culture

The Marion Effect

See my complete article on my first of seven Problematic Badass Female Tropes over here at Writers’ HQ.

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Punching Through a Crystal Wall

Remember that Doctor Who episode, where he was trapped in the nightmare loop? The way he escaped was, each time he got to the end/his death, he punched a thick glass (or rock crystal?) wall, just once, with his bare fist. Turns out that he ends up going through that time loop so many times, that he eventually punches through the thick crystal wall completely. Think of how many millions of times you’d have to punch with a bare fist, to get through a rock wall several feet thick. But he succeeds, and it sets him free.

My life lately has run up against that thick layer of crystal, or so it feels: beautiful, but holding me in a loop. I’m punching it with my bare fist, though, over and over, and will persist until it gives way. Problem is, I also have to rely on others to add their punches to mine, and so am also being forced to wait. I spent a long while musing about this last night: I’m stalled, and it’s frustrating, as I am powerless to move these other people into action. And so I wait.

But here’s the stuff I am indeed actively doing–these things may be interesting to you, lovely lurkers, so here goes:

Wisdom From Everything was a remarkable production, and my scenes of violence were carried out beautifully. This production closes on the 26th, so those of you lurkers who are local, don’t miss it.

My initial writings on the topic of Problematic Female Badasses in lit and pop culture are slowly, painfully, becoming a book. Page 23, the academic branch of Denver Comic Con, has accepted it as part of their panel presentations, and so I will be talking about this project and my 7 Tropes live in front of a roomful of geeks this June. Will I be the catalyst for Gamergate 2.0? Time will tell…

Also this summer, I’ll be trekking back to Longmont to teach the teenaged ballerinas how to fake punch each other in the face, drag each other around by their hairpinned buns, and etc. One of the highlights of that is when they learn the face slam. The initial teaching of it is slamming the face into the floor, but some tutued girl always gets the idea to slam her partner’s face into the ballet barre, which is just such a delightful thing to witness.

Sooner than that, though: Blue Dime Cabaret is having our first show at Full Cycle on April 7th. It’s a bike shop, coffee shop, and bar over on Pearl Street where Penny Lane used to be. This is going to be a really fun show: we’ve got comedians, burlesque, burlesque on roller skates, and an opera singer. I’ll be jiggling my sparkles in a 1920s Charleston inspired burlesque bit that I actually need to finish choreographing… anyway, we’ve also been picked to perform in this summer’s Boulder Fringe Fest, too, so this’ll be a fun way to see how these variety shows will turn out. If you’re local, do come see us, and tip generously. I need the money.

I’ll let you know how Goth Prom goes, too. I have a rather ’80s inspired outfit to honor my early days of gothiness. But anyway.

These are the punches I’m throwing these days. What punches are you throwing into your walls? Add them in the comments, if you’d like to share. Of course, there’s a reason I call you all “lovely lurkers…”

Hero’s Journey / Villain’s Journey: I

Hero’s Journey/Villain’s Journey :

 

Part I

When I was very young and first learned about story formulae, it distressed me, as I was worried very much about originality at the time. But once I grew into my writership and my voice and became more and more well read, I realized that formulae like Campbell’s Hero’s Journey function as skeletons, a strong (and yes, necessarily same) structure that a storyteller can then hang original flesh and clothing on top of. See Kirby Ferguson’s Everything Is A Remix episode wherein he talks about the materials George Lucas used to build the bird’s nest that is Star Wars, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the recycled, and a new view of what it means to be “original.”

The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, laid out the basic structure for all story, something he called the Monomyth. The original Journey consists of 17 different phases or stages the hero goes through, from the Call to the Apotheosis to the Magical Flight, and so on. Many writers have shortened this formula down to a more manageable three stages: The Call, Road Of Trials, and Return. Personally, I prefer an 8-stage version a teacher concocted from the original 17, in that with the 8 stages, we get the detail of the Journey more specifically than the very simplified 3-step version, but it is much easier to swallow (and more versatile) than the full 17. And I have taught my writing students this 8-stage version in my own Jenn way for many years (part Campbell’s words, part pop culture/my own. And ain’t that just so postmodern of me?).

