Category Archives: Ranting

Why I Love and Hate #BeautyAndTheBeast @DisneyStudios

I took my daughter to see the new version of Beauty and the Beast. She’s about the same age now that I was when the original came out. As far as I can tell–she has fairly severe autism–she enjoyed it. The music is mostly familiar, she already knows the story and characters, and the visuals are stunning. I liked it quite a bit.

When I first saw the original, I was an unsophisticated teenager who preferred action movies. I am now a professional writerfolk who prefers action movies. The difference is minor, as I’m pretty good at shutting off my brain and enjoying visual media in the moment. But there is a difference. That difference lies in how much I think about the story later.

Perhaps predictably, the Stockholm Syndrome memes and discussions popped up before the new movie even came out. I don’t subscribe to this view of the story, and I’ll explain why in a minute. The homosexual tones of LeFou didn’t bother me, as it felt as authentic as anything else in the story. Really, it explains a lot about LeFou the original movie left vague. In fact, I quite liked that many plot holes in the original were filled by adding bits and bobs to the characters and their stories. Bravo, writerfolk! And thank you so much for explaining the whole weird seasons thing. That’s always bothered me. A lot.

On to the main point!

Stockholm Syndrome: strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.

I think the accusation is unfairly applied to this particular story. People point and say here’s a captor and a victim and they fall in love. Textbook definition! But the reality of the story is more complex than that. Here’s why:

In this version of the story, Belle does not have a character arc.

If you take some time to consider the plot and what really happens, you’ll notice that zero female characters have actual arcs. Only men do. Gaston’s arc takes him from almost-charming, not-really-that-bad narcissistic town hero to brutal villain. The Beast’s arc takes him from selfish asshat to empathetic human. Maurice’s arc is about learning to let go of his fear of losing Belle. It can be argued that LeFou has a bit of an arc, but that’s questionable since he really only reacts to how Gaston changes.

That’s it. Those are the character arcs. No one else grows or changes. Yes, Belle falls in love, but she doesn’t do that because she changes. Belle starts as a smart, empathetic person and ends as a smart, empathetic person. She begins capable of sacrifice and compromise, and also ends that way. The scene where she lifts her bowl to drink from it instead of using a spoon isn’t a growth point, it’s an obvious gesture because she’s compassionate. The things she learns reinforce her viewpoint without challenging it. She stands up to the Beast the same way she stands up to Gaston and everyone else.

So, at it’s heart, this is a story about two physically intimidating men who each react to the presence of a woman who’s a fundamentally better human being than them. I’ve read there’s also a metaphor involved, where Howard Ashman wanted Beast to represent AIDS in our society, and that’s noble. Doesn’t change the point.

If this story has a victim to anything like Stockholm Syndrome, I argue it’s the Beast. He’s the prisoner. He’s much more locked in that castle than she is. Heck, she climbs out the window and rides away, proving escape isn’t that hard. She helps him out of compassion, then beats him in a contest of wills. The Beast is the one who caves and changes his behavior to conform to Belle, not the other way around.

From a certain point of view, Belle is effectively a MacGuffin that Beast and Gaston each want to possess for different reasons and pursue with different methodologies. For Beast, Belle is freedom from the hellprison Agathe (the witch) locked him into. For Gaston, Belle is the reward he deserves for a virtuous life.

As for Agathe herself, in the original, this was the real beginning of Disney moving away from women always being villains. In this story, she’s the cause of the story itself, but not in a bad way. I see her as a Virgin Mary figure who’s kind of chuffed that her son turned into such an ass instead of the wise ruler she’d hoped for. Perhaps she’s even intended to be Beast’s mother who, for whatever reason, couldn’t take the throne when her husband died and fled in exile from her son’s asshat advisors. Thus, in a way, she’s actually a much more important character than Belle.

Which brings me back to the point. (I think? I rambled and SQUIRREL!) Despite being the main character, Belle is really just a set of pre-programmed behaviors–a robot with more humanity than the two men vying for her affection. This is both good and bad because it creates the idea that women are good and human while also putting women in the awkward position of being not only capable of but responsible for changing men. Thus, it’s your fault if you can’t fix that asshat, and it’s also your fault if that asshat hits you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this story. The end makes me wonder if someone nearby is cutting onions or something every time. I love seeing girls think that books are awesome because Belle thinks books are awesome. It’s great that people walk away with the idea that people’s looks don’t equate to their value. The music is catchy and fun. But I love it with my eyes open, acknowledging the things I see as faults and incorporating those lessons into my own storytelling.

And hey, at least Belle isn’t a sexy lamp. That’s Lumiere.

2016 Sucks. Still.

I have work to do. My projects are many and my deadlines loom like a looming thing that looms loomingly. Or something like that.

Ever since that repulsive Trump video surfaced, I can’t stop watching political coverage. I wonder what mad thing will happen today, what disturbing new revelation will come up. And I don’t even care, because I’m not changing my vote at this point.

Fiction isn’t allowed to be this messed up. Fiction has to make sense and be believable. Protagonists and antagonists alike need to have clear motivations and goals or they aren’t relatable or understandable. Even when we blur the lines between good guy and bad guy, we still need to have some overarching plot that paints a context so there’s a story.

No wonder I can’t stop watching this stuff. It’s insane. We’re at the point now where we debate whether facts are facts or not. It’s not about massaging data to support a point anymore, something politicians have been doing since caveman days. It’s about claiming the data are generated by a conspiracy and not really factual.


I didn’t watch any of the previous three debates, and I’m not watching tonight’s either. The highlights have, thus far, been plenty to make me uncomfortable.

