook wall:
OK, before I rise to the challenge, I should set the stage: I’m a lifelong Doctor Who fan who came on board at the end of Leila’s journeys with the doctor, and grew up under snotty-Romana-then-flirty-Romana, whiny Tegan and the gloriously glamorous AND SMART Nyssa (I so wanted to be her). I barely survived Mel and Perry and was rewarded with intelligent and fierce Ace who might have been great if they stories hadn’t been mince, just before the show went on indefinite hiatus.
When it came back, i felt utterly betrayed by Russell T. Davies, who let the Doctor become a romantic figure (“Is this a kissing show?”). Part of the appeal, as a kid, of Doctor Who, was the idea that you could either BE the Doctor or run away with the doctor. It was an intelligent, family show, where young people ran off with a (mostly-)avuncular alien and had adventures. Now, as a grown up and new parent, I felt very queasy at the idea of parents being asked to trust this man with their barely-adult children, if he was going to get all sexy. Ugh. Plus there was an awful lot of emotional angst and despair.
Then along came Moffat’s episodes. I was thrilled to see powerful, cheeky women who were largely dismissive of the doctor — certainly not defined by him — and who, more often than not, turned out to be self-rescuing princesses.
The Empty Child turns out to be not just about a creepy child but about his courageous female relative. Before she even meets the Doctor she is saving kids and being incredibly resourceful (and cheeky) while doing so. With the help of the Doctor she’s even more powerful and becomes not just her own savior but that of her family, her country and quite possibly the world. Huzzah! Everybody lives!
Then along came Sally Sparrow, who carried a whole episode, solved the mystery and saved almost everyone, including her man AND the Doctor, before he even knew who she was.
And OK, The Girl in the Fireplace was a big icky because the little girl fell in love with the Doctor and waited for him, but to her credit she became the most powerful woman in France and saved herself from harm by being level-headed in a crisis and summoning the one person she knew could help.
Linda from The Press Gang – She was the editor of the school paper, with all the power and all the flaws you’d expect of a leading character. (I watched and enjoyed this long before I’d heard of Stephen Moffat)
Jeckyl’s wife – She wasn’t a character who appeared much in the show, but she was his motivation for resisting his demons. Does that make her a ‘problem’? If so, then love is a problem, and that’s not an idea to which I can subscribe. No, she doesn’t help out much, but Jeckyl is a show about a man wrestling with his demons. I don’t remember him letting ANYONE help much.
All the women in Coupling – OK, one of them was fairly bonkers, but so was at least one of the guys. Yes, the main woman was a problem for the main character, because: drama and comedy and romance And the other two characters (one male, one female) were pretty and shallow. So ti was completely balanced.
Molly Hooper – Yes, Molly is defined by her relationship to Sherlock, but she has skills and an education and you know she’d be just fine if he disappeared off the face of the earth. You can imagine her having a life without Sherlock and that, I think, counts. But she’s not a leading character (as requested in the initial question).
Detective Donovan – again, not a main character, but still, not a weak, traditional helpless female.
Mrs Hudson – yes, she’s doing traditional domestic work, but she is a well-rounded character.
Mary Moorstan/Watson – I think it’s unfair to criticize Moffat for writing a character who was introduced as a romantic interest, and writing her as…a romantic interest. She’s given a kick-ass job, a mysterious past, more skills than her husband, an ability to make his life better and be made better by him, and she gets more screen time than any other email character in this male-male buddy-cop version of a classic detective story. In the original stories, Mary appears to allow Watson to get heroic for a minute and then, when the practicalities of domestic life got in the way, she was promptly killed off with no ceremony, off-screen (and with no complicating offspring).
And to the extent that any of these women are puzzles, problems, if they weren’t, where would the conflict come from? If we want characters to be interesting, they can’t just be badass and perfect. Are they used this way more than the men?
Yes, Amy sacrifices her future in this timeline to be with Rory in his timeline. But would you rather be the blundering bloke who accidentally gets zapped back in time or the determined, devoted character who CHOSES which of the people she loves she’s going to be with?
Yes, Clara sacrifices herself (twice) but she comes out of it all right. As does, eventually, Buffy Summers, who has a much harder time of it, I’d argue and Joss Whedon is lauded for writing ‘strong female characters’. In contrast Rory sacrifices himself so often it becomes a punchline. And I didn’t hear anyone complaining about Aslan…
Which leads me to a point: Moffat grew up in a culture steeped in Christian messages. We’re very big on self-sacrifice in Britain in general and in Glasgow in particular: socialist and Presbyterian/Catholic and chip-on-the-shoulder as we were throughout the 20th century. It’s a culture that believes suffering is good for the soul and that no greater love hath man than he lay down his life for a friend, and all that.
The Doctor sacrifices all the time, in this current incarnation (except when he runs away for a while before facing up to a challenge. A lesson worth learning).
His women have jobs that are not traditionally female, they have skills and abilities, they are sassy and opinionated, they might like a bit of romance but they don’t cease to exist without it.