(Only thing better is my 3 Rules for Protagonists, based on Stanislavsky’s acting “Method.” And it is better. But this piece of writing is specifically about the hero’s and villain’s Journey, so I digress…)

Anyway. This is my take:

8-step version Hero’s Journey

1. call to adventure

Our hero (oh, and, side note: I eschew use of the word “heroine,” as it is merely the diminutive form of the noun. I don’t use the word “actress” for the same reason. The feminine should not be diminutive. A person is a hero or an actor, no matter what gender they express) gets whisked away on the adventure. The snug norm of regular life is disrupted, and it’s time to embark upon the unknown. Very often, the hero resists the Call (or even outright refuses it), but no matter if they do, they end up running after those dwarves without a pocket-handkerchief, or taking the red pill, or falling down the rabbit hole regardless.

2. Threshold

This is the gateway to the Magical Realm. In old stories (and often In new fantasies), this is where the hero enters the Forest. Usually there’s some kind of terrifying guardian at this gate, and the hero must use their own bravery and wit (and often, help and/or gifts from a wise mentor or fairy godperson) in order to get through. The doorway to nirvana is guarded by two fearsome swordsmen, for example, and the way back to the Garden of Eden is flanked by terrible (also sword-wielding) seraphim. But crossing the threshold is only the first challenge for the hero…

3. Jedi trials

Once the hero is in the Other Realm, away from the normal world as we know it, they’re immediately in mortal, life-changing danger. They must undergo a series of challenges in order to move on, each one tougher and more dangerous than the one before. And each test makes the hero stronger, and teaches them more. This stage is the one where our hero may meet other characters like the Temptress/Goddess and the Trickster, and may or may not lose their magical guide here. The first Star Wars movie follows this precisely, as once Luke crosses through the threshold (Mos Eisely spaceport; you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy), he meets Leia, Han, Chewie, and loses Obi-Wan. Sorry, did you need a spoiler alert?

4. Abyss

This is the worst, darkest, direst of the Jedi Trials. This is the most difficult test the hero goes through, the one where they almost give up, or nearly perish. If our hero is in a video game, this is where they must fight the Boss Monster, and it’s uncertain whether or not they’ll succeed.

lastcrusadegrail

“You chose…wisely.”

5. A-ha moment

This is the moment when the hero puts their hands on the Holy Grail. When they attain their objective, or realize it’s not attainable. Indiana Jones literally did this in the third movie of that trilogy (yes, the Indiana Jones franchise is only a trilogy lalalalala I can’t hear you what are you saying about a crystal skull)….

6. Transformation

Sometimes this happens right with the a-ha moment, or the a-ha moment happens because of this. This stage is where the hero changes irrevocably—no longer are they the hapless teenager, scared little girl, or impatient farmboy. That abyss was the straw that broke the hero’s back and transformed them into an actual hero.

7. Atonement w/father

Often if the hero is female, this stage is an atonement with the mother figure instead, but just as often it’s a father figure regardless of heroic gender. Even more usually, the father figure is the highest god, The Father, as it were. The Norse and Greek myths were all about this stage, though usually the atonement comes in the form of punishment in those tales.

8. Return w/boon

The hero must return with all the wisdom and superpowers and whatever else they’ve gained along their journey, to bring the boon of their new heroship to benefit the community. This return is often where you’ll find the stage called Magical Flight, where the hero continues to have help in order to cross back over the threshold into the regular world. Now the hero is what Campbell called Master of Two Worlds, able to exist both in the enchanted realm and the world of workaday reality.

 

Stay tuned for Part II, where I will introduce and discuss the concept of the Villain’s Journey.

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Musings Upon a New (ish) Semester

Well fuck. 

I use invective, lovely lurkers, with conscience and reason. Why I just used one of the words that would make my movie Rated R in America is that I just saw that the last post on this blog was posted in, like, mid-August. Seriously, what the fuck? Why do you tolerate this kind of behavior from me, huh? Are you all so busy reading Parallel Bars that you can’t be bothered? Can’t say I blame you, truth be told…

So I’m jogging in the reins of Week 4 at both Metro and Front Range, Week 2 of Regis, and the verrrry beginning of Week 1 at DU. And lemme tell ya about the cool shit that’s happening at all those fine institutions (okay, I’m going with this invective thing):

At Metro: I’m teaching that online Staging Cultures course I’ve told you about before. It’s a really good reading list, lovely lurkers. Let me know if you want it. I’m also doing a MW (that’s Monday & Wednesday, kids) Intro to Theatre, which is a delightful gen ed course I haven’t done in a while. Man are those First Year Success students bright eyed and enthusiastically bushy tailed! They’re just about to embark on their historical presentation projects AND their Raisin in the Sun unit, so wow how much good material can we stomach at 11am? A lot, apparently. Youthful energy, I’m tellin ya…

Beginning Stage Combat over at Metro is Friday mornings as is usual, but as is not usual, it’s SO FULL YOU GUYS! There’s, like, 24 or something people in it, and they’re all lovely young talented energetic insane theatre majors and I am having so much fun and getting so old…. They’re just about to start choreographing their Unarmed fights, and I could not be more excited!

