Batman and Harley Quinn Review

        In her twenty fifth year in existence of Harley Quinn and the seventy-something year of existence for Batman, DC Entertainment released Batman and Harley Quinn. I was very excited when I saw the announcement and trailer for Batman and Harley Quinn while my older brother groaned and said “seriously, more Harley Quinn?” And upon watching Batman and Harley Quinn I will say I was disappointed in a sense. I didn’t hate the movie, but I feel that things could have been done better.

The Good Things

        One of the things fans of DC Comics will notice off the bat is that the movie is animated in the same style as the Batman The Animated Series using the same character models for the characters of Batman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, a few background henchmen, and Nightwing (minus fugly 90’s mullet). The movie gave a very strong nostalgic feeling for me as someone who grew up with the DC Animated Universe from the beginning of Batman TAS in 1993 to the end of Justice League Unlimited in 2006.

        One of the neat things about the film is that the character models for a scene that takes place in a bar for henchmen used character models for nearly all the henchmen featured in Batman TAS and fans of the series can have fun trying to identify what episode each henchmen was in. There’s also a really fun musical number of Harley singing Hanging on the Telephone that even causes both Batman and Nightwing to briefly break out of their normal characterization.

        One of the best things of the movie I really liked was that it was a Harley Quinn movie without the Joker. Rather than rely on the constant conflict between Harley and Joker, this movie focused on the genuine friendship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. For those that don’t know in the comics after getting thrown out by the Joker one time too many Poison Ivy takes in Harley Quinn and the two start a friendship that at times is a little romantic. This friendship plays a key role in the movie for both Poison Ivy and Harley as the former begins to question if what she is doing really good for the earth and is going to far for the greater good.

        In this film Harley Quinn is recruited from her attempt to live a clean life by Batman and Nightwing to save the world from Poison Ivy and Floronic Man who want to turn all living creatures on earth into animal/plant hybrids in order to save the earth from climate change. Initially Harley is only recruited for the sake of finding out the location of Poison Ivy, but Harley joins along because she enjoys being alive and a human.

The Bad Parts

        Despite what I mentioned above about the film using the same animation models of Batman TAS for both the setting and character, the movie is not meant for kids and I can’t guarantee all viewers will get the same nostalgic feeling I got. There is swearing and a scene where Harley shoots the finger at a friend of hers which some parents who purchased the movie in hopes of bonding with their kids over Harley might not be so comfortable with. There’s also a fair amount of PG13 level gore present, another thing parents might not be so comfortable with. Particularly if their daughter was exposed to Harley via DC Superhero Girls.

        Harley Quinn is also very sexualized for the first third of the movie until she gets her Harley Quinn attire on. She can be seen in a ‘sexy Harley Quinn’ costume as part of her job, strips down to her underwear in front of Nightwing (and possibly has consensual sex with him). I’m not really sure if the goal was for Harley to celebrate her sexuality, to be objectified, or a strange mockery of sexualization while just having fun with the character.

        Sadly, there are moments where the movie is a little dull and even relied on potty humor (okay fine, Harley Quinn producing farts so foul smelling that even Batman pulled over at a gas station is pretty damn funny).

Some fans have complained over Melissa Rauch voicing Harley instead of Terra Strong, and while Rauch does kinda sound like Velma Dinkly with a brooklyn accent, you overlook it after a while.

Not all fans of Batman TAS or Harley Quinn will love this movie, but I enjoyed it enough to write a review on it.

I give Batman and Harley Quinn three and a half sudden musical numbers out of five.

        

Happy Esther Day

Happy Esther day, seven years ago was Esther Earl’s sixteenth and final birthday before passing away. She wasn’t the world’s biggest youtuber and if we’re going to be honest with ourselves she’s only famous because she knew John Green and he wrote The Fault in Our Stars in her memory. So what makes her birthday so special?

Well for one thing she wanted to encourage familial love and friendship love and love of pets. She wasn’t a graceful young woman and a fountain of knowledge and wisdom like Malala Yousafzai (it’s pretty hard to top her in that area), but she did have her own form of wisdom. She was also a normal girl cancer aside. She loved Harry Potter and was an active vlogger on YouTube.

Her nice, short, cute, and nerdy life had an unexpected aftershock. The Fault in our Stars went beyond fans of John Green and his brother  who labeled their group as Nerdfighters and went into the public. It flooded Barnes and Noble and Target with it’s innocent but simple Blue, Black, and White cover and gave teenagers and readers of Young Adult fiction something beautiful, funny, and tragic to read. It resulted in a book based on Esther Earl This Star Won’t Go Out and essentially putting more love into the world.

I don’t have many words to say about the holiday beyond that, except that I spent the day with my family and my pup.

Boys and Male Role Models

Two Sundays ago it was announced who the thirteenth Doctor would be. I was happy to see that it was a woman, but I couldn’t exactly leap for joy since I found out the news literally because I was about to set foot into church. I knew many things would happen with this news; there would be happy fans, and there would be pissed off fans.

I will admit I was a little disappointed because based on photos on the set of the 2017 Christmas special fans had been under the impression that Kris Marshall would be the next Doctor (my dad and I are very fond of the show Death in Paradise). But I was happy with the news based off the actress’ work on Broadchurch (makes sense for the writers of Broadchurch to bring in an actor they were familiar with and knew what her capabilities were).

I spent a good three hours celebrating, talking with friends about it, joking around about shoes, and wondering if I’m actually being serious if I will cosplay as the Thirteenth Doctor (I probably will). As expected there was backlash from fans that weren’t happy about the gender switch and even a magazine service (I don’t know what The Sun actually does since I don’t live in England) publishing nude photos of Jodie Whittaker from her previous work.

I ignored most of this because I knew that some people wouldn’t be happy, then previous Doctor Peter Davidson said something that caught me attention. “Now that the Doctor is a woman, boys no longer have a good male role model,” (okay I paraphrased that), I scoffed at it at first, but then reading a few facebook comments did make me realize, he is partially right.

