Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: #SHERA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER

Y’all.

I had He-Man toys as a kid.  I grew up in the eighties; it was inevitable.  I didn’t really pay a hell of a lot of attention to She-Ra because … well, I was a boy.  And She-Ra was for girls.  I also watched the He-Man cartoon, and I have very detailed memories of being very angry with WGN because at some point or another they chose to commit the cardinal sin of pre-empting an episode of He-Man with a Cubs game.  

I don’t think I ever watched the She-Ra cartoon.  I remember that she said “For the honor of Greyskull” instead of “By the power of Greyskull,” but I think that’s cultural osmosis and not an actual memory.  I could not have told you the names of a single member of her supporting cast prior to this week.

Honestly, I only decided to watch the show because it seemed to be pissing off a bunch of whiny manbaby manchildren, and I like it when those people’s feelings are hurt.  If that makes me a bad person, I can live with it.  

I probably shouldn’t even make this part of the CCPR series, y’all, because I loved every second of this show.  The three of us watched the first two episodes together and we had to force our son to go to bed at his bedtime because he wanted to stay up and watch more.  We watched the other eleven episodes in two big gulps over the next couple of days.  This is absolutely 100% unequivocally the best show I’ve ever done one of these pieces on, and I’m only not calling it my favorite animated series of all time because I feel like the second I hit Publish on this piece I’ll remember what my favorite animated series really is and I’ll feel dumb.

I’m not gonna lie: a large portion of my affection for this show is somewhat political.  I love what this show is as much as how it is what it is.  But before I get into that, I want to be super clear about something: the show is hilarious and touching and action-packed and the voice acting is superb and even before we get into any of the representation issues it’s a great show.  My son loved it so much that he’s created his own characters inspired by the show and he’s been drawing comic books about them and creating statues of them in Minecraft all day.  My son does not love the show because of politics.  My son loves the show because it’s awesome.

To wit: when She-Ra first turns Swift Wind, her horse, into a … pegacorn?  Unisus?  Rainbow horned wing-beast thing, the horse’s reaction to its new wings and horn had all three of us laughing so hard we could barely breathe.  Sea Hawk’s insistence on setting his ships on fire was a running joke that never got any less funny.  The relationship between She-Ra and Catra– an invention of the new series, from my understanding– is complex and heartbreaking, especially for a show where friendship is such an important theme, and it feels real.  Adora’s fish-out-of-water reaction to … well, virtually everything after leaving the Horde is great.  I love even the minor characters, with Mermista, Entrapta and Scorpia being particular favorites. The animation style, which got a lot of unnecessary abuse, is exactly appropriate for the show, and the facial expressions are worthy of The Amazing World of Gumball.  It’s phenomenal, all the way through.

But yeah.  Let’s talk about the cast.  This is what She-Ra’s cast of characters used to look like:

I mean, the two on the outside are both purple…

This is what the cast of the new show looks like:

So straight off the jump we’re in a better place here.  The cast of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is deliberately and intentionally diverse, both in the appearances of the characters and the actual voice cast.  Glimmer is actually kinda chubby, and Spinnerella is flat-out fat,and it’s never once remarked upon by any of the characters.  That’s just what they look like.  It’s heavy on women characters, as a show with the words Princesses of Power might be expected to be, but it’s not just a palette swap with typical cartoons, where the women have less agency and less characterization.  Bow may be the only male of the three principals with Adora and Glimmer, but he’s a solid character on his own right and his relationship with Sea Hawk is hilarious.

(A moment, please, to just appreciate the He-Man style of naming characters.  This show features a sorceress character called Castaspella, mercifully called “Casta” most of the time, and a character who throws nets whose name is Netossa.  And in case “Netossa” is too subtle for you, she actually explains it onscreen.  The character named Perfuma is once represented by some random object while the group is making a plan and she insists on being represented by a perfume bottle.  The names are ridiculous.)

And, oh, guys, it’s so gay.  So very very very very very very very gay.

This show is so gay it makes Queer Eye look like 19 Kids and Counting.

