Is Merida From Pixar’s Brave The Worst Role Model For Girls Ever?

 

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Dear Reader,

The answer to the question in the title of my blog post is: No, but she is pretty bad.  Lemme set up the question first though.

I was thinking about the Disney Princess catalog recently due to an article someone posted on my wall about how Drag Queens make better role models for young girls than Princesses.

Drag Professors at RuPaul's Drag U!

Drag Professors at RuPaul’s Drag U!

It’s a sentiment I definitely have some agreement with.  I think Drag Queens are amazing, I’m looking into the possibility of becoming one myself, and RuPaul is basically my Oprah.  However, this put me in mind of the state of literature for young girls overall, and the article raised the specter of some troubling thoughts I’ve had recently regarding role models for young girls.

Specifically, what I have noticed, is that in much of the newest media, a female heroine is not highly thought of (by the sorts of people who make pronouncements about what female heroines are good and bad for girls to view) unless she is, for lack of a better word, butch.  The girls these days have to be as tough as boys, as outdoorsy as boys, as athletic as boys, as crude as boys.  It’s like all the female heroines suddenly have to be Hyenas (if you don’t get that reference, go google Hyena clitoris.  I’ll wait.)

Case in point...

Case in point…

It was something that I started thinking about, honestly though, after I saw the Pixar film Brave in theaters.  I dug up a rant I posted to my writing group about the film, and I’m polishing it up and posting it here.  It is a little late to the party, but I’d like to express the opinion nevertheless.  To see the thoughts, hit the jump! Continue reading

The Marvelous Adventures of Sebastian Smith: In The Dungeon of Castle Gallifrax, Chapter 1

Dear readers,

In celebration of over 1500 unique views, and 100 followers, I have decided to release a special treat: the first chapter of my much anticipated novel!

The series is titled (tentatively) The Marvelous Adventures of Sebastian Smith, and novel one is called “In The Dungeons of Castle Gallifrax”.  The novel tells the story of a young boy who has always been a little bit different than the other people in his village.  Then one day, as a Dragon terrorizes his home, a mysterious traveling peddler has a most unusual proposal for Sebastian and the small village of Hilsbac.

This project was undertaken as a way to provide well-rounded, high quality, empowering literary role models for GLBTQ youth.  It is not exclusively for GLBTQ youth, but the story is about them for once.  It seeks to show queer culture and development in a light that presents the individuals as complete people rather than being dominated by their sexual orientation.  In this novel, the fact that Sebastian is same-sex attracted is no more important than the fact that Harry was opposite-sex attracted (we think).  It is at its heart, an adventure novel, and a story about what it means to really accept yourself.

Read chapter one after the jump, and check out the summary here.

Continue reading

An Open Letter to DC Comics RE: Superman and Orson Scott-Card.

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(**NOTE:  This letter is in address to DC Comics decision to hire Orson Scott Card to write the Superman comic series.  At the time of this publication, Mr. Card was an outspoken anti-gay activist, and the letter addresses this.  Also, as a point of ethics, when I wrote this I did not realize how small Mr. Card’s purported involvement with the Superman franchise was, and have since discovered he will only be a small guest author for a side series.  However, I stand by my statements still)

Dear DC Comics,

I’m writing to you to discuss your decision to hire Orson Scott Card as a writer in charge of some of your Superman titles.  I have to admit I am a little bit conflicted.  But before I talk about that, I want to be clear about what I intend this letter to do.  I don’t want this letter simply to be another protesting email you receive.  I want this letter to start a conversation, somewhere, within your organization.  I want my conflict to become your conflict, because I think we can fight together, not against one another.  But, in the end, that is up to you.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m gay.  More than that, I am a gay consumer of your media products.  When I was young, I’ll even confess that I often stole your products from Grocery Stores and Comic Stores and Garage Sales; that was because I grew up without a lot of extra money, raised by a single mom, in a pretty religious home.  But your comics were some of the only fantastical things I was permitted to own, and my mom never could keep track of how many I was supposed to have.  I also want you to know that I apologized to the star superhero of every comic I ever stole or read without buying as a child, because I knew they wouldn’t approve of my actions.

I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that I am not just some gay guy who is generically appalled, for political or moral reasons, that a major corporation would hire someone as openly anti-rights as Mr. Card is.  I want you to know that I am a gay man, who from the time I was very smallest, believed that super heroes really do matter.  I believe, like so many other children and adults do, that the make-believe worlds populated by grown men and women in silly outfits with outlandish powers, is actually a deeply important part of our cultural identity.  I believe what you do is important, is what I’m trying to say.

So, you hired Orson Scott Card; to write what is, ostensibly, your flagship character (although I can feel Batman fans bristling).  And of course, I have a reaction.  Orson Scott Card is notoriously anti-gay.  He once sat on the board of directors for NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, he penned this essay (which seems to be about courts taking away democratic process, but spends an awful lot of time after that “proving” why gay’s aren’t normal and why gay relationships don’t qualify as marriages).  In a response to criticisms of that essay, he has been quoted, regarding gays and the idea of their legal right to marry, as saying:

“Inclusion” is an empty word when used as a general virtue. Its value depends entirely on what is and is not included. Every inclusion of one group is an exclusion of another. I think even Mr. Herman would agree with me that there are certain groups that should be perpetually excluded from civilized society. Where we differ is only on our list of those groups, not on the principle.”