The Doctor is a unique role model; he rarely resorts to violence and killing as a solution to his problem, he is never getting into brawls and throwing fists at opponents, he isn’t off chasing after ladies or grabbing ass (he IS very guilty of being able to impress a girl though), his spaceship, the T.A.R.D.I.S., has no offensive capabilities (unless she’s particularly pissed at you) and is in the shape of a Police Call Box and she will drag the Doctor to any place where he is needed to aid people in need.

I’m still gathering thoughts on this, but I do agree there aren’t many male role models who are like the Doctor. You have the choice of being an action hero, or the main protagonist who whines and has a form of angst (either wizard angst of man angst), sometimes you get both (looking at you Barry Allen and Oliver Queen).

Right now the two male role models that do come to mind that are similar to the Doctor are Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek the Next Generation and Newt Scamander of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Picard would resort to diplomacy most of the time (I’m still watching Star Trek the Next Generation) unless the Borg was involved (and even then his first solution was diplomacy). Newt is quiet, not the most social person in a crowd, but when he does make a friend he is very deeply attached and in compromise for his meek ways Newt has a deep love for magical creatures and shines brightly when sharing his knowledge of them.

The obvious solution to the problem to some people would be to just have a male companion; makes sense since initially there were male companions who filled the heroic role in the show since the Doctor wasn’t always a heroic character (thank you fifty years of character development!) Time till tell if this is the needed solution, or if a female companion with a female Doctor will continue.

In my opinion it shouldn’t really matter, but time will tell.

A Wrinkle in Time Impressions

Once Upon a time in the distant time of 2001 I was eleven years old and we had a book assigned for the fifth grade class I was in. Little did I know this book would make me want to read more books and would forever change my life and how I viewed the universe and create a dream. The book I speak of is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I love this book, it led me to reading it’s sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and the spin off book (sort of) A Ring of Endless Light.

There are sketchbooks I owned that had drawing’s of Mrs.Whatsit  in her non human form, the idea of a tesseract became a concept I kept tabs on growing up and even now think about today as an adult. Despite the heavy emphasis in L’Engle’s work on physics and biology, I was more inspired to focus on writing and literature as I grew up and wanted to write for the YA genre (I ended up with a degree in environmental science).

Then in 2002 it was announced there would be a tv movie of A Wrinkle in Time by Disney. It was awful. L’Engle was asked if it met her expectations, she said “yes. I expected it to be bad, it was.” I only saw a portion of this film, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that things were dumbed down for audiences, I didn’t like the acting, I didn’t like the full happy ending presented in the film, and I felt kind of weird seeing Mr.Murrey completely naked a few years later on Queer as Folk.

I expected nothing to be done with A Wrinkle in Time after Madeleine L’Engle passed away mid 2008. I thought this would be the best for the series since her books tackled topics concerning Christianity and science which even more so today is a very touchy subject. Then a few years ago during Frozen it was announced Disney would be adapting A Wrinkle in Time to film again.

This time with Jennifer Lee from Disney’s Frozen was placed in charge of the film. My expectations started to get high; the film went with open casting meaning Meg Murrey and her brother Charles Wallace are now bi-racial. The film also cast Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which respectably.

 Despite my stalking both Witherspoon and Kaling’s instagram religiously very little about how the film looked was revealed outside of casting. I was a little curious to see Kaling in the film since I’m use to Kaling portraying divas as opposed to the wise and intellectual Mrs.Who, I even reread some of the book just to imagine Mrs.Who with Kaling’s shrills. I also wasn’t aware Oprah was an actress, but I guess she is.

When the trailer was released yesterday I was very pleased with what I saw and I hope the film does really well next year. I have high hopes for the film because I feel at this time many of the themes of A Wrinkle in Time are relevant concerning communism and there is a need for figures like the Murrey parents who are both religious, but educated and understanding on many issues in the world. And now here is the trailer to Madelein L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

Pride Month: The Need for the Coming Out Story

In the past I have made my thoughts and opinions of the coming out story very clear; they are not particularly my favorite story to read/watch/listen. I even wrote an essay on my issue with the coming out story and how I feel it is an overused plot for lgbt+ fiction and how the genre needs to move away from that plot so that lgbt+ characters can be treated as something beyond coming out as gay.

Today though I want to say something different; although I still have the same feelings concerning the coming out plot in lgbt+ fiction, I want to talk about how the coming out plot is important to readers of lgbt+ books as members of the lgbt+ community or as a loved one of someone who is lgbt+.

It Happens to Everyone in the Community

Coming out as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Asexual, or Queer (if I missed a form of sexuality I’m sorry, things just keep on getting added and I don’t keep myself as updated as much as I use to) is something that every member of the LGBTQA has the opportunity to go through.

The story is different for each person; coming out can have negative consequences; I’ve read and heard stories of teenagers being thrown out of their homes or disowned by their families because they’re not straight. In some worst case scenarios it has lead to said person taking their own life. It’s a scary realistic fear every person who’s not straight (I don’t feel like typing LGBTQA right now) has in their mind.

In the past based on what I’ve been told by older friends, the option was never to come out to family members. Just live their romantic/sexual lives in secret and in a sense catfish your loved ones into thinking you just haven’t found the ‘right member of the opposite sex’. Although this solution seems like the easiest one, it’s not the right one. It’s not good to hide and lie to your loved ones, even if the end result wouldn’t be a happy one, it’s better that they know the truth. Atleast it’s better than them finding out via accidentally catching you watching gay porn.

Not all coming out stories end in hurt, some families and friends are happy and supportive of those who come out. If the coming out story, both in reality and the media, has done anything for everyone, it’s given us a form of normality. It has taken the dreaded confession of what a person is and weakened the possible reaction of hate. It has helped turn hatred towards someone for not being straight into understanding, support, and joy. Or atleast reduce the amount of homeless gay teens (hopefully).

It’s a Coming of Age Story

The coming of age story is a story where the protagonist goes from youth to adulthood. I’m not saying coming out as gay makes you a responsible adult ready to take on life, but things do change and your world is shifted.

What better plot to a coming of age story than to have your protagonist come out as gay? It could be the central plot to a story where the protagonist spends most of the book wondering what will happen once they come out as gay and suffering anxiety because of it. Or coming out can work as a macguffin where it simply serves the purpose to get the plot going and your protagonist doing things.