I think all the beloved artists dying this year somehow destabilized the Earth’s orbit or something. #startanewconspiracytheory

#Orlando Thoughts

Like you, I have a lot of friends I know either in person or through social media. Some of them are enraged, some want to talk about guns, some want to pretend nothing happened, some are saddened. My feeds are filled with the videos of famous people and essays by less famous people discussing the shooting. There are lingering posts about the Stanford rape. And kittens. There are still kittens because it’s the internet.

I’m disturbed by how normalized this kind of thing has become. Oh, another mass shooting. That’s sad and we should do something. Donate blood, give some money to the victims’ families or some associate charity, change my profile picture, tweet with a hashtag. Pray/meditate. Argue about guns and facts on the internet. Learn obsessively about the latest lone wolf gunman or terrorist or whatever they decide to call the shooter. Read the names of the victims, look at their pictures. Feel useless. Be useless.

There’s something rotten in Denmark, my friends, and by Denmark, I mean the hearts of Americans. This is and isn’t about guns. It’s about fear and othering. it’s about looking at a person with whom you have a difference and thinking of them as Them. Gay people are Them. Muslims are Them. Yankees fans are Them*. Republicans are Them. And so on.

When we decide that someone with a difference is Them, we become capable of distancing ourselves enough to believe harm inflicted upon Them isn’t important. See: slavery, the Holocaust, Japanese Internment, HIV/AIDS, and more. They aren’t part of the tribe. We’re the tribe. Us. vs. Them.

Human beings. We’re all human beings. We all breathe air, drink water, and eat food. We have all the same stuff on the inside. Every body poops. Every body bleeds.

We can disagree without hate or anger. We can not be dicks. We can be excellent to each other. We can stfu and listen. We can seek out the marginalized and lift them up.

Lifting others up doesn’t push you down.

Oh, and by the way, I have a new book out: Ethereal Entanglements, which is book 3 of Spirit Knights. I’ll be at the Fremont Solstice Festival for the last few hours on Sunday (6/19) in my pajama pants (long story). My Clockwork Dragon partners will be there all weekend.

*Massholes unite.

Rebooting Beloved IP #rant

I’m busy, so I didn’t read anything this week. Instead, I took a few minutes to watch the new trailers for the MacGyver reboot and Star Trek Beyond, and I ran across a heated discussion about the new Ghostbusters movie. All these are reboots of beloved intellectual properties.

Note: I happen to like every single Star Trek movie ever, even the “bad” ones. I like some of them more than others, and a few fare much better in rewatching. Still, I’ve enjoyed them all.

I don’t understand. Why is it necessary to reboot things we loved ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago? What is the magic reason we can’t take some IP that did phenomenally at the time and imagine what life is like that many years later? Why does it have to be a redo instead of a continuation?

In the cases of both Ghostbusters and MacGyver, the producers and writers seemed to think taking the name of an IP, slapping it on, and buffing it up to be “modern” is all it takes to have a blockbuster. Granted, we’ve only seen trailers so far, but in both cases, it seems quite clear that those responsible for these things have no understanding whatsoever of why we loved these things.

Re: Ghostbusters
There is nothing wrong, ever, with gender-swapping a story. This is done often, sometimes subtly and sometimes obviously. The fact of a gender swap has no bearing whatsoever on the strength of a story or lack thereof. I have no issues with someone deciding to take Ghostbusters and gender flip it.

I do take issue with the horsecrap I’ve seen in the trailer. The original is a good movie that still stands up despite changes in technology. Yes, it’s very much an 80s hairdo film, but the writing is great, the performances are stellar, and everyone must have had a good time making it. You can tell. We miss you, Harold Ramis.

This new movie…looks like they took the plot and missed what the story was about. They put together some talented comedians, just like in the original movie, and then gave them slapstick and stereotypes to stumble through. There’s no sense of wonder or wit. When I look back at the one-liners Murray drops, they feel natural. His sarcasm and snot hit all the beats. The stuff in the trailer is like a bunch of kids doing a re-enactment without getting the point because it’s over their heads.

So that’s how I feel about what I saw in the trailer for Ghostbusters. I won’t bother seeing it in the theater because it doesn’t interest me. My local theater is showing the original in two weeks, and I plan to go to that.

If only they’d decided to take the story into the future by advancing the timeline. Write a new story, dammit. Don’t feed me stuff I already like, drowned in a thick, heavy sauce I don’t want.

Re: MacGyver
Angus MacGyver was arguably my first TV character crush. As such, tampering with him is something I regard as fraught with immense peril. The character had charm, wit, brains, and that mullet. The entire reason I gave the Stargate TV show a chance was Richard Dean Anderson (for the record, not really my thing, but I did watch from time to time). MacGyver is kind, a refreshing quality that’s not always present in our heroes even if it should be. He’s a teacher, always willing to explain what he’s doing or just did so everybody–especially the audience–actually learns something useful. Like how to escape from kidnappers when you only have a swiss army knife, duct tape, and chewing gum. He’s also humble, which is hard to be when you’re that frigging clever.

To sum up the new trailer in two words: that smirk. The guy they picked to play a fresh, young Mac appears to have been directed–or maybe it was his choice–to portray Mac as an arrogant prodigy. Which he never was and should not be. I would much, much rather see Mac’s offspring than a Mac reboot. I would love to see his son and daughter as a team, or maybe two of his grandkids, depending upon when the timeline is set. No one can be as awesome as Grandpa Mac, but two of his progeny together can outdo him and make him proud. They could have brought RDA in as an occasional player who provides Gandalfian wisdom as needed because this pair is just a couple of kids who make mistakes.

To sum up: quit it with the reboots already. Continue the story and make something new. Be a little damned original. Honor what we love by elevating it.