So, "Fifty Shades of Grey" came out recently, and to no one's surprise, made ALL the money. I've seen pictures of people lined up and around the block in front of multiplexes so that they can say they've watched softcore porn in a conventional movie theater. I could say that society is corrupt, and that we all have an unhealthy obsession with sex, but then I'd just be voicing the opinion of pretty much everyone.
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Except for these people.
By the way, this is not going to be a 'Shades of Grey' post. It's not a review, because I haven't seen it and don't plan to. It's not a rant about it, because, frankly, the problems with 'Gray' are apparent (or should be) even to the massive loads of women who went to see it. But, I started noticing a lot of hate directed towards something related to the film that I really don't think deserves it.

For those of you unfamiliar with its' humble beginnings, "Fifty Shades of Grey" was originally an episodic series titled "Master Of The Universe" that was published on fan fiction websites.
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That would be interesting...
It featured characters named after Edward Cullen and Bella Swan from the oh-so-popular "Twilight" saga. But, due to too many people complaining about the sexual nature of the story, it was later removed from aforementioned websites. After the purge, the defiant author re-named the characters and re-posted it on her own website, FiftyShades.com
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Twilight already had enough problems on that front.
Soon, the author, E.L. James, developed her stories into a three-part book series and took down her content from the site in order for them to get published and become the phenomenon that we all know today.

This is actually an amazing feat if you think about it. For ANY fanfic to become a book series, let alone a movie, is very impressive, and means that James deserves some recognition for at least knowing how to market her work to the masses. Fanfic is rarely taken seriously; even before it became mainstream, other fans saw it as creepy or even an affront to the creations that they loved. To most people (both geek and otherwise), fanfic makes one think of unoriginal stories, written by someone with very little talent, who simply wants to live vicariously through the characters they write.

From personal experience, I'd have to say that the amount of bad fanfic greatly outweighs the good. When you let thousands of people have free reign on anything artistic, stupidity is bound to sprout up like weeds. You need examples of this? Well, glad you asked. One, we're talking problems with basic grammar and spelling that oftentimes, makes the story incomprehensible.  Two, there's also a general lack of knowledge by writers of how characters would act in any given situation. Three, the term 'Mary Sue.' It's a term for an original character inserted into an established group of characters from popular works of entertainment that is usually just the authors putting themselves into the story as wish fulfillment.

Fourth, and this one gets the crown, the worst thing about fanfic, is the sex scenes. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've crushed on characters that don't really exist (made a list about it, in fact). But people, there are better and far less creepier ways to express your attraction. When you've got tags on your fanfic like 'torture', 'genderswap', 'Mpreg', 'male lactation', 'interspecies romance', and 'walmart' your story shouldn't see the light of day!
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Freud would have a field day with your fanfic. I think he's reading it here.
Believe it or not, there's also fanfics so bad that they become famous such as "My Immortal" and "Half Life: Full Consequences'"for similar reasons why films like "The Room" and "Birdemic" have such huge cult followings. They're known as 'badfics' and have become something of a meme on the internets. There are countless Tumblr pages, blogs, and websites such as "Godawful FanFiction Archive" or "Citizens Against Bad Slash" that are devoted to showcasing every horribly hilarious 'badfic' there is to find. I could and have spent hours laughing my rear end off at the unintended humor these poor authors have put their heart and soul into (Warning: Many of the posts on these websites are sexually confusing).
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Comedy...
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gold!
It's pretty clear as to why fanfiction would be a writing medium that very few people take seriously.

All of that being said; one of my dear friends, Tiffany, is an avid fanfic writer. She has accounts on most major fanfic websites and even has a pen name she's known by. She's told me many times that she writes these stories because... well, she just can't help it. She'll get to thinking about one of her favorite movies or TV shows, then her brain goes on a million tangents, and suddenly she thinks of a pretty cool story. It's not so much about whether or not someone reads it, but more about getting it out of her system, and exploring her fandom in a way she never would normally.

By the way, her stories are not like the ones I described earlier. She does what a lot of my favorite stories do, which is: Stay interesting and more importantly, stay classy! What does that mean? It means staying true to the original source material. How? Well, one way is by taking stories we all know and love and telling them through the perspectives of supporting characters. Or writing a story that quickly explores a quiet moment with a beloved protagonist. Yet another way would be to take a thread of a story that's only hinted at in the original material and expand on it until your imagination is satisfied.

