Blog PostsMara Wilson Doesn’t Want to Do the Mrs. Doubtfire Sequel

Hollywood has greenlit the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel over 20 years after the original movie came out, and Mara Wilson doesn’t want to be involved in it.

Naturally, people on The Internet have opinions on this, and many of them are negative.Headlines announce that “Mrs. Doubtfire Star Mara Wilson Slams Sequel Plans,” and the first few comments on the Huffington Post article are, of course, critical and uninformed. Here are just a few:

“Wow. She is so full of herself. I mean honestly, I can not think of any other movies I have seen with her in it. Money is money regardless to it being a sequel or not. Maybe this is the decision that ends her acting career.”

“The funny thing is that she probably should do it if offered given that her career isn’t going great.”

“I think she is being a bit premature (and a bit immature) in making a statement like that before she even sees a script. If you see it and think it’s crap, fair enough. Don’t do it. But give it a chance, for pete’s sake. Not many people are lucky enough to have that kind of opportunity practically handed to them – don’t spit at it until you know for sure.”

“While she is right about sequels almost always being terrible, her droning on and on about it suggests she was never asked to be it in the first place and is pissed.”

Never mind that Mara Wilson publicly quit acting years ago and now has a pretty good writing career. She’s obviously uppity and too big for her britches and ungrateful – all words people love to use when a woman doesn’t leap at the chance for any opportunity, no matter how small or how little rewards can be reaped from it.

The fact is, many people who followed her on Twitter asked her if she was going to be involved in the movie, and she responded by saying no. I have no doubt that, had she neglected to comment, some entertainment writer on a slow news day would have written a blog post about how Mara Wilson refused to answer whether or not she’d appear in the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel.

This is a prime example of how the Internet and the world at large, despite claims that we live in a postfeminist society, is still rife with misogyny. This type of snarkfest is what many people feel when a woman steps out of her place.

Why do I call these comments examples of misogyny?

Because the only other explanation for this kind of commentary is that these people are really, really invested in the idea of a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel.

And, come on. No, you’re not. No one is.

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Blog PostsHow I Met Your Misogyny

Tomorrow night, How I Met Your Mother will end its nine-year run with a one-hour season finale. A show that spawned countless catchphrases and running gags, How I Met Your Mother will be remembered for its nonlinear storytelling and its portrayals of romance and friendship.

It will also be remembered as one of the most misogynistic sitcoms on TV.

Okay, I admit it – I’m exaggerating a little to make a point. I haven’t seen enough shows to determine whether or not it’s one of the most misogynistic sitcoms. But over the years, How I Met Your Mother has devolved into a show rife with anti-woman nastiness, making me grateful that the program is finally coming to an end.

I’m also saddened by the devolution in the show over the years, because once upon a time, I would have considered How I Met Your Mother a more progressive sitcom than most.

In the first few seasons of the show, I was impressed with the show’s different take on stereotypical gender roles. I liked that Ted was the hopeless romantic who wanted nothing more than to settle down, get married, and have children, while Robin was the more pragmatic, career-minded person who wanted a more casual relationship. I liked that, even in the context of Marshall and Lily’s super-sweet relationship, Marshall was still the more sentimental of the two. I was moved by Lily’s “career vs. romance” subplot in the end of the first season because the show recognized the emotional weight of what she was feeling. I liked that Lily and Marshall’s wedding followed a typical “bride freaks out on a wedding day” plot with an unexpected and very funny “groom freaks out EVEN MORE on wedding day” plot with Marshall shaving part of his head.

Even Barney, the most problematic character on the show through a feminist perspective, wasn’t so terrible in the first two seasons. Back then, Barney’s womanizing wasn’t the only aspect of his character. Barney was just a person who wanted to make every night legendary no matter what, whether it involved creating elaborate stories to get women to sleep with him, licking the Liberty Bell, paying Robin to say ridiculous things on camera, inventing a drink called the “Thankstini,” setting Ted’s jacket on fire to stop him from drunk-dialing. His treatment of women wasn’t okay, but it didn’t come from a place of showing complete contempt for anyone around him.

Somewhere along the line, all that changed.

