Friday, February 28, 2014

Strong Female Character Friday: Storm/Ororo Munroe (X-Men)

By popular demand, it seems that today, as the last day of Black History Month, and as the last SFC Friday in our series, we're talking about Storm, or Ororo Munroe from the X-Men. Rock on. Last week we talked about Rue (Hunger Games), and before that we discussed Jenny Mills (Sleepy Hollow), and Jessica Pearson (Suits). I feel like we've covered a pretty good swath, insofar as one can cover a swath in four measly articles.

Anyway. Today is all about Storm. First off, we have to talk about how awesome she is, because she is hella awesome. But then we have to talk about something else, something (arguably) equally important: How did a character as ragingly amazing as Storm end up as one of the crappiest superhero adaptations in recent memory? Because let's be real, as good an actress as Halle Berry is in Oscar bait movies, well, that's how bad she is at playing superheroes. I've not even been able to get through Catwoman, and her Storm really isn't much better.

But first, let's talk about what we love about Storm. And, let's be real, there's a lot to love.

First off, there's her backstory. Storm has the kind of blissfully crazy and jam-packed backstory that all the best superheroes have. But hers is, well, kind of better than all of theirs. I don't think I can put it better than Nerdy But Flirty did, but I'll try: Ororo Munroe was born in Harlem, to the daughter of a long line of Kenyan priestesses and an African-American photojournalist. Shortly after her birth, her parents moved to Cairo, where they tragically died. Ororo (not Storm yet, that came later), grew up as a pickpocket in the streets of Cairo, before fleeing out in the desert as her nascent powers began to emerge. After nearly dying in the Sahara (but surviving because, you know, weather powers), she found her way to her mother's ancestral village in Kenya, where she learned to harness her powers and came to be worshipped as a goddess.

And then eventually she found her way to the United States and wound up with the X-Men. One fun version of how that happened has her catching Professor Xavier's notice as a chid in Cairo when she stole his wallet. Fun times. At any rate, Ororo, now Storm, joined up with the X-Men and quickly rose to prominence in the team. She became the default team leader when Cyclops was unavailable (dead, on leave, or being beset by relational problems again), and developed a strong maternal bond with some of the younger girls at the school. Kitty Pryde particularly.

Oh, and there's this bit of backstory they added in later where she saved T'Challa, or Black Panther, from racist thugs when they were kids, and then when they meet later in life, they fall in love, and he asks her to marry him and be queen of his country (Wakanda), and she says yes, even though she's turned down kings before. It's all very romantic, until, like always happens in comic books, it turns sour and they have to take a break, and she rebounds by leading a group of all female superheroes under the comic title X-Men, because heck yes Storm is that cool.

Did I mention that Storm had a mohawk at one point? It's not super relevant, it just makes me very, very happy.

So, obviously from my description, Storm is a cool character, with a backstory that sure as hell deserves a movie by now. Seriously. She's by far the most interesting character on the X-Men, and one of the most compelling figures in all of Marvel canon. Get on that, Fox. Stop making movies about Wolverine, and make a couple about our lady of bad weather, Storm. Please.

But the other thing that should be apparent from that description is that none of that was accidental. Storm is a cool character because a lot of writers throughout the years took the time and effort to make her one. She was created to be a strong character, she was intended to be a team leader, and she was. Storm isn't just a nice character who happened to get popular and then the writers took credit for that. No. She was always intended to be a lead. And that? That is awesome.

Because you have to remember that Storm is not a new character. She first came out in the 70s, and she's been a lead in X-Men literally since she showed up. She's the most recognizable black superheroes, and one of the first black female superheroes full stop. I cannot stress enough how important she is as a character, and I cannot stress enough how happy I am that so many writers put so much effort into making sure she stayed important.

Now there's the bad news, though. Because as much as Storm is kick-ass and amazing and occasionally practices nudism because she thinks we're all prudes and is the emotional core of the X-Men and may have dated Wolverine that one time and kind of sort of ruled an African country for a bit and refused to choose between being a queen and being a superhero, she's really one of the worst characters in the X-Men movies.

How the hell did that happen?

Like I said above, I think some of that has to do with bad casting. Halle Berry is a great actress, but she is not a natural at this superhero thing. She's no Chris Evans (Captain America and The Human Torch) or Ben Affleck (Daredevil and Batman). Hmm. Maybe Ben Affleck was a bad example. Anyway. Halle Berry really never seems comfortable as Storm. She never seems like she's having fun or that she's getting into it or even that she's there for anything more than the paycheck. If anything, she looks slightly pained all the time in all of the movies. And that's just no fun.

But that's not the only problem. I would say that the bigger issue we have with Storm is that the writers, the Hollywood script writers, that is, had absolutely no idea what to do with a strong, interesting black woman with no romantic ties to anyone in the story. Like, they just had no clue. They couldn't not put Storm in, because she's one of the best known X-Men, and one of the most popular female superheroes at all, but they also didn't know what to do with her. So they gave her a few quippy (weird) lines, and then mostly stuck her in the background while the white men sorted out the plot.

And then they did that in the second movie. And the third one. Why? Because they had no freaking clue what to do with her.

I get it. I really do. Change is scary and hard. If you write one female character of color as a person who doesn't need a man or a white person in order to relate to the plot, then you might have to write all of them that way! This leads to madness and chaos!

By which I mean that I do not get it, and the failure of the X-Men movies to provide us with an even vaguely recognizable Storm fills me with anger.

However. I have a solution to this. A good solution. You want to hear it?

Give Storm her own freaking movie. Now. Not in five years, now. I promise you that we'll go see it. And you know what? Don't cast Halle Berry in it. I know that black actresses scare you, Hollywood, but hold it together and bear with me for a second. You know who would make an awesome Storm? Bianca Lawson. Aka, the chick who played Kendra on Buffy and Ms. Morrell on Teen Wolf, and fourteen kajillion other interesting, snarky, clever women in between. Bianca Lawson should play Storm. And you should write her a movie that works. A movie with her full backstory, a movie about a woman who refuses to choose between being queen and being a superhero, a movie about a woman who has almost limitless power over the weather, and who decides that she'd like to teach high school for a little while. 

