GMX Bound

Geek Media Expo is going down this weekend and I’m too stoked for words. In fact I’m packing up and heading out now.

If you’re in the Nashville area, you should definitely stop by. Yours truly is going to be a guest along with some most excellent peeps.Below is my schedule. I’ll definitely be wandering around and sitting in on other events so don’t be shy.

And as always, yes, I will be armed with a camera. You’ve been warned.

Saturday, Oct. 27

9 AM: Resources for Local Authors

Local authors Sara Harvey, Denny Upkins and MM Buckner come together to share the hidden treasures and possibilities of Nashville’s writing scene for writers and readers alike! Bookstores, events, local groups and book clubs, all the things.

6 PM: LGBT Characters In Genre Fiction

Discussion of gay, lesbian, and transgendered characters in fantasy and sci-fi. Featuring Sara Harvey and Dennis Upkins.

8 PM: Your Favorite Lesser Known Whedon Character

Joss Whedon has created some of the most powerful and memorable heroes. But it’s his one shot and minor characters who are his best kept secrets.

Nobody deserves abuse, not even Evil Queens

This post comes with a spoiler alert for next week’s episode and trigger warning for frank talk about domestic violence and intimate partner abuse.

You listen here, ABC’s Once Upon A Time.

Let me make one thing absolutely fucking clear.

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My Media Litmus Test

A little known fact about yours truly.

Since the release of Hollowstone and garnering a respectable following online through places like Ars Marginal, I’m often solicited to review and endorse books, tv shows for virtual strangers and their websites. For many I’ve taken up the opportunities, as many of you are aware and for others I turn down these requests.

It’s interesting because while the solicitors don’t know me well or at all, for some reason they think they are entitled to my time and energy. However if they knew me for five seconds they would know why I might be turning out endorsing the media. Like most people, said time is precious but more than that I have a Litmus Test that I use whenever I ponder on considering new media to consume. Now while there are obviously exceptions to the rule, more often than these are guidelines I run with.

This Litmus Test is a series of simply questions I’ll ask before I even entertain watching a television show, reading a novel, a comic book, etc.

Question 1: Is the lead or central protagonist a person of color?

Question 2: Is the lead or central protagonist an LGBTQ?

Now if the title in question has already failed to pass the first two checks, it’s not looking good but it doesn’t mean it’s automatically eliminated. There are 3 saving grace questions I’ll pose then.

Question 3: Is the writing exceptional? And by exceptional, I mean would I as a fellow writer be impressed? By exceptional, I mean is it on some Octavia Butler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joss Whedon, Russell T Davies, JK Rowling level of exceptional?

Question 4: Is there eye candy? Because if the eye candy is pretty enough I might be willing to overlook a lot but there better be some smoking eye candy?

Question 5: Does this project feature Gina Torres in any shape or fashion. Because if the Goddess herself is involved, game on!

No? Nada? Then chances are I won’t be reading or tuning in.

“Oh but Denny,” many of you say, “You’re being SOOOOOOOO unreasonable?”

Am I? Am I really?

I missed the law that was passed that said that I am obligated to support any and all straight white media that passes my way. I missed the part where my personal decisions about what media I choose to view affects anyone else.

However you tell some fans why you have legitimate issues with the new regime running Doctor Who or why you think Game of Thrones is a train wreck they act like you just assaulted their first born or something.

And then when you voice how you’re sick of minorities being denigrated and erased, mofos look at you like you’ve lost your damn mind. Like in the 21st I’m supposed to be grateful for table scraps, of one dimensional token sidekicks and racist homophobic caricatures. I should be grateful and have faith and trust and wait for things to gradually get better. I’d be better off waiting for Godot and waiting to exhale.

But answer me this, how many straight white people do you know go out of their way to view media where they aren’t featured as the primary or central protagonists. How often do they seek out QUALITY media (and no BET and Bravo don’t count), that features POCs and LGBTQs with RESPECT? How often do you see them going out of their way to better learn about their brothers and sisters of different ethnicities and different orientations?

Exactly. Just like I thought.

There desperately needs to be more diversity in the media. While my options are immensely limited, the fact of the matter is I do have options, thanks in large part to the world wide web.

While Hollywood continues to hemorrhage money and can’t understand why most of its movies are tanking, they still have yet to figure out why series like Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers and Unwritten Rules have been a huge hit.

Keep your crappy NBC dramas, my must-see TV Thursday is reserved for Olivia Pope on the hit series Scandal. My Friday nights are with a sexy dame known as Nikita.