His couples (especially his married couples) are devoted to each other. They don’t gain their strength from putting the other half of the couple down. They bring out the best in each other, even when they’re bickering. I LOVE this. It is rare and beautiful and healthy.
His scripts are clever. You have to pay attention. They are witty, and all the characters have more going on than they’re telling you. You can always imagine them in their own, spin-off story.
He’s hopeful and funny. Unlike the end of the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor who, which was a maudlin, drawn-out sob-fest full of regrets and misery, Moffat writes stories with endings in which “Everybody lives!” or, even when they don’t get what they want, there’s hope that they’ll get something they can live with (e.g. Clara). We’re not finished with Sherlock yet, and we’ll see where that goes.
No, I don’t think Moffat has a woman problem. I don’t think all his women are problems, puzzles or sacrifices in any way disproportionate to the dramatic needs of the stories he tells or the way he treats men (most of his bad guys are men!)
Few things annoy me more than a shallow, one-dimensional helper-female character, but I just don’t see it with Moffat, unless you’re determined to find it. I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing complexity or dramatic needs to make a character all powerful just because of gender,
I was researching some Scottish stuff for a new story and came across this fun reminder of how people talk where I grew up.
Normally these lists are full of things that people *think* Scottish people say, rather than anything I can actually ‘hear’ anyone saying. But this one’s spot on.
The only one I’ve never said is “Braw”, but I know people who use it.
I’m angry this morning.
I’ve been angry about having-voluntarily-become-a-citizen-of a-country-where-people-elected-Donald-Trump-as-candidate-for-President for a long time.
Today I’m specifically angry that someone I know, a ‘pillar of the community’ in my town, thinks it’s OK to dismiss Donald Trump’s 2005 chat about how he treats women, because “Bill did it too”.
OK, let’s go:
If we’d had this kind of iron-clad proof about Bill Clinton’s character would he have been elected president? Maybe.
1991 was a long time ago, even though it doesn’t feel like it to people my age—except when you think about how far we’ve come on issues like, uh, acknowledging unwanted sexual contact as the damaging assault that it truly is.
If you think Hillary is morally weak for staying with her husband after knowing what he was like, then you clearly will have no compassion for other complicated human emotions and situations.
Why do abused people stay with their abusers? Why don’t drug addicts just pull their socks up? Why do we have to pay all this money to put ramps in for the couple of disabled people who might conceivably want to enter our buildings? (Can’t they just wait outside until we send someone down to help them like the infants they are?)
We didn’t invite him to stay on. We weren’t proud he was our leader. It’s not ‘going all Democratic” or “defending the Clintons” to demand that we don’t knowingly elect another man like him.
He is not “a dirty boy”. He is a grown, 70 year old man, who has shown us the content of his character in many and varied ways. This is only the latest.
And, at the risk of being accused of defending Bill Clinton (which I am not), he HAD some skills in the job he was doing. He trained for it his whole life. He qualified as a lawyer. He apprenticed as governor of a large state. Twice.
I disagreed with many of the policies he put in place, and think the fallout from them has been bad. But he understood government. He did not need on-the-job-training.
People like me, your sister and your mother had to put up with Trumpian behaviour from the moment our periods started, because now we were women.
You had to smile and laugh and learn to brush off grown men in order to voice being called a bad sport or a ‘shrill harpy’ or frigid or worse, to avoid being physically intimidated or attacked.
We had to endure being touched and propositioned by strangers because ‘it’s just a bit of fun’.
When someone decides they can be in your personal space, touch you however they like and demean you when you say no, it is a psychologically damaging assault that leaves an impression. It might make a dent, or it might crush someone, but, as with all interpersonal interactions, it has an impact.
Are we clear on that?
Sexual predation doesn’t just hurt women. We have to stop saying “this language has to change ‘for our daughters and our wives”.
We have to change this language for our daughters and our sons and our wives and our brothers and for all human beings.
This culture hurts men too.
Decent men feel bad, and often powerless when the Dude-Bros let loose. Decent men have historically felt stressed and constrained by cultural norms and had to tamp down their natural decency so as not to look like a “fag” or a “pussy”or whatever demeaning name guys like this would throw their way; guys that might be their boss, or their partner on a project, or 243lbs of angry muscle.
First, I’m fine.
I’m tall, and strong, and opinionated and I never once felt in danger from a man.
I did, however, learn to be careful about how I bent down to pick something up.
I learned to tug my skirt down.
I learned it was not OK to go out alone.
I learned to smile and deflect when men tried to chat me up on the train, when I was 13.
I spent the years when Bill Clinton was busy being elected, at university, with one hand on the rape alarm I kept in one pocket of my biker’s jacket and my other hand on my sharp housekeys as I speed-walked home with my head down. From. Studying. At. The. University. Library. I was 18.
It never occurred to me to get particularly angry that I had to do this. I had been conditioned to think that I might get attacked and that if I did, I needed to prove I had done everything possible to excuse myself from blame.
Let me repeat that: I didn’t expect to be attacked. BUT I learned to walk with my head down, not making eye contact, carrying a rape alarm, so nobody would blame me (much) if the unthinkable happened.
I internalized this at 18.