Many fanfic authors consider their stories to be a compliment to the original creators. This makes sense in a way, but then we have to talk about whether or not taking someone else's intellectual property and making it your own is morally sound. Original authors have had mixed reactions to fanfic, from loving it, to outright loathing people who write it. Your own opinion may depend on whether you are open-minded, or a fan purist. I personally don't have a stance on it and getting into a debate is not something I intend to have happen on this blog. I WILL say that regardless of how professional writers feel, it's become a trend, at least in Hollywood. Look at all of the remakes, prequels, and sequels being made. They just announced that they're going to make a female version of Ghostbusters, for Pete's sake! 'Gender-bending' is a constant in the fanfic world.
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Male Ariel (c) Sakimichan. You can see more at: http://sakimichan.deviantart.com/
Ultimately, fanfic isn't for everyone. Many people are content with the original works and that's fine. But keep in mind that in every bin filled with sex-filled or grammar-botched 'badfics,' there's one gem of a story written by someone who put their heart, time, and talent into sharing it with the rest of the world. If there's one thing we should hope for in the world of fanfic, it's that THAT kind of a story gets published, and not more overrated garbage.
 
 
I had planned on avoiding the multiplex this weekend in an attempt to steer clear of the wine-drunk moms (including my own, Jackie) that were being roped-in [wink, wink] by let's face it, sub-par "Twilight" fan fiction.
Drunk Moms
Woooo! I love wine!
But after missing the bus, due to working a bit later than expected, I decided to kill some time on President's Day afternoon by taking in Hollywood's counter programing "Kingsmen: The Secret Service." Based on the trailer, I thought I'd give it a shot, as it advertised many things I like: proper English gentlemen, spies, and Colin Firth. Also, pugs.
kingsmen pug
I'm gonna need pugs... lots of pugs.
I never got around to reading the comic on which this film was based, nor am I fan of comic super scribe Mark Millar's other adaptations "Wanted" and "Kick Ass," or his actual comics for that matter. Truthfully, I find his non-Marvel Ultimate stuff to be a bit too crass for crass sake, much like the writing of Garth Ennis. For the record, Millar's work on "Ultimate Spiderman" and "Ultimate Fantastic Four" is great though, and I highly recommend it if you haven't read any of it. Anyway, armed with a stack of theater gift cards from this past Christmas, I figured I had nothing to lose so I bought a ticket for "Kingsmen."
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If you're not familiar with this film, here's a synopsis:
Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton), whose late father secretly worked for a spy organization, lives in a South London housing estate and seems headed for a life behind bars. However, dapper agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recognizes potential in the youth and recruits him to be a trainee in the secret service. Meanwhile, villainous Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) launches a diabolical plan to solve the problem of climate change via a worldwide killing spree.
PictureEggsy.
Now I really won't spoil it for you as it's still fresh, but I found this film to be really good entry in the realm of comic book adaptations.  It was still vulgar and bloody violent, but it was smoothed out by the lead character Eggsy's attempt to transform from a street rat into a proper gentleman ala "My Fair Lady."  Plus all the well-dressed man candy helped me overlook the giant story flaws. There are also a few fun cameos, including a Jedi other than Mr. Samuel L. Windu. The action is solid, the dialogue is witty and funny, and the world felt like it had a rich history, including a connection to King Arthur and his knights of the round table. If anything, I think director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) stuck a little too close to the source material as the film felt a little too comic booky.

Honestly, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this film and recommend it, but the quality of the film wasn't the only thing I was surprised by. On the silver screen sea of good looking, Savile Row suited, well-groomed British men, I was awestruck by the film's deadly damsel, Gazelle as played by Sofia Boutella.

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Sofia Boutella as Gazelle. Cheers.
In the film, Gazelle is the evil henchman of billionaire bad boy Valentine as played by Samuel L. Jackson. She's a fierce, fast-moving, assassin with legs made of blades. As cool as this film femme fatale was at giving our heroes a run for their money, I was more entranced by the actress playing her. She just had a presence on screen that captured my attention. I was trying to think in my head if I had ever seen her before in another film, but I was stumped
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Insert: Mother F&%!
After the movie, I went home and looked her up online. It turns out that "Kingsmen" is her first Hollywood film and most of her previous work is French Cinema. I think she did really well in the role and pulled off the action scenes with grace and authenticity. I think she would have made an excellent Wonder Woman and I hope she gets a chance to play another comic book character again soon.
With the slew of super hero movies set from all studios until 2099, and the call for more women in tights, I'm sure she'll get a chance to suit up again soon.
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Anyone thinking what I'm thinking?
If not, maybe once my friend Tiffany sees the film, she can write me some quality Gazelle fan fiction.

