Maybe it’s true. Maybe we don’t know what we have until we’ve lost it. But, maybe it’s also true that we don’t know what we’re missing until we find it.
It’s a moment that isn’t soon forgotten. You are watching a show or a movie and suddenly you come face to face with – yourself.
Let me back up. I’ve loved movies, books, fantasy worlds, and escapes from reality since day one. These stolen golden moments when I could pretend I was someone else, put myself into a different pair of shoes, and experience a different perspective, painted my childhood.
The heroes in these stories were all wonderful – and they were all something I could never be. They were tall, I was short. They had lustrous dark hair, I had frizzy red hair. They were well liked, I … wasn’t. They tended to be boys, I’m most certainly not. They had sharp cheekbones and clear skin, I’ve got more freckles than some people have hair.
Finding a female role model in a great story is hard. Women are rarely the main character. When they do appear they often are reduced to furniture for the main character to use, think about, and rescue. When a strong female character does enter a story, she is almost always dark haired, long-limbed, with clear skin. Anything different is a notable exception, not the norm.
The most recent Wonder Woman captures the hearts of mothers and daughters around the world because she is strong and good and real. But she matches the formula: she’s dark haired, with long legs, and clear skin.
I loved Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange because she breaks the rules of what a strong female character should look like.
A few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I finally had my moment where I too felt represented in fiction.
At the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the masked Enfys Nest does her big reveal. Throughout the movie we’ve been led to believe she is a man. She wears a large disguise and hides her voice. She is tactical, ruthless, efficient, and has made things hard for our hero – so we aren’t sure if we should like her.
When the mask falls to the ground we see this stunning powerful woman with a mass of red curly hair and freckles.
And, ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh, I finally get it. I had never encountered a powerful redhead in film until now. This is what representation means and why diversity is so important. Until recently entire populations of people have been excluded from being cast in powerful roles. This has got to change.
Until this moment I didn’t know what I was missing, because I had no idea there would ever be someone like me portrayed in film. Because of this moment, I intend to strive for greater diversity in future projects.
Everyone deserves a hero they can see themselves in.
Every single one of us has that one friend who hates things with an unusual passion. You know the one – and if you don’t, it might be you. The conversation will start with a casual discussion about the most recent movies they’ve seen and the next thing you know, they are ranting about some aspect of the show that you frankly could care less about.
This is a toxic fan – and James Wymore isn’t one of them. Trust me. He’s got opinions a plenty about recent reincarnations of certain franchises, but he also has that wonderful thing called perspective. As an author who has solved the puzzles and fought to find what makes his fans happy, he gets it.
I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve had
somebody tell me how awful the Star Wars prequel trilogy is. At conferences,
during convention panels, over pizza, at family gatherings, and so many times
on social media. They are generally nice people, with notable exceptions. I
just can’t figure out why they have taken it upon themselves to actively
campaign against a nearly twenty-year old movie in a franchise they claim to
love. What is it they hope to gain?
So I started engaging some of these folks in conversations,
to find out what about those movies caused them so much irritation that they
would publicly proselyte against them.
The responses varied, of course. Some became defensive, as
if they couldn’t understand why anybody would have to justify such an obvious
opinion. Others broke down into lists of reasons, some I suspect were
regurgitated from online or other sources. The last group just increased their
vitriol, adding emotional weight to their claims. The only common thread I
could find was that each of them felt it should have been done differently.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it takes a lot of
self confidence to believe you could imagine or produce a better movie than the
franchise’s original creator, writer, and director.
I wrote this off as people being people and didn’t let it
upset my own enjoyment of those movies. However, over time, the anger and
animosity toward Star Wars creators grew exponentially when Disney bought the franchise
and began making new movies. Abrams managed to make most of the fans moderately
happy with episode 7. Rogue One caused a new division. Then waves of social
hate rose up to actively protest episode 8. And I can’t even explain why so
much anger was aimed at Solo.
Disney responded by cancelling all the spin-offs. Then they
changed their mind and cancelled everything after episode 9 (which had a year
left before it even came out). Way to go, whiners, you got Star Wars put on
permanent hiatus. You literally killed the thing you claimed to love. Even if
it wasn’t what you wanted, did you have to ruin it for everybody else? If you
couldn’t have the movies of your imagination, does that mean the rest of us
shouldn’t have any either?