Keep your Nu Who, I’ve got seasons of Torchwood, the Sarah Jane Adventures, and the RTD era of Who that are not getting old anytime soon.

While some of the comics I’m reading are often to critique in how NOT to storytell, there are so many shitty titles that I’m happy I’m not reading: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, pretty much everything in Marvel. In fact the only thing I am reading and enjoying are Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales), X-Factor, any Storm-centric X-Men issues (the goddess still gives me life), classic Midnighter and the vintage Cassandra Cain. And less I totally geek out, I won’t mention how much I live for Kevin Keller.

Keep your 50 Shades of Grey and Save Your Pearls, my reading list consists of Catherine Llundoff’s Silver Moon, Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes series, Sarah Diemer’s the Dark Wife, Ankhesen Mie’s Folklore, I can continue on and on.

I can read high fantasy plays that feature leading queer black and Latino protagonists.

And for stuff that I want to see but is not out there yet, well, I just write and publish my own stuff.

So no, I don’t have to settle and I’m not going to settle, and I couldn’t be happier with my choices. I’m being sufficiently entertained, the art is challenging me and transcending me as art should but more than that, I’m supporting marginalized media.

If the media can’t pass one simple test, then it’s not really worth my time. As far as settling for table scraps, those days have long since passed.

Recommended Reading:

Counting Colored Cash: http://arsmarginal.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/681/

Web Media: http://arsmarginal.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/web-media/

You Got That Moxie Baby: http://arsmarginal.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/you-got-that-moxie-baby/

A Semi-Coherent Rant on Homoerotic Subtext

This is something I’ve talked about before with reference to the Bromance in Teen Wolf. But that was through moderate, restrained and I’m done with that. My temper has snapped and it’s time for a rant.

I am bloody sick over the fawning over shows because of their pathetic subtext. Call it slashwink. Call it “queerbait.” Call it homo-bromance. Call it what you will, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it being used as a complete replacement for actual GBLTQ content or characters. I’m sick of the massive praise and joy of the latest hint of homoerotic subtext with barely a breath of criticism of the complete and utter erasure those show actually have.

And enough with the fucking “fanon” wish-fulfilment. Slash fans over and over again pretending that the characters are being presented as “bisexual really so it’s INCLUSIVE honest” – of course because it makes their thrice damned ONE TRUE PAIRING canonically possible. Stop! Your desperate attempt to morph the show to fit your fantasy doesn’t make it inclusive or real. Desperately trying to cast Dean as bisexual as canon? Really? And there is no damn indication on the show that Stiles is bisexual (no, Word of Gay doesn’t count, especially when it’s “could maybe, sorta, possibly” slashbait). And if one more person asks me “How did he get the numbers of all those drag queens?” as some kind of proof of his bisexuality, I’m going to scream. He has the numbers because the writers wanted to make a recurring homophobic joke, you clueless fetishists! So they could drag up the drag queens whenever they thought they could get a cheap freaking laugh out of it. The same damn reason they had Stiles fake!come out to his father so he could hit back with a gay joke. It’s not like they didn’t do it before – Scott and Danny dancing, appropriating the hundreds of gay teens who have been evicted from proms for daring not to be closeted – remember that? Yes, mere mention of TEH GAY is considered funny – it’s a homophobic convention that’s been going on since the 60s, if not earlier. Yes it’s old and yes it should have died but it keeps on going – not least  because of slashers grabbing them and jumping up and down with glee over a tired, homophobic, trope.

And don’t tell me that the people who are uncritically squeeing and fawning and praising are the exception. They’re not, they’re really not and, just like with the m/m genre, there’s a distinct lack of criticism of this bullshit and a lot of hostility towards those – especially gay and bi men – who presume to do so. Challenging this subtext is not even slightly the norm.

And yes, the use of subtext instead of inclusion IS BECAUSE OF YOU! Slash is part of the cause! Stop wringing your hands and pretending that slash fandom bears no responsibility for this! That it’s unknown and hidden and why would anyone ever try to direct things at you, the great big secret?! It’s ridiculous to pretend that slash isn’t part of this and then turn round in the same damn breath and be so bloody happy that ZOMG the slashers being TWEETED by the writers of a show and isn’t it amazing?! Or how this actor acknowledged an OTP! Or how you all mobbed a show creator on Twitter and now he’s talking about your pairing! ZOMG!

