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All posts for the month May, 2012

Continuing character continuity–when external forces play a part

Published May 28, 2012 by wyldflamingo

My husband insisted, after infinite disappointment in the first episode of season 3, that he wouldn’t be watching Glee until the full season was concluded…he was depending on my occasional updates to even determine whether he was going to do that. (Yes, I have an awesome husband who was involved in music and theater throughout high school).

We’ve had a Glee marathon over the holiday weekend, and watching the episodes one rught after the other has given me just a little more perspective on the series writing. …some writers complain their characters lead them in a different direction, one they never imagined. I’ve never had that experience myself; I can’t imagine the frustrations actors must have when their character careens off the tracks, and goes in a direction they know isn’t right.

Quinn’s character drove me nuts this year–while watching the series in a shortened span of time did remind me that teenagers are flooded with hormones, emotions, and an overall lack of vision, her character went from Goth, to willing to blackmail/falsely accuse the woman who adopted her child from Season one, to trying to have unsafe sex in order to get pregnant again. This was such an incredible deviation from the first two seasons of the series, it was almost painful to watch.

A little research provided some interesting insight: the series creator has an intense dislike of the actress portraying Quinn. I feel this almost HAS to be responsible, at least in some part, for the inconsistency that has followed Quinn’s character this year.

Other indiosyncracies follow: Season two characters who vanished, then reappeared. New season three characters who had occasional strong one-off appearances, only to be consigned to the background, or in some cases (Sugar), vanish completely.

This could be a case of too many characters, too many subplots, too much direction from external forces (producers, directors, agents, writers, and of course actors).  And unfortunately in television, it’s a lot harder to do that mainstay of whittling down competition: the mass killing off of characters. But wait–was that what almost happened with Quinn’s character, and her “texting” car accident?

Hollywood gossip doesn’t say, but it makes me grateful the only character arguements I have are the ones in my own head.

Time marches on…even in the cheesiest genre I can imagine

Published May 17, 2012 by wyldflamingo

If there’s one genre I absolutely can’t stand, it’s romance. Growing up, I remember you had two basic romance choices: the Harlequin “genteel” love story, and the bodice rippers with the lurid covers. Neither appealed to me. I winced at the lurid covers with impossible poses (Jim Hines has a hilarious photo comparison blog post here on this very topic, though not specific to romances). I reeled from the absolute, dumber than a bag of rocks thought processes, reactions, and storylines the supposed “heroines” went through–why yes, of course since this pirate kidnapped me, he must value my thoughts and feelings.

Romance has always had a bad reputation: just searching on romance novel sales statistics, I found other related stories such as “Romance Novels Seduce Women into Unsafe Sex”. Book covers were touted as a way to keep prying eyes from realizing you were reading “smut”. Romance novels were an embarrassement, a guilty pleasure, something no one admitted to reading. Quite the baggage for a genre that made 10.11 billion dollars in 2010.

A few weeks ago, reading some writing blogs on Facebook, I saw the names of a few authors who write urban fantasy. They were attending the Romantic Times conference this year; hmmm, well, it’s always worth trolling to see what helpful tidbits of information I can pick up for my writing. I can ignore the stupid romance stuff.

But  10.11 billion dollars…that’s a lot of books. And while competition is fierce in any genre, Romance was one of the only categories that INCREASED sales during the recession.

So, I started reading the romance RSS threads. And since we have a wonderful library system in King County, it costs me nothing to give a few books a try. I felt no obligation to try and read them all the way through if they made me cringe–the only loss was time.

What am I finding? Based on the Romantic Times RSS, the Harlequins and bodice rippers are still out there. They have their audience, and they always will. But the books I’m reading now? They’re urban fantasy will a little bit of sex–and sometimes less sex than books that get published in other genres, such as Sci-Fi, regular fantasy, or plain fiction. It’s a joy to find this genre so fragmented, for so many different reasons. Creative stories, completely new worlds, strong female characters with careers, drive, and passion that extends beyond the bedroom. In one book I read, the female lead told her “hero/love interest” that she wasn’t willing to commit to him, and give up everything for his way of life. In a novel I’m reading now, there is a female werewolf with OCD and a hoarding disorder.

I can’t imagine a greater disparity between the fainting damsels of the old Regency Romances, and a 21st century nurse who does in home hospice. Long live Romance–it’s a delight to see how far you’ve come.

When a character you love becomes something else

Published May 1, 2012 by wyldflamingo

There’s been a trend, of late, in characters I love–both in print, and on television. I found myself with some down time this past week, and so gave in to watching a series I’ve been interested in, but had never watched before: “In Plain Sight”.

“In Plain Sight” follows the life of Mary Shannon, an inspector with the United Stated Marshal Service, who specifically works for Witness Security, or the Witness Protection program. Right off the bat, Mary resets expectations. She’s a strong, independent woman in what is largely a man’s world. She erases the vague idea I have that “WitSec” is mainly for people who have had the misfortune to see bad things–WitSec, in fact, protects a great number of criminals, who have made the choice to turn on their compatriots rather than go to prison themselves.

In Season One, it’s Mary’s caustic wit, prickly demeanor, and ascerbic resolve in dealing with her life that I adore. She is not the polished female we see with most women on network television (hideous reality TV shows aside). Her job can be dirty, and frustrating–she puts in long hours at her job, and by the end of the day, she looks tired, disheveled, and exhausted. Her sarcasm is softened by her interactions with her partner, Marshall Mann, whose laconic approach and wikipedia-esque knowledge make him an excellent foil for Mary’s often brusque or callous demeanor.  At the end of the day, Mary must deal with her alcoholic mother, and her screw-up baby sister. Mary’s childhood (bank robber father who vanishes when she is seven), carries into all aspects of her life. Despite–or perhaps because of–the way Mary uses sarcasm and cynicism in her day-to-day existence, I initially found her very endearing. We share a lot of the same characteristics, using these attributes as  a means of dealing with stupid policies, or perhaps stupid people.

By middle of Season Two/beginning of Season Three, changes are afoot, however. Mary’s mother, Jinx, has realized she is an alcoholic, and embarked into rehab. Brandy still stumbles, on occasion, but she’s going to school, and working through her own family issues. Mary, however, seems stuck in time; she’s grudgingly accepted her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, but verbally assaults his decision to take a car salesman job with Brandy’s wealthy boyfriend. When Mary’s mother comes home, she leaves liquor in the house, convinced it’s only a matter of time before Jinx fails. In fact, as Mary’s family and friends have grown,moved on, made changes in their lives–Mary has not. In fact, as they grow more successful, Mary’s comments become more biting, more cruel. Perhaps this is an accurate representation in “real” life–when a caretaker who has been disappointed time and again sees someone close to them succeed, they tear them down. But I don’t need that much realism in my television.

“In Plain Sight” is on its last Season (five)–and we’ve yet to see any of Season four–but I hope Mary starts to realize it’s ok for her friends and family to be successful.  Otherwise, it seems ironic that the solution to Mary’s problems are in plain sight, and she’s the one missing the clues.