If you like something, great. If you don’t like it, that’s
okay. But why the hate? Why the need to actively tear it down? Did it ever
occur to you that you could just leave peacefully and let the rest of us enjoy
Fandom has grown toxic.
We all need a little
more zen in our media consumption. Rather than lashing out when you’re
disappointed, maybe a better strategy would be to just watch what you like and
don’t watch what you don’t. Are you getting paid to review movies? Have you
been inducted into the posse to protect innocent citizens from bad media? Did
the “fix the franchise” crusaders make you their missionary?
Trust the market. If people don’t like something, they won’t
buy tickets and the company will lose money. That’s the only feedback they
really listen to anyway. If you don’t like the new Ghostbusters, don’t watch
it. But be cool. Don’t go after the company and start spreading negativity.
Offer people the dignity of deciding what they want. And be secure enough to
not like something without rage.
Creating a hostile environment just ruins it for everybody.
In the end, isn’t it supposed to be about entertainment and fun? If not, maybe
you should reevaluate why you are emotionally invested in it. If so, then
making it toxic is counter-productive.
About James Wymore
Growing up on a steady diet of Spider-man cartoons and television shows like Batman and Wonder Woman, James Wymore knew he would someday find his own super power and join the fight for justice. He did everything right, from experimenting with arson to jumping from great heights, but his ability to control fire or fly never kicked in.
he went past the teenage years, he accepted that he probably didn’t have a
hidden mutant power waiting to manifest. Neither would he uncover any
unexplained alien origins, so he threw himself into searching for enhancements
designed to bring his latent abilities to the surface. He travelled the world
studying arcane magic. Throughout college, he experimented with volatile
chemicals, extreme temperatures, lasers, and various forms of radiation.
Eventually, he discovered the power of hypnosis through fantastic stories. He plunged into writing, filling his work with the subtle triggers that would allow him to one day take control of all his readers’ minds and use them as an army to conquer the literary world. Until that day, he works tirelessly to create more and better books. Follow his progress at http://jameswymore.wordpress.com
Superheroes and villains constantly
battle for control of Denver, Colorado, so somebody has to do the heavy
lifting. CJ Cruz found his niche working for whichever super-flavor-of-the-day
happens to be running the show at the time. Since most of the self-labeled
heroes claiming to be on the side of justice don’t hire henchmen, he usually
winds up doing the street-level work for supers operating outside the law. His
family and priest just think he’s a gangster, but CJ knows his motivation is
pure. He keeps on the windy side of law enforcement by following a few simple
rules, the first of which is keep your head down and never be the boss’s
right-hand man. People tell him
he should get a new job, but he likes working around supers. Besides, except
for intimidation and roughing-people-up he doesn’t have any other skills necessary
to make rent and pay child support.
“Thug #1 is a fast-paced, action-packed book written in comic book style. The artwork is amazing, too!”
Holli Anderson, author of Myrikal
In the future, everybody wears computer glasses that scan the
world and project whatever you want to see right in front of it. Through
perfected augmented reality, the buildings and people blend seamlessly into
whatever movie or video game is running. We all see whatever we want, all the
time. Nobody cares what clothes they wear, because the rest of the world sees
them as pirates, robots, or anything that suits their current media. Even the
cars are self-driving, because nobody wants to pause the streaming feed.
In other news, the world is under attack by aliens. Disease is
decimating the human population. A man takes over America and declares himself
to be a god.
Nobody cares, so long as they don’t turn off the wi-fi.
Jason Hunt has the perfect life. A scholarship university
athlete with an amazing girlfriend, his future couldn’t be brighter. Then his
father drops a few family secrets on him—
Secrets of treason and heresy, which put him in direct
conflict with the reigning Theocrat.
“Wymore weaves a fantastic tale while taking a good hard look at religion, politics, immortality, entertainment, and technological advancement. If you’re looking for a thrilling sci-fi adventure that beautifully mirrors current real-world issues and advancements then this is the book for you.”
Andrew Buckley (Author, Hair in All the Wrong Places)
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