The writers, the actors, the networks they know about slash. This isn’t new! Or shouldn’t be to you by now! They play to it, all of them. They write the little moments like Stiles passing out on Derek or Castiel talking about his “profound bond” with Dean because they know you’ll lap it up. They produce vids like Tyler Hoechlin cuddling up with Dylan O’Brien on that boat or scenes at conventions like Misha Collins pretending to kiss Sebastian Roche because they know it’s throwing red meat to a large and loud portion of their fanbase. You are having an effect. You are a market they are playing to – and they are playing to you WITHOUT being inclusive because that is sufficient for you.

And don’t tell me this slash fandom is somehow making progress. Supernatural has been running for 8 freaking seasons. Eight. It has openly acknowledged slash in its own canon since season 4. Actual inclusion? Virtually non-existent. Bit characters, usually for comic relief. And why should they do more? They don’t need to be inclusive, and the “offense” risk that brings, because they’ve got a legion of slash fans ready and eager to scream “ZOMG BEST GAY THING EVAH!”

Why make tokens for inclusion cookies anymore? You just have to have hot 2 guys share a lingering look and a gazillion fans will jump up and down panting and hail you as more gay friendly than a rainbow full of glitter covered unicorns. The writers, actors, producers et al are HEARING you, they hear what you’re saying, they see what you’re writing. Congrats, you have been noticed.

But what they’re hearing you say is not “inclusion of GBLTQ people is important,” they’re hearing you say “ZOMG my hot fetish is so hot! Mooooar subtext, rawr!” because that is what you’re saying. Even the protests to make GBLTQ characters canon isn’t “we need some better representation of under-represented GBLTQ characters” it’s far more “MY OTP IS HAWT! I WANT TO SEE IT!”. No-one’s complaining about there being only one GBLTQ character on Teen Wolf and him an under-used token – they’re complaining because they want to see their hawt STEREK!

They’re listening to you – but what the slash community is demanding only pretends to be GBLTQ friendly.

These shows aren’t improving with your slashing. Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Sherlock, Vampire Diaries, Hawaii Five-0, Merlin (and how many others – Being Human UK & US? Grimm? A gazillion more fandom staples) – how many GBLTQ Protagonists? How about main recurring characters?

And this is not only damaging on the inclusion on these shows but it’s also damaging on both criticism and expectation. I’ve seen 2 blogs criticise Teen wolf – rightly – about its crappy depiction of women (we agree, we did too) and it’s awful depiction of race (we agree – and wrote a piece but then Racialicious released their piece a day before, curse our schedule!) and both PRAISED Teen Wolf for its depiction of gay characters. That should be character, of course, single – Danny who only shows up when straight people need something and then for the briefest moment. But hey, he wasn’t been beaten to a pulp! PRO GAY GUYS!!!! This is how low our expectations are – but hey, we got the slashwinks right?

And I’m bloody sick of being asked about boycotting shows for their failed inclusion by people who are loving the damn slashwink bullshit (and completely ignoring GBLTQ erasure in those same shows) – have you seen our watch list? If we boycotted the erased series we wouldn’t have watched half of them – if we don’t include the blatant tokens only a tiny fraction are left!

And don’t even dare to say “baby steps” to me because I am done with that. It is 2012 it’s time to grow the fuck up and start striding – or, since we’ve got so far to catch up – bloody sprinting. We have a media culture that can manage to produce Captain Jack Harkness and openly gay school kids on Glee (for all the many many things wrong with that show), True Blood (for all its many problems) can fit in several gay characters, Lost Girl can have a bisexual protagonist (yes it has problems, but it and Torchwood remain the only programmes I’ve watched not aimed at a GBLTQ audience that actually has us as protagonists). Don’t tell me Supernatural just cannot cannot cannot possibly manage an actual gay character or Teen Wolf couldn’t pull out Danny from the plot box now and then or the Vampire Diaries couldn’t manage a gay character who isn’t putting his straight daughter through torturous conversion therapy while she screams that she’s born this way (yeah that was really fucked up, by the way). Screw your damn baby steps, subtext isn’t a baby step, it’s not even standing still – it’s a great big step backwards to a time when hints were all we can manage. It isn’t the 90s anymore, let’s stop settling for it.

All in all, I am so bloody sick of slashers revelling in, praising and supporting the subtext and completely ignoring or hand waving the erasure and the tokenism. And I am sick of these shows that continually erase us or token us throwing out this subtext and calling it inclusion. We deserve better than this.

Avengers vs X-Men Review: Why I’m STILL Team X-Men

Each time I’ve read an issue of Marvel’s “biggest event of the year”  Avengers vs X-Men, I felt dirty. I feel like Tom Buchanan reading Goddard’s Rise of the Colored Empire because the themes in both are the same. In fact I’ve felt this way for too many comics I’ve been reading from the big two. But a theme in Marvel was even more blatant in the AvX storyline:

When minorities get too much power, you’ve got to put them down.