At the end of the story the protagonist will have changed, hopefully for the better (unless the author is Orson Scott Card). The protagonist can either have a very nice happily ever after, or a very vague unknown open ended outcome.

It Can Give Courage, Discussion, and Understanding

The first time I learned of the concept of being gay I was eight. I didn’t think it was a big deal, just a little off. Then puberty hit me; I hoped and prayed that it was just a weird phase I was going through. I thought that being weirded out by two men kissing a little was enough to prove I was straight to myself and supported my hope that I was going through a weird phase.

There wasn’t much LGBTQA media aimed towards teenagers (that I knew of) in the early 2000’s to 2008 so I didn’t have access to coming out stories until I was more or less an adult. I did have the internet through, access to Japanese manga, and an older friend who took the time to listen to me.

These stories that vary from worst, best, and okay reactions to coming out as LGBTQA. They can give someone who is going through what I and others went/are going through courage to talk to their parents, family, and friends and discuss what is going on with them in their life, and these discussions even lead to weeding out who’s a real friend and who’s a fakeass bitch. I can’t guarantee to every person reading or watching a coming out story that things will have a ‘Kurt Hummel being embraced by his dad’ reaction, but it can always, hopefully, open the door for discussion and the ability to face the fear of the unknown.

Bisexuality is Real, Don’t be an Asshole About It

Many people say that bisexuality is someone who doesn’t want to come out as gay or something for people who just like to sleep around with both genders. Don’t be one of those assholes please. Be supportive of your friend or loved one who knows that they do love both genders.

Part of My Own Story

There are two versions of my coming out story; the one for school and the one for home. The one for school was the shitty one; shortly afterward being outed I was harassed by a classmate for two and a half years (I think he dropped out of college and has a kid now. I gave him the wrong answers to a final exam so he didn’t graduate on time).

Coming out at school was done because Melissa Richardson outed me. Melissa Richardson is a fake ass cunt who loves the band Bowling for Soup. I will say thank you to her for allowing genuinely kind and loving people into my life who were nice to me during my time of being shunned by my peers. I hope whatever version of Christianity you’ve made up for yourself this year is to your liking. The mantra of “this shit is over after May 2008” played in my mind until I got my diploma from highschool, hugged my dearest friends (I’m sad to say I lost touch with all of them), and left those who wronged me to the rest of their lives.

Coming out at home started with my cat because you have to practice with someone who can’t judge you too harshly. Eventually though the first human family member I admitted this to was my brother. I don’t remember why but I was feeling okay that particular friday night. I asked my brother something, he replied with a asshole remark, I brushed it off as whatever. I was eventually called back into the room and he hugged me telling me I was loved. I don’t know if it’s because two years of being a youth leader at our church gave him good observation skills about me not being at my happiest, or if somehow my low key status at school (look there were over 1000 students my graduating year, even with what I provided above I did go through four years being very low on the social radar) had somehow gotten to him.

He was very understanding, I think it’s because he was taking both psychology and sociology at the time. He did warn me that our parents were suspicious of my sexuality and to not come out by accident. That it would be better to come out in person.

The December of that year I told my dad I was gay; it was a scary morning for me, and the biggest relief in my life. I was still loved by my dad, I wasn’t thrown out, I wasn’t told it was a phase in life, I suspect he may have secretly prayed to God to make me straight or send ‘the right girl’ for me, or that this was a sign I was supposed to join the priesthood (I don’t understand why older catholics are trying to get so many people to become priests. Fuck that shit). Over time I’m sure he accepted it.

My mother found out via literary gay porn (yes my porn is in ebook format, no it’s not Fifty Shades, I can do better than that). It ended as well as it sounds.

Your Story Will be Different

I’m aware my story was more or less a walk in the park compared to others. While I did have a shitty time at school, my home life was more or less the same. To the teenager reading this little blog right now who is scared not knowing what they are, please take time to sort things out mentally and talk to a school counselor or someone you really trust about your struggle. You will know when you are ready (also for the love of everything sacred do not let porn of all things out you).

To the teenager who is aware they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, or queer, I can’t guarantee things won’t be happy when you come out. Every situation is different, I have no end all perfect solution to this problem that doesn’t involve brain slugs or corgis. If you are planning to come out to your parents and fear being thrown out, please make precautions and make sure someone will be able to help you in a bad situation. There is also always hope that your parents or guardians will be understanding of the situation and totally accept you as is. And please, please, please do not consider suicide as an option should things go wrong. It’s not a solution. If you are feeling scared about your current situation please contact the National Suicide Prevention HotlineThey even have part of their website devoted to you.

To the Minority of LGBT+ that are Christian and unsure of if it is a sin, it’s not and Jesus loves you regardless of who you love, unconditionally. There are others like you that believe in God too, I’m one of them.

You Will Always be Coming Out

Something I’ve learned since coming out in the first place is that you are forever doomed to be coming out. While coming out to your family and friends is the main milestone in life, you will always end up coming out; it will either be to a homophobic person talking shit about gay people, it will be to new friends who haven’t realized you’re not straight, it will be to someone your friends set you up on a date with not realizing you’re not straight, it will be to whatever eventually replaces Facebook in the future of social media and you gotta answer what you are interested in for relationship purposes.

And finally you will come out to the person who matters the most to you, your future spouse. The one you want to love the most for the rest of your life.

Pride Month: Interview With the Wagner

Continuing with LGBT Pride Month this week I was fortunate enough to have an interview with Cody Wagner, author of The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren last night.

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BaS- Today on Books and Smizmars we have a special guest, author of the award winning book The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren Cddy Wagner

Cody-Hi! I’m also known as Cody. JK

BaS-That damn keyboard, how are you today?

Cody-Lol I’m doing good! Just worked out and had my protein shake. So life is good. (I only workout for the shake.)

BaS-I’ve never had the shake. lol

Cody-Oh I tried a bunch of different ones (some really bad) before finding one I liked.

BaS-well that’s good

Cody-Also: Thanks for interviewing me! I’m Super excited.