Barney became a person whose primary goal was to trick as many women as possible into sleeping with him, and his behavior toward them became increasingly nasty and downright criminal. In season three’s “The Bracket,” he admits to having sold a woman, and in season eight’s “The Fortress,” he shows the feature of a “Ho-Be-Gone” system which wheels one-night stands into a wall. And we’re supposed to be happy that Robin married this man.

Unfortunately, the misogyny that has pervaded How I Met Your Mother isn’t just limited to Barney. Here’s a list of just some of the most memorable misogynistic moments from the show’s history:

- Season five’s “Of Course”: Jennifer Lopez appears as a character whose sole purpose is to peddle the “Power of No.” Because we need more characters who affirm the stereotype that women like “playing hard to get.”

- Season five’s “Say Cheese”: Lily, angry that Ted has brought yet another date no one knows to her birthday party, shows him a photo of a previous year’s celebration and asks him to “name that bitch.” Not wanting strangers to attend your birthday party: fine. But what did these women do to Lily to warrant being called “bitches?”

- Season five’s “The Playbook”: All of it. But I’ll get to that later. (/SagetTed)

- Season six’s “Baby Talk”: Marshall worries about having a daughter because he remembers the way he and his high school classmates used to be sexist towards the female students. (Sexual harassment is bad when it’s happening to women you care about, boys, but random bitches are free game and THEN cat-calling is hilarious!)

- Season six’s “Canning Randy”: the men leer at the day-after-Halloween parade of women walking down the street in costumes, guessing at their one-night stands. Could have been a funny gag if it had been the entire gang watching a parade of men and women returning from one-night stands, but as it was, it was just a bunch of guys snarkily judging women.

- Season seven’s “The Slutty Pumpkin Returns”: Lily has pregnancy brain and Marshall and Robin treat her like she has the intelligence of a two-year-old, and they prove to be right when Lily gives a stapler to a kid on Halloween.

- Season seven’s “Now We’re Even”: Barney delivers what’s supposed to be a moving monologue about the difficulties of dating a stripper and how it makes him feel to know that Quinn is dancing naked for other men, and we’re actually supposed to feel sorry for him after years of him treating women like dirt.

- Season eight’s “Lobster Crawl”: Robin acts like a simpering idiot when she’s desperate to win Barney back. She continues to be mean to poor Patrice for no reason and it’s supposed to be funny (probably because Patrice is fat).

- Season eight’s “The Final Page”: Barney proposes to Robin after a long con of making her believe that he didn’t want her, and it’s one of the most glaring examples of emotional abuse disguised as romance in recent memory.

- Season eight’s “The Fortress”: Like I said – Ho-Be-Gone.

- Season nine’s “The Broken Code”: Robin realizes she has no female friends and acts astonishingly rude to the women around her, finally confirming that she and Barney really are meant for each other, since she hates women just as much as he does.

And those are just a few.

But the biggest examples of misogyny are, of course, Barney’s two books: The Bro Code and The Playbook. Two books that are actual books that people can now buy.

And The Playbook? Is a pick-up artist’s wet dream.

Before anyone argues that it’s “just a joke,” keep in mind that there are actual websites out there dedicated to coaching men on tricking women into sleeping with them – and some of these sites actually use the character of Barney Stinson as a role model.

How I Met Your Mother isn’t entirely hopeless even at this late stage. The writers handled Robin’s infertility with respect. Season eight’s “The Time Travelers” was one of its best episodes, truly romantic and poignant. Marshall and Lily’s renewed vows were moving. I love everything about the Mother herself and Ted’s relationship with her, proving that this show still has a soul. But the stink of misogyny has tainted what was once one of my favorite sitcoms.

And if, at the end of tomorrow’s finale, it turns out that I dealt with all that anti-woman crap on a weekly basis only to find out that the Mother is dead in the future…if that is the direction the writers have decided to take…then burn it, burn it to the ground.

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Blog PostsBrooklyn Nine-Nine’s Not-So Nice Guys™

Brooklyn Nine-Nine had its season finale two days ago and completed what was (in my opinion) the most successful first season of a television sitcom since Arrested Development. It found its voice early on, quickly took a manchild-like character (Jake Peralta) and made him more mature without having him lose his goofy charm, and combined humor with heart without ever becoming overly sentimental.

