Thursday, December 16, 2004

And... Here's Leguin's Proper Response to Earthsea's Whitewash

Titled, appropriately, "Earthsea in Clorox," or A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel Wrecked My Books.


I had just seen Mr Halmi's miniseries Dreamkeeper with its stunning Native American cast, so I said to them in a phone conversation, hey, maybe Mr Halmi will cast some of those great actors in Earthsea! -- Oh, no, I was told -- Mr Halmi had found those people impossible to work with.

"Well," I said, "you do realise that almost everybody in Earthsea is 'those people,' or anyhow not white?"

I don't remember what their answer to that was -- it may have used that wonderful weasel word "colorblind" -- but it wasn't reassuring, because I do remember saying to my husband, oh, gee, I bet they're going to have a honky Ged.

Ah. How right she was.

They then sent me several versions of the script -- and told me that shooting had already begun. In other words, I had been absolutely cut out of the process.

I withdrew my offered pronunciation guide (so Ogion, which rhymes with bogy-on, is "Oh-jee-on" in the film.) Having looked over the script, I realised they had no understanding of what the two books are about, and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic MacMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence. (And "faith" -- according to Mr Halmi. Faith in what? Who knows? Who cares?)

Larry Landsman, who looks after the book end of things at Sci Fi and has been very kind, sent me an early CD of the film, so I saw it some weeks before it was aired.

There was nothing I could do about it at that point, and I said nothing negative in public. It seemed mean-spirited to bash the thing it before other people had a chance to see it. Anyhow, what's the use whining? Take the money and run, as whoever it is said. Someday, somebody would make a real Earthsea movie. . .

Any volunteers?

And here's why this matters:

I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don't notice, don't care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being "colorblind." Nobody else does.

I have heard, not often, but very memorably, from colored readers who told me that the Earthsea books were the only books in the genre that they felt included in -- and how much this meant to them, particularly as adolescents, who'd found nothing to read in fantasy and sf except the adventures of white people in a white world. Those letters have been a tremendous reward and true joy to me.

But Aren't You Worried You Won't Grow Up to Be a Real Girl?

Here's an interview with Hilary Swank, who trained four and a half hours a day, six days a week, for three months to get into boxing shape for "Million Dollar Baby" - the latest troubled-woman-boxer-will-kick-your-ass-movie.

What bugs me about these interviews of ass-kicking heroines is this need the interviewer feels to remind the audience that it's so sad that these women aren't looked at as more "feminine" (if you want to hear a woman snap back at an interviewer about this bullshit, check out some Michelle Rodriguez interviews). There's lots of questions about what her husband thinks, and how her training affected her husband's view of her (instead of asking, you know, how the training affected her view of herself, her confidence, etc), cause lord knows all us women are supposed to be living for that Idealized Feminine Form that men are always talking about (see previous post that bitches about just this).

Apparently, some dipnut (casting director Felicia Fasano) said of Hilary (who's mostly played untraditional female roles) that she needed to "embrace her inner supermodel" and start taking on more traditional feminine accourtrements.

Hilary's response:

"I follow my gut because in the end that's all you have. I shied away from playing just 'the girl' roles because I didn't find them inspiring," she added. "I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to push myself to the limit. I wanted to -- I want to -- do all that. That's where my passion lies, and it's not just playing the arm candy."

I think my response would have been a little less diplomatic. I think it would have come out something like:

"Fuck you, you fucktard."

Take Out All the Black People, & God. It'll Make it Less Controversial

So, Earthsea's got a token black guy in a world that's supposed to have a token white chick.

Oh well.

And now we have Pullman's work getting savaged, too. For fear of wingnuts.

Wingnuts. All twelve of them.

What the fuck is genre fiction supposed to be all about? Why write this crap, when it's just gonna get whitewashed and hacked up into regurgitated putty? What's the point?

God is cut from film of Dark Materials
By Sam Coates

THE Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, in which two children do battle with an evil, all-powerful church, is being rewritten to remove anti-religious overtones.

Chris Weitz, the director, has horrified fans by announcing that references to the church are likely to be banished in his film. Meanwhile the “Authority”, the weak God figure, will become “any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual”.

Like a Church that says having same-sex attractions, having sex outside of marriage, or reading certain books is EVIL?

Why I'm Not A Woman

Sometimes, I'm just sad.

Cristina translated a piece by Mircea Cărtărescu from Romanian to English called "A Few Reasons Why We Love Women," and then she posted her own response, "A Few Reasons Why We Love Men."

Now, before I start, please know this about me: I did find some of this very sweet. I'm a hopeless romantic. But when I read it, I looked at it again as a litany of all of the things I'm not, of all of things I'm supposed to be, and I came up lacking. This always happens when images of female beauty and "what being female is" are plopped in front of me by (usually male) writers, editors, designers, etc. Not that men don't get this too, but it's the reason written pieces like this bug me. It tells me what somebody wishes me to be. Something I'm not.

