The 21st Century Is When Everything Changes

Hi everyone! This is not one of my scheduled posts, nor is it really focused on books, but it is something I really felt like I wanted to share with you. Yesterday I attended FanExpo Canada with a good friend of mine, Emma. She also has a blog, by the way, so check that out if you wish! Anyways, among some other things at the event, we both got to meet John Barrowman. For those who may not be aware, he played Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood, Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow (also other DC TV shows on the CW), and lots of theatre work. You can search him online for more of the things he has done.

When I knew that I was going to go to FanExpo, I immediately decided that I had to meet John Barrowman. I absolutely love Doctor Who and Torchwood and, apart from David Tennant’s Doctor, I feel safe in saying that Captain Jack is my favourite character. Even beyond that, I put a lot of stock into the things I love being a major part of who I am as a person, and Doctor Who/Torchwood happen to be two of the biggest pieces, as they were my gateway into science fiction. I say this because even though Star Trek (many versions) was on the television at my house a lot when I was growing up, I do not remember a lot of it, but I really remember getting into Doctor Who when it returned in 2005.

On this topic, I really hope that we get to see Captain Jack back again someday. I want him on Doctor Who again and I hope to see them resurrect Torchwood. I know there are certain things in the way right now, but I also know that those things (the person) are not going to be there for too much longer. So hopefully there is a shot. I, for one, will be tweeting, emailing, and signing petitions (maybe even starting my own) until we see Captain Jack again. If you can point me in the right direction for emailing the BBC and for petitions, I would greatly appreciate it.

So, back to FanExpo. I purchased a photo-op with John the day before and was ready for it. Well, as ready as I could ever be. When I meet one of the people who has been a significant part of something like Doctor Who, I get really nervous and excited. Honestly. I pretty much shake and have to focus on breathing because otherwise…well I do not want to pass out on anyone. I have to try to avoid letting anxiety take over. It happened a little year when I met James and Oliver Phelps (the Weasley twins), and of course it happened again (probably more significantly) this year with John.

The photo-op itself was really quick, since they have a ton of people to get through. This is how it turned out:

P-3R5-4AY-2E6

After getting out, I really wanted to get it signed. So Emma and I went to wait in his signing line until he was done with the photos. It took a while, but there were some pretty cool people in the line up. We had some great conversations!

This actually brings me to a point I want to make. It is why I sent out a tweet and Facebook post about how John Barrowman is one of the kindest souls I have ever met.  I know that he is quite excitable and “over the top” type of individual when he has his own convention panels and on the set of the projects he works on. I love hearing the stories and that excitement.

But I think what is most significant is how kind this man is. If you ask him for advice, he really takes the time to go through it and will take longer in lines to make sure that he gives you the best and most heartfelt advice possible. Seeing him do that is amazing and I know that the people asking will walk away with their lives changed in some way. It makes waiting in line to meet this man worth it. I would wait in line all over again, frankly.

I did get a short time to talk to him and did say that Doctor Who is a big part of who I am. I thanked him for being a part of it. I did not go into a lot of detail about why it is a big part of who I am, but I hope that he understood it anyway. If I ever get the chance to meet him again, I may just write things out before I get there. The good news is I know he understands people being excited and nervous because he is a massive fan boy of something himself. I have heard the story about when he met George Lucas.

Walking away from the experience of actually meeting him and seeing a video of the panel he gave the day before at FanExpo (which I wish I could have gone to), I have been doing some thinking. There has been this thought in my head for a little bit in recent weeks, but I think that having met John and all that yesterday has put me over the ridge I have been at.

I know that I am a writer. I write a lot on this blog (obviously) and I write most of the day at my actual day job with pay (because bills and things). But, I have somehow forgotten about the point of it all. A little while ago I actually finished a draft of a novel, but then it never went further than that. I feel like now I know…I owe it to myself to just do it. I owe it to myself to commit to working on it and doing everything I can to attempt to bring it into the public eye, whether that is through a major publisher, a small one, of self-publishing. So that is exactly what I am going to do.

Thank you, John Barrowman. For everything. You are one of the good ones out there.

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Rey Should Be Right In Front Of You

"I can do this... I can do this..."
“I can do this… I can do this…”

The hashtag #WheresRey, over the last few weeks, has been floating around the Internet as the result of Rey not being in most (any?) Star Wars-related merchandise.