Of course, what he means in this statement is that, in his worldview, gays should be perpetually excluded from civilized society.

I want to be fair to Mr. Card here though.  I know that he personally does not “agree” with what I would define as my “humanity”, and that in his world view I am not deserving of the legitimate rights afforded people who contribute to meaningfully to society.  But his protestations to the legalization of gay marriage seem to stem more, in his reasoning, from the perspective that courts and single individuals should not mandate major changes to our American society, no matter how “good” those changes seem.  And further, that if gay marriage is to be included in our society it should find its way there through the legal action of Congress and voters.  As a result of that view, I can see why you might have chosen him to write Superman, who often has to deal with the ethical ramifications of individual liberty, democratic process, and the fair use of immense power.

Further, as a writer myself, I can even see how Mr. Card would be uniquely qualified to tell some really killer Superman stories.  He has the commercial success, and wealth of experience that might really reinvigorate the stories being told about one of the most iconic and beloved heroes of America and even the world. His own personal experiences and viewpoints would undoubtedly really inform and nuance his tales.  I think this is part of why you must have hired him, and why you have stood by your decision, carefully stating that the personal views of your employees are not the views of DC Comics.  I appreciate that statement.  I also appreciate the courage it has taken for you to include homosexual portrayals of your characters in your comics, which you have done to one degree or another since the late 1980s.

And as a writer, I can also reasonably look at the stories which are told about Superman, and I can see where Mr. Card’s viewpoints on homosexuality will probably never be something Superman is forced to face.  Believe it or not, even though my rights and my struggles are very important to me, and to those who care for me, I can see where they are not of overwhelming importance when faced with say, global poverty, or human trafficking  or North Korean nuclear armaments or, you know, super-villains   These are the sorts of challenges I expect Superman to face.  As a writer, I think having him become suddenly a champion for gay rights would feel contrived.  It could be done, if you wanted to.  I’d be thrilled if you did!  But I don’t think Superman’s story arc will necessarily put him on the path to the equal rights discussion.  So it stands to reason that Mr. Card’s views about people like me will likely never come out of Superman’s mouth.

Here is my conflict though. Continue reading

Why should it even matter that you’re GAY?

Dear Readers,

I am gay.

I have been open about being gay for about a decade, and I have been accepting of my own homosexuality (by which I mean to say that I stopped trying to change it for Jesus) for about four years now.

I am a lot of other things as well.  I am a writer, working on my first novel.  I am a college graduate, who is very proud to call University of Texas at Austin my alma mater.  I am a home owner (see recent blog posts) and a wanderer.  I am a dabbler in Buddhism, and a practicing pagan of sorts.  I am a gamer, and a world traveler, and a coffee drinker.

But I am also gay.

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I’m SUPER gay.

The issue which has come up for me, which I didn’t expect to hit me so hard, is the recent attempt by several friends and acquaintances to reassure me that my being gay just “doesn’t matter” to them, and that it doesn’t change the way they view me as a person.

It came up first in regards to someone else, a young man I had encountered who, by my estimation of his self-expression, is likely attracted to other men.  His family, close friends of mine, when I made this observation, was very defensive, claiming that “it doesn’t matter” if he’s gay, it doesn’t change how we feel so why should we talk about it?!

It didn’t sit well with me, and I wasn’t sure why.  It was a good thing that his family didn’t devalue him because he was likely a little light in the loafers right?

Then, a few days ago, George Takei (Lord and Master of Facebook) posted a blog entry about this very subject (http://www.allegiancemusical.com/blog-entry/i-dont-even-think-you-gay-well-you-should?upw).  It was regarding the recent coming out of Jodi Foster in an award acceptance speech, and the relative non-reaction it received.  In that blog, as I understand it, Mr. Takei says some things I have felt for a long time, but never spoken. He talks about the importance of the homosexual struggle for equality, and its effect on the people who have struggled in a society that doesn’t accept them as they are, and the importance of gay role models in today’s society.  I was impressed and I reposted the article to my timeline.

I got a private message from a very good friend of mine shortly after that which read:  “Not to be contrary, but it really doesn’t matter to me [that you’re gay], and it doesn’t change who you are to me.”

Let me take just one moment here to tell you about my friend, whom I will call simply Friend from now on.  He is not someone I would consider close minded.  He and I have differing political opinions, but we have helped one another on many projects, share a close circle of friends, and he has been supportive of all of my partners and my choices in life.  I wanted to start out by conveying my esteem for him personally.

However, it stuck with me that he had never once told me that it didn’t matter to him that I was a Writer, or that I was a Wizard, or that I was Caucasian.  The only characteristic he had ever “differentiated” from my identity was my sexual orientation.  I know he didn’t mean it badly, but it itched, and then burned, and then downright began aching that he felt that was somehow appropriate.

During our ensuing conversation over the subject of Mr. Takei’s blog, he also raised some difficult points, and had some honest questions.  Most of our interaction, however, flowed out of one general question: “Even if someone is clearly gay, why is it a problem to avoid the topic?”

What follows is my best attempt at a response to him, in letter form.  Click more to read it. Continue reading