I just ordered the trade paperback of "Kingsmen: The Secret Service" on Amazon, you can too here:

You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.
 
 
Valentine's Day sucks. It does for me anyway. If like me, you too find yourself hopelessly single year-after-year, you know that even the promise of half-priced chocolate the day after doesn't make up for an excessive amount of pink & red everywhere, along with the silent judgment the restaurant hostess gives you when you ask for a table for one. That being said, I won't let it get me down this time around. Yes, this year looks like it'll be more lonely than usual. Margaret is going out with her newest beau, Jamie, for the day (whoever he/she is), Lisa was asked to pick up an extra shift at the movie theater because of “you-know-what” playing, and Tiffany has officially started dating this 'Zach' guy I've been hearing about for ages.

I may be home alone on Valentine’s Day, but I won't spend it crying into a pint of chocolate ice cream while watching Nicholas Sparks movies (I prefer butter pecan and Period Romance/Dramas). No! Not a single tear will be shed I tell you! Though there may be some drooling...
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Can't resist a man with a cravat. Double HP when paired with fabulous top hats!
Yes, despite the rampant sexism of the times, I can't help but enjoy watching love stories from a bygone era. They have all the elements of a chauvinistic fairy tale romance, yet many of the female protagonists are not necessarily helpless. Sure they may need help after hurting themselves or putting themselves in harms way, but they are all fiercely intelligent and loyal to their family and to themselves. These girls know who they love, but will reject their love if he doesn't prove to be worthy of it first. Then the films seal the deal by making all of their male protagonists gorgeous, British men who know how to turn on the smolder.
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Don't give me that look!
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C'mon, Pheebs don't give in! You can do this!
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...Oh, sweet Jesus...
Cue all the straight girls swooning, begrudgingly or not.

Despite the amazing qualities these stories have, I can't overlook the fact that these strong women have to live in a world where they 'belong' to these men they fall in love with. It's pretty sad to realize that if I were to live in that society my chances of ending up with a Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester would be incredibly slim, as I know for a fact, that I wouldn't be able to pull off that quiet yet tenacious attitude with men like the ones pictured above, staring at me. And even if I did win their heart, I'd have no choice but to be the lady of the house for the rest of my days.

Then in my rabbit trail of a mind, an idea came to me. What would these stories be like if the roles were reversed? What if the woman held control over their lives and the men they could go after? Stranger questions have been asked about history.
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And stupider questions have been asked, too.
Hear me out on this one! Just once I'd like an alternate Period Romance where things are a bit different... Get your internal ‘movie trailer narrator’ voice ready.  Now, imagine:
    Though the son of a wealthy businesswoman, Charles Wright has no claim to the inheritance his mother left behind in her passing. His step-sister, true heir to the family fortune made it clear that he would receive no financial help from her, therefore Charles and his ailing father had no choice but to leave the life of luxury behind and move to the countryside to find work. The two men move in with a cousin of his father’s and though it's far smaller than what they are accustomed to, Charles makes the most of it, focusing all of his efforts on providing for his father.

    He befriends a young man who is privy to all of the local rumors and gossip. When Charles notices a grand mansion sitting on a hill in the distant forest surrounding the village, he's told about Ms. Glover, the heiress of the Hillside Mansion and estate. She's rumored to be very rich and beautiful, but has never married because of her apparent cold and brooding behavior. Living with her is Kate Glover, Ms. Glover's niece and heir of the entire Hillside Estate. Kate is rumored to be a floozy and treat men poorly, but nothing has ever been brought to the public eye.

    Not long after, Charles walks home from an odd job not far from Hillside. Rain pours down as he struggles to trudge through the muddy path on the road and despite his efforts he trips and falls, injuring his foot. Suddenly, a carriage races towards Charles down the road and the driver appears to not be able to see him through the torrents of rain. He desperately tries to get off the road but is only able to move at a snails pace through the mud. Then right in the nick of time, a woman with boots and a staff comes out from the trees and stops the rider, scolding them for their careless driving.

    She goes to Charles and upon finding him injured, asks to help him the rest of the way home, which he accepts. The woman turns out to be Ms. Glover and the rumors about her aren't entirely incorrect as she answers his attempts at conversation with curt responses and often doesn't speak at all. Once they arrive at his cousin's cottage, Ms. Glover takes note of the state of Charles' father and the small space in which they live. She unexpectedly offers Charles a job caring for the grounds on her estate once his foot recovers. Surprised but grateful, he accepts.