BaS-I’m super excited you said yes! Right then, so where did you come up with The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a SIren (TGTGtDaS)

Cody-There’s a facebook post: “He said Yes!” Well I always knew I wanted to write a YA LGBTQ book. I just didn’t know what it would be about. Some ideas were in my head (the most prominent was sorta like that Diary of a Wimpy Kid) but nothing really appealed to me. So I actually wrote a completely different manuscript. Then, one night, I was talking to my sister about Greek Mythology and we got into the Siren. Somehow, this question randomly came up: you think gay guys were immune to the Siren’s song? And that actually kick-started the book. Funnily enough, we were just joking around but the idea stuck with me. And the rest of the book fell into my head. The next day, I ditched my other manuscript and started working on TGTGtDaS

BaS-That’s awesome! It is an interesting way to come up with a story. If you don’t mind, what was the synopsis of the other book? Was it similar?

Cody-Lol It’s not even a little bit similar. Whereas TGTGtDaS is a YA LGBT, the other is adult dystopian mixed with literary history. It’s essentially about a desperate man who tries to create a religion. I honestly don’t know exactly how to categorize it, but there you go. WHen TGTGtDaS is finished, I will be hopping back onto it.

BaS-Good to hear, I look forward to it when TGTGtDaS is finished. How was TGTGtDaS witten? Was it planned or made up as you went along?

Cody– So writers are sometimes designated as “pantsers” or “planners”. Pantsers fly by the seats of their pants and make it up as they go. Planners plan things out. I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve tried just sitting down and writing. But, oh man, did I write some garbage! I have to begin with some direction. So I typically have a loose outline telling what each chapter is about (in just a few sentences.) Then I go in and blow them out. I don’t plan too much more than that because there’s this cool thing that happens: sometimes, characters take over the story and they end up doing something different than you expected.

BaS- I’ve heard that happen with a few authors.

Cody-Admittedly, book 2 was a bit different. I didn’t have every chapter planned out. I only had the next one or two chapters in my head and that’s it. The rest of the book ahead of that was blank.

BaS-oh wow

Cody-I think a more practical way to put it is that when you’re writing a scene, you’re immersed in the emotion that can cause things to play out differently. Yeah. Book 2 was EXTREMELY difficult for me. I always thought sequels would be easier. They definitely are not.

BaS-I believe you. Just getting one book finished is exhausting, then you gotta do it again!

Cody-Yep, exactly! And you have to market as .well.

BaS-ah. What influences went into writing TGTGtDaS

Cody-You mean who/what influenced the story?

BaS-Correct

Cody-Yes! I understood correctly! Ok I have to give a shout out to Harry Potter. It definitely played a part. In TGTGtDaS, the main character, Blaize, is sent off to a boarding school that is *very* different than it appears. It’s not a school of witchcraft or anything, but the feel is similar in that Blaize’s real home is at school. I also loved that, although there are sad/serious moments, Harry Potter also has times of joy. I wanted that in this book. While Blaize goes through some awful stuff, he also has a lot of fun. I also have to say that young me (trademark pending) influenced the book. I grew up in a tiny homophobic town. And I wanted to give young me an escape so I wrote the book for him. Honestly, the book is for all those kids like me, the ones who wanted to be themselves but weren’t able to. I’ve had several reviewers say the book reminds them a bit of gay Harry Potter and I think that’s the highest compliment.

BaS-I actually did get a Harry Potter vibe from it based on it being a boarding school with fun shenanigans happening.

Cody-SWEET!

BaS-Par of me did also wonder if there was a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in there based on the title.

Cody-Oh Really? Interesting. I’ve never actually seen the show.

BaS-It was a great show, it’s not on Netflix anymore.

Cody– I have tons of friends who loved it. I’ll have to ask the ones who read the book if they also saw similarities.

BaS-Great! Why did you choose to have TGTGtDaS as a YA book?

Cody-Because I really wanted to give something to younger people who might be suffering or questioning or just curious. I don’t try to claim that my book is the be-all-end-all. But I’m just trying to show that gay kids are like everyone else. That’s one thing I worked really hard at with TGTGtDaS. I didn’t want a book about gay teens. I wanted a book about teens who just happened to be gay. And they go through the same stuff everyone does. I also deal with bullying as it’s something I dealt with as a kid. Bullying sucks (when I was a kid, older guys raised me up a flagpoles by my belt loop!!!). But looking back, I saw that it really does get better. And I want to try to convey some of that to teens.

BaS-I actually did notice you spent more time on the cast as regular teens rather than stereotypes, THANK YOU! And holy crap a flagpole? That’s actually physically possible and not something on tv?

Cody-You’re welcome, I’m basically a 14-year-old myself sooooo. Oh my belt loop broke like 10 feet up. Luckily I grabbed the pole and managed to slide down.

BaS- that sounds slightly less painful than falling onto concrete.

Cody-Very much yes! But imagine sliding down into the waiting arms of bullies. It was like slow motion. Maybe one day I’ll write a story about it.

BaS-oh dear, that does sound pretty awful.

Cody-I think those experiences can make us better people. More sympathetic or just kinder. I’m definitely not saying I’m perfect. But I’m actually glad it happened in a way.

BaS-Understandable. Now that you bring that up, there is a character named Jimmy who is bullied by two of his peers, was he your outlet for the events that happened to you?

Cody-Yes. Blaize is my outlet for wanting to be popular. Oh man, I thought being popular would solve all my problems. I put those jocks on a pedestal in high school. And I really wanted to have Blaize deal with that. Regarding bullying, Jimmy is definitely my bullying outlet. He feels a lot of things I did. It was cathartic writing that and watching Jimmy come around. Honestly, I started the book with the intention of making Jimmy unlikable. But then I felt what he was going through and he grew into probably my favorite character in the book. He actually changed as I wrote him.

BaS-It was an interesting form of character development to read through. You already answered this, but to continue on the subject, is there any of you in Blaize?

Cody-Oh very much yes. He’s goofy and unsure, just like I was. And he has lots of mouth diarrhea like I used to. On the other hand, though, I was a VERY oblivious teenager. I think it’s what got me through. And I was also very self-involved. Blaize is actually pretty intuitive and aware of his faults (even if he doesn’t fix them). That’s very different from how I was.

