A Love Letter to Dr Jillian Holtzmann

Yes, I know, many people have already raved beautifully and eloquently about Holtzmann, but I am joining those swathes of voices because this has been on my mind since I first saw Ghostbusters 2016 at a preview screening in July, and promptly returned the next day so see it again. It has been on my mind because until July 2016 I had no idea what representation feels like. Isn’t that crazy? Isn’t that completely bonkers? I have made it through 23 years, almost a quarter of a century – and spent six of those years studying media and literature, and all of 2015 writing a thesis with a heavy focus on how mainstream media fails at diverse representation, which is often instead fulfilled by fandom and fanfiction – and yet, until this July, until I saw Dr Jillian Holtzmann up on that giant screen in all her yellow-goggled glory, I hadn’t truly realised how much I had been missing.

Continue reading “A Love Letter to Dr Jillian Holtzmann”

Why We Need to Calm Down About Selfie Sticks

The newest tech invention that everyone loves to hate – the selfie stick. Why do we hate it so much?

Is it because, like the selfie itself, it promotes and champions the idea and act of people being in control of their own image and projected sense of self?

I think some people think that’s probably not the reason. That the reason is instead the fact that they’re annoying, that selfie stick users poke them into what they perceive as empty space and other people perceive as the middle of their path. And I get that. I get that it seems like an exaggeration of the selfie process, like people are actively drawing attention to themselves and the fact they are taking a selfie. Right. Now.

I get that.

But, as much as I have totally been guilty of ragging on the selfie stick (though I have used one and encouraged my sister to buy one before a family holiday), I suspect we’re giving the selfie stick and its users an overly hard time. And why? Because it’s a new gadget? Because it’s a different way to do things? Selfies used to be photos taken blindly with a digital camera and possibly a mirror for guidance – they used to not be called selfies! Then came camera phones, then camera phones with INWARD FACING CAMERAS! I can’t help but think the knee-jerk reaction of “what do people need inward facing cameras for? Why would I want to look at myself?!” is the same kind of instinctively contrary and cynical attitude that fuels the selfie stick ire.

But here’s the thing. I’m not going to sit here and philosophise on the social patterns of dismissing new technologies – especially those taken up by the younger generation – simply because they’re new and seem frivolous (what’s wrong with frivolity?). Instead I want to share why I felt the need to write this in the first place.

I just came back from a trip overseas, and while abroad I knew I was going to come home with very few photos of myself on holiday. And that though really made me question whether it was actually important to me to have photos of myself on holiday, not just photos of the place itself. I found that it was important to me. There have been so many moments in my life that I look back on and wish I had thought to capture it on film (so to speak). There are sights and places that fade from my memory without some kind of visual cue to spark that little synapse. Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to say, even just to yourself, ‘hey remember when I did that, when I went there, when I saw that’ and have a little bit of proof to hold. It’s superficial maybe, but I’ve found it’s significant to me.

So I tried to take a couple of shots, so I can look back and remember what I looked like at that time, remember that moment of taking the photo, of where I was and how fortunate I was to be there. This trip I was semi-fortunate to be travelling with a friend – semi-fortunate because she is a self-confessed hopeless photographer (not in the good way). She is not one for selfies – her camera died before she had the chance to even contemplate turning the lens on herself, and before we had seen the majority of our scheduled sights, too. Nevertheless, with her help I got a few awesome photos I couldn’t have got otherwise (despite helpful fellow tourists who ask if you’d like a photo, but who haven’t brought the right glasses, or the sun is in their eyes, or they didn’t get the timing quite right).

But what happens when I’m travelling alone? When I don’t even have a camera novice to attempt a good photo? There are places I want to visit and sights I want to see that I would like to (even temporarily) immortalise with photographic evidence. But I doubt the expanses of the Thames riverbanks, or the full height of the Eiffel Tower can be captured in an arms length selfie.

I’ve been thinking about these moments, thinking about how deeply I distrust the photographic skill of the average passerby – especially when even friends can’t always get it just right – and thinking about how much I want to have those photos to cherish and to share. And throughout all those thoughts all I can keep thinking is – I think I have to buy a selfie stick.

