Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ever changing

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Imagine you’re a co-pilot for an airline. You get to your hotel, get changed and head down to the bar. The captain comes down wearing a dress – what do you do?

This is/was a psychology question given to pilots. Have a think about what you’d do, the answer is at the bottom of the post.

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On a different note, I went to see Doctor Strange the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Okay, so it’s not a GREAT film … but then I feel like I’m past that point with Marvel movies now – there’s too many of them for them to thrill, but I find them all to be of a consistently high, enjoyable standard.

Watching the movie I was thinking about Tilda Swinton (who occupies a particular spot in my affections for reasons I can’t quite remember. Every time I see her in a film I feel like she’s a friend who’s doing incredibly well for herself, even though I’ve never met her – I have no idea why) and the brief furore about her playing The Ancient One.

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Obviously the Internet likes to get wound up about stuff like this, often going from standing apathy to outright, insult-flinging indignation in mere seconds … but what I found interesting about this one was that the fuss wasn’t about changing The Ancient One’s gender, but his/her ethnicity.

And I thought, isn’t that interesting?

No one seemed to object to the character being played by a woman (maybe because Tilda Swinton is unspeakably awesome?) but because s/he’s meant to be … actually, I don’t know. Tibetan? Chinese? Mongolian? I have no idea.

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I guess the reason this was a brief furore was because Doctor Strange is fairly unknown character (amongst non-comic fans)?

White-washing the character seems wrong, but should Marvel be given points for rebalancing the genders? Maybe they could have gone further with that? We have a female Thor in the comics now, so why not start off a female Doctor Strange in the movies?

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And then my mind began wandering (not during the film, afterwards). I began thinking about Nick Fury and how they’ve changed his appearance in the comics from this:

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To this:

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Sort of. I know it’s technically his son (because that makes sense) but it’s pretty much all because Samuel L. Jackson is now so firmly established in our minds as Fury that people are confused when they see a fluffy-haired white guy in the comics.

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Okay, so once again he’s not a widely known character in the vein of Superman or Batman or Spiderman. He’s not a cultural icon, but I’ve known him as a character in comics since I was a kid and I can no longer imagine him as white. If I pick up an old comic and see the white version my first thought is “Who’s that?” followed very quickly by “Oh shit, yes, that’s Nick Fury.”

I find that interesting too. I like that my attitude has changed.

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Once upon a time (not that long ago) I would have consider a black Superman to be just plain wrong. Superman’s not black, he’s white!

Now … I don’t care. I still want him to be tall, impossibly handsome and ripped … but skin colour? I just don’t see how that’s important?

Chinese Batman? Yeah, sure … so long as he’s big and buff and has a nice chin, what does it matter?

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Female Batman? Don’t know. Maybe that’s odd given the actual name of the character? Same for Superman, Spiderman et al.

But a female Doctor Who?

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Yeah, bring it on.

A few years back I’d have said that was impossible. Time Lords get married and fall in love, they would get really pissed off if they woke up to find their wife had become a man over night (or vice versa).

Now my attitude has changed. We already live in a time where our perceptions of gender are being challenged. Gender, like sexuality, is more fluid and layered than has always been held to be true. Surely an advanced civilisation millions of years ahead of us will just do that as a matter of course?

 

My attitudes towards these sorts of things* have changed. I’d happily watch a black, female James Bond. Might be wonderful, might be terrible – who knows?

A while back I wrote this blog post on sexism by design – now I look at that and think … what was the problem? I’d happily write a male protagonist fighting a female antagonist now. Wouldn’t even occur to me it was a problem.

I get that some white men feel under threat, as if all movies now are being made about women or people of colour or LGBTQ characters. We’re under-represented, damn it! Where are our movies?

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Oh do fuck off.

The default is still white male, let other people have a go.

My favourite illustration of that comes from somewhere I can’t remember. It was designed to highlight the lack of people of colour in movies (I think?) but it holds true for all ‘minorities’:

Imagine two bowls of sweets. One bowl is full to the brim, this is the bowl for a white child. The other bowl has two sweets in it, this is the bowl for a black child.

Does that seem fair?

Now imagine taking one sweet out of the white bowl and adding it to the black bowl (or gay bowl or transgender bowl or … whatever, doesn’t matter). Now imagine the Internet going fucking nuts because someone dared to make an all-female Ghostbusters.

Guys, our bowl is still full. It’s fine.

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Attitudes are changing and that’s a great great thing. Everyone should have movie-heroes, someone to aspire to be like.

I tend to include more female, poc or LGBTQ characters in scripts now. Often I just write an outline and assign gender/sexuality randomly throughout because it doesn’t really matter unless the story demands something specific.

At the moment I skew more towards female leads than male because the field needs levelling … but not always.

Variety is a good thing.

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Change is a good thing. Challenging perceptions is a great thing.

Which leads us back to the original question:

Imagine you’re a co-pilot for an airline. You get to your hotel, get changed and head down to the bar. The captain comes down wearing a dress – what do you do?

The answer ten years ago was: ask her what she wants to drink. People hear ‘captain’ and they picture a man.

They shouldn’t.