What did that do to my character? I don’t know, because whatever it did is part of me now and always will be.
I wasn’t angry on my own behalf, but now that my kids are approaching their teens, I am mad as hell.
I’m angry that I, an adult human being, think twice about taking walks in quiet places lest something bad happen and I get blamed.
I thought we had moved past this. I was 19 when Bill Clinton was elected. I was 33 when Trump was recorded making these comments. I am 44 now and I have one question:
Can we stop normalizing this behavior, please?
And while we’re at it,
We have proof of the kind of man Trump is and he’s not “a dirty boy”. He’s the kind of damaging, hateful man who wants to take us back to a time when wolf whistling was cool, and it was ok to not employ people because of their parents or which side of the tracks they came from.
I though we were making progress. I thought people like Donald Trump were figures of fun, who we reviled and kind of pitied.
I didn’t think we were ready to put them back in charge.
At the Writer’s Digest Conference this weekend I went to a talk by someone who was a ‘slush pile’ reader for various prestigious sites/awards.
I thought: that sounds like torture and probably a really good idea for someone who’s trying to inspire people to write short stories. Maybe I should do that.
So I started looking at various publications I might like to read for and realized, I don’t have a really good handle on any of their house styles. So maybe I should start reading them more seriously, before I do anything drastic. I should be reading more short stories anyway.
So I went investigating. And made, as I do, a list.
In an effort to do that, here are some stories I’m going to read in the next month or so.
I’m going to achieve this by this method: any time I pick up my phone to go on Facebook for a random browse, I will instead, click on one of these links!
I’ll make notes in my reading log and share my thoughts in the Reading Room feature at StoryADay.org.
I’m not normally a fan of dumbing down language, but I think there are some areas where clear and concise communication can be useful.
Religious instruction, for example.
I’m trying to read the “Year of Mercy” Companion every morning (don’t ask me how ‘religious’ I’ve been about it. As with my actual religious faith, sometimes I’ve been more successful with this commitment than others).
I thought I might start tearing out the pages that inspire me and pinning them to the fridge so that the rest of the family can stumble across them.
But, when I read this morning’s except from Misericordia Vultus, I really struggled to understand it. I can’t imagine it would hold the interest of an 11 year old boy (or a 48 year old boy, for that matter).
So I tried to rewrite it in more accessible language. It was an interesting exercise for me, and I’m going to record what I did here. I know I’m on shaky theological ground here, but I wish someone more qualified had done the translation in a more accessible way.
Here’s the original:
The Church lives an authentic life when she…proclaims mercy—the most stupendous attribute of…the Redeemer—and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savor’s mercy…
It is precisely because sin exists in the world…that God, who is love, cannot reveal himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds…to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which iceman’s temporary homeland. Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to his home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son.
No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Confession to God also consists in discovering his mercy….Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love, is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion…as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.
See what I mean? Apart from the twisted sentence structure, the bigger problem is that uses jargon, it is written for a very specialized audience, who understands what “the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son” is, and who doesn’t have to search their memory of childhood catechism lessons (if they were lucky enough to have had them) for what the precise definition of ‘conversion’ is.
I understand that “cannot reveal himself otherwise than as mercy” has a certain emphatic ring that “can only reveal himself as mercy” lacks, but it’s also hopelessly convoluted. And I speak as someone who loves a long sentence.
So here’s my attempt to write this more accessibly.
The most astonishing thing about Jesus is His mercy. That is what we, the people of the Church, must be all about. Mercy.
God is love. This world—our temporary home—is full of sin and temptation. The only way He can show Himself to us here, is through mercy.
God is infinite (unending, everywhere and everywhen). So is His mercy. He is always ready to forgive the prodigal child who comes home. We can’t wear him out. The sacrifice of His son is the proof. We can’t change that.
We can refuse his mercy, though. If we can look at Jesus on the cross and say ‘no’ to mercy and forgiveness, we are not walking with God.
The Church’s message is, “Walk with God. Live an authentic Christian life.”
God is mercy. God is an inexhaustible source of tender love. He offers us all the tools we need to accept his invitation to walk with Him.
Accepting Him is a decision we must make all day, every day, with his help. Luckily, we can’t wear out God’s mercy. He is always there, offering us his hand.
That’s my interpretation, anyway.
And that’s a God—and a Church—that, even on my worst day, I could believe in.
I think I just finished the first draft of my novel.
There are scenes missing and a lot of cleaning up to do, but I think I’m there. The first draft is as complete as it’s going to be.
I feel remarkably calm. I think it’s because I’m aware of how much work I have to do now.
I’m going to do a ‘scene grid’ or, as I like to think of it, a ‘motif grid’, as recommended by Stuart Horwitz. There are several things that came up during my last few scenes that I realize are key to the story and the character, and I want to make sure I’m getting them in early and often.
I’m going to try not to get overwhelmed in the revision process. Then, hopefully I’ll have a second draft, ready for polishing when I go to UnCon in November.
I do enjoy my StoryADay stuff and the non-fiction writing I do, but nothing quite compares to the way I feel after I’ve written a piece of fiction. It’s lovely.