Riverdale Falls Short of My Expectations

I’ve been watching Riverdale lately and I’m struck by how so many parts of the show appear to be written by adults engaging in wish fulfillment. What if Archie, a character from a silly comic book your grandparents read, was a hot football player and song writer having an affair with his attractive music teacher? What if Betty was the unrequited girl-next-door who also had a dark, sexy side, and she handcuffs a football player to a hot tub in a fit of pique?

Yup.

This kind of sensationalism might be something teen dramas can fall into (I’m thinking Gossip Girl, etc.). My problem with it is the lack of verisimilitude. We might all wish we could be this version of Archie or Betty. But a good story resolves those tensions by showing the push and pull between dreams and reality. Failing to do so reduces the medium to maudlin nonsense or pedantry. Without contraries, no progression.

Let’s look at another category of teen dramas: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Breakfast Club. These stories resonate more because they tap into something real about the teenage experience. They treat the liminal stage between childhood and adulthood as something worth respect: there’s witty dialogue, heavy problems, the desire to guide oneself yet be guided. They make you laugh and then cry.

I have high expectations for teen characters, and as a lifelong reader of Archie Comics, Riverdale is falling short.

Rethinking Lavinia

In 2011 I was one of those people. I left a one star review for Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel Lavinia. My problem with it was that, in my mind, she just rewrote the Aeneid.

arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris

It’s hard to upstage Virgil.

So, I wondered, what was the point of rewriting the entire epic from Lavinia’s point of view? There was something unremitting about the narrative, and I had hoped for something fresh. Instead of a new tale I saw Lavinia go through the motions of Virgil’s canto, and frankly, I had already read that.

I’m not that much older or wiser now, but I have had a bit of an epiphany about this work. The tribute Le Guin makes to epic literature is on the nose (oh yes, even with references to Dante and his Virgil), but it’s not the point. The point is that the feminine point of view isn’t useless or unimportant, it’s just different.

“Without war there are no heroes.”

“What harm would that be?”

“Oh, Lavinia, what a woman’s question that is.” 

The feminine, in this book, is about constancy in tribulation. It is a source of energy that never burns too brightly and all at once, like the glory of a male warrior, but steadfastly like a warm coal. A man’s stubbornness is a weakness, something dogged and without joy.

“Men call women faithless, changeable, and though they say it in jealousy of their own ever-threatened sexual honor, there is some truth in it. We can change our life, our being; no matter what our will is, we are changed. As the moon changes yet is one, so we are virgin, wife, mother, grandmother. For all their restlessness, men are who they are; once they put on the man’s toga they will not change again; so they make a virtue of that rigidity and resist whatever might soften it and set them free.”

I once had a philosophy professor point out that feminine traits are often equated with something undesirable when men show themselves to have them. Even crying, he said, can be something men are conditioned to be ashamed of. This is a prison. Closing all of the doors only makes a person adapt to living in the dark, and we know how those odd, blind creatures in caves strike us, no?

Revel in the feminine. Be free. Be whole. And understand the point of re-imagining an epic story so often dominated by the male gaze.

That’s what I’ve learned.

Five Stars.

I Have Some Good News This 2016: Published!

So yea, 2016. This wounded artery of a year.

dicaprio

But, I am able to share good news for once: I sold my first short story, to be published in a Science Fiction Anthology either this Dec or Jan.  The contract is signed and the publisher working away on the printing.  I’ll share the details once it’s put up for sale.

Honestly, this is amazing news. I’ve worked very hard to get here, and hopefully this is the start of a writing career. I have several other subs out, so I’m hoping to keep up the momentum!

This particular story was rejected 6 times- but the sub times were long. One publication held it for five months, so I lost some time there. I finished the story in March 2015, after it went through eight drafts. The rewrites were helped along by Critters (I’ll report to them this “Woohoo!” once published) and one last, very incisive critique by a major magazine editor.

Making art is hard work. Lots of rejection, lots of technical and creative skills required, many late nights spent just trying to hit a word count so that they day can be considered well spent.

So, here’s to my little story. Hurrah!

RIP Gwen Ifill

gwen_ifill_pbs_newshour_cropped_retouched

Gwen Ifill- PBS Newshour (Creative Commons Share Alike)

 

I didn’t know Gwen personally, but I admired her greatly. She was, I think, what journalism should be: aloof but incisive, direct yet polite, always inviting yet uncompromising.

David Brooks has a moving eulogy in The Times about her. He, like me, senses a change in the air. And we needed Gwen to address this change. We needed her presence.

May her memory be eternal.

On Memes and The Fall Of The Republic

BOOKSThe epithet, “traditionalist” is often used like a slur. This strikes me as a hopelessly moribund attitude fueled by mistaking educational authority with authoritarianism. One is the kindling of a fire so that the next generation may warm themselves; the other is the worship of ashes.

People in the United States of America are too often sozzled by entertainment masquerading as news. Being informed takes slow work. It requires us to listen, to comprehend, to study, and to then come to a conclusion. Why bother to do all of that work when the LCD teat we suck every evening will simply tell us what our opinions are? Newsertainment peculates our reason with smooth talk and sly assurances: we’re just concerned about crime! Aren’t you? Never mind that we just distracted you from the real problems of police brutality, redlining, and the selective enforcement of drug laws.

News-as-entertainment is necessarily authoritarian. By the power of suggestion, viewers are led to a certain point of view that is shrouded in plausible deniability. These views are cemented by just enough pandering: We report, you decide. The thrill of an opiate without rolling a joint. Anyone who disagrees is just biased! Living in such insulation impairs the inner ear, which ought to be turned toward the truth no matter its source. But when the ear is willfully stuffed, plurality of views is denied access and the duped will insist that since they do not hear the opposition, it must not really exist.

I remember reading Das Kapital in college. One of my colleagues gasped when she saw it in my bag, and acted like I’d brought a loaded gun to work. It was when I realized how puissant the LCD teat was. I was pretty sure I wasn’t a Communist, but how in the world could I purport to have an opinion on the matter without reading the sources? My colleague was convinced that she was a traditionalist when in reality she was a jingoist. This is because she did not know what a traditional education was, or even what it entailed.

Internet memes have ruined us. Why come to an actual opinion about policies and politicians when you can share a meme showing POTUS holding a phone upside-down?

Modern schooling that is obsessed with testing instead of teaching induces a laconic attitude toward actual study. Argumentation is perceived as negative: sit quietly in class, say nothing provocative. Fade into the background or be ridiculed. This is detrimental to knowledge, because only when we know things can we claim opinions. The person who insists that they “won’t argue” is not a person with an actual opinion, just someone who has been fed a line.  Fragile. Weak. Much like a cow stuffed with feed before the sledgehammer beats in its brains. The more fragile the opinion, the more defensive the holder. This is because truth can be painful. Following the truth requires a willingness to be wrong.

Admitting fault is difficult. That’s why humility is a virtue. It’s the difference between ignorance and outright stupidity.

On Hold

Welp, Nov. 8 derailed me a bit. It means NaNo is on hold while I re-calibrate.

I will continue to work toward my goals, I will continue to create and consume good art, and I will commit myself to being a moral person who speaks strongly if warranted.

What else can I do?