Early in the month I offered Five Resolutions Star Wars Should Make for 2014, which included fandom engagement, passion above all else, more women storytellers, explore the GFFA (or better said, “avoid too much fanwank”), and create heroes. Across the internet each day I see more and more examples of fan engagement, most recently the showrunners for Sleepy Hollow in speaking with TVLine.
We are as addicted to our fans as the fans are addicted to the show. We pay a lot of attention to the moments they loved and the moments that resonated the most for everybody. The tricky thing is you want to tip your hat to those moments, but you don’t want it to just be a repeat of those moments. You want to bring something new to it.
The quote comes from Alex Kurtzman. The wariness of repetition in the storytelling moments echoes Dave Filoni’s statement on George Lucas’ advice to The Clone Wars writers that I highlighted in my Resolutions post.
Following up on my Thor > Superman post, we’ve seen Batman vs. Superman delayed and news that Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot has been signed to a three movie deal. (via Deadline and Screenrant). This includes a likely small role in Batman vs. Superman, then on to the Justice League movie and hopefully some news this year that a Wonder Woman standalone is in the works. DC and Warner Brothers are struggling to dig themselves out of a hole called Wary Fandom specifically because of a reliance on repeating character moments.
B.J.’s post in reaction to Paul Kemp’s “Why I write masculine stories” kicked off quite a bit of discussion among fans on Twitter about diversity in storytelling. Susan Somers fired off a string of tweets that really hammers home why the argument that “stories just need good characters” as opposed to diverse characters makes women and minorities feel even more excluded. Additionally, Brian at Tosche Station deconstructs the arguments against diversity and why they are flawed and often hurtful. As one fellow fangirl noted, and I agreed, the Twitter discussion was very reminiscent of TFN Literature threads where the status quo had been defended vehemently with an utter lack of empathy. I’m going to second Club Jade’s tweet from that night; as a blogger who discusses diversity and the portrayal of female characters I would rather be doing other things, such as fangirling over things I like. And I have a long list of things I like that I’d really like to talk about.
Kemp’s approach to sharing his perspective took an old school approach of telling people how it was going to be, as opposed to what we see from truly successful creators on shows like The Legend of Korra, Once Upon a Time, and Sleepy Hollow, where the creators are engaging in discussions. I suppose that’s fine if the goal is to be an artist as opposed to a commercial storyteller. It’s interesting to note that Kemp’s attempt to brand himself as a “manly” writer aligns with Drew Karpyshyn’s New Year’s resolution to establish his brand. Obviously one route garnered a bit more attention than the other.
I’m trying to puzzle through the reasons why the reactive publishing model hasn’t shifted closer to the proactive television model, especially for tie-in stories where turnaround is tight and the storytellers need to be ahead of the curve of what the customers want and need. I still see tie-in authors stating that they just need to write good stories, which echoes the “stories just need good characters” argument when talking about diversity. Television writers, on the other hand, are consistently noting that good stories and good characters come from a symbiotic relationship with the fandom. Remarkably, genre television is ahead of genre publishing in diversifying their casts and putting relatable well-written female characters front and center.
While Frozen is now a smash hit, it did come under some criticism for the lack of diversity in the story, and more problematic than just the story itself was the run of white princesses between Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. So it was interesting to see Daily Dot’s article on the boon in fanart for the next Disney princess, Moana. With only one image, fan artists’ imaginations have been loosed. From The Daily Dot:
It’s no surprise then, that Moana has already caught the hearts of the type of adult Disney enthusiasts who engage through fanart and discussion on sites like Tumblr and Reddit. Criticism from a small minority of online fans is unlikely to have made much of a difference to Disney’s decision when choosing new movie concepts, particularly when Frozen was such a runaway success, but the announcement of another non-white princess is a sign that they are at least aware of their current track record.
With four years to go until Moana is released, some of its target audience haven’t even been born yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t already bringing happiness to the hearts of Disney fans. As one teenage girl wrote on her Tumblr blog:
“as a person of polynesian descent, i got extremely excited when disney’s moana was announced and didn’t really know why and then i realised THIS is what representation feels like.”
There are quite a few things Frozen got right, like smashing tropes and showing diversity in other ways. Gina Luttrell at Polymic laid out seven moments that make the movie Disney’s most progressive yet. It’s a great read; I’ll just share Number 4:
4. Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman
With all the hubbub about women stealing masculinity from men, Kristoff is a wonderful example of what a masculine, 21st century man looks like. He spends the movie surrounded by strong women, yet he is not intimidated or cowed by them.
He’s not afraid to call Anna out on her poor decisions (“You got engaged to someone you just met that day?!”) and attempts throughout the film to keep her from making more of them. But he is also willing to admit when she is right and values her sense of adventure and brazenness.
Kristoff represents the kind of modern man that Disney has neglected so far: one who is partners with the women in his life. He is not a competitor, a doormat or a fool. He is an equal, and it makes him a wonderful addition to the ranks of Disney princes.
For what it’s worth, that article is a female blogger applauding better portrayals of female and male characters.
Update on women storytellers in Star Wars: Newly released Star Wars: Rebels Chopper character reveal video on Movie Pilot includes character discuss from Amy Beth Christenson. She has worked as a concept artist on numerous projects including The Clone Wars and The Force Unleashed.
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.