via Shouting Into The Void | The Problem With The Big Bang Theory…

Sheldon Cooper vs. Abed Nadir

Sheldon Cooper (TBBT) & Abed Nadir (Community)

Here’s a very insightful post from the oft-insightful Tumbler-blog Shouting into the Void. I think it’s spot-on and I want to signal boost it all the way to Gallifrey and back. It concerns the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory and points out many of the problems with the way the show frames its geeky supposed-protagonists and pretends to be celebrating them when in reality it is pitting the audience against them. The author supports his premise in part by comparing TBBT to NBC’s less-lauded but far superior sitcom Community. It’s worth your time. Even if and especially if you’re one of my two or three readers who might not think of yourself as a nerd. Here’s a quote from the post and a link to the whole article:

The humour in The Big Bang theory relies on the audience siding with and relating to Penny, the character coded as “normal” in comparison to the main four guys. It also relies on the audience having a sense of superiority over Leonard, Raj, Sheldon and Howard. We’re supposed to feel like we’re cooler than them and that we’re better than them. This then prompts us to laugh at the things which make them nerdy, which stop them being cool, which make them lesser. This is done, in my opinion, to stop them from seeming intimidating. It’s essentially Chuck Lorre saying “Don’t worry, these guys may have fancy degrees, they may be more successful and more intelligent than you but they like sci-fi and read comics. They’re socially awkward and can’t speak to girls. You’re much cooler than they are so you’re still better than them.” This isn’t to say that we’re not meant to sympathise with Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard. Chuck Lorre doesn’t want us to hate them. He does, however want us to pity them. We don’t root for Leonard and Penny to get together because we think they’re a good match. We feel sorry for Leonard, we think Penny’s out of his league and we root for the underdog.

via Shouting Into The Void | The Problem With The Big Bang Theory….

via Jared Axelrod – Five Questions For Every Lead Character

Jared AxelrodThe Magnificent Professor Axelrod shares some writerly wisdom worth signal boosting:

Because these questions don’t just identify character quirks. They are cheat-sheet for what your lead character has to lose. They are a roadmap for how to raise the stakes. They identify five ways the character can change, simply by taking one of those elements away.

via Jared Axelrod – Five Questions For Every Lead Character.

Ebert on Media

Roger Ebert with a thoughtful quote

“The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about Basketball Diaries?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it. The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.””

Roger Ebert (via ibad)

Dysconcious Racism

I learned something useful today:

“Dysconcious racism is a term coined by Joyce E King (in the Journal of Negro Education, Spring 1991, JSTOR, but you can get it through Google, too) as “the uncritical habit of mind (i.e., perceptions, attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs) that justifies inequity and exploitation by accepting the existing order of things as given.” It’s pretty much the reason why Moff’s Law exists as a comment policy on pretty much any blog that seeks to analyse pop culture.

You know when people say stupid sh-t like, “there will ALWAYS be racism,” or “people have ALWAYS been prejudiced towards one another” and “human beings are just like that”? And, like, what the fuck kind of argument are you going to have with that kind of statement, anyway? It’s not like there’s any kind of untruth to them; it’s just that it’s a really f-cking lazy thing to say and absolves people of any responsibility to actually think and address the problem of, you know, RACISM!

Dysconscious racism in steampunk is part of a larger attitude of escapism, usually exhibited by people who just think steampunk (and other kinds of fiction) is a fantasy, and whenever you try to engage with them about the political implications of their very problematic ish (whether it’s literature or world-building or whatever), they get their “Why Do You Have To Be So Political About This?” tantrums on and “Suddenly The World Is Ruined and it is Totally Your Fault” because you brought it up, so there.”

Adding to the anti-racism lexicon, Jayme Goh rocks how dysconscious racism ruins steampunk on the R today. (via racialicious)

Scott Lynch Nails it on Agency

Elizabeth Bear Book Covers

Two covers from Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age series

… and I want more writers doing a better job treating non-typical characters with it!

I mentioned yesterday on Facebook & Google+ that I wish Mark Hodder’s novel The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack had at least one female character with enough Agency to make meaningful choices and affect the story.  I think this is a pretty big problem in a lot of the fiction I encounter. Well, today I was reading the blog of author Scott Lynch wherin he talks about his appreciation for fellow-author Elizabeth Bear and in the process he put forth his definition of “agency”, and I resonate with it a lot. So, when I rant about non-typical characters having more agency in fiction, this is pretty much what I mean:

[Elizabeth] Bear pries secrets and desires out of the unlikeliest places; she reflexively invests her creations with agency the way too many authors habitually rub it out. Agency, by the way, is not a synonym for political authority or combat prowess or physical strength or social sanction within a narrative. Agency means that an author recognizes and respects that each character has motivation, wants, and an inner landscape; it means treating them as something more than props and puppets. It means writing them as though their hearts and heads have actual contents deserving of examination. The ability to swing swords and wear crowns and command ships has nothing to do with it.

via Scott_Lynch: What We Talk About When We Talk About Bear (II).

In case you might be wondering, I also happen to think that real-life humans – ALL of us – deserve to be treated ” as though their hearts and heads have actual contents deserving of examination”. Let’s get to work on that.