BaS-To be fair I think most teens are still oblivious, it must be the hormones.

Cody- That’s very true! LOL

BaS-ANy real life inspirations for other characters in your book (besides Hermione)?

Cody-As I mentioned, Jimmy is based on someone from my childhood. Also, Molly (Blaize’s little sister) is loosely based on my sister. We just talked about kids being oblivious, but my sister was the exception. So hyper aware and extremely sensitive. And I pulled that into Molly. I just love her. As you noticed, Cassie is loosely based on Hermione. I think some differences will come out in book 2 (#spoileralert LOL :)). Surprisingly, Roze isn’t really based on a specific person. I just knew what I wanted her to be and gave her characteristics to match.

BaS-How nice! Does your sister know that Molly is based on her?

Cody- Hmmmm…I don’t think so, actually. That’s because Roze originally had my sister’s name in a very early draft and I ended up changing it. So she’s bitter LOL.

BaS-oh dear! Better get a new character to fix that up! JK

Cody- LOL! In the first draft, every character was named after someone I knew. Then I went back and changed them all. I think she’d be happy knowing Molly is based on her.

BaS-I’m sure she would. The next few questions are going to be a little bit about the world of TGTGtDaS, if there are spoilers just say so.

Cody-Sounds good!

BaS-Does anyone besides the main protagonist Blaize and his friends know about the mysterious Siren?

Cody-Oh gosh. Well, I think, by the end of book one, readers strongly suspect the school knows. That’s probably obvious. But that is addressed in book 2. I just can’t say how. Yet. Mwhahahaha!

Bas-I’m gasping in shock!

Cody-Lol! I’m sensing some sarcasm? If not, um, sorry!

BaS-It’s a little bit of actual response and sarcasm lol.

Cody-Lol I just have a big mouth! And I have to be careful. For reals. I’ve been known to just blurt out horrible spoilers. That’s how I’m like Blaize.

BaS-oh dear, maybe you should troll your fans by giving outrageous unlikely events in place?

Cody-OH OK here goes: At the end of book 2, Blaize wakes up and realizes everything was just a dream!!!

BaS-Funny thing, I had suspected the Harry Potter series would end like that (spoiler, it doesn’t.) Concerning the school, the students do have access to a computer in their rooms, do some students ever use their computers to log onto social media services such as facebook and twitter? It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while lol.

Cody-If Harry Potter had ended like that, I would have thrown my books out the window!!!

BaS-Yikes, that would have killed someone!

Cody- Yeah, so there’s a good question. I don’t dive into it much. Here’s the thing: I have to give a LOT of faith to the students at Sanctuary. Given social media and everything, it would be really hard to conceal the school’s true nature. Especially with hundreds of hormonal teenagers, LOL. But I really want it to seem like, despite their differences, the students know what’s at stake if they “spill the beans.” So I assume they use social media. But they’d post only trvial things. Most, if not all, don’t want people to know they’re in a “healing” school. So they wouldn’t be posting “I’m having cleansing corn today!” LOL That’s why I don’t go into it so much. As they wouldn’t share anything relevant to the story. Does that make sense at all? I will say YouTube becomes more prominent in book 2. But that’s all I’ll say.

BaS- Oh sweet, I love YouTube!

Cody-Yeah I spend way too much time on it.

BaS-Concerning the school, it is said that students will be expelled concerning the secret being revealed; are there any families that are aware of the secret, but sent their children there for other reasons (such as bullying or harassment from a normal school)?

Cody-Oh gosh. Another great question. And one that will be addressed. So I’m trying to think how much to say. The thing is, that’s not going to be dealt with until book 3. So if I don’t answer…well, it will be a while.

BaS-Understandable, final bit of questions concerning the school; Any teachers dating each other, has a student ever been expelled for just having the worst grades, and how good are those healing hamburgers?

Cody-LOL Fun questions! Yes! Teachers are dating. In book one, two teachers hold hands at orientation. I’ve thought some about Adkins and Principal Wolcott. Maybe some details will emerge at some point. No one has been expelled for grades. Again my book takes the liberty in assuming that these kids want to be at Sanctuary so badly they will do enough to stay there…Even if it’s barely enough. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But, I think if sanctuary really existed and provided what it does, the students would REALLY REALLY want to be there. OH! LOL The food is actually based on the cafeteria at Texas Tech University. I ate lunch and dinner there every day for a year. Sometimes it was good. And sometimes it was gross. LOL I’d say the Healing Hamburgers are decent.

BaS-Oh wow, I hope none of the cafeteria workers at Texas Tech put two and two together.

Cody-I’m sure they won’t as that probably describes most cafeterias in the country.

BaS- True; considering many books are being adapted into movies and television shows, how would you feel about TGTGtDaS beng adapted into on or the other and who would be your ideal cast?

Cody-Uh that would be AMAZING. Like truly amazing, because that means people read the book and want more. That’s like the dream. THE DREAM!!! So I thought about the cast and it was really hard thinking of people who fit the characters in my eyes…until… I watched Ben Platt on the Tony’s. He’s the star in a musical called Dear Evan Hansen. And after I saw him: I realized he’s Blaize. He’s the perfect Blaize: endearing, goofy, etc.

BaS- He was also in Pitch Perfect.

Cody-Yep! I didn’t think much of him then, but his performance in Dear Evan Hansen is amazing. And I’m a singer as well so I was really surprised by his voice.

BaS-That’s good to hear, maybe they can sneak in some musical numbers.

Cody-LOL! TGTGtDaS: The Musical, I’m totally down! When Principal Wolcott reveals the true nature of the school, that would be a touching number!

BaS-it would! Just a few more questions before we finish things up.

Cody- OK shoot!

BaS-Who are your favorite authors? DId any of them provide some extra inspiration for TGTGtDaS?

Cody-Not sure, I don’t read. Kidding.

BaS- I was about to throw my laptop across the room in shock!