Bow wears a midriff with a heart on it.  At one point he needs to wear a tuxedo for a ball.  His tuxedo has a cummerbund on it.  He tears off the cummerbund so he can continue to rock his abs in his formalwear at the ball.  Which he attends with a girl, but oh my God his reaction when he realizes Sea Hawk is there.

The bad guys are literally wiped away by a giant rainbow wave of love in the final episode.

Spoiler alert, I guess.  I mean, if you didn’t know the good guys win at the end of the season.  You probably coulda guessed.  

Oh, and the goddamn horse ends up being a socialist.

You need to watch this show.  If that means you need to get Netflix, do it.  It’s great.  I can’t wait for the second season.  Neither can my seven-year-old son.  If my recommendation doesn’t work for you, take his.

REBLOG: Open Letter to My Fellow Geeks, by Kate Chaplin

I met Kate at Starbase Indy last year– we were booth buddies. You need to read this.

KateChaplin.com

My Fellow Geeks,

We need to have a conversation.

Growing up in the 1980’s geeks and nerds were not popular at school, in film, or in pop culture. Films like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science showed geeks and nerds as outcasts, misunderstood and perpetually destined to live in mom’s basement and make robot women.

Steadfastly, we found heroes in our nerdom. Characters we could relate to whether geeky like Val Kilmer in Real Genius, heroic like Superman, or business savvy like Steve Jobs. We found a kinship with them, many times alone, sometimes with a few trusted friends.

We dreamed of the day we’d be accepted. When it would be okay to love comics, video games and sci-fi. When the bullying would stop. But something happened…

Geek culture became pop culture. Geeks became celebrities in the mainstream. Our beloved comics, books and video games became box office summer…

View original post 1,085 more words

On reading and books and 2016

51yHchbYJTL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_A couple of things:  first, The Sanctum of the Sphere is free today at Amazon.  Have some other e-reader?  Email me or leave a comment (you have to provide an email address for that anyway) and ask for a copy for whatever your device is.  No problem!

Second: my Top 10 New(*) Books I Read in 2015 post is coming soon.  Previous editions are here and here.  I’m probably going to wait until after Christmas, but since I’m into my mostly-annual Lord of the Rings reread and therefore nothing on it is likely to change, if I end up with nothing to say sometime this week I’ll get it done earlier.  One way or another, coming soon.

Third: I’ve read 99 books in 2015 so far, and it’ll probably be 101-102 by the end of the year.  37% of those books were by women or people of color.  I’ve been interested in increasing the number of books by women/POC that I’m reading, mostly as a way to find new authors, and I’ve been going back and forth on how exactly I was going to do that, from “I will read no books by cishet white men during X months in 2016” to trying to set an arbitrary number, and now I think I’ve come up with a slightly softer method:  I’m going to double that percentage in 2016.  Slightly more than that, actually, as my goal for this next year will be that 75% of the books I read will be by women or people of color.  I think white gay or trans men will probably count too, but as I don’t intend to do research into the sexual presentation/orientation of the writers I read, unless I somehow already know someone is gay I don’t think it’s going to add too many books to the total.

Probably easier to just say I’m limiting cishet white guys to 25% of my reading and leave it at that.  The main reason I’m not doing a blanket ban, either for all or part of the year, is that I follow a fair number of indie authors, and I don’t feel like carving out an exception so that I can read Book 5 of The Yellow Hoods when it comes out.  Easier to just say “I’m going to double how many I read” and leave it at that.

New books only, by the way.  Rereads aren’t counting toward the total.

Do you have any reading goals for next year?

While I’m lecturing all the white people…

Had this conversation on Facebook yesterday, regarding this story, in my Bruce Banner alter ego, which is why it’s all censored to hell.  I’m in blue and she, a former student, is in black.  This is why representation is important, guys.  This is why #weneeddiversebooks is important.  Right here:

Screen_Shot_2015-11-07_at_7_38_20_AM

Just sayin’.  And now I gotta find a way for Jayashree to survive that fight.  🙂

On #WeNeedDiverseBooks, chicken, and Lent

weneeddiversebooks-shelfGot into an interesting conversation on Twitter tonight (I’m writing this Sunday night to pop on Monday morning) and I feel the need to expand on my thoughts a little bit without the restriction of 140 characters, especially since the thread quickly expanded to include four different Twitter handles, and actually talking got kinda difficult quickly.