At Regis: I have two lovely and talented grad students doing a one on one Writing the Novel course w me; and one other lovely and talented grad student doing my own self-constructed YA Literature course (one on one, natch. It’s nearly always one on one at Regis). It’s going to be some stellar writing, which will only make me wish I had more time to work on my own work….

At Front Range: it’s two evening courses: a Comp I and a Comp II. The former is revising their Mini-Essays as we speak (Er, as I type), and you know what that means! That’s right: the Mini-Essay Contest winner post is imminent! Let’s hope it’s not the next one, as I need to be more frequent than that here….

Comp II as is usual these days for me, functions under a theme of Creativity and Innovation. They just finished their (quite high quality) Elevator Pitches, and now have just been introduced to the Analyzing An Image essay, which is where they pick an ad or psa and analyze it in essay format. Should be some good reading.

And finally,

At DU: Children’s Literature started today! As my ancient, steam-powered laptop decided to become a doorstop recently, it was quite the challenge to get that course shell updated and ready to go for a fresh crop of Professional Writing graduate students. But I am nothing if not diligent. And, yes, I have a lot of work to do still, but hey at least it’s up and functioning, and thanks to the SO, I have a brand spanking new refurbished box I can now use to get everything even more ship-shape. Thanks to that generous soul…

Oh but that’s not all! I also continue to have professional endeavors:

Bronze Fox Burlesque is doing their next show at License no.1 under the loose theme of Clue (the movie) and murder mysteries in general. I am mulling over choreography for a duet and a new solo right now…

Metro is doing The Country Wife in a couple weeks, a ribald comedy of no manners at all, and I am consulting the period movement as well as choreographing and directing a raucous chick fight with fans. And maybe fisticuffs.

I’m still writing for Parallel Bars and Your Boulder, editing the SO’s spectacular new book, and I’m just now starting to think I could remount my Retro Reviews of Sherlock, over on Sherlock’s Home, now the 4th season is far enough away…..

So.

Megan shows my Intro students the ropes. Literally.

Hm.

I guess there’s a reason it’s taken me so long to post here. Yeah, well. NO FUCKING EXCUSES, AMIRITE?

Ahem. Carry on….

The Art of Inquiry: Hard Science, Soft Art panel review

CWA2

i love that there’s the Periodic Table there high on the wall…

World Affairs Conference Panel Review #2: Hard Science, Soft Art

As I feared, lovely lurkers, I wasn’t able to catch nearly as much of this year’s Conference on World Affairs as I would have liked. But hey. Something’s better than nothing, right?

The second and last panel I observed was entitled: “Hard Science, Soft Art,” and most of the discussion on said panel centered around how problematic the title actually was. The discussion began with musings on the nature of science as a measure of truth and falsehood, and that paradox of the unmeasurable/unquantifiable aspects of life being the most important. Also that proofs (like, mathematical proofs) aren’t applicable to 90% of life.

Then they moved on to discuss how art and science are both learned/taught, citing the historical practice of art and engineering being taught via the apprenticeship model. In other words, the student would, in order to learn a craft or an art, go to a master of said craft or art, and study with them for a period of time, till they then went to work on their own as a stonemason or glassblower or painter or etc. This model, so saith the panel, is much more of a community-building one: the teachers and students are part of an ongoing relationship and the dialogue of the art/science then leads to more evolution of it (let alone a stronger bond between teacher and learner). It’s only in recent academics, opined the panel, that separating engineering and art happened. It wasn’t so delineated as practices before. I mean, one only has to look at da Vinci to see this manifested.

Actually I was reminded of my devoted stage combat students at Metro, a few years ago when that program was robust. They wanted to continue in their study of the art (craft? which is it?) beyond the mere one semester class, so they created a club. We met weekly, they learned more about stage combat than they ever would have from the academic model that was presented to them–they created the apprentice model for themselves, because they needed it. The panel mentioned the Maker movement as one reaction/solution to this over-delineated academic model.