I would like to say that I do not understand why this is the case, but unfortunately I understand why she is not being included all too well.

Hasbro, which did not include Rey in its new Star Wars edition of Monopoly, choose instead to include Finn, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Darth Vader as its game pieces. The company claimed that it did so in order to avoid spoiling The Force Awakens.

Target has an exclusive action figure set of six for The Force Awakens with four male characters—Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, and Chewbacca—and two unnamed characters, one a First Order Stormtrooper Officer and the other a First Order TIE Fighter Pilot.

Building on that, Rey is not even included in the Battle Action Millennium Falcon playset. Instead, it is Finn, Chewbacca, and BB-8. Hasbro does sell a version of Rey on her speeder bike, however it is not only difficult to find, but it also obscures all evidence that she is a woman.

As a result of her mysterious absence from Star Wars merchandise, many fans have engaged in #WheresRey and many others have written to Hasbro and other companies. J.J. Abrams has even stated that its “wrong that the main character of the movie is not well-represented.”

Since the fans’ outcry about her absence, Hasbro has stated that they will release more Rey merchandise and that she will be in the next edition of their Star Wars Monopoly. While this is good, I shudder at why she was not included in the first place. After all, she is essentially the heart of the movie and, in my opinion, the rest of the new trilogy.

So why are they excluding her? Companies are seemingly operating under the belief that young boys will not want to own a female action figure. Their excuses reek of sexism. Even if the idea about young boys not wanting a female action figure is true—which I know that it is not, based on substantial evidence I have seen around the web—what about the girls? In one of my previous links, it showed a letter from a young girl asking about Rey. There are countless female fans of Star Wars (and other movies, comics, books, etc. in this vein). What about us?

Think about how Hasbro said spoilers were behind Rey’s exclusion. Really? They could have shown Rey in her scavengers outfit with her staff, without her headpiece obscuring her face, and they would not have spoiled anything. We already saw that image of her in the trailer. Showing Finn in something other than his Stormtrooper outfit spoils his character arc, so why did they allow that? J.J. Abrams, though notorious about not wanting spoilers, has even spoken about this in the TIME article to which I linked.

Is this a spoiler? Didn't think so.
Is this a spoiler? Didn’t think so.

This is not the first time companies excluded a prominent female character from their merchandise. Need I mention Black Widow?

As I said, I think this is blatant sexism. They did not even try to disguise it well—despite their attempts to claim spoilers. This builds on the fact I have seen claims that Rey is a Mary Sue character.

First, if you are not aware, a Mary Sue is the term for a female fan-fiction character that is perfect in every way without any explanation. This article explains more of the origin, but this type of character often springs from an author’s self-insertion into the story and acts as wish fulfillment.

I have no issue with the idea of a Mary Sue. I have seen them around, and it does annoy me to no end. What irks me, however, is the less-mentioned Gary Stu, who is the male equivalent of the Mary Sue. Male characters are able to get away with so much more before anyone even thinks about labelling them as a Gary Stu.

Do you know how I know? It stems, once again, from the idea that women are not equal to men. It is not too often that people come out and say that directly, but I will.

Both in reality and in fiction, women are too often expected to work harder than men do in order to reach the same level of, well, whatever.

Let’s keep talking about Rey in this example. I have stated many are calling her a Mary Sue. Thankfully, the article I linked to helps me disprove this characterization. However, I will still go through it here with my own observations.

The points about Rey:

  • Very powerful, and yet no training in the Force
  • Well liked
  • Can speak more than one language
  • Decent fighter
  • Decent pilot

Many of these skills, I think, she gained by necessity as she was living as a scavenger on Jakku, including fighting for survival. Jakku is home to many different types of people and languages, so is it preposterous that Rye picked up some other languages? As for being well liked, what is wrong with that? It is not as if Kylo Ren immediately fell under her spell or anything (frankly, he did not at all)?

As for her piloting skills, firstly they are decent, not fantastic on the first time she flies the Millennium Falcon. As well, she uses the speeder bike, so clearly she knows how to operate a vehicle. Most of us learn how to operate a car at some point. Additionally, her first scene is scavenging for parts. It is entirely possible that, through scavenging for years, she learned what each part does, which would give her a working knowledge of ships and, oh guess what, how to pilot them.