I really think I might need to.

But I don’t want to be mocked. I don’t want people to bitch about me as they walk past because a 60cm piece of plastic and metal offends them so much, because..? Because it’s garish that I’d like a photo of myself? Because it’s uncouth to draw attention to one’s self-pride, self-confidence, and contentment? But why do I care? Why can’t I just push that aside and take the damn photo anyway?

I know they’re annoying. I have been one of the first to laugh at videos of people dropping phones in all manner of places because of their excessive use of the selfie stick. But I don’t think the selfie stick is just about excess and frivolity. The more I’ve thought about it the more I can see it as a social tool, as a liberation of self-image, and yes, as an upgrade to the regular selfie. As time goes on, regardless of how long the selfie stick lasts as a popular gadget, I hope we can all learn to chill out about it and accept it as just another thing in our endless 21st century production line of things. Either way, I think we can all agree that one of the greatest advances ushered in by the selfie stick could be the final, long overdue eradication of the totally underwhelming taken-by-a-stranger holiday snap. And for that alone we should be cutting the selfie stick a break.

The Lady in the Van | A Response (Spoilers)

[This post contains mild spoilers about the film ‘The Lady in the Van’ (2015)]

Today I went to see ‘The Lady in the Van’, and there was one scene I really wanted to talk about, so these are my thoughts.

Continue reading “The Lady in the Van | A Response (Spoilers)”

Welcome to Zootopia!

I went to see Zootopia the other day. I had been looking forward to it, at first in a vague ‘I want to check that out’ way and then more recently in a ‘oh my gosh I have to see this’ way when I discovered the full extent of the film’s animal-pun based promos. Honestly, I was completely sold.

And you know what? Zootopia totally, completely, 100% delivered. I was so thrilled, and so happy, genuinely happy. I saw the film with my sister and we spent so much time laughing, and the whole time home talking animatedly and enthusiastically about the film – about the art, the dialogue, the plotting, the geographical layout of the world – everything! It was fabulous, I haven’t had such a fun and so utterly enjoyable movie going experience in a long, long time. To be honest I’m very tempted to go see it again, and maybe even a third time.

Why? Because this movie is so clever. It is beautifully and thoughtfully layered in the way so many Disney Pixar movies are – I immediately think of Toy Story and the different jokes I began to understand as I grew older and rewatched it. It knows how to grab every age group and provide something enjoyable, and moreso, something genuinely interesting for them. I don’t know if it’s because I am now technically a fully certified card carrying Adult, or whether Disney Pixar really outdid themselves with Zootopia, but I was so impressed and surprised by how sophisticated the film was thematically.

Continue reading “Welcome to Zootopia!”

Monsters in Avengers Age of Ultron, or; Why Natasha Isn’t a Monster

Spoiler: Natasha is not a monster. No one is. Except maybe Ultron…

Let’s break this shit down.

Many of you might remember, or still be partaking in, the uproar regarding a particular scene with Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow in Marvel’s Age of Ultron. In this scene at the Barton homestead Natasha and Bruce talk about their ultimately too-similar-yet-too-different desires for the future. During this discussion Natasha reveals that as part of the Red Room Black Widow Training Program the KGB sterilised her, and all the other successful (read: surviving) Black Widow agents, going on to say to Bruce “Do you still think you’re the only monster on the team?” to which people went ABSOLUTELY NUTS.

Continue reading “Monsters in Avengers Age of Ultron, or; Why Natasha Isn’t a Monster”

Agent Carter Season 2 and Sequel Syndrome

Disclaimer: This is very much my Eeyore-hatted view – Agent Carter is doing a lot of great things, which I will write about post-season two, but at the moment it’s got me in a rut.

I love Agent Carter. I honestly do. I was an active campaigner for a season two renewal, and before that I treasured the Agent Carter one-shot, being among the hordes of fans hoping the possible TV show spin-off from the one-shot would become a reality fast. And when it did I was beyond excited, and season one was pretty much everything that Agent Carter and Marvel fans could have possibly asked for. Which is why I’m so sad that season two hasn’t grabbed me in the same way.