Give us a movie about Storm, the real Storm. The woman who loves Kitty Pryde like her own daughter, and who is such a badass she's beating up racist thugs as a pre-teen. Give us Storm who doesn't really remember American social mores some of the time, and really doesn't care. Give us Storm who was worshipped as a goddess and didn't let it go to her head, but definitely doesn't mind a little adulation and fawning here and there. Give us Storm. Give us her in all her awesome glory. And you know what we'll give you in return?

Money. Lots of it. So get on that, Hollywood.

Bianca Lawson. Just saying.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Brooklyn 99 Apologized for Rosa/Boyle. This Is Why We Love It.

So, fun story, the other day I was in Barnes and Noble, like you do when you're me and totally pathologically addicted to buying books, and I was just browsing in the nerd toy section, when this guy started talking to me. And I'm not exaggerating how random it was. It was literally a case of accidental eye contact, and then the guy started telling me how he was sad because he couldn't friend a girl on facebook because she has a boyfriend and it was a shame because she was such a cute geek. 

Friendzoned. What can you do? And apparently my breasts qualified me as a secondary character to whom he should reveal all his relationship troubles. Joy.

Whatever the reason, he proceeded to spill his guts to me as I casually tried to escape by walking towards the door and suddenly into aisles, etc. I guess this girl was really nice and friendly to him, but then he facebook stalked her and found out that she had a boyfriend, and they looked really good together, so he couldn't in good conscience be her friend. Because she has a nice boyfriend.

When I pointed out that this was whack and that he shouldn't use friendship as a currency to get sex, he was like, "Well, yes, but I just hate being friendzoned. And I don't want sex, I just want a relationship."

Friendzoned. I hate that word. I hate that word so, so much. More than you can possibly imagine. Or, if you're a girl, probably exactly as much as you can imagine. Because let's be real, ladies, this word is the bane of our existence. All my dudebros out there are really confused now, so let me back up a couple of steps. (And, in case you're interested, I will finish the story of creepy bookstore guy at the end of the article, so stick around.)

Friendzoning is a term that really came to prominence in the late 90s with a little show called Friends. It was the term they had for Ross and Rachel's relationship, where Ross waited too long to make a move on Rachel, and as a result was put in the "friend zone", where she was incapable of seeing him in a romantic light. He was trapped, and the only way out was to escape the friendzone.

It's a word you hear a lot on the internet today, with boys left and right complaining that their female friends have stuck them in the friendzone, or have friendzoned them. What they mean is that their female friends (girls do this too, but way, way less regularly), are doing them a disservice by choosing to value their friendship instead of seeing them primarily as potential sexual partners. They insist that being friends with a girl is some kind of punishment that the guy gets because he wasn't aggressive enough, or because this particular girl, "Only dates assholes."

So, basically, the friendzone is a made-up place that only exists in the minds of insecure boys who believe that the only reason a girl might have to not date them is that they are "too nice."

Spoiler alert: that's not the reason she doesn't want to date you. And, more than that, friendzoning is a terrible and harmful and generally disgusting way to look at the world. Why?

Because it supports the idea that the only relationship with merit is a sexual or romantic one. Male/female friendships are just the stepping stones to a sexual connection, in this view. If a woman is friends with a man and doesn't want to have sex with him, then she is being a slut, or a tease. If she confides in him emotionally, she is being misleading, and he is within his rights to call her a whore. And if she continues to not date him, and even has the temerity to complain about her romantic relationships to him, because she thinks he is her friend, then she's a bitch who can't see what's right in front of her.

More than that, though, it also absorbs the idea that any relationship with a nonsexual end goal, or with no end goal, like a friendship, is inherently worth less than one that could lead to sex. So, being friends with a girl is only worthwhile if it means that eventually she might want to date you. Being friends with a girl because she is your friend is stupid and pointless. The only relationships that matter in this worldview are sexual or romantic ones.

Sound familiar?

My feelings exactly.
The problem with this, with this whoooole thing is that it completely ignores a pretty important part of this equation. The girl. By which I mean, guys who complain about friendzoning are, by their complaints, implying that they don't think the girl they like has or should have any agency as a person. They don't think she should get to pick her romantic or sexual partners, because obviously she's bad at it. But here's the thing: even if she is bad at it, even if she genuinely dates assholes or idiots, that doesn't mean she's any less entitled to doing so.

It's her life. If she wants to keep dating idiots, then she can keep dating idiots. And if she doesn't want to date you, then she doesn't have to. Kindness and friendship are not tokens that you feed into a meter which eventually rewards you with a girlfriend. They're human things you do for other humans because you are also a human. 

Now, what does all of this have to do with Brooklyn 99? Everything.

A while back I wrote a rather protracted rant about the show, complaining that while I love Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), I was pissed as hell about her storyline. That storyline involved one of the other detectives, the schlubby Detective Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio). At the start of the season, Boyle has a crush on Rosa. Or, more than that, Boyle is obsessed with Rosa. He has dedicated himself to dating her. He obsesses over her. He buys hundreds of dollars in movie tickets on the off chance that she will go out with him. Boyle wants Rosa, and he is sure he's going to get her.

Rosa wants nothing to do with Boyle. He's not her type (the show has established that Rosa likes her guys tall, dark, hot, and monosyllabic), and she's really up front about that. She doesn't want to date him. She'd be okay with being friends, but Boyle keeps trying to make it weird. And here's the thing. We assume, as we're watching this, that Boyle is going to win. That at some point, Boyle will wear Rosa down and she'll go on a date with him, and she'll suddenly realize that she does love him after all. Because that's how the story works, isn't it?

The show even went so far as to have Boyle take a bullet for Rosa, who then felt guilty about how she still didn't want to date him, and then have Boyle reveal that he wasn't taking a bullet for Rosa especially, but that he was sure, someday, "When you do go out with me, and I know you will..." Boyle is sure that Rosa will one day date him because he's a nice guy. Because movies have always told him that this is how it works. And because Rosa is the girl of his dreams. So obviously the plot is going to bring them together, right?

Well, no, actually. So, when I wrote that article I was pissed as hell. But now? I feel awesome. I feel awesome because Boyle is now in an actual good relationship with a genuinely interesting woman who likes him for him and who is actually his type. She's a foodie, she loves classical cinema and doing nerdy stuff, she's an older, sophisticated lady, and she's totally crazy about Boyle.

But even better than Boyle finally being in a functional relationship, you know what happens in the episodes after? Boyle realizes exactly how creepy he's been to Rosa, and he apologizes for it. I mean there is literally a scene where Boyle apologizes for obsessing over Rosa and blaming her for not going out with him. And she forgives him, because she's a good person. They have fun together. They're friends. Real friends. Because Boyle has given up on his crazy idea of dating her, and is now treating Rosa as a person.