Cody-John Irving made me want to write. When I read A Prayer For Owen Meany, I was so touched, I decided I wanted to make people feel that way. He’s a beautiful writer. Naturally, I’m also drawn to JK Rowling. She made me bawl in book 7 so I have to give credit where credit is due. She’s also AMAZING at telling back story. I also love Neil Gaiman and his stuff. Also, while their books may not be my favorite, I’m sometimes drawn to authors by their writing style. For example, Jonathan Franzen writes some of the most amazing sentences.

BaS-Very interesting, also fun fact: both JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman have been on The Simpsons.

Cody-Really? Oh that *is* a fun fact! That’s like how you know you’ve made it: when you’re a voice on The Simpsons.

BaS-Yes, maybe one day both of us will end up animated with yellow skin.

Cody- Or I’ll just get jaundice and pretend.

BaS-haha. Finally what can we expect in the second book in TGTGtDaS? Bonus question: will we see you at Texas Teen Book Festival 2017?

Cody- Oh gosh. OK. Well, on a higher level, the book is much faster than book 1. Stuff starts hitting the fan and it never really stops. Especially as Blaize tries to decide if he wants people to know about his new power. Naturally, the Siren kicks up her efforts. How? I can’t say, but it becomes imperative that Blaize stop her. It’s really a cat and mouse game for much of book 2. Also, Blaize may or may not fall for someone. That’s all I can say. Well at this point, I will *definitely* be at the Texas Teen Book Festival. I had *such* a great time last year! It was amazing! One of the best festivals I’ve ever been to.

BaS-Yay! Hopefully I’ll be able to make it too. THank you so much for giving Books and Smizmars your time for this interview.

Cody-Awesome, I hope to see you! You are SOO very welcome! I hope it’s not the last interview as it was super fun! And I hope you have an amazing evening!

BaS-Thank you, to you as well!

That was Cody Wagner author of the YA book The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren. You can visit Cody’s website at http://www.wagner-writer.com/ and his Good Reads page at https://www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer.

Pride Month: Top Ten LGBT Characters

For the second(ish) week of Pride Month I will be counting down my top ten LGBT characters. The conditions for this top ten list is that I will only select one lgbt character per book/show/franchise because I could easily fill up the list with just characters from one franchise, this doesn’t that mean that a LGBT couple can’t share a spot on the list though, and finally the character must be a hero/protagonist to the story. This is a personal top ten list, if your favorite LGBT character did not make the list I am sorry, feel free to add your favorite  characters though in the comments.

In  no particular order, here is my top ten list of LGBT characters. Caution there are some spoilers in this top ten list. The links go to Amazon, in case you want more information or to

10. Yukito/Toya from CardCaptor Sakura -I like  this particular manga because I learned to draw specifically from reading this alone so it has a special spot in my heart. It’s a very soft, light hearted story about a magical girl and her adventures retrieving the mystical Clow Cards and becoming their master. I picked Yukito and his eventual partner Toya because they were my first exposure to an lgbt couple, post realizing and accepting that I was gay. It’s kind of an interesting story on how Yukito falls in love with Toya and how his feelings for him kind of screw around with who he was destined to fall in love with (Sakura initionally has a crush on Yukito who is best friend’s with Sakura’s older brother Toya) Rather than concentrate on the conflict of sexuality and possible incompatibility between the two (this IS a comic aimed for children after all) the drama concentrates more on Yukito getting bursts of amnesia due to magic (it’s a complicated story). Still the two do become a couple and are living happily in the sequel manga still…so far.

9. Haruka Tenoh aka Sailor Uranus and Michiru Kaioh aka Sailor Neptune from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon-I’m going to be honest and say my reason for having couples share a spot is because of Haruka and Michiru from Sailor Moon.  they are a couple who are soldiers who protected the Moon Kingdom from evils outside the Moon Kingdom. Haruka has many strong masculine qualities and is even drawn to resemble a boy in some of the official artwork by Naoko Takuichi; in addition Haruka assumes the leader role for the Outer Guardians.

Michiru admittingly is a flat character; while she is an elegant young woman with a higher level of maturity compared to other girls her age in addition to being an expert musician with the violin and cello, she really doesn’t do much outside of being Haruka’s girlfriend (so long as you don’t say shit about her lipstick). In Sailor Moon Crystal, Michiru provides some exposition, but no further characterization beyond that. In the nineties anime though, she is SALTY. She delivers the best burns and sass all with a calm happy smile on her face.

Together they’re both skilled fighters and are willing to do what is needed to save the day, but do eventually (and happily) give into the idealist views of Usagi.

I should also mention that in the american late 90’s/early00’s dub of Sailor Moon S the couple’s relationship was changed from romantic to familial (they were cousins). Most fans (not including me) saw right through it. In the new VIZ Media Dub Haruka and Michiru will continue to be in a romantic relationship which goes to show how far things have come since the initial airing of Sailor Moon in the United States.  

8. Xandir from Drawn Together – Drawn Together is possibly one of the most horrible cartoons to ever be animated, aired, and viewed. It is not bad, but it provides a near accurate form of what I find hilarious (I’m going to hell…). However, with Drawn Together we also got Xandir, the token gay housemate. It was interesting that Comedy Central requested that the character be recast from initial voice actor Nat Faxon (who provided a gay lisp for the character) to openly gay actor Jack Plotnick. While there is a plethora of humor in relation to Xandir being gay that some may find offensive (look the whole show is offensive, it did air on Comedy Central after all), Xandir was more or less treated as a plain character with the exception of three episodes. None of the gay jokes were too mean spirited and he received his fair share of black comedy and slapstick humor along with the other characters.

8. Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series-Dumbledore is kind of interesting character in that no one ever realized he was gay and J.K. Rowling had to out him. And how did fans react to him being gay? With applause, love, and joy! While his sexuality never plays a major role in the current timeline of the series (sort of), he was a powerful and heavily respected wizard who Voldemort feared. He was also the character that understood love very well; not love in the romantic sense, but parental, familial, and unconditional love.

Perhaps because of his sexuality and a mistake he made concerning romantic love Dumbledore has a better understanding of the emotion and can help Harry and his friends out more on their magical adventures.