Regarding those piloting skills, I would like to draw your attention to both Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Both men had “innate” piloting skills, with Anakin defeating people with a lot more experience and Luke destroying the Death Star in an X-Wing. Not only that, but I am sure both characters were well liked and had similar traits to Rey. Thus, if you want to classify Rey as a Mary Sue, you have to consider both Anakin and Luke as Gary Stus. The problem is, no one will. Men, even fictional characters, tend to have it much easier concerning talents. This does not even include getting angry or being “bossy,” which they are able to do without being called a bitch.

The criticism of her piloting and fighting skills does not take into account one of the many theories surrounding Rey’s identity: that she is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. If we assume this is true, then it gives her yet another reason for her skills. While children are different from their parents, they often inherit some innate abilities. The movies have already shown us that the Force is often an inherited, though not guaranteed, trait. Luke and Leia got it from Anakin, and Kylo Ren got it from Leia. So, if Rey is Luke’s daughter…why could she not inherit it from Luke?

Another theory going around is that she is Obi-Wan’s granddaughter. Again, this might account for some of her innate ability. Yet another theory suggests she actually trained at Luke’s Jedi Academy prior to the massacre and survived, though she had most of her memory erased. This would mean that she actually had training. You can also disregard how she knew about the Jedi mind-trick. We already know she has heard stories about the Jedi knights and that obviously would lead to stories of their powers.

There are many more reasons for Rey not to be a Mary Sue than there are for Anakin and Luke not to be Gary Stus, and yet people are calling her out. It boggles my mind.

When it comes down to it, Rey has the potential to be a hero for young girls across the world. Yes, we do have Leia, but Rey feels different. In essence, I see Rey as the female version of Luke Skywalker and other famous male protagonists. In the film, no one reminds us that she is a woman. We can see the difference, obviously, but it does not seem as if anyone really looks down on her for being a woman. Han Solo even offers her a job because he can see how talented she is.

"I can handle myself." "I know, that's why I'm giving it to you."
“I can handle myself.”
“I know, that’s why I’m giving it to you.”

The only ones who insist on reminding the world about Rey and colouring her image as somehow “less than” are the companies selling merchandise. Yes, she is a woman. Yes, she will be a hero to many young girls around the world. Just like Luke Skywalker is to boys (and, frankly, some girls as well). So why are people saying it would be a spoiler to have shown her in merchandise? Why are people calling her a Mary Sue?

Rey should be right in front of you. No question. So why does it seem like she, along with countless other female characters, has to yell ten times louder just to be heard in the same way as a male character?

~~**~~

I hope that you enjoyed reading this post, which is the first of two that I will be writing on Rey. I decided on two as this one was getting quite long and I still have lots to say about Rey.

I could not cover everything related to the events surrounding Rey not being in most Star Wars merchandise or everything disproving Rey as a Mary Sue. If you have anything to add, I would like to invite you to leave a comment below. All I ask is that you remain civil to anyone and everyone in the comments. Maybe I will see you down there!

The Shieldmaiden of Rohan

eowyn_lordoftherings-t

Today, I wanted to take a moment and talk about one of my all-time favourite fictional characters. I know it may sound cheesy, but I do consider Éowyn somewhat of a role model—an inspiration. She grows so much within Lord of the Rings, though she isn’t even considered one of the “main” group in most cases. My feelings about her within the series led to what I feel is the best essay that I have ever written—mostly because it has been the one that I have been the most passionate about. It was a character analysis of Éowyn and how she made the transition from the Propp personae role of The Princess to The Hero, and how that results in comparisons to the Chinese legend Hua Mu Lan (not the Disney version), the Grimm fairy-tale Rapunzel, and the skjaldmeyjar (shieldmaidens/female warriors) in Old Norse literature.

“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”

She is sad in the beginning. She is trapped, and what she fears the most is a cage.

“A time may come soon,” said he, “when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”
She answered: “All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.”
“What do you fear, lady?” he asked.
“A cage,” she said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

Éowyn takes the stride that she needs to, in order to get what she wants. She makes the decision that the possibility she may die does not outweigh her desire to be…free.

In the end she is able to do what no man could—slay the Witch-King. This turns out to be not only one of the most dramatic moments in the books, but also completely life-altering for Éowyn.

“And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.”

While I’m not going to be slaying any Witch-Kings, or at least not literally, at the core her journey is one that I wish to strive to. I want to be able to break free of any fears that are keeping me “locked up”, in a sense. I want to be my own hero, in the end.