Plus, the show makes it clear that Boyle and Rosa weren't going to work as a couple. You know why? Because they have absolutely nothing in common. The woman that Boyle ends up with isn't a carbon copy of Rosa, she's a completely different person. Someone who actually likes the things that Boyle likes and who enjoys going to fancy restaurants and symphonies and stuff like that. Stuff Rosa hates. In reality, the biggest obstacle to Rosa and Boyle getting together wasn't the friendzone, it was the simple fact that Rosa and Boyle don't have anything in common. They don't like the same things at all. Why would they date?

And that's the part that most guys forget about friendzoning. That in all probability, if the two of you aren't dating, there's probably a good reason. Maybe she has a boyfriend already. Maybe she isn't attracted to you. Maybe you have absolutely no common interests. None of those things make her a bitch for not dating you. It's just life. 

So back to bookstore guy, and the other really important side of friendzoning and "Nice Guys". I said I was walking around the bookstore trying to lose him, and while that sounds funny, and it was kind of funny in the moment, it was also kind of not. I mean that I was very literally trying to lose him, because I didn't want him following me out of the store. I did not want this guy to see my car, to remember what it looked like, to find out my name, anything. I do not want this guy to be able to find me.

Why? I'm actually bigger than he is, and I could probably take him in a fight. I doubt he has kickboxing experience, and I really doubt that spends his days lifting fifty pounds of deadweight over his head (hey, who says nannying doesn't build good skills?). 

But he still made me nervous. This was a guy who couldn't take a hint. Who didn't get that I didn't want to talk to him. He was following me. And no matter what part of you is rational and knows the odds, as a girl, in a society where you expect to be blamed for whatever happens to you, it's gonna make you nervous.

He wasn't respecting my space, just like he wasn't respecting the choices of that girl he met. He wasn't respecting my right to my own space and my own privacy, and, really, my own body. I was there to give him the informational scene where I commiserate with him about his love life. I was a side character in the novel of his life, and it didn't matter what I actually thought of this encounter. It was all about him.

That is what made me nervous.

At any rate, the encounter ended surprisingly tamely. Finally fed up with his complaining and his terrible reasoning, I told him to stop treating this girl's friendship as some kind of consolation prize, and as he scratched his chin and said, "That's actually...really good advice," I literally ran away.

And now I can't go back to Barnes and Noble. Well, I can, but I don't really want to. I saw him there again a week later and I hid in the travel section until he went away. He was following a female employee around the store, talking at her.

So this, all of this, is why I'd like to thank Brooklyn 99 today. Because it realized that it had a problem, that Boyle's behavior was unacceptable, and that it was promoting rape culture. And then it freaking fixed the problem.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I Feel Like You Missed Something (The Long Earth)

Today we're talking about The Long Earth, a recent science-fiction collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Apparently it also has a sequel, which google just told me, and I will be sure to check that out. Since I just found out about that, though, bear in mind that this review kind of hinges on me not having read the sequel.

So, The Long Earth is a conceptual sci-fi novel based on a pretty cool premise: What if our Earth is just one in an almost-infinite string of Earths, all layered on top of each other like a deck of cards? And what if we could get from one Earth to another with just a single step? How would that change us as people? How would that change the world? And what would we find when we kept on stepping?

Obviously, these are compelling questions, and these are the questions that the novel seeks to answer. Going in every-so-vaguely chronological order, the book shows us Earth, our Earth or maybe not, on and around "Step Day" - the day that everyone on the planet found out about the Long Earth. One day there were plans, available for free online, of how to build your own "Stepper". No one knew what they did, but as soon as the Steppers were turned on, thousands disappeared, only to reappear in empty worlds. Two empty worlds, to be precise: Earth West 1 and Earth East 1. Those are the two directions you can step. East or West. And each time, you can only step to one new world.

Well, sort of. It's complicated. Let's leave it at that.

Our main-ish character is Joshua Valiente, a strange boy raised in a group home by a bunch of really unusual nuns. Joshua stepped on Step Day, like every other kid his age, but unlike all those kids, Joshua didn't get sick or scared, and he didn't freak out. He just calmly noted that he was somewhere new, and then helped everyone else get back. Then, when being questioned, Joshua freaked out and stepped without using his Stepper - which shouldn't be possible. Joshua is weird. Joshua is an enigma to the authorities. And Joshua might just be the key to figuring out what the Long Earth is for.

The book then follows about ten years after Step Day, as the world comes to grips with the idea of limitless Earths. At first everyone ventures a little bit away from home, going to Earth West 1 and 2, or whatever, but as time goes on, they step further and further away. Joshua goes in front, like a modern Daniel Boone, always heading out when he sees signs of people coming closer, but then doubling back to say hi to the nuns again, or get his mail. It's on one of these returns to the Datum (the original, inhabited Earth), that he is picked up by the Black Corporation, in order to have an audience with Lobsang. Lobsang is a computer. Lobsang is also, possibly, the reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repairman.

Lobsang is interested in the Long Earth. And Joshua. And lots of things.

But he's most interested in the Long Earth and Joshua. He's willing to blackmail Joshua into taking him out into the Long Earth, into the "High Meggers" - or Earth's a couple of million Earths away - in order to see if there is an end to the Long Earth, to see what's really out there, to try to understand what has happened. Joshua doesn't really have a choice, but it's an intriguing prospect. And so they're off.

That's not the only storyline, of course. There's also the story of Detective Monica Jansson, who ends up heading the Madison, WI response to Step Day, and goes forward as the only person who really understands what stepping means for public policy. And the narrative dabbles with other results, like families that step out into the wild yonder like old time prospectors or settlers. But most interestingly to me, the story deals, if only vaguely, with those people who cannot step. The "phobics", as they're called. And this is where my critique of the book starts.

I mean, it's only a critique insofar as I wish it were different. I don't actually have the answers to these questions, but I rather wish that Baxter and Pratchett did. Because the problem with the book, that I can see, is that it's far too concerned with the exploration of the ideas of what the Long Earth would mean, and not really enough concerned with making a coherent story.