When women get real power, they forget their place. They can’t handle real power. Scarlet Witch, Jean Grey, Hope, they’re too emotional and too fragile, not like Silver Surfer, Nate Grey, Cable or Thor. Women can’t handle real power, you’ve got to put them down.

 

When blacks get uppity, you’ve got to put them down. That’s why the Avengers didn’t lift a finger to help Wakanda when Doomwar went down and we saw how Tony Stark betrayed Blue Marvel because he couldn’t be trusted with too much power. Blacks and other POCs can’t be trusted. You’ve got to put them down.

 

It’s okay to have gays as token sidekicks but if they prove to be serious players, a la Wiccan in Children’s Crusade who showcased some serious power and proved he might be a formidable contender in the sorcery game, and will quickly forget his place. Freedom Ring actually thought it was okay to be a gay superhero and an awesome one at that. He forgot his place. You’ve got to put them down.

It’s okay for mutants (the metaphor for marginalized people) to be be on the edge of extinction and be hunted and murdered. But we can’t allow them to get real power to dismantle institutional oppression and change the status quo. YOU’VE GOT TO PUT THEM DOWN!!!!!!!

For those of you who are just joining us, the series focuses on the return of the Phoenix Force, the cosmic entity of death and rebirth, as it looks for its new host, believed to be the teenage mutant Hope Summers, who will possess all of its power. Cyclops and the other X-Men want to protect her and prepare her as if she’s to be the mutant savior, while Captain America and the Avengers want her handed over to them so they can figure out what to do with her and keep the world safe from a potentially deadly fate (the return of a minority group.) —Summary courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marvel has produced some shoddy writing in its day but this might be the worst yet. In fact it makes Civil War look like A Tale Of Two Cities.

But what’s really frustrating about Marvel is that their stories have so much potential and they squander it almost without fail.

 

The fact is that The House of Ideas does indeed come up with some excellent concepts. However Marvel will consistently sabotage their own stories to maintain the status quo if said storytelling will result in character development or changing the landscape of the universe such as protagonists being unheroic or venturing the universe into unfamiliar territory.

Examples include but not limited to: Hulk being shipped off to another planet by his friends and their ship accidentally murdering his wife. And while his comrades had a legit reason for their dubious actions, rather than explore their corruption, it deus ex machina’ed that some random alien sabotaged the ship and thus all the Marvel “heroes” are still good. Scarlet Witch murdering three Avengers and wiping out mutants, only it wasn’t her fault, a bad force made her do it. Tony Stark violating the Civil Rights of metahumans (yes I know that’s a DC term but roll with me here) and minorities only he gets amnesia and doesn’t remember his crimes. To be fair the last one was probably the best play Marvel could’ve made because even now I still can’t look at Stark as anything other than a racist Nazi fascist (read Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel to see Stark’s racism at play).

The point is Marvel sabotages its great ideas maintain the status quo and maintain one dimensional characters: House of M, Civil War, World War Hulk, Children’s Crusade, Doomwar, etc. and so forth. AvX proved to be no better.

The story was sloppy and all over the place with a few flashes of brilliance. Said flashes came in a comment Rogue made which sums up the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict accurately. The Avengers were fighting to maintain the status quo, the X-Men were fighting to change it.

Of course the best point was made in this scene here:

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Brain Food – Episode 23

Hello everyone, and welcome to episode 23 of Brain Food, wherein I discuss the Batwoman TPB, Elegy, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by JH Williams.

I also have it on youtube, for those who have trouble with blip.tv.

I hope that everyone enjoys the episode… for next episode?

RAGE.

Occupy Sesame Street

Like many people, PBS and I have a long history. Like most children who grew up in working class homes and didn’t have cable or many resources, my parents, grandmother and teachers understood that education was important and it needed to be mixed in with media we consumed.

I discovered some true treasures through PBS: Sesame Street, the Letter People, Reading Rainbow, Masterpiece Theater, Doctor Who, Lambchop, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, Ghost Writer, and many others.

When I was in college, I had the honor of volunteering for one of the PBS Telethons because I know what positive impact it makes in people’s lives, especially for many of us who came from a challenging background.

Which is why I’m both disgusted and horrified that a politician would threaten to cut the funding for PBS when its funding only constitutes of .012 percent and the rest is provided through private donations.

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