Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is The Minions Movie Sexist?

So I just watched The Minions with my own minions AND I have a couple of issues.

Here there be spoilers.

It was a funny movie with cute moments, (Bob giving away the tiny crown. Bob and Tim--basically all things Bob.) but it bugged the feminist in me, and here's why.

1. Where are the girl minions?

 I googled it, (as one does,) and turns out there's an answer.

Here's a quote from that article.
In an interview with The Wrap, Minions creator (and director) Pierre Coffin explains there’s a reason we don’t see female Minions. Easy answer, they don’t exist. When he created the Minion world, he purposely didn’t include any girl Minions for one specific reason. Ready for it?According to Coffin, the Minions are all guys because, “Seeing how dumb and stupid they often are, I just couldn’t imagine Minions being girls.” 

Seriously. The creator of Despicable Me couldn't imagine a character who was zany and mischievous, stupid and lovable, and also female. I Love Lucy has been showing reruns for 70 years, and he couldn't imagine a girl character who is mischievous. Gracie Allen has been dead for decades, and he couldn't imagine a girl as stupid and lovable.

Also, if I may just add that the argument that a girl is too X to be included in Y isn't a compliment. It's an excuse said in a way that we can't get mad at for explaining why woman who aren't perfect can't exist.

I'd really like a girl Minion movie where the girl Minion cells evolve into following the most heroic boss they can and then meet and have an EPIC GOOD VS. EVIL BOY minions verses GIRL minions showdown, that features GRU. Because I missed you Gru!

2. Scarlet Overkill.


Why did Scarlet Overkill have to be the very first female Supervillain? I mean seriously? Why, Minions Movie are you erasing history? Scarlet Overkill calls herself the first female Supervillain in 1970s, WAY after Lizzie Borden, or Queen Ranavalona  of Madagascar,  or Catherine de Medici. But in this movie, before 1970's there were only male villains.

Which I guess is okay...that could be a story point...if, and only if it was actually used as one. This wasn't crucial to the plot...at all. There wasn't room to show a history of male villains that was changing. And if she was the first, why, for the love of peanut butter, did she have to be the only one? There was a Swamp Thing, and Sumo Dude, and a bunch of other awesome male supervilllain henchmen. Couldn't she have a few henchwomen she inspired? They had zero lines. Would it really have been that much more difficult to draw one or two other human beings as a girl?

3. Scarlet Overkill.



 She's a supervillian, but she doesn't get to do anything except wear a dress. Withing the first minute of introducing Gru, he had popped a kids balloon, freeze ray'ed a bunch of people and threatened to kill his neighbors dog. The only evil Scarlett gets to do is threaten the minions about what will happen to them if they don't, and she has to do it in a sing song voice while telling a fairytale...i.e. the least threatening way possible. She tells us she's bad, but she never shows us she's bad, and that's just bad storytelling.

Her husband, Herb, is the inventor, the designer, and the one responsible for her being the first female Superpower. So then, isn't she really just the first female puppet of a supervillain? How much cooler would it have been if she was the inventor, the designer, and the person in charge?

4. Scarlett Overkill.




Okay, so her entire goal as a character was to steal the crown so she could be a pretty princess like she wanted to when she was a little girl.

So to sum up, Scarlett Overkill is the first female Supervillain whose super power is wearing a dress. The source of her power is her husband who makes this dress for her, and whose only motivation is to be a pretty princess when she grows up.

Ask yourself one question, if Scarlett Overkill was a Barbie doll that Herb Overkill dressed up and moved around, then would the plot still work? The answer is sadly yes.

It's set in the backdrop of the 1970's, with hints of the Feminist revolution, with an "awesome" Female Supervillain played by the phenomenal Sandra Bollock. And she did a great job... with what she had been given. But it fails, in a zillion I've-seen-this-all-before ways. She's not a supervillain, she's a supervillain with a bow placed on her head. She's a flat uninteresting character, whose entire characterization begins and ends with she's a girl. She's a girl living in a world with no other females. She is the idea of a girl, and not an actual character.

And so, I'm going to design a better Scarlett Overkill.

Meet Scarlett V.2. 