            Caring for the gardens and grounds of Hillside proves to be a challenge, but Charles revels in it as he enjoys the outdoors and has always shown a proclivity for gardening. He begins to see a different and warmer side to Ms. Glover, as she begins to slowly open up to him and he to her. The two slowly but surely begin to fall for one another. Kate Glover returns to Hillside after a trip to the city and is immediately attracted to Charles, as such she accosts him on the grounds in an attempt to seduce him which he vehemently refuses. This and the revelation that her aunt 'Emily' Glover and Charles may become betrothed, thereby making their progeny be the heir to Hillside instead of her, makes her hate Charles. So she lies to Charles and tells him that Ms. Glover has been engaged to marry another wealthy heir in the village that he's frequently seen visit Hillside; she's been stringing him along, making false promises of love and affection the whole time.

            Heartbroken and betrayed, Charles makes to confront Ms. Glover but hears that his father is very close to death. So he decides to leave Hillside without a word instead. He makes it home to be by his father’s side as he dies. Seeing as there is nothing tying him to the village any longer, he makes to go back to the city, where his friend has gotten him a job tending the gardens of a university. Days after starting, Ms. Glover surprises him with a visit. Here he learns that one of Kate's 'endeavors' became very public and resulted in her being shamed out of the Hillside inheritance. Ms. Glover demands to know why he left in the first place and Kate’s lie is revealed for what it truly was, a lie. Here is where Ms. Glover proposes to the overjoyed Charles, who accepts.
That's my pitch for all of you aspiring novelists and Hollywood producers out there! Make romance even better by letting women feel empowered! Let them know that their love story can happen at any time or in any way AND be on their terms. Something new and different needs to happen to the romance genre these days.
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And this sure as hell isn't it.
If you like historical romance as much as I do, check out "Lord Blackburn's Treasure" written by my friend Kelly Lynn Peters. You can get the Kindle edition for only $2.99!
You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.
 
 
This past weekend there was this "super game" on TV and it had something to do with guys in tight pants.  Just kidding, I do know a little something about football, as my wee sister Stella has dated exclusively jocks ever since junior high. 

If I can catch the Super Bowl on TV, I watch it, but I really only care about the commercials and halftime show (BTW anyone else thinking cartoon shark cosplay?).
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Margaret can probably whip that up.
This year, I was able watch it, as a member of my artist collective was hosting a party at his house on a big screen TV.  As always, I was most excited to see commercials for the slate of upcoming summer movies. My excitement was quickly dashed when I saw the spot for the newest entry in the timeline twisted Terminator tale, Terminator: Genisys (which by the way, you can't do on Nintendo).
I'll spare you a long diatribe of what's wrong with this J.J. Abram alternate timeline non-sense and get down to the nitty-gritty.  The biggest thing sticking in my craw is this business of Khaleesi from my much beloved "Game of Thrones" being cast as Sarah Connor.  She's so-so as the "Mother of Dragons," but she is no mother of mankind's only hope (John Connor).  Honestly, there is no way her skinny doe-eyed self is ever going to pull off filling the shoes of tough-as-nails Sarah Connor as originally portrayed by Linda Hamilton. Seriously Emilia Clark, did you work out even once before filming began? Check out Ms. Hamilton and to a lesser extent the other Sarah Connor, Lena Headey.
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The original with a sets of guns. Get it?
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The lite version.
Sure, in the first Terminator, Sarah Connor wasn't all buff and stuff, but there was toughness in her performance and as the story unfolded at the end, you could see that this woman was strong enough to take on any threat. In this newest version [Genisys], I don't see any strength in Emilia Clark's performance at all. Heck in "GOT" even when Clark yells, most everyone just over pretends to be scared. She really doesn't even command much authority with her dragons either.
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I'm yelling REALLY loudly! Please be intimidated.
To be fair, I guess Clark really didn't have to bring much toughness to the role of Connor, as it appears in the promos that she has access to every firearm know to man.

*Sigh*
 

I guess this is just going to be another example, in an ever mounting pile, of the "powers that be" retroactively weakening powerful female protagonists.  Maybe I'll be proven wrong.  We'll find out for sure this July.
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Ripley, you're next to be wimpified.
I'll give Emilia Clark this much, her face does bare an uncanny resemblance to a young Linda Hamilton.

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Creepy.
If you've never seen "The Terminator," do it now if you want to live.
You can find out more about the film on Amazon. Use either link to click through and buy.