In fact, the show was so successful that I’m even cautiously optimistic about the two  romantic subplots for next season. Brooklyn Nine-Nine could have easily given us two Nice Guys™ but avoided falling into that trap…so far.

The first and most obvious romantic subplot took place between Boyle and Diaz, with the enthusiastic Charles Boyle pining after the sour Rosa Diaz for a good two-thirds of the season. The pining was funnier than a lot of “nerdy guy pines for hot girl” subplots we see in many sitcoms, mostly because the characters’ personalities were so dramatically opposite and watching them bounce off of each other was a delight.

At the same time, I worried a little about the direction the story was taking, since the show established that Charles had pursued Rosa a couple of times only to have her clearly turn him down. (Seriously – she flat-out told him that she liked him as a person but wasn’t interested romantically. I’m barely paraphrasing here.) He kept clinging to his naive hope that she would return his feelings.

It was only a little uncomfortable to watch, because a) it was obvious that he never made her feel unsafe, only a slightly awkward, and b) Charles never indicated a sense of entitlement over Rosa, and his pining was more evidence of his optimistic-to-a-fault personality.

Still, I cringed when Charles saved Rosa in the line of fire. I’ve seen too many shows to not predict where this was going: the man would “earn” the woman he adored by performing an act of heroism.

Then the show surprised me by 1) having Charles admit that he didn’t know he was saving Rosa, and that he would’ve done the same thing for any fellow officer, 2) having Charles fall in love with someone else, and 3) having Charles apologize to Rosa for making her feel uncomfortable with his demonstrations of unrequited love!

I was stunned, and very happy to see that Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t going to shove a mismatched couple down our throats for the sake of “rewarding” another dorky guy with a hot girl for being Nice. Charles Boyle is one of the most delightful characters on TV, and I’m glad that the show reaffirmed that he is not a Nice Guy™, but a genuinely nice guy.

The other romantic subplot in Brooklyn Nine-Nine took place between Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago. While Boyle & Diaz filled the “dorky guy pines for hot girl” quota, Peralta & Santiago filled the “bickering bickersons” quota, showing their barely suppressed sexual tension by having them make fun of each other. Early on, their squabbling was one of the weak points of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and it improved once they took time to establish Santiago’s character as something other than the stereotypical uptight woman paired with the fun, goofy man.

Near the end of the season, Jake was introduced to a fellow officer named Teddy whom Amy used to date. Nursing a crush on Amy while not being quite aware of it yet, Jake let his competitive instincts take over during a training course, and still felt vaguely unsatisfied. Just when he started to question why Amy would want to be with Teddy, Charles made a very obvious, but very important point: “You know why she’s dating him and not you? Because he actually asked her out.”

Later, Jake swallows his pride and approaches Amy to ask her out on a date, but backs down when he sees that she’s leaving for a date with Teddy. He spends the next few episodes looking for ways to distract himself from the existence of Amy’s relationship, and acts awkward and uncomfortable when she’s near him with her boyfriend, but not immature or nasty.

He only finally admits his feelings to her in the season finale, after he’s been “fired” from the NYPD so he can go undercover to expose a much larger crime ring. He tells Amy that he wouldn’t mind if something happened between them, “romantics-wise.”

I was almost shocked by how understated this moment was. It wasn’t framed as a Big Romantic Moment or weighed down with too much heavy-handed importance. It was a man telling a woman that he liked her in a moment that was sweet and a little awkward.

I also appreciated that Jake didn’t pull any passive-aggressive nastiness with Amy when he realized that he wanted a “romantics-wise” relationship with her, and that he made a point of acknowledging that she was dating someone else. It was a confession that wasn’t attached to any pressure or demands. He told her because he couldn’t hold it back anymore, in a situation that would decrease her discomfort since they would no longer be working together.

The Boyle/Diaz and Peralta/Santiago storylines both refreshingly feature nice guys instead of Nice Guys™: men who struggle with their romantic feelings for their female friends, but don’t pressure these female friends or whine about being friendzoned when the feelings aren’t reciprocated.

Let’s hope they keep up this trend in season two. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Peralta and Santiago gave it a shot, but I truly hope the Boyle/Diaz story is dead and buried, especially now that the eventual fallout of the Charles/Gina hookup has much more comic potential.