She wants to be the greatest Supervillain of all time, and she has posters on her wall of awesomely powerful female villains; like Motherload, Lizzie Borden Ax Murderess, and her hero The Crimson Spike. She designed her own self propelled vehicle and armory belt/dress, which she rocks, thank you very much. She has friends who are female. She has rivals who are female. She makes choices, and decisions for herself, and when she is finally caught in her web of ice, by..... say, one young Gru, the freaking Queen punches her and takes back her crown, because she is the freaking Queen of freaking England, and she's not going to abdicate for her own son let alone a Yellow Twinkie in glasses, or allow that Twinkie to change laws so that an American could be the next queen, are you freaking kidding me right now? Even the Queen was shown as powerless. She is only shown with men; male guards, male carriage drivers, and even in the scene at the bar there are only male patrons, and she only wore pink.  BLARG.

In my version of this story, the queen would fight for her thrown, and Scarlett Overkill would have to be smarter to defeat the queen. She'd have to be smart and powerful, with allies, and obstacles and they'd go to war over this freaking crown.

It's possible I just described a Taylor Swift music video.

It's also possible I'm making too big of a deal about this. It's just a kid's movie about yellow Twinkies with goggles who don't speak human.

It's also possible that I sat next to impressionable little boys and girls who just learned that the only way for a woman to be powerful, is for her to wear a dress and be married to a powerful person.

And sure, that's a great way to be powerful. But does it have to be the only option?

I can't wait for that narrative to start changing.

~Sheena

p.s. how young is too young to take my kids to go see Mad Max?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Power of Broken Characters

 Before I begin, I have to say I have a love affair with the word broken. I think it is one of the most beautiful and powerful words in the English language. So when I write stories, my first step is to always, ALWAYS, find the broken in the character and that's when I fall in love with them.
Daily dose of love quotes here  Give this quote with a glow stick to someone in a rough time.

THE LOGIC OF BROKEN

Think about this with me just on a storytelling basis. Forget any connotations you may have with the word, and let's focus simply on methods of telling a story.

Think world building. I learned this from Karen. If you'd like a story to end with a happy ever after, and you want your character to go through a journey, then at the start of the story something in the landscape of the story needs to be wrong. There should be a problem that needs correcting. This could be a villain, a hunger, danger, boredom, whatever.

It's called the conflict, obviously, and it's the heart of storytelling. Without conflict, there is no story.

I think that without brokenness, there is no character.

For exactly the same reason. The inner landscape of the character needs to have something missing. Or some obstical standing in the way of happiness; a need to be fulfilled, a heartbreak that needs comforting, or a loss that can be filled. That need is what drives a character's motivation, and also is the power in a love story.

What makes a character broken, is what makes a story powerful. Their brokenness is their greatest strength.

Through their journey in the exterior landscape of the plot, their interior journey through their brokenness is what will connect the reader to the character. It is what makes us care. And brokenness can't always be solved. But learning to deal with grief, and loss, and depression, and those twisted parts of us that aren't always pretty, is what stories have always been about. It's the reason we have stories. It's the reason stories matter. Finding a way to cope with brokenness, or finding a way out of brokenness is a story. No, it's every story.


THE THEME OF BROKEN

Ladies, are you feeling broken? Cling to Him. Your brokenness is not wasted time. God is creating a beautiful masterpiece. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. ~Psalm 34:18 ❤ #overcomeroutreach
In every story I've ever written, and in every story I've ever loved, there is one universal theme. You don't have to be perfect in order to be of worth.

That is the message I need to hear a thousand times, and that is the message I will never stop saying.

To paraphrase Meryl Streep, "That thing you like the least about yourself is probably your greatest strength." There is nothing, no trick or twist, or author voice, that I love more, then when an author uses a character's weakness to save the day.

Perfect is boring. Normal is a word used to silence and to snuff out awesomeness. Whole is a mask.

Broken... now broken is real. It's universal. It's truth.

Broken is beautiful.

THE COST OF BROKEN

Poor characters. We beat them up so much and then they have to keep moving the plot forward. A broken character still needs to be active. They still need to participate in the plot, but the power of a broken character is that they do big crazy broken things.  And big crazy broken actions are 1. fun to write, 2. fascinating, and 3. shake up the plot.

the great gatsby #quote
F.S. Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby
However, and I hope I can say this clearly. I do not believe or like miracle cures. (realizes I wrote a book about a miracle cure, still continues on this train of thought.) Or I guess, more correctly, I do not believe that a miracle cure is necessary in order to have a HEA.  I don't particularly love stories where the message is, "Hey look, I lost everything that's wrong with me, and now I'm boring, and boring = happy." I'd much rather read stories where the character grows and accepts their weaknesses or flaws, or finds ways to turn them into strengths, for example, "Hey, I just learned how to punch with my nub arm."