The main exciting concept I took away from this panel was that science and art are both ways of interrogating or responding to the world. Art being an aesthetic response to the world, and what makes us human.

The panelists were: an astrobiologist/musician; a computational biologist/software engineer/conceptual artist; a professor of art & design who works with atmospheric science; and a sculptor of mobiles/mathematician who studies the consciousness (meditation, etc.). Um. Wow.

Closing pertinent things in my notes:

  • “We fear that vulnerability will turn into rejection.”
  • The Five Personality Patterns
  • Is there art on other planets?
  • a lot of the talk about the art of inquiry made me think of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Starry Night/Van Gogh speech, which I’ve embedded below.

Own Your Story: Geek Girls Unite panel review

World Affairs Conference Panel Review #1: Geek Girls Unite

geekgirls

I’m a little bummed out, lovely lurkers, in that I’m not sure how much of the World Affairs Conference I’m going to be able to catch this year. I used to go every single year faithfully, but since not being a student/near campus, I’ve fallen out of the habit. This year I highlighted the heck out of my conference schedule, and….had to miss all three panels I was hoping to see yesterday. Ah well, we shall see what the rest of the week will bring.

ANYway, I did get to the “Geek Girls Unite” panel on Monday, and as a geek girl myself I was pretty excited about it. Also, having seen Bonnie Burton on Tabletop a few times, I was especially pumped to see what she had to say about the topic.

I was a little disappointed in the main content of the presentations, though admittedly it was very cool to hear the women’s success stories. But the panel was…a little deceptively named, as most of the women (Bobbie Carlton, Francesca Grifo, and Sonja Hoel Perkins) were in technology or financial fields. While “computer nerd” is still a thing, there wasn’t much talk at all about geekiness, or geek culture, which is so prevalent as to be almost mainstream these days. There was a little discussion about how badly women are treated at conventions, which was a bit of the same old story. Too bad the same old story is still happening. So, I was lacking in geekiness at the Geek Girls panel.

The main positive I took away was yet another slew of encouragement: if you want to do a thing, do it. This was their central message. Don’t let gender and/or discouraging people stop you from doing your thing.

A few other pertinent things in my notes:

  • “Innovation Women”–a speakers bureau for female panelists/experts/speakers
  • the hesitance in creating another “woman-only island” thereby preaching to the choir
  • “Broadway Angels”–furthering women in tech
  • geeks are in charge now
  • for blogging: know your audience, use social media to spread it farther
  • “Own Your Story.”

Musings Upon a New Semester

It’s another semester (and quarter), another dollar in my world. Well, I’m hoping it’s a little more than that! Anyway, both DU and Metro began today and I’m looking forward to facilitating learning about performing and visual arts. The class at Metro is an undergraduate course called Intro to Theatre, in which they learn about what theatre is, what goes into making it, what it’s been like across the globe throughout history, and it culminates in them collaborating to make some themselves. This is the class blog, on which will appear the students’ reading responses. http://the2210.blogspot.com/

Showing Intro to Theatre students the ropes at Metro. Literally. 2014.

Showing Intro to Theatre students the ropes at Metro. Literally. 2014.

The DU course is called World Visual and Performance Art. I wish it were called Performing Arts, because Performance Art is a whole ‘nother monster but ah well. This class, when I was first given it to construct from scratch (way back in 2003 or 4), was called Creative Expressions and is meant to cover, well, World Visual and Performing Arts. What visual arts? Yes. What performing arts? uh-huh. What part of the world? The whole fricking world. So I pared it down a touch. I chose three eras that I happen to know the most about myself: the Renaissance in Europe (particularly England), the Belle Epoque in Europe and a little in Asia (particularly France and Russia), and what I call the Age of Aquarius in America (really Postmodernism across the globe). Creative tangents in this class are welcome, and like Intro to Theatre, I make the students do some of the art as well as read and view about it. This is a graduate level course for a Liberal Arts Masters degree. This is the blog I use for it and the undergrad version of it, which only covers visual arts. http://mals4050ca3200.blogspot.com/

I’m looking forward to starting on this semester (as well as continuing my work with characterization in fiction, the art of blogging, and creative capstones at Regis), because I know the material will overlap somewhat with these two as far as curriculum, and I’m hoping to engage the two courses in some dialogue. How 21st-century education is that?   ~Jenn