 

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Blog PostsA Brief Observation

It’s amazing, and a bit ironic, how publishing a first novel and achieving a lifelong dream will cause a severe case of writer’s block in almost any other form of writing you used to engage in frequently.

And by “you,” I of course mean “me.”

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Novels, Fiction & SillinessHow to Begin a Vampire Novel: “Fanged” Excerpt 4

A week ago, I shared an excerpt from the first chapter of Fanged, but I was slightly misleading. The excerpt I shared was from a draft of the novel, not the published version.

The excerpt below made it into the final copy of the book:

Chapter 1

It was the last Saturday in October, and I was hungry. Starving, as a matter of fact. I hadn’t eaten in almost twenty-four hours and my gut was growling so furiously that I thought the stomach acid would gnaw through my skin and turn me into a corpse on the sidewalk.

The sidewalk was in Randolph, New Jersey, and I was loitering outside an Italian restaurant called Giotto’s Trattoria. The time was 10 PM, an hour before the restaurant closed. The street was deserted and the front entrance to Giotto’s was near the end of the block, right underneath a flickering lamp.

I leaned against the building and took a tiny puff on the cigarette I was holding. Then I let my arm fall to my side. I never inhaled. Inhaling wasn’t the point. The point was to give my hands and mouth something to do until I finally found my dinner. Whenever I got hungry, my hands got twitchy. I wanted to burst right into Giotto’s Trattoria and devour everything in my path, but I couldn’t. That would be rude of me, and I didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s dinner. I was way too old for that kind of behavior.

A gust of wind breezed by, and suddenly the street went dark. I pulled my leather jacket tighter and looked up at the street lamp watching over me. The flickering light had finally burned out completely. Perfect. Now I could grab my meal under cover of darkness and no one would be the wiser.

The street lamp burning out was a lucky break for me. I hadn’t exactly dressed as someone who was trying not to be noticed. A sixteen-year-old boy doesn’t wear tight jeans, a white T-shirt, and a black leather jacket when he wants to be inconspicuous. He dresses that way when he wants to pick up girls who are really into the 1950s look. I even had a cigarette in my hand.

This was bad. I reached up and tried to flatten my spiked hair. I never should have put gel in it that evening. Come to think of it, I never should have dyed my hair from its natural dark brown to a copper red. My hair looked like a flattened penny with points sticking out of it. Why had they let me come out dressed like this? Did they want me to get into trouble?

The restaurant door swung open and a family of four walked out – a mom, a dad, and two little girls. I quickly took my hand off of my head and took another long drag on the cigarette. This time, I inhaled, and the smoke shot through my lungs and right out of my mouth, burning the back of my throat. I coughed and sputtered, pounding on my chest to force the smoke through. This was why I never inhaled, and I had definitely picked a bad time to start.

The family was only a few feet away. I tried to close my mouth and let the coughs explode in my chest instead. My eyes watered and my throat burned.

As you can see, this version is wildly different from the third draft. The setting, tone, and description have all changed.

I made these changes for a few important reasons.

1. The story needed more action. Opening a novel with a description of a setting isn’t a bad idea in all cases. Sometimes, opening with a description can be quite effective. But the story I chose to tell was a young adult vampire story with suspenseful twists and turns. Action was the first thing a reader needed to see.

2. I wanted the character to be more likable. Sean, my protagonist, is not someone I would describe as being smug or full of himself, but he comes off that way in the third draft of the first chapter, looking down his nose at vampire stereotypes and sounding above it all. This description is completely incongruous with his character in the rest of the story. Now, instead of talking about how different he is from other vampires, Sean is doing everything he can to calm his nerves and look natural while waiting outside a restaurant for dinner.

3. I described the character’s appearance instead of the appearance of his bedroom. Talking about what posters Sean used to have in his bedroom was an interesting idea at first, but then I realized I had a great opportunity to describe what he looks like. It’s not easy to write a first-person narrative where a character organically describes his appearance. Describing Sean’s outfit and hair was a way to kill two birds with one stone. I painted a picture of his look while also emphasizing how awkward he feels.