But when the brokenness is a result of broken people damaging a character, then I adore this message. ---->

Tell me this message again and again.



A final though by someone not me...
It may be sad, but this is my favorite quote. So truthful and describes me perfectly and strangely, Im Ok with that. Check out the website to see more
Write on, humans.
~Sheena

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Peek Inside My Broken Brain

A GOOD DAY


ME: I need to make a phone call.

ANXIETY: I hope I don't say anything stupid.

ME: If I do, who cares? Imperfection is charming!

Finds phone. Makes phone call.



TODAY


ME: I need to make a phone call.

ANXIETY:Aw crap. I haven't made it yet. What if I don't make the phone call and then everything falls apart?

 Heart pounds.

ME: Stop. That's not rational thinking. Go find the phone.

 Stands up. Walks by cell phone. Checks email on cell phone.

ANXIETY: I can't make the phone call on my cell; what if it cuts out, or dies? I can't handle that. Oh my gosh, I'm not going to make the phone call and then...

Walks down stairs. Kitchen is a disaster.

ME:I need to clean the kitchen.

 Picks up random thing I don't know what to do with.

ANXIETY:I don't know where this goes. I can't do it. And I still need to make that phone call. What if I forget to make the phone call?...

 Opens fridge. Eats something fattening.

ME:Oh gosh I'm eating so bad today.

ANXIETY: I'm failing at the diet. I'm failing at everything. If I don't make that stupid phone call then...)

Walks past phone. Kids are playing video games.

ANXIETY: They haven't done their chores yet. They shouldn't be playing video games until they've done their chores and read for twenty minutes. You are so bad at following through. You are destroying your children. And how can you expect them to do their chores when you can't do something as simple as make a phone call!



Heart pounding. Flight or fight response.

ME: It's too stressful down here.

Walks back upstairs. Sits down at computer. 

ME: Maybe I should be writing.

ANXIETY: You should! What if an agent calls looking for a second book and you don't have a second book finished!

Opens up Word.

ANXIETY: You can't write! You need to make a phone call!)

Glances at the door. Children laugh at something on the computer. 

ME: Maybe I should be twittering.

 Scrolls through twitter for twenty minutes. Notices the time. Blood pressure spikes. 

ANXIETY: GAH! You still need to make that phone call!

Stands up. Walks to cell phone. 

ANXIETY:What if her husband answers? What if I say something stupid?

ME: I don't have her phone number on this cell phone. I need to look it up on the computer.

 Checks email on cellphone. Nothing. Goes downstairs to pick up home phone. 

ANXIETY: Oh gosh this kitchen is seriously bad. I need to do the dishes and sweep, and put all this crap away.

 Kids fighting by the computer. 

ME: "Guys! Have you..."

ANXIETY:(Done your chores today? Were you seriously about to ask if they've done their chores today when you haven't even made a silly phone call? Have you done your chores today?)

ME: "Be kind, Okay."

ANXIETY:Way to fail at being a mom.



 Walks past phone. Back into messy kitchen. Open pantry. 

ME: Why don't we have any more chocolate?

 Opens fridge.

ME:Oh look, chocolate.

Eats chocolate. 

ME: All I've done today is eat. I need to get out of the kitchen.

Picks up phone. 

ANXIETY:Oh my gosh the phone is almost dead.

Places phone on charger.

ANXIETY:I can't call! What if the battery dies while I'm talking to her? She'll think I'm so disorganized. Look at this kitchen. I am so disorganized.

 Picks up one piece of paper. Do I need this? No. Throws it in the garbage. 

ME: Look at you! You just started cleaning the kitchen. You can do things!

Walks out of kitchen. Picks up phone. Climbs upstairs to look up the phone number. 

ANXIETY: Oh crap. Don't say anything stupid.

Glances at facebook.  Glances at clock. 

ANXIETY:Oh crap. it's been another hour. I haven't gotten any writing done all day! WHAT IF I NEVER WRITE AGAIN!

ME: Make the stupid phone call and then you can write.

 Finds phone number. 

ME:Just do it!

 Dials. 

ME:Stop thinking!

 Dial tone. Click.

ME:Deep breath,

 Heart racing...

Three minute conversation.

Hang up. 

ME:YES! You did it!

ANXIETY: Woot!

 Eats celebratory chocolate.