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The answer now is maybe more complicated. Maybe it’s a man in a dress? Maybe it’s a someone undergoing a transformation? Maybe it’s none of your business?

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I like these kind of changes. I like acceptance and tolerance and understanding. I love that my attitude has changed and continues to change. I want to grow as a human being and increase my understanding of the world … so if I’ve used the wrong word or inadvertently offended anyone in this post, I’d love to hear from you.

Alternatively, if you’re upset by people and lifestyles other than your own becoming more acceptable in mainstream media then … don’t worry? You’re still special too.

 


* And by ‘these sorts of things’ I mean a wide range of completely different human experiences and states of being which only get lumped together because of the intolerance of others.

Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

#P̶h̶o̶n̶e̶ MeetPhill – Meeting #2: James Moran

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So this meeting happened earlier the same day as the last one, hence the confusion of numbers since I like to be chronological about this sort of thing.

James Moran is one of those guys I see around every now and then with the occasional flurry of Twitter DMs and even the odd phone call. He’s a nice guy*. I like him. I like to think of him as a friend, but perhaps don’t see him often enough to have reached that status? I don’t know, I get a bit confused by social interaction.

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Some of what we chatted about is the kind of stuff you don’t really repeat, you know, stuff like what projects we’re working on, who we’re working with and who never, ever to work with.

These kind of chats are the reason I never record the #PhonePhill conversations because, while they would make a good podcast (their half of the conversation, not mine – mine is generally moronic) and provide an insightful look into the lives of working writers … I’d just rather they were confidential. I like chatting to people when neither of us are guarding what we might say, it’s more fun.

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For me, obviously. Not necessarily for you since you don’t get to read or hear about all the juicy bits.

James, for example, has killed 17 Belgians in the last few years. No one knows what he’s got against Belgians since they seem like generally inoffensive people to me … but he can get awfully stabby in their presence.^

Amongst the deeply personal, unprofessional and unrepeatable witterings, there were two things which bear repeating and may be of general interest.

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The first, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, is the state of genre TV in the UK … basically, it’s a rare beast.

Except on kids’ TV.

For reasons best known only to commissioners the general opinion in the UK seems to be that kids love genre shows (sci-fi, horror, super powers …) but that adults grow out of it.

Which doesn’t make sense to me, a card-carrying geek. It also doesn’t seem to be true if you look at cinema or US TV … but in the UK, adult genre fare is hard to find …

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… and even harder to get made.

Maybe there’s just a dearth of good scripts around. Or maybe I’m just not looking hard enough since series 2 of Humans just started airing? And Red Dwarf X just finished. Maybe I’m talking shit?

My perception is though that kids’ TV is the place to aim for if you want to write genre stuff.

Which I do.

The second observation is a vitally important one. It’s applicable to all meetings, whether formal or informal, be it with a prospective client or a friend.

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Picture the scene, James and I have arranged to meet in yumchaa in Soho (where he bought me a cup of tea and a most excellent slice of cake) and I’d arrived first. I mooched around looking for somewhere to sit and eventually opted for a comfy looking sofa.

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The sofa was as comfy as it looked … and there in lies my mistake because there was only one sofa and a coffee table, forcing James to sit NEXT TO ME ON THE SOFA.

This is weird.

Sitting next to someone on a sofa is great if you want to both watch TV. Even better if you both want to cuddle.

As much as I like James, I do not want to cuddle him.+

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Chatting to someone who’s sitting next to you is ridiculously uncomfortable, no matter how comfy the sofa. One of you has to contort yourself into unnatural shapes in order to face the other person. Obviously, being the bigger sociopath of the two, I made myself comfortable and let James to the contorting.

I’m nice like that.

Imagine if this had been a client meeting and I was trying to persuade someone to part with their cash? It’s just not a good idea.

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For chat, chairs are where it’s at.

Preferably sit-up ones at a table rather than comfy armchairs you sink into.

I’ve made this mistake before at a meeting with a development exec at a large TV company. She sat on a sensible chair in her office, I sat on a low-slung sofa … and ended lolling around on it as if I was in therapy.

It’s hard to sell your skills when the person you’re trying to impress is looking up your nostrils.

For chat, chairs are where it’s at.

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James, as ever, was delightful and funny and insightful and just generally lovely. I can’t tell you what he’s working on next, but I can tell you what he’s been doing recently … this:

And this:

And this:

And … well, all these: https://minasjournal.wordpress.com/episodes/

Turn off the lights, make yourself comfortable (on a sofa is perfectly acceptable) and treat your eyeballs to his incessant genius.

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Meeting James was lovely. I probably don’t want to meet you, but I do want to chat with you on the phone.

Yes, you.

Not that person, you. The one with the face.

If you’d like to #PhonePhill then email me and we’ll work something out.

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*For a given value of ‘nice’. Obviously as a horror writer he’s a psychopathic lunatic … but lovely with it.

^Not true, obviously. He only killed 16 and only stabbed one – he doesn’t like to repeat himself. Apparently it’s ‘research’.

+Well … maybe a little.

Categories: #PhonePhill, Things I've Learnt Recently | Leave a comment

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