6. Number Six from Battlestar Galactica -Number Six is our first bisexual character on the list. Despite intentionally being a villain in the Number Six series Cylon (I have a thing for long complicated stories) grow thanks to the efforts and actions of a handful of Number Six’s. To clarify there are three types of Cylons; Space ship, Cylon Centurions, and humanoid Cylons. There are twelve humanoid Cylon models with the Number 6 type being the only ones not to get a name. One of the main Six’s is Caprica Six, the woman who caused the fall of the Twelve planets. She grows from there, talks to an angel/messenger and begins to understand what’s going on around her.

She has a strong faith and belief in God and from this begins to question the motives of the other cylons and if what they are doing is truly the will of God and if the act of mass genocide was truly necessary. She grows from her experiences and even convinces the other Six’s and some other cylons to switch sides and aid the fleeing humans in the search for Earth.

5. Sara Lance from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow- Sara Lance is a badass. She went from typical spoiled teenager to trained assassin to be feared within five years of her life. During this five year time period she had time to discover that she liked girls. She died in name, then literally died for real and came back to life, thanks to the Lazarus pit. She loves her family and now travels through time and space womanizing ladies she’s interested in and kicking ass and taking names. She’s essentially a female version of your “guy” character who goes around having one night stands and sweeping women off their feet instead of sweeping the floor (which she incidentally does with some of the men she beats up.)

She has depth though, she loves her family and friends and is willing to have an emotional heart to heart conversation when she feels it’s necessary.

4. Sophia Burset from Orange is the New Black- In a cast filled with female characters who are straight, lesbian, bi, curious, bored, over the need for sex, and religiously nutty there is Sophia Burset; a transgender woman in a woman’s correctional facility. She was a normal man who realized that she’s not a man.

She’s social, sassy, saved a man’s life, and is even best friends with a nun despite the moral issue that should exist between the two. The great thing about this character is that she is played by transgender actress Lavern Cox adding to the representation of the minority. Fun fact: she came to my Alma Matter earlier this year and gave a talk and presentation. 

3. Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who and Torchwood-Back in 2005 when Doctor Who came back we had a character introduced named Jack Harkness from a time period where sexuality…became very strange. While not strictly gay, Captain Jack evolved from a coward con artist to a heroic figure forced to live with tough sacrifices and decisions as a member of Torchwood.

Despite the character being bisexual/omnisexual Captain Jack is known to primarily have relationships with other male characters treating the relationships with normality. Even with his one night stands the encounters are treated the norm to him and to the audience of Torchwood.

Despite although being damaged and being forced to make horrible decisions as the leader of Torchwood Three, Captain Jack is still a fun character and I would love for John Barrowman to return to Doctor Who soon as the character.

2. Korra and Asami from Avatar the Legend of Korra-in the winter of 2014 something shocking and beautiful happened. For years many fans of Avatar the Legend of Korra had shipped the characters Korra and Asami together. When season 3 came along there were scenes that some fans felt could be interpreted as romantic interest between the two characters, but felt such a thing could not happen due to the series being on Nickelodeon.

Then in the series finale, Korra and Asami gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes as they prepared to walk into the spirit world for a vacation from all the crazy events happening in their lives. It was confirmed by the creators of Legend of Korra that yes Korra and Asami are a couple and that the executives at Nickelodeon were actually thrilled and supportive of the idea that the two characters were an official couple.

Before going onto the Number 1 spot, here are some honorable mentions:

  • The cast of Steven Universe (particularly Pearl)
  • Yuri and Victor from Yuri on Ice
  • Usagi Tsukino of Sailor Moon (she’s kind of bi, but let’s be honest she loves Mamaru the most)
  • Alex Danvers of Supergirl
  • All of the LGBT characters on Glee (NEARLY TEN LGBT characters on a show that wasn’t aimed for an LGBT audience alone)

And finally:

  1. Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer-All of the following characters are great in their own ways, but for a while it was Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who was sort of the main lgbt character to relate to within prime time television aimed towards teenagers. She started out as a shy girl who was bullied, gained self confidence, make overs, and discovered more and more about herself. Things were rough when she intentionally came out, but her friends still loved her and accepted her and eventually she and Terra became beloved characters to the franchise who many lgbt youth look up to. 

And that is my Top Ten LGBT characters list, if you didn’t see any of your favorite LGBT characters or have any to suggest please do so in the comments. Special thanks to my friend Sam from Sam’s Little Corner who helped with proofreading and editing this blog post.

Pride Month: Yuri On Ice

It is LGBT Pride Month, and each week I will have discussions about LGBT media through entertainment. This week’s topic is the anime Yuri on Ice. Yuri on Ice is a figure skating themed sports anime that ran from October 6th 2016 to December 22nd 2016. The story follows Yuri Katsuki who after performing poorly in a national figure skating competition as a result of mourning the loss of his pet dog and performance anxiety. Despite his intentions to retire from figure skating Yuri’s idol Victor Nikiforof approaches him stating he will coach Yuri and turn him into a figure skating legend (completely naked when doing so too).

During the series Yuri grows in both his abilities as a figure skater, and a person as he slowly grows closer to Victor having his feelings towards Victor evolve from a crush/admiration to genuine friendship eventually leading both of them authentically falling in love with each other.

Watching this anime was a very wonderful for me, unfortunately I did not watch the anime as episodes premiered on Crunchyroll due to being unaware of it at the time, but a few months ago I watched and loved every moment of it. Even with the relationship between Yuri and Victor aside the story is very interesting and well told with Yuri frequently questioning if he should continue to be a figure skater despite gaining a considerable amount of skill with Victor as his coach.

The scenes where Yuri and the other skaters perform and compete are very intense and pulled me (and probably other viewers) closer to their tv’s and computer screens with heartbeats intensified. Despite the series being animated I did feel nervous watching Yuri and his rivals skate cringing when the performers had flaws in their routines. In addition to these routines sympathy and backstory is given to each character that aren’t Yuri, Victor, or Yurio (a third protagonist that I’m ignoring because I want to concentrate on Yuri and Victor) in the series. I consider the fact that all of the following was accomplished in the anime within twelve episodes very impressive.