Like, I agree, this is a fascinating concept, and I love the little ways that it explores what would happen ten years down the line as scarcity is literally removed, as a fifth of Earth's population abandons the planet, and as another fifth of the population is forced to stay at home, forever. I love the little weirdnesses in the book, with alternate evolutions on alternate Earths, with the "trolls" and "elves", which are alternate hominids that aren't quite human but are certainly interesting. And the whole idea of the Silence and Joshua's birth and all that jazz. It's all really interesting, sure, but it's not really enough.

Nothing really happens in this book. And that bothers me.

Joshua and Lobsang make this epic journey to the far reaches of the Long Earth, finding all kinds of insane and bizarre worlds along the way, eventually picking up a hitchhiker, Sally, and going all the way out until they find something a bit scary: a sentient ocean called First Person Singular, that has the potential to destroy all life in all the Long Earths. And you know what happens when, after four hundred pages, they meet this creature? Lobsang joins with it psychically, and Joshua and Sally go home. That's it.

But wait! It's not the end! There's still the situation back on Datum Earth, where the phobics are becoming more and more radicalized, incensed that they are stuck on this world while others can gallivant through the universes. The phobics turn political, and Rod, a kid whose whole family left him behind to become pioneers out in the Long Earth, brings a nuclear bomb to the center of Madison, WI.

Only in a world with stepping, it's easy not to get caught up in a nuclear blast. Everyone just steps away, and helps those who cannot step, and no one is hurt, not even Rod, and it's all happy endings and huh? I mean, I appreciate philosophically the idea of how hard it is to have a war when everyone can just step around it, but still. Narrative wise, that sucks.

And honestly, narrative wise, the whole book sucks. It's a mass of cool ideas and neat concepts, but poor storytelling, and ultimately limited emotional connection. You don't really care about any of them, because they're less characters than they are examples in the thought experiment that is this book.

Like I said, though, it's not that this is a bad book, per se. And I will read the sequel. I just expected a lot more from this. I expected the kind of emotional connection I usually get in Terry Pratchett's works. But it seems that in reaching for a higher concept and trying to explore that concept to its fullest potential, the book has lost out on engaging deeply enough in any one story to create a meaningful narrative. And that's just too bad.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Think of the Children! Tuesday: Holes

Today's Think of the Children! post is a little bit controversial. Not in that the movie we're talking about is controversial itself. It's only controversial in how much we all freaking like it despite the general trend that book adaptations kind of suck. But no, today's pick is controversial because it's hard to say whether or not it's actually a kids' movie. 

We're talking about Holes, for the record, if you didn't read the title for some reason.

So, is Holes a kids' movie? Well, obviously my answer here is going to be yes, since I am featuring it on my weekly post about children's media. But it's also not quite as simple as that. Because while I do think that Holes is intended for a young audience, I don't think it's meant for, you know, little little kids. More tweens and up, I would think.

But that's what makes Holes such an interesting film. Not that it's made for tweens and teens, but that it isn't made for adults. This is a movie about the juvenile criminal justice system, institutionalized racism, foster care, child abuse, and also murder, and it's intended for ten year olds. And here's the wackiest part of all: it's good.

How the hell did that happen?

Holes, based on the book by Louis Sachar (who wrote the screenplay as well), is a story about the boys sent to Camp Greenlake, a juvenile correctional facility out in the middle of the desert. Stanley Yelnats (a young, pre-crazy Shia LaBeouf) has been sent out to Camp Greenlake after his family's terrible luck got him arrested for a crime he didn't commit. Stanley, a young teenager, is sentenced to a vague period of time at the camp, in order to "reform" him. But really what they mean is that they're going to force him to dig holes in the hot sun all day.

Because that's what Camp Greenlake does. Overseen by the Warden (Sigourney Weaver), and her henchmen, Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), the boys of the camp head out every morning before dawn, into the dried up lakebed, where they each dig a hole. The holes are about five feet deep and five feet around, and you have to dig the hole until you're done before you can leave. And then in the morning you get up and you dig another hole. And another. And another.

Stanley isn't accepted at the camp at first, since the lack of genuine adult supervision has turned the place largely into Lord of the Flies land. Plus, Stanley is a soft, white, gentle kid, and that's like a gazelle prancing in front of a herd of lions on the Serengeti. They smell food. And then they attack.

The only one who doesn't attack Stanley is the one who is just as ostracized as him: Zero (Khleo Thomas). Zero, whose name is short for Hector Zeroni, not that anyone knows that, is a street kid whose mother has been lost into the system, and who was squatting at a bus station when he was caught. Zero has no friends or family - no one to miss him - and he's never really had any sustained human contact. He doesn't get most jokes, he misses common turns of phrase, and he can't read. 

But for all that, he isn't stupid, nor is he lazy. Zero proposes a trade with Stanley. If Stanley teaches him to read, then he'll help Stanley dig his holes. Win-win, right?

Well, not as far as the overseers of Camp Greenlake are concerned. Or the other boys. They see this as cheating, and also a waste of time. After all, Zero's an idiot who's never going to learn to read, right? The eventual confrontation over this causes Zero to assault Dr. Pendanski (who totally had it coming) and run off into the desert. Good for Zero, he's finally free of the abuse! And now he's free to die of dehydration and be eaten by buzzards. Crap.

Stanley holds out for a few days (while the Warden has everything Hector ever touched destroyed so they can't be held liable for his death), but then he goes after Zero. He feels responsible. And, I have to say, no matter how old you are, Stanley's escape is incredibly exciting and cheer-worthy.

Fortunately for our heart-strings, when Stanley finds Zero, Zero's pretty much fine. I mean, he's down to his last jar of sploosh (weird preserves he found in a wrecked boat on the dried up lakebed), but he's mostly okay. And he's never ever going back to camp. Instead, they're going to climb that mountain over there, where it rains, and see if they can get out.

Before I go any further, though, I should point out that there's another story going on in this movie. It's sort of vaguely hinted at sometimes, and then we get downloads of what's going on in nice chunks every once in a while. The story is about outlaw Kissing Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette), who buried her treasure somewhere in the lakebed. That's why the boys have to dig holes. But it's really about who Kissing Kate was, and what made her turn into an outlaw. It's tied into the story geographically, sure, but there's also this handy thing where Stanley's great-grandfather was robbed by her, thus kicking off the family curse, and where Zero's great-great(?)-grandmother was a psychic who helped her, etc.