Getting to this point in the writing wasn’t easy. I labored over that crypt description and wound up throwing most of it away. In the end, the work was worth it, because I ended up with a more engaging opening.

 

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Novels, Fiction & SillinessHow to Begin a Vampire Novel: “Fanged” Excerpt 3

Once upon a time, I had the idea to write a vampire story at a time when vampires were the hot supernatural creature to talk about (“hot” even though their skin is cold, ba-dum-ching!) At the same time, I knew that the world was beginning to experience vampire fatigue – or at least Twilight fatigue that translated into being tired of vampires in general.

Aware of that fatigue, I took a different approach when I wrote the first chapter of Fanged. I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that this book was not like the “other” vampire novels out there. I wanted the reader to understand that my protagonist was different from other vampire protagonists, that he was really just a regular teenage boy who just happened to be a vampire.

I thought, “What does my character’s bedroom look like?”

And that’s when the ideas started to flow. I had already decided that my protagonist was going to live in a crypt in the middle of a cemetery. I wrote pages of description comparing his old teenage bedroom with his current living situation, hoping to use the setting and props as a way to give clues about his personality.

The end result was this, the very first page of my book:

Chapter 1 – How I Met My New Best Friend by Almost Killing a Mall Employee

 My bedroom is different from other people’s bedrooms.

            First of all, you won’t find any posters on my walls.  I had to leave them all behind.  The posters of my favorite bands, favorite CD covers, modern art prints, and women in bathing suits still adorn the walls and ceiling of my old apartment.  When I left New York, I did it in a hurry, taking only the most essential items with me.  (I’m not going to lie – I miss the bathing suit pictures most of all.  They kept me company on some very lonely nights.)

            Besides, posters would look odd in my new place anyway.  The art prints might fit in, but the Beck poster would be out of place on the grey stone walls that had just begun to deteriorate.  The small room was finally showing its age.  From the cold, stone floor, to the arch over the heavy door, to the ceiling stretching eight feet high, the grey stone was just beginning to develop a tint of copper-colored decay.

            This didn’t worry me.  I only planned to stay there for a year, two years tops, and I knew it wouldn’t collapse for decades yet.  Besides, the older my room looks, the more frightening and eerie it looks, meaning people will be even less likely to come knocking.  I have a “Trespassers Keep Out: This Means You!” sign hanging on the door of my old room, but the mausoleum I live in now renders such a sign unnecessary.  People are plenty wary of approaching this place even without a sign to threaten them.

            That’s another odd thing about my bedroom.  The bedroom makes up the entire house.  And it isn’t a house so much as a crypt, a crypt at the south side of the Holy Rood Cemetery in Whippany, New Jersey.

            Even the boldest and most dangerous of runaways would balk at hiding out in a cemetery.  Then again, I’m not a typical runaway.  I have a limited amount of clothes, I travel by night and sleep by day…okay, that part is pretty typical.  But I’m no victim of the morally-challenged who prey on confused young people.  If they try anything with me, they become my prey.  I bare my fangs and drink deep – not enough to kill, but just enough to show who’s in charge.

            That’s just one of the advantages of being a vampire.

            Living in a cemetery seems like the ultimate vampire cliché, I know.  I have a multitude of issues with the popular misconceptions about vampires, especially the ones that make us look like brooding emo whiners with no sense of humor who lament over being misunderstood and losing our poor, fragile souls.  Please.  I have no patience for that stereotype.  But camping out in a crypt is practical for me and more comfortable than it might seem.

I was proud of this chapter when I completed it. The character’s personality seemed to come through and there was some decent humor in there.

I was less satisfied when I returned to the chapter after receiving some feedback from one of my beta readers (who is one of the people listed in the acknowledgments section of the book). She thought that the description of the setting was used as a placeholder for character insight, rather than enhancing character insight.

I also wasn’t happy with the character’s sarcasm about other vampire stereotypes. He suddenly came across as smug and a little obnoxious. Also, my reader made a very good point – that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to alienate a target audience who might have read and enjoyed other stories with the “brooding emo” vampires.

But the main thing that bothered me was that nothing was happening in this chapter. This description goes on for several more pages before we see any kind of action.

Then why, after all of these doubts, did I make this the first chapter of my book?