Besides figure skating the main part of the story is the relationship between Yuri and Victor. Despite the original intentions of writer Mitsuro Kubo of having the relationship between the two be one of coach and student where at the end of the anime Yuri would retire so Victor could return to skating and the two could be separated once again, the two fell in love. I truly enjoyed seeing the two begin to synchronize their affection for each other, especially after later episodes hint that Victor was attracted to Yuri and chose to become his coach based on these feelings and emotions alone.

The voice acting in both Japanese and English are very good with parts of the Japanese dub giving the possibility that the voice actors were indeed crying while recording and some parts of the story possibly improved upon with the English adaption. The art and animation can be a little weird at times, but the figure skating scenes are amazing. The music compliments the skating scenes very well, and I rather like that Yuri and his friends tend to be social media junkies at times.

There is some criticism over the fact that there are no homophobic characters in the series despite two other figure skaters being hinted at Christian faith. Although I do understand the criticism over the fact that Yuri On Ice appears to be a world with no homophobia for Yuri and Victor to encounter (Victor is from Russia as well), I prefer the anime to be this way. If said two minor characters are indeed of Christian faith, then that makes things better in my opinion since at this current time Christianity is being hijacked by a bunch of assholes that are making all of us look like monsters that want to lynch anyone who disagrees with them. In my own opinion I think the show could be a form of escapism and provide an example of a happy gay relationship for lgbt viewers.

I highly recommend this anime to both hardcore and casual anime fans and give Yuri On Ice four out of five Katsu Pirozhki buns. Yuri On Ice is produced by MAPPA studio and has been dubbed in English by Funimation and is available on the Funimation website and for free on the Crunchyroll website.

 

Wishful Drinking Review

I liked Carrie Fisher, I’ve met her by accident and didn’t realize who she was (and her little dog too). Hearing the news of her passing this past December was hard and having a Disney Infinity figure of princess Leia and a Funko Pop figure of General Leia just made me feel sad knowing I’ll never accidentally meet her again seeing as she’s now in a beautiful Prozac pill in the sky.

However this didn’t mean I couldn’t celebrate her life beyond Star Wars and that weird hairdo, so I bought some of her books and just finished reading the hilariously wonderful, Wishful Drinking.

It’s kind of hard to spoil real life.

I loved this book, at first I was scared I was going to be depressed and shocked at the possibility of the darker parts of Carrie Fisher’s life since no one has the perfect life and we all have our own demons to face. And she did have her own demons to face, and she faced them, and as of the publishing of Wishful Drinking (I still need to read The Princess Diarist) she called up her inner demons and they had something to drink and what not every other week.

Hearing about her life as the daughter of two celebrities, knowing how “celebrity life” was like back during the time of her adolescence and teenage years during that time era was interesting. Reading some of Carrie’s experiences in life was interesting and funny. Normally I would go into detail of certain events in a book or movie, but I really don’t want to with Wishful Drinking because I feel they really do have to be read to believe.

The book felt more like sitting down and listening to an older friend (lets say one friend being a baby boomer and yourself being a millennial)  tell you a story. Carrie does talk about drug usage and takes a few loving jabs at Star Wars. I will never know Carrie Fisher beyond our very brief meeting that she probably wouldn’t recall anyways. But reading this book felt like I got to know her a little better and makes me hope that if I must become old, I can be similar to Carrie where I can laugh at the sad and scary parts of my life and joke about drug usage (I haven’t ever used drugs) and depression/anxiety (oh boy those two…).

Finally the main thing I have taken from Wishful Drinking is this; as long as you can laugh at/about your hardships later in life, you’re going to be just fine. There will be alot of bumps and scary parts (look at what happened in London within less than a month as of June 2017!) But anything short of sudden mass extinction via nuclear blasts and having communism take over your country is only temporary.

I will end this review with a beautiful quote that I found in this book at the end.

One of the things that baffles me (and there are a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of duty in Afganistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. 

 

Once Upon a Time Near Series Fauxnalie Review

In an alternate universe tonight was the series finale of Once Upon a Time. I loved the series, through awesome first halves of seasons followed by boring second halves of seasons, to amazing seasons with crappy season finales, and through all the tear jerkers, talks of hope, forgiveness, and love.

I won’t review the whole series, because that would take too much typing and I wouldn’t be done for a good eleven hours. I will be concentrating on this episode and any episodes I associate with it will be because of character development.

blah blah blah, spoilers beyond this point, blah blah

As I mentioned earlier there have been seasons that have been good with crappy season finales, and there have been boring arcs with a good season finale to follow. This season gave us a genuinely good and satisfying season finale. Many plots were tied up from Charming and Snow’s life (lets be honest their plot more or less wrapped up around the end of the Queens of Darkness arc), to Regina fighting her inner demons, to Rumple fighting his inner thoughts as The Dark One.

My only complaint is that this isn’t the actual series finale. Rather than giving us two hours of dramatic confrontation between good and evil, we’re given an alternative to one huge fight between light and darkness (don’t worry there is one). The finale was a nice reflection of the events of the first episode of Once Upon a Time where Emma is living a life without faith or belief, but through the events of the episode manages to regain her faith in everything.

I rather like that the final confrontation was not on Emma alone, but also with Rumple. I was happy that Emma took her position as the savior properly and didn’t resort to violence to save the day and (as I predicted in 2011 when the show first aired) died saving the day (don’t worry she came back to life too). It was interesting to see that Rumple was the one to kill the Black Fairy, and that it helped actually save the day.

I like that all the past events of the show were referenced one last time by reminding us that the cast of the Frozen arc, the Wonderland spin off, and other world’s visited were also playing a role in the events happening in the episode. I would have liked it more if the actors and actresses had been able to return for this episode, hopefully they can return for the actual series finale.

Speaking of which, it appears that the seventh season will have to do with Henry regaining his memories about Storybrook and his family because that’s how crappy Disney sequels set things.

I liked that essentially everyone in the series got a happy life, and that the morals of love, forgiveness, faith, and hope were able to aid in this episode and will probably aid the cast in the future.

Let’s hope next season is the last season.