Anyway, the plot doesn't just tell us about Kate's thieving, it also shows us her life before, when she was the kindly schoolteacher in Green Lake, a little town on the edge of the (then) lake. Kate was beautiful and much sought after, but her heart belonged to the "onion man", Sam (Dule Hill). They loved each other and were totally adorable together, but since Sam was black, and because Kate turned down the richest man in town to be with him, the town freaked out. Sam was murdered, the schoolhouse burned, and Kate went super duper dark.

Honestly? Good for her, at this point.

Anyway, at some point in there Kate buried her treasure, and then managed to curse the rich guy's family (whose granddaughter turns out to be the Warden), that they would dig and dig for a hundred years and never find the treasure. Then she dies of a self-inflicted lizard wound.

So, to point, the boat that Zero and Stanley hide in is Sam's boat, and eventually they find their way to the mountain, where they stumble onto Sam's old onion field, still growing well after all these years. But man cannot live by onion alone. And, Stanley and Zero think they might know where to find the treasure. They sneak back down and across the desert in the middle of the night, and they manage to dig up the treasure chest at last, only to be caught by the Warden and Mr. Sir and Dr. Pendanski. 

Only (and here's where the coincidence kind of kicks in), that's when Stanley's lawyer shows up to say that he's actually free to go, and then the Warden gets discovered for being a terrible person, and the treasure chest turns out to have Stanley's name on it (because it belonged to his great-grandfather), and Hector's been erased from the system so he can leave any time. And then the camp is shut down and the boys are all released and Stanley and Zero have money now and Zero finds his mom and it's all just so stinking nice.

Okay, so that's what happens. Why do we care?

Well, for starters, that story wasn't exactly morally simplistic, was it? And, remember, this is a movie and book for tweens. Ten year olds. The movie isn't some big dark and brooding drama, it's actually a pretty light dramedy, just one that happens to deal with child abuse and racism and sexual harassment and discrimination. But it does it all without being preachy. It's just what's happening to these boys.

What that does is makes this narrative wholly relatable, and not exactly tamed down, but translated into a medium that kids can understand. It's hard to tell a ten year old that systematized racism is responsible for the overabundance of poor kids of color in the criminal justice system, but you can show them Zero, and let them come to really like him, and when Zero gets hurt, they get mad, and when they find out that Zero isn't an unusual case, then it'll hit home. It simplifies the issues, not morally, but emotionally. We know that it's bad that the rich man is cornering Miss Kate in her classroom. We don't have to spell sexual harassment out here. Kids are smart. They don't need to be preached at. They just need to be told a story.

From a more technical standpoint, I have to give Louis Sachar a lot of props here. Most novelists are absolutely terrible at adapting their own work, but he did a bang up job. I would argue that the movie is actually better than the book, ever so slightly, if only for the fact that seeing the abuse these boys endure is more emotionally affecting than reading about it. At least for me.

And make no mistake. This movie doesn't pull any punches. The boys are funny characters, and they are, like kids, prone to making light of things, but this is a horribly abusive environment. That's part of what makes the story so powerful. It's about victory over systematized oppression. And it's for kids.

So, in short, if you don't love Holes, I don't really know what to do with you. You should love it. It's worth loving. It's a movie (and book) that takes complex, important issues, and explains them in a way that by no means lessens their truth or impact, but allows them to be revealed to kids. And that is so important.

Look at these cuties.

As for next week, quick poll! Should we cover Veggie Tales or Madeline?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sick of Hearing About Your White Boy Pain, Neal (White Collar)

White Collar is one of those shows that I like, but not quite enough to keep up with it regularly, you know? It's no Teen Wolf or Sleepy Hollow or Arrow, where I absolutely must be up to date on my episodes or I really will explode. It's more of a, "Hey, there's a new season of White Collar up on Netflix," kind of show. An "I guess we should get around to watching that," kind of deal.

And that's fine. I don't deeply resent this show for not being the best thing since sliced pizza, but it is kind of weird. I mean, by all accounts, I should freaking love this show. I should be rolling around on the ground crying about how much I love this show. It's a con show, which I love (see my lavish, rambling love letter to Leverage), it's got a rakishly handsome leading man (I'm shallow), and it even has its fair share of ladies, some of whom even (gasp!) talk to each other and are friends.

All in all, it's weird that I don't like this show more, isn't it? These are all components I love. And I really do enjoy it. I just watched the entire fourth season in a weekend. But I don't I guess? I don't know what it is, but for some reason, White Collar has never really done it for me quite the way that, well, Leverage has.

I'm lying there, actually. I do know what it is that makes me love this show less. But it's not something I normally say. At all. 

White Collar would be a better show if it had less character development.

I feel dirty saying that. And I should! My battle cry on this blog has always been More Character Development! More Character Development! More More More! It feels icky trying to reverse that, but I honestly think that's the problem here. Or rather, the problem isn't that there is so much character development, but rather how that character development is handled in the plot. Allow me to explain.

The show has a very simple premise: Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a renowned con man and forger, makes a deal with FBI Special Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) to be released from prison, on the condition that Neal help Peter with his white collar cases. So, we get some cute and funny buddy cops, stick Neal in a tracking anklet so he doesn't run off, and boom! Now we've got a show about the wacky hijinks of a straight-laced FBI agent and his slippery con man solving crimes in New York City. Awesome, no?

But here's the thing. As the show goes on, and we get to know each of the men, it sort of gets a little stale. Oh, the episodes themselves don't get stale. There are art heists and long cons and so many ridiculous sleights of hand. It's great. But the getting to know Peter and Neal? Yeah, it actually gets kind of old.

And this isn't Peter's fault. Peter, as a character, is appealing in his simplicity. Peter is married, to the lovely Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen). Their marriage is happy, for all its flaws, and they are a genuinely good match. The show, to its credit, has never really made a thing out of trying to wring drama from fights or upsets or trivial drama in the Burke household. Peter and Elizabeth are married and very much in love. Yay! Plus, Peter is a pleasantly simple book. He likes law and order. He has always like law and order. He believes in working hard, not taking shortcuts, and helping people. He was born to be a cop.

Neal, on the other hand, wasn't. And while this works for the show in their partnership, the problem is that the writers have kind of backed themselves into a corner. Because Peter is such a stable and normal character, every weird out of the blue thing that happens in the show, any melodramatic season arc they want to work in (and trust me, the season arcs are always melodramatic) has to come from Neal's side of the fence.