Well, I didn’t. I rewrote the whole thing.

[To be continued...]

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Blog PostsThis Epic Post Will Flawlessly Shut Down Your Opponent’s Stupid Arguments (and Give You Your Evening Cry and is Everything)

I have a bone to pick with Internet headline writers.

In the last year or two, the obsession with creating viral content on the web has gone beyond annoying and straight into the “obnoxious” territory. (See the Cracked article, “4 Reasons ‘Viral’ Content Stopped Mattering in 2013,” for more on that.) If everything is “brilliant,” or everything is “epic,” or everything is “everything,” then the words lose their effectiveness.

But there’s another reason why these headlines bother me. You’ll never guess the reason why headlines bother this writer. But it will amaze you. /Upworthytalk

Here are two headlines I’ve come across in the last two months that illustrate my problem:

Watch “The Daily Show’s” Truly Incredible Takedown of Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws.

Flawless Trans Women Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox Respond Flawlessly to Katie Couric’s Invasive Questions

I’ve seen other similar headlines about the same topics (there was another that used “flawless” only once in the story about Carrera and Cox but used “shut down” instead of “respond”), and I only recently understood why they bother me so much.

I didn’t watch the interview with Cox and Carerra and Couric, but I read the transcript, and I thought their responses to her questions about genitalia were thoughtful and moving and great for promoting transgender acceptance.

But it’s not enough for the headlines to simply report on an interview anymore. Now the people answering the questions have to be “flawless,” and a journalist like Couric needs to be “shut down.”

It’s not enough for The Daily Show to deliver an effective and funny satire in response to appalling anti-gay laws. The anti-gay laws have to be “taken down.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Russia’s horrid anti-gay laws aren’t going away because The Daily Show made fun of them. Those laws are still in place and LGBT Russians are still going to suffer for them.

Likewise, Carerra and Cox didn’t change the way the entire world views transgendered women by telling Couric that her questions are invasive. There is still an incredible amount of anti-trans prejudice just in this country.

What they did was make small victories. The importance of small victories on an individual level cannot be overstated. Sometimes, when there’s so much ugliness in the world, we need the small victories to keep going, and I’m happy about this one.

But when these small victories are exaggerated into EPIC moments through hyperbolic headlines, it feels like the writers are less interested in social justice and more interested in documenting the latest BURN.

The Daily Show gets the BURN over Russia – and sure, it sucks that Russia’s anti-gay laws are still in place, but forget that for a moment, because did you get a look at that EPIC BURN?

What makes me depressed about the Carerra/Cox headline is that the article itself is very good, avoiding hyperbole and thoughtfully expressing why their interview was so meaningful to the LGBT community.

I might have to take back my opening sentence of this post. Maybe the headline writers and bloggers aren’t the ones to blame. Maybe the readers are the problem – because no matter how hyperbolic the headline, no matter how much a hyperbolic headline might diminish the important message of the article’s content, we still click away. I know I do.

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Blog Posts4 Reasons Why “Frozen” is the Most Feminist Disney Movie Ever (Yes, More than Brave or Mulan)

So, apparently I’m the last feminist in America to see Disney’s Frozen, but I saw a week ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. I think it’s the most feminist Disney movie to date, and even if the entire rest of the Internet has weighed in on this subject already, I have to add my own thoughts on the issue.

1. A Princess knows how to use magic.
Disney princesses get to be pretty and sometimes they get to be brave, but they rarely get to be powerful, especially not where magic is concerned.

Oh, there are plenty of Disney female characters who use magic – Ursula, Maleficent, Cinderella’s fairy godmother, and the three fairies (Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather) in Sleeping Beauty.

Here’s the catch: they’re all either villains or maternal figures. The actual princesses and female protagonists in Disney films do not get to perform magic. Their nemeses or their mentor figures are born magical or learn magic, while the princesses have magic thrust upon them. Ursula turns Ariel human. The fairy godmother gives Cinderella a beautiful gown and an enchanted carriage. Aurora’s fate is determined by an evil witch and three good fairies who battle over her soul for her entire life.