Continue reading “Agent Carter Season 2 and Sequel Syndrome”

A Note on Piracy in the Age of ‘Exposure’

Disclaimer: this by no means a detailed or fully accurate summary of the piracy debate, this is my immediate opinion to what sometimes feels like double standards in the arts.

So the piracy debate is flaring up again, as it is want to do every six months or so. It’s just very hard to hear people who have established careers, enough to pay the bills, produce a movie, and then some, demand tens of thousands of dollars from individuals when budding writers and filmmakers are increasingly expected to work for free. It’s the same old chestnut (or perhaps the new chestnut), jobs want you to have experience and a body of work they can judge you on, but few places will offer you any experience in creating such a body of work. If you want to pitch anything you’re kind of expected to have something in the bag already. That means extra work for zero pay. Whether that is writing/directing/filming/editing your own short film, pitch video, webseries, or working on someone else’s passion project, the result is working for free. These ‘passion projects’ are ill-named, often done less for passion and more for necessity.

Writing and art are the same, as I’m sure you all well know. ‘Write us this article, you won’t be paid but it will be good experience and exposure. You can add it to your portfolio!’ ‘We’d like you to create a logo we can use throughout our online branding, could you create some mock up options? We won’t pay you, and when we choose one we’ll take over the copyright.’ And other INSANE notions.

While I understand the ‘war on piracy’ in theory, it becomes more and more difficult when it seems big producers/names/brands get to squeeze thousands out of their audience (instead of acknowledging problems like accessibility and providing solutions) while smaller creators are left to fend for themselves in a culture that refuses to value their work. Money demands money while other artists are expected to earn nothing.

The Importance of Encouragement

Recently I have had the truly great fortune of receiving a lot of support and encouragement for my decision to pursue Literature and writing the way I have. From one of the ladies at work, to my not-quite-so-amateur Literature enthusiast dentist, I’ve had some lovely words of encouragement lately.

The first is one of the darling ladies at work, who I very infrequently bump into in the tea room, but is one of those people that despite everything just clicks with you. This kind lady has never worked with work me, has only spoken to me before work and in the tea room, and never fails to be genuinely supportive and incredibly generous with her kindness. After not seeing or speaking with her for months I sat across from her in the tea room last week, and as we had a chat and caught up she was absolutely delighted to hear of my pursuit of Literature, saying I must want to go to England, and being very excited when I told her of my hopes to visit Hay-on-Wye. When I mentioned the possibility of developing my script writing repertoire she suggested visiting New Zealand, because ‘they make interesting films there’.  It’s been awhile since someone, especially someone so far removed from the ins and outs of my life, has shown genuine interest and enthusiasm for what I have done and am aiming to do. It was refreshing and humbling and so deeply, deeply appreciated. When I have to finish my tea break she tells me she’s looking forward to seeing what I end up doing, and that she’ll be telling everyone she knew me way back when if I do end up publishing anything. I tell her she has full bragging rights.

Not a fortnight later I’m sat in the dentists chair talking to the nurse about life, the recent flash flooding, and my plans on returning to university to begin my PhD next year. My literary-minded dentist of many years walks in half way through and asks me to repeat my plans, because he wants to know, too. I think we spent at least five minute chatting about my Honours thesis and the possible direction of my PhD before any dentistry began. He tells me about one of his sons who wants to study Literature in England and become an author and professor, doesn’t scoff when I explain my interest in viewing modern and online media through a traditional literary and academic lens in the hopes of benefitting the academic perception of new media as an evolution, rather than a departure, from traditional communication, storytelling and meaning making. He totally gets it, and listens thoughtfully and responds in kind. So much so that while attending to my teeth he’s still bringing up related stories, like an exhibition of rare books and writing he recently saw when visiting London.

I left feeling very enthused, and very blessed, to have the fortune to encounter people, no matter how few and far between, who are so generous in their encouragement and interest. It meant a great deal to me, probably more than they will ever know, and despite the hardships that accompany Arts careers, they’ve fuelled my excitement for the future.