Some of that makes sense. Neal is a naturally flamboyant character, and he was a con man for years, so sure, whatever, he's got a lot of dirty little secrets. But seriously. Come on. Haven't we had enough of them by now?

First there was the whole thing with Kate (Alexandra Daddario), Neal's ex-girlfriend who was the reason he broke out of prison then made a deal with Peter in the first place. At first Neal's just chasing her because she dumped him and he doesn't know why, then we find out that Kate's been kidnapped, then we find out that Kate's kidnapper is looking for Neal's stash, then Kate dies tragically in a plane explosion...

Kate was kind of a mess.

But then, it didn't stop. After that we got Neal and Peter on a quest of find out who killed Kate and took this super special music box that could possibly lead to some Nazi treasure because of course it can. And then we meet Neal's old mentor, Adler, and he tries to kill Neal, and we find the sub full of treasure, but the FBI is onto them and also Adler is coming so Neal pretends to blow up the sub or rather he does blow up the sub but saves the art and then Neal and his best friend Mozzie (Willie Garson) are hiding the art from Peter, but Peter's onto them and also the FBI is suspicious so eventually Neal has to go on the run until Peter finds him and brings him back, only for Neal's recently unearthed mother figure dies dramatically but not before almost telling Neal the truth about his father and suitably tragic backstory and oh my gosh I'm tired.

And that didn't even go through season four. That's like, episode two of season four right there. There are another two whole seasons of that crap after that. You get where I'm coming from here?

Look, backstory is good. Character development is good. But I feel like in this case, the writers are using backstory as a crutch. And, again, that feels really weird to say, but I think it's true. The writers are using Neal's increasingly melodramatic backstory as a support system to prop up the show, instead of actually developing his character in the here and now. Instead of making Neal grow and change as a person, we're given more and more information about who he used to be and why that explains or excuses who he is now.

Except here's the thing. It doesn't actually explain anything. Not really. And it definitely doesn't excuse it either. 

So, in season four (mild SPOILERS), we finally find out what happened with Neal's family and who his dad is and all that. I say finally, but I don't really mean it, because, honestly, I didn't care. I wasn't staying up at night wondering why Neal Caffrey turned out the way he did. I was fine. Still, apparently we needed to know what was up with Neal's childhood, so the show told us. 

And then it went so far as to bring Neal's absent father back into his life and mess it up, and let Neal have all kinds of identity questions, and there was a little bit of sweetness about Neal considering Peter and Elizabeth his real parents (okay, actually that part was stinking adorable), but overall, it was just kind of meh.

Why? Because I don't really want to know why Neal is the way he is. I just want to know that he is the way he is, and then I want to watch him solve some crimes and seduce some ladies. It's his thing, and it works very well for him. I don't want to see Neal trying to deceive Peter because it never ever works, and it just gets them both in trouble, but I also don't really want to see episodes where they're up against some faceless conspiracy and the world is ending, etc. What I want out of this show is simple: I want to see Neal and Peter solve some dang cases then come home and have dinner with Elizabeth and Satchmo, their dog. 

That's it. That's what I want. But what the show keeps giving me is more and more of Neal being a tortured artist and more of him having identity issues, and how he can never really move on with his amazing, snarky, way-too-good-for-him girlfriend, Sara (Hillarie Burton), because he "doesn't know who he really is." Puh-lease.

So yeah, it's not exactly that there's too much character development, but rather too much backstory. Neal is pretty well fleshed out at this point. We know a lot about him. A lot. But he hasn't really developed at all. I mean, in baby steps, but not enough to merit the four years the show has been going. Neal's stagnating, because instead of trying to develop him in the present, the writers just keep trotting out old soap opera cliches about his past. And that's dumb.

Also dumb is the fact that Neal is defined by the men in his life, while the women tend to end up dead (see: Kate, his mother, and Ellen, his guardian). If they're lucky enough not to die, then the women must be either a recurring love interest, like Sara or Alex (Gloria Votsis), or a mother-figure, like Elizabeth or June (Diahann Carroll). 

The only recurring woman on the show who doesn't fit this pattern is Diana Barrigan (Marsha Thomason). Diana's interesting because she is the sole woman on Peter's crew, and also because she's a lesbian, and therefore immune to Neal's charms. She's a solid agent, and a good detective, she thrives at undercover, and she's a really cool chick. We like Diana. But it's important to note that the only female character on the show who isn't either Neal's mother or his lover is gay. It feels like Dean Winchester all over again.

I guess the problem with White Collar, the reason I can never really get as much into it as I want to is this: Neal. It's Neal. Or rather, it's that the whole show revolves around Neal. And it's cool for a show to have a main character, or even a central character. Whatever, that's great. But not to this extent. I want a show where Neal goes about his business and we see cool cons and he grows as a person and so do Peter and Elizabeth and Diana and Jones (Sharif Atkins) and Sara and Mozzie, and it's all fantastic. I'm just sick to death of this being the Neal sob story hour.

I believe the show can do better than this. And I'm more than a little insulted that they aren't.

The show has other redeeming features.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Strong Female Character Friday: Rue (Hunger Games)

Like I mentioned last week, February is Black History Month, and in honor of that, we're focusing on Strong African American Female Characters. First there was Jessica Pearson from Suits, then Jenny Mills from Sleepy Hollow, and now we're coming in with Rue from The Hunger Games - next week is a surprise, aren't you excited?*

I picked Rue for a number of reasons, not least of which is her age. For all that we complain about the representation of African American women on film and television, it's even worse when we start talking about kids. Kids get a hell of a bum rap. I admittedly don't know the exact numbers right off the top of my head (shame on me, I know), but just from a simple mental inventory it should be clear: we don't get to see a lot of African American kids, especially girls, in our movies. Not unless it's a movie about a black single mother or an inspirational story of hardship or something that can be otherwise categorized as a "black movie".

The Hunger Games is not a black movie. You can tell because it has a white protagonist, but also because it wasn't marketed to an exclusively white audience. This is, for the record, a good thing.

It also makes Rue's position in the film and book all the more interesting. Because for all that Rue is the innocent sacrifice that starts the whole conflagration, she's also a person. A kind of weird, occasionally not very nice person. And that, again, is a good thing. Why? Because kids are rarely shown for the complex, occasionally infuriating creatures that they are, and African American kids are given that opportunity even less than most.