This all changes with Elsa. (She’s technically a queen, not a princess, but she’s marketed as part of the Disney Princess line regardless.) Disney princesses have gone on adventures, performed acts of bravery, and even saved a few princes’ lives, but Elsa is the first who can manipulate the elements in an explosion of power – which is exactly what she does in one of the best power anthems I’ve seen in film.

I’m about to commit heresy against my childhood self: a part of me loves “Let it Go” more than “Part of Your World.” “Part of Your World” is the song of an adventurer who wants to explore new places. “Let it Go” isn’t about simply wishing, but taking action and embracing one’s power and potential (and building an entire ice castle within a few minutes).

2. The message of sisterhood.
I knew that Frozen was the story of two sisters. What I wasn’t prepared for was the complete lack of sibling rivalry in the story. I kept waiting for resentment to erupt between Anna and Elsa.

It never happened. Unlike many fictional little sisters, Anna never shows a moment of jealousy towards Elsa. As a child, Anna doesn’t resent the fact that Elsa is the only one with magic powers; she just thinks her big sister is the coolest. As a young woman, Anna never seems to mind that her sister gets to be queen while she’s a princess; she’s just happy to have another day where she can be close with Elsa again.

This display of female friendship and sisterhood is almost nonexistent in Disney films. Most of the Disney princesses have toxic relationships with other women, or their relationships with other women are nonexistent. Mulan may be a great warrior, but all of her significant relationships are with men, and her mother and grandmother are mostly used as background props. Even Brave is lacking; the relationship between mother and daughter is the most important one in the movie, but Merida and Elinor have to spend the entire movie learning to understand each other.

The sisters in Frozen go on a journey of a different kind. Anna and Elsa loved each other from the beginning and were forced to grow apart because their parents feared Elsa’s power. Their natural state is to be close, and their story is about learning to be close again once Elsa learns to love herself – with Anna’s help, of course.

3. The twist on the act of true love
Probably the most satisfying aspect of Frozen is its take on the notion of “true love.” When Elsa accidentally freezes Anna’s heart, Anna is told that only an act of true love can cure her. At first, she thinks that a kiss from Hans will save her life, and when Hans proves to be manipulative, murderous, and self-serving, she turns her hopes to Kristoff – the ice salesman and the partner on her adventure, the one who actually cares for her. 

But the act of true love that saves Anna’s life is related to the person she cares for the most – her sister, Elsa. When Anna is moments away from kissing Kristoff, she sees Hans holding a sword over Elsa’s head, and jumps in front of the blade to save her sister’s life.

This act of true love is remarkable for the obvious reason – for once, a Disney princess’s true love has nothing to do with romance. In fact, her obsession with finding true love earlier in the story is directly related to being rejected by her sister.

But it’s remarkable for a less obvious reason as well. Anna thought an act of true love meant having a man rush in and save her from death. Instead of being rescued with a true love’s kiss like Snow White or Aurora, Anna performs the act of true love. It’s a great testament to female friendships and female agency all at once.

4. The movie has two great role models for little girls.
As far as Disney princesses go, Elsa is pretty unique. She’s a queen, for one, ruling over a land that seems totally cool with having a female monarch in charge of things. She can use magic and bend the elements to her will and is the most powerful person in the land. Her story is about learning to overcome her shame and taking pride in her unique gifts.

Anna, on the other hand, doesn’t have magical powers and doesn’t seem to possess similar unique gifts. She’s a bit clumsy and too easily trusting. She’s also brave, resourceful, determined, kind, and filled with love for her family, and she saves her own life and Elsa’s with an act of love.

Elsa is a great role model for little girls who possess unique gifts. But Anna is equally important as a character because she’s ordinary and still saves the day. The sisters in Frozen show little girls that there’s more than one way to be strong.

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Novels, Fiction & Silliness“Fanged” Excerpt 2: The Athlete

Suddenly, a wave of panic rose in my chest. Down at the other end of the hallway, Jason Vernon had joined the other three guys by Isaiah’s locker.

Jason was the football and basketball star of our school, so tall that he towered over Isaiah. If Isaiah was the second-most desirable guy in our grade, Jason was first. With spiked blond hair, blue eyes, and a healthy tan even during the winter months, he looked like he was born on the beach.