And Cristina did express worry that feminists would take it the wrong way:

Reading it as a Romanian, I was amused and nostalgic, and caught myself smiling wisely to myself several times. Then I couldn't help but wonder, could this be written in English, now? Or would it attract irate replies and burrowing frowns from aggravated feminist intellectuals all over the US?... I believe that the spirit of Cartarescu's text is not to be misconstrued as some patriarchal political statement, but rather as the quirky, tender voice of the writer-as-man. And as such, it's endearing and funny.

And yet, despite the swooning in the comments over at Cristina's place, I found the idea of dating a guy who thought these things really uncomfortable. What would happen when he woke up? When he realized I was just a person?

What I found interesting about both versions was the idealization of each gender, the emphasis on separateness, on difference, and the glorification of the "other." A lot of romance, and putting people on pedastels, is built around language like this.

I'm a little weird when it comes to sexual relationships, I've discovered. I tend to look for egalitarian, buddy-buddy relationships. Instead, a lot of guys I deal with look to make me into a child or a mother, when all I really want to do is hang out with somebody funny and interesting and respectful who treats me like a real person, not an idealized "other." I think that idealization is dangerous, particularly when you're with a guy who finally gives up the ghost and realizes you're a real person. Bad things can happen.

And I worry when I read about the reasons women are loved, and find that none of those reasons describe me.

I wonder what that makes me.

Which is exactly the sort of doubt the romance myths look to inspire.

I want to make new stories.

General Update - Here's What's Happening

So, my roomie is outta here for the holidays (not that it'll be all that different around the house - she and her SO have been connected at the hip for the last two weeks, so I haven't seen much of her. They're terribly cute), which means I'm going to be watching a lot of movies this weekend, so you'll likely be getting lots of me-pissed-off-at-movies posts in the near future. I'm also planning on sitting down and writing up a rant about Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy. Apologies to Anne in advance if she ever gets here through Google. It ain't gonna be pretty. I intend to bitch (I. Can't. Believe. I. Read. This. Book.).

It's also Holiday Blues time again, so I'll be doing some more how-did-this-year-go speculation/roundups (to remind myself that no, really, I've done OK this year), including favorite books and movies of the year, with commentary. And I'll also be speculating about what I've got to work on this year. My list is extraordinary: aim for the stars so you can hit the moon.

I'll be heading out on Wednesday to WA state for a nice, relaxing holiday in the sticks. I'm looking forward to silent nights (the only sound that of cows and coyotes - not a train to be heard for miles and miles), long dreary jogging routes, and hopefully a day trip to the beach. Blogging will be sporadic from the 23rd-29th, as my parents' place has a dial-up modem and only one working computer (my brother's mad machine).

If anyone wants to chat outside the comments, you can reach me at my usual "public" address: kameron_hurley AT - for those back in WA, I'll be sending you all let's-do-lunch invites soon. Hope to see you!

Health & Safety... Remember the Fat!

This morning I was forwarded an "all users" message from our health & safety department.

Was this a reminder about wearing a hard hat on construction sites, or properly lifting boxes by using your legs so you don't throw out your back? A lesson in ergonomics? Or perhaps it was just the usual holiday reminder to "drive safely" or "don't drink and drive and be safe" and all that?


Oh, no no.

This year's Health & Safety information was about avoiding those holiday pounds!


Now, OK, they give sensible advice, and it's good advice for those of us who have traditionally spent most of the holidays binge eating (this is the first year I'm packing my jogging clothes with me for my week of home-for-the-holidays. I figure I can jog my brother's route), but you know... it says a hell of a lot about today's America when the Health & Safety department of a bazillion dollar international company finds it neccessary to remind everyone to watch what they eat over the holidays.

Unfortunatley, the only bit I can include here without violating my confidentiality agreement is the part they took from an ivillage article:

Drinking one beer every night adds 1,036 additional calories per week or 15 pounds to your stomach per year. No wonder they call it a beer belly. Three glasses of dry wine a week adds 318 calories, or an additional three miles on the treadmill just to walk off the extra calories. If you're watching your weight, try this advice:

· Don't drink alcohol on a regular basis.
· Remember that the calories from alcohol add up quickly, and they go straight to the fat in your abdomen.
· Most people eat high calorie snacks when they drink alcohol, a double whammy in terms of weight gain.

Yum. Beer! I think I still have four bottles of Negra Modelo - my beer of choice - over at my parents' place: Thanksgiving leftovers.

And you better bet I'm drinking beer at Christmas. Calories or no.

I think my worry about all this concern about food and calories is that it makes people obsessive about it. You start not being able to think about anything else. Your whole day revolves around what you're "allowed" to have... and now the workplace is getting on board.

I have such incredible mixed feelings because, honestly, I'd rather we had a fruit tray as the morning office treat instead of two dozen donuts, and I prefer whole wheat chicken wraps to pizza (yea... they brought in chicken wraps yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised), but.... but... I worry. I worry that we're all going to become food Nazis.

And I don't know how ethical it is to start telling people what they can and can't eat. The future of where all this Fear of Fat is going really worries me.