For all two of you who need a reminder, Rue (the awesome Amandla Stenburg, who now appears on the also awesome Sleepy Hollow) is one of the tributes in The Hunger Games (I'm just going to take a leap and guess that if you're on the internet, you know what it's about). Rue represents District 11, which we are told is actually the poorest district, and the district with the most peacekeeper control and subsequently violence. District 11 is the agricultural district as well, and has a predominantly African American population. The implication this raises, of course, when combined with the shots of fields of cotton and wheat we get in Catching Fire, is that District 11 is barely one step removed from sharecropping, and it's a meager step if at all.

What we know about Rue only makes her a more tragic figure. She's young - the youngest tribute in the 74th Hunger Games - at only twelve years old. She comes from a single-parent family and has multiple younger siblings. She's playful and likes climbing trees. She's sweet. She likes birds. And she befriends and helps Katniss, which means that we are intended to love and mourn her. As I said before, her death is what drives the story forward. Her death is what causes the revolution.

And she's black. That's the other thing we know about her without a doubt. While her race was implicit in the book, it's (obviously) explicit in the films, and this angered a fair number of deeply racist people. Whatever. We didn't want to be friends with them anyways.

But the interesting thing about Rue's race isn't just that they made an implicitly black character explicitly so. That's actually not interesting at all. Sorry. No, it's actually that Suzanne Collins made the choice to make her sacrificial lamb of a character a little black girl. And in our society, in the culture that we're all steeping our brains in, that's never a neutral decision.

It's also not an obviously bad or good decision. While it's always cool to give African American children another role model to look up to (and Rue is a pretty rad chick), it's also a little uncomfortable that Rue is the sacrifice, not the hero. She can be sweet and funny and sassy and cool, but she's still going to die. She's a great character, but her ultimate contribution to the story comes not from something she does but from something that happens to her.

That's a bit more uncomfortable, isn't it?

It's also, sadly, a lot more common. Bodily autonomy is an uncomfortable issue to talk about, but it's even more uncomfortable when you think about all the historic ways in which black women, especially in America, have had their rights to their own bodies limited. Slavery, systematized rape, forced sterilization, none of these are fun to talk about but all of them happened, and all of them demand to be remembered.

So, yeah, it's a little bit uncomfortable that the most important black female character in The Hunger Games is best remembered not for her actions in the games themselves, which revealed a surprisingly sharp, even a bit wicked competitor who, despite the audience's need to infantilize her, stood a very good chance of actually winning the darn thing, but for dying. For lying there, dead, in a field, while Katniss, the white chick, sang a song and placed flowers and mourned.

Look, I'm not saying that Rue shouldn't have been mourned. That would be weird and sociopathic of me. What I'm saying is that I'm not comfortable with the story where Rue's great contribution to the narrative comes from a lack. It comes from her not being there. That's messed up.

I really want to attribute this, because I didn't come up with it, but I can't find the source post (help me, internet!) - anyway, I saw an awesome post on tumblr recently that suggested a different way The Hunger Games could have gone. In this version, it's Rue, not Katniss, who is the Mockingjay. Nothing against Katniss, mind, but this version of the story? It's actually a lot cooler.

In this version, Rue's still cute and lovely and sassy and fun and dark and capable of murdering a whole pack of teenagers (remember the tracker-jacker scene? not so cute.), but she's also got agency. She's the one with sponsors coming out of her butt, because she's so little and cute and the Capitol can't stand not rooting for her! She and Thresh bond, because she's like a little sister to him (as she is in canon), and it's the two of them who make it to the end. It's the two of them who defy the Capitol, refusing to break their bond, and it's the two of them who return home to their district, the most impoverished district, the one most ready for revolution, and light the spark.

Why the hell not?

Now, if that made you angry, if the idea of a Hunger Games that isn't about Katniss and Peeta and Gale makes you feel weird inside, I want you to take a long hard look at yourself. Why is that not something you want? Because I guarantee you that Rue's story is just as worthy of telling as Katniss'. And in a lot of ways, it makes more sense.

Rue sparks so much of the revolution, that wouldn't it be nice, just once, to see her live it? Wouldn't it be cool if the well-written black girl wasn't a casualty to the plot? Wouldn't it be cool if she lived and prospered and led an army to destroy the flawed governmental system? Wouldn't it be nice if she got to live her freaking life, instead of being killed so the white girl can save the day?

Yeah. It would.

Yes, it's a powerful picture. But living for a cause is better than dying for one.

*Next week's SFC Friday is a toss up between Lt. Uhura and Storm. Cast your votes now!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Girly Girls Being Friends and Fighting Evil. Yes. (Vampire Academy)

Vampire Academy has a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. This bothers me on a deep and meaningful level. Why? Because I saw this movie. I saw the movie that I can only assume the reviewers whose scores are currently tanking it also saw, and I did not see a movie of a level comparable with M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar

So what gives? Why is this movie being totally lambasted for the crime of being a little bit complex, and a whole lot not mainstream? 

Or, more specifically, why the hell is Vampire Academy tanking right now, while Robocop, which is, by all accounts, horrible, doing a lot better?

The answer, I'm pretty sure, lies in two places: first, in marketing, and second, in sexism.

I know, those are both really surprising things for me to complain about, right?

For those of you not in the know, or who just don't care enough to do your research, Vampire Academy is based on the book series of the same name. Apparently these books are really popular, which makes sense once you realize that they're a combination of Twilight and Mean Girls, which is kind of, well, a great combination. The movie tracks with the first book in the series, and follows Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), two vampire girls who've run away from school and are bumming around Portland, Oregon.

Lissa is vampire royalty, one of the Moroi (sort of like classical "high" vampires, only not evil), and Rose is her Dhampir (half-vampire, or "low" vampires) bodyguard. They're on the run from some unspecified danger, and as we slowly come to learn, even Rose doesn't know exactly what they're running from. Or why they ran in the first place.

But all that is moot because when the film starts, Rose and Lissa have been found, and the Guardians are there to drag them back to school. Vampire Academy, or St. Vladimir's as it is more properly called, is an uptight boarding school where vampire children go to learn how to control their powers, or learn to fight, and to be protected and coddled in a safe environment. Also it's apparently in Montana.

The first part of the film has Rose and Lissa dealing with a lot of crazy high school stuff - catty girls, namecalling, hardcore bullying, and some awful pranks - but as it progresses the story becomes a bit more sinister. Someone is clearly trying to get Lissa to use her powers more fully, and, more specifically, to reveal herself as a very powerful magic user, the likes of which hasn't really been seen since St. Vlad himself.