He was a varsity athlete, achieving football captain and quarterback status as a junior. He was friends with all the right people and liked by all the teachers. And he hated me.

The other popular guys in that group didn’t think much of me either. Isaiah’s feelings about me were established early on when Hannah first introduced us. Tommy and Nate lumped me in with the majority of the student body who were too boring to be part of their crowd but not nerdy enough to bully.

But Jason couldn’t spare me the safe self-absorbed disinterest that I received from friends. He reserved a special brand of hatred for me that surfaced anytime I looked at him the wrong way – or at all. If he walked into a room and sensed I was there, his body would go rigid. He’d pause, scanning the rows of seats until he found me. Then he’d stare me down, his brows forming angry arches over his cold eyes. He’d focus on me long enough to make me squirm, and then he’d move to his seat and face the front of the classroom like nothing had happened.

The pause, the stare, the “I’m going to kill you” look, and the abrupt switch to normalcy was so quick, so fluid, that no one else would have noticed it – but I did, and I dreaded it every time I saw him.

- Fanged, Chapter 3

Why write about vampires?

In most vampire stories I’ve read, vampires are much stronger than humans. Sometimes, their strength is so superior that a human would have no chance against a vampire in a fight.

This is the case in Fanged. Vampires are much stronger than humans in this universe, and Sean has little to fear for his own safety if a human tried to pick a fight with him.

Yet, he’s still afraid of one of the athletes in his school – so afraid that he dreads Jason’s very presence.

What makes a supernaturally strong creature fear a typical high school jock?

Sean hasn’t stopped being a teenager just because he became a vampire. The high school social ranking system doesn’t go away when a person is undead, and old habits, such as feeling intimidated by the popular crowd, don’t go away easily.

But that’s not the only reason Sean dreads the company of Jason.

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Novels, Fiction & Silliness“Fanged” Excerpt 1: Hunger and Garlic

Then the restaurant door swung open, and another person came out.

He was around my age, short and chubby and six inches shorter and six
inches wider than I was. His pants and shirt were both too small and tight,
exposing a small patch of flabby skin hanging over his waistline. He had a
bowl haircut very similar to the one belonging to the girl who might have
been Sasha, and he wore a thick pair of glasses on his face. He was reading
and walking at the same time, holding a book right in front of him.

He smelled like garlic.

There was no mistaking the telltale scent. This kid had either eaten an
entire plate of garlic knots for dinner or poured garlic powder all over his
pizza. He was drenched in the smell from head to toe. It mixed with his
blood and radiated from his body like a scented homing beacon.

I don’t know who first spread the rumor that garlic repels vampires, but
that person is a godsend. Garlic is the only thing that improves human blood
from its original delicious state. It even makes cold, refrigerated blood taste
appealing.

The fat kid was almost at the end of the block. If he didn’t look where he
was going, he would walk right into the burned-out streetlamp.

I opened my mouth, and my fangs protruded from my gums. I hadn’t
eaten fresh, garlic-enhanced blood in a long time. This meal was one I was
going to savor. My teeth would tear into this kid’s neck, and the blood would
flow into my mouth.

My hand trembled. The cigarette fell from my hand and onto the
ground. The fire at the tip glowed momentarily before dimming and fading
away.

I had stopped myself just in time.
- Fanged, Chapter 1


Why write about vampires?

One piece of vampire mythology that never made sense to me was the idea of garlic warding off vampires. As someone who grew up with an Italian grandmother (and by “grandmother” I mean “father,” since Dad cooks as much pasta and homemade sauce as any good Italian grandma, I’ve always loved garlic and have considered it a staple in great cooking.

When I finally got around to reading Dracula and did a little research, I understood where the garlic myth came from, but I still didn’t want to keep it for my own story. I love garlic. And I thought, “wouldn’t it be funny if the complete opposite were true, and garlic actually attracted vampires?”

And vampires loving garlic came part of my story, one of my second twists on the genre. Much like my twist on the crucifix in question, it started off as a joke, back when I was writing a satirical vampire novel instead of a serious one.

But as the story became more serious, garlic was no longer just a source of a throwaway joke. It became the first sign of my protagonist’s struggle.

It’s the first sign that Sean has to struggle to prevent himself from killing people.

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