You can hit up my Twitter stream if you want all the details, but this is the Tweet that caught my attention.  I’m stripping the username out of it because the guy was being reasonable and polite the whole time and I’m not writing this to dump on him– plus, again, my Twitter feed is literally to the right of this post anyway if you want to go looking.

The original post was a question:

My only question to you two is this: is it wrong to discriminate against authors based on gender and race?

A bit of background is perhaps necessary:  While I am not completely certain where the hashtag campaign originated, it blew up right around the time this article by K. T. Bradford was published at XOJane.  The headline for the article really tells you everything you need to know:  I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year.

couple things on that.

1) I am a white, straight, cis male author.
2) I like it when people read my books.  I like it more when they read my books via sending me money for them.
3) You should absolutely do this challenge if you’re remotely interested in it, even though it means you won’t be reading any of my books for a year.  Although you could decide to start it in May, right after you finish reading The Sanctum of the Sphere.

Is it wrong to discriminate against authors based on gender and race?

Yes.  Discrimination is wrong.

However, and this is real goddamn important:  DECIDING TO NOT READ SOMEONE’S WORK IS NOT DISCRIMINATING AGAINST THEM.  That’s first and foremost.  Absolutely nogoddamnbody anywhere owes an author a read of their books.  I don’t owe it to anyone to read their books.  None of you owe it to me to read my books unless you are my momma or my wife, and even they probably don’t really have to if they don’t want to.  As a reader, in order to read your books I have to invest both a) my money and b) my time, which is far more valuable to me.  You are not entitled to either of those things.

As a writer, I am similarly not entitled to either of those things from my readers.  It takes a special kind of blindness to one’s own privilege to see “I don’t want to give you my money or my time” and interpret it as discrimination.  That is not remotely what that word means and you absolutely cannot even begin to think that way unless you believe (and you may not even realize you believe it) that you are somehow entitled to the time and money of other people.  It’s simply not true at all.

Furthermore: nowhere does K.T. Bradford say you should never read books by white, straight, cis male authors again.  She explicitly challenges her readers to stop reading writers of that persuasion for a year.  Even if you could claim discrimination if someone was trying to talk people out of buying your work based on some immutable physical characteristic of yours, your already-bad-and-wrong case gets even weaker when the time-limited aspect is added in.  This is not, to use a food metaphor, never eat a cheeseburger again.  This is try some goddamn chicken once in a while.  

This is, in fact, basically the book version of Lent.  A lot of y’all are Christians, right?  So maybe you gave up something for Lent.  It’s ludicrous to decree that you are discriminating against gambling, or chocolate, or Coke Zero or masturbation or whatever by giving it up for a few months.  You’re denying yourself something you like,  yes, and maybe a really good candy bar might debut during that forty days or however long Lent is, but it’ll still be there after Lent.  And maybe in the meantime you’ll have discovered that you really enjoy playing handball instead of gambling, or eating roasted brussels sprouts instead of chocolate, or vodka instead of Coke Zero, or self-flagellation instead of masturbating.  Once Lent is over,  you can go right back to those other things– only now you’ve discovered all this other stuff that you like too!  Maybe you’ll discover something you liked even more than chocolate!

How would you have known that if you never tried?

Now, all that said: I am not participating in this challenge.  I already try to keep an eye out for writers of color and women writers, and if I remember right three of my four top books for the last two years were not by white males, so I’m clearly doing something right.  I bought Django Wexler’s first book at least partially because I assumed that being named Django meant he was black, and I still think he’s cheating.  I am, in fact, reading The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison right now, and I’m about halfway through it and it’s spectacular.  Do I say this so that you’ll give me a cookie?  No.  I say this to point out that by looking out for the occasional Saladin Ahmed or Helene Wecker or Bill Campbell or Nnedi Okorafor or Ann Leckie or whoever, I’m already getting cookies.  And cookies are delicious and you should eat more of them, even if it means that sometimes you’re too full for yet another baked potato.

Hmm.

I may, at some point in this post, have overmixed a metaphor.

tl;dr: Quit being silly, white guys.