Oh, and she can bring animals back from the dead, heal people, and generally kick some major ass.

Which would be fine, if it weren't for the part where using her powers makes Lissa weird and a little crazy, and also she has a soulbond with Rose that makes them both frustrated and more than a little codependent, and Rose is a control freak who meddles in everyone's lives, and so on and so on and so on.

Those so ons aren't a bad thing, for the record. I actually quite like how the story is handled here.

Now, for a while, we think that the badness in the story is coming from the third group of vampires: the Strigoi. The Strigoi are more classic vampire villains: soulless, immortal, powerful, and mildly psychotic killing machines. A Moroi vampire can become a Strigoi, if they kill anyone they're drinking from, and it's a constant danger looming over everyone's heads. The Strigoi are, after all, the Moroi's only natural predators. They're what the Dhampir are trained to fight. 

And this is made even more important by the fact that Lissa is a solid claimant to the throne, and the Strigoi probably want to eat her. Because she is a nummy nummy treat. Except it turns out that the Strigoi aren't the real villains here (at least not right this second) - it's actual other Moroi who are the bad guys. 

People who want to use Lissa's amazing gift for their own selfish purposes, and people who are willing to drive her insane to do it. That's what Rose and Lissa were fleeing from, and that's what's going to potentially kill them before Lissa can ever even get within sniffing distance of the throne.

But all of this is plot. The real story here is actually a lot simpler. It's about two girls, a friendship, and having each others' backs. 

You see, while all of this craziness is going on, the movie really just focuses on Lissa and Rose, and later their friend Natalie (Sarah Hyland). Lissa and Rose have a bumpy return to school, and face some intense bullying. Their reactions are really different. Rose figures that it's annoying, but whatever, there's a real threat out there and they should be ready for it. Lissa, on the other hand, sees the psychological aspects of the bullying as a real threat in and of themselves, and decides to end all this nonsense by taking back the school. By force, if necessary.

It's not a narrative we see a lot, where the two characters start off as really close friends, who then waver as they grow apart, only to come back together in the end. Or we do see it sometimes, but usually only in a romantic context. This is not a romantic context.

I mean, yes, there is some lesbian speculation among the other students about Rose and Lissa - they lived alone in the outside world for a year, and Lissa had to feed on Rose to survive (which is very taboo) - but the real love story here is a platonic one. And, even better, Lissa goes so far as to call Rose her soulmate. In public. Just because they aren't sexually attracted to each other doesn't mean their love isn't important. At the end, they both each have a solid love interest, but they still care most about each other. And I'm really okay with that.

So we've got a heartwarming story about female friendship overcoming all obstacles, some kickass vampire mythology and a really scary overarching plot, as well as teenage cattiness and some attractive love interests. What are we missing? Oh yeah, humor. Well, don't worry. This movie is funny. Really funny. Like actually laugh funny. Mostly down to Rose and her quippy remarks, but I'm okay with that. Rose is a cool character. I like her. I like how she can't not snark. And it's really fun to watch a movie with this much going on that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's having a good time, and it wants you to do the same.

With all of this in mind, then, why is Rotten Tomatoes having such a fit over this film? And why is it totally tanking in the box office?

Like I said in the beginning, first you have to blame the marketing. I barely heard about this movie coming out, and I am in the movies all the freaking time. Like, I am their absolute target audience. I will go see anything. I saw Bullet to the Head for crying out loud! Market your movies to me!

But for all that, I saw exactly one trailer for this movie before I went to see it, and I saw one poster. The poster looked dumb, but the trailer was funny, and I figured that I might as well see the movie. I'm glad I did, but again, I will watch literally anything. So, the net was pretty wide here. What about all the people who just plain didn't know this movie came out? Or the ones who saw the poster, but didn't get it? Or, probably the biggest group, who saw the poster, and the trailer, but totally forgot it existed?

I bet a fair number of them would have liked it. Just saying. It's a fun movie. I also think it's worth noting that while the critics score on Rotten Tomatoes is at a 9%, the audience score is at 77%. And that is a hell of a difference. So what's up with that?

Well, here I think we really do come down to sexism. Not the obvious, "Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!" sexism we're trained to think of, but the more insidious kind. The kind that suggests that a female protagonist movie needs gravitas, and strength, and a, well, masculine hero in order to be "good".

Hunger Games. I'm talking about Hunger Games. These critics are pissed because it wasn't Hunger Games.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love me some Katniss. But it's reductive, and frankly awful, to believe that a movie is somehow lesser because it doesn't take itself seriously. Because its characters wear makeup and flirt with boys and like having pretty dresses. Rose and Lissa being attractive women who enjoy being attractive does not make them kick less ass, nor does it make their story less important. Unfortunately, though, we're conditioned to see them as trivial. Silly. And a little dumb.

That and, to a large extent, the film critics just don't get it. They do not get this movie. At all. You know why? Because almost none of them remember what it was like to be a teenage girl.

Seriously, I had flashbacks. Horrifying flashbacks. This movie was a little too accurate sometimes.

It's a bit frustrating, really, that the arbiters of our culture are so overwhelmingly skewed to one particular demographic that they really have no appreciation for a movie like this. It's not too complicated for viewers to understand, guys, nor is it too trivial. It's funny, yeah, but that's a feature, not a bug. And yes, these teenage girls spend an awful lot of time talking about boys and what they're going to wear to the dance, and I get that this annoys you. But you know what?

We do. We do actually talk a lot about clothes and boys and things like that. Or we don't. But either way, there is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, we live in a society that would much prefer to stigmatize feminized expressions of teenage girldom in favor or more masculine role models.

And again, that's not a dig on Katniss. I like Katniss. I just also happen to like Lissa and Rose. Can't we have both? Can't we have the girls who like makeup and boys and then kick ass, and the girls who don't give a crap and also kick ass? I'm pretty sure there is room in this culture for more than one interpretation of womanhood.

So, I guess what I'm saying is this: Go see Vampire Academy. It's funny, it's sharp, there's good action, it's got a freaking amazing speech at the end that says everything you would want to say to a bunch of teenagers, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. As for those critics who didn't get it, your loss guys, but don't worry. I'm sure someone will be along soon to take your place. Someone who does get it.

Also, Dimitri (Danila Koslovsky) is dreamy.