Monday, January 28, 2013

The Shark Has Pretty Teeth, My Dear...

(Okay, so this post took me so long because I tried very, very hard not to merely make this a Loki appreciation/extreme-feels-had-by-a-fansquee post. Those elements are most definitely still at play here, but I've tried to keep my thoughts in order and not meander into a sobbing heap of jello).

As you might know, I've been endeavoring to write fanfiction recently. It's going well, I think, but I have a slight problem: the fic based on Thor/The Avengers is not so slowly taking over my life. Fortunately, it's great practice and an outlet for me to finally write that story about a girl who falls in love with a villain that I've been trying to write since I was fifteen. On the bad side... it's totally taking over my life.

http://www.bolegaindia.com
However, I've been curious as to why I've been trying to write a story like this for so long. This could be taken as example of something pathologically being wrong to me and that maybe I need therapy. I would, of course, beg to differ (although, in all honesty, if you see my early writing, you would be concerned because it is just soooooo bad and therefore all my ideas are really watered down and insubstantial and... it's just bad, take my word for it). However, I'm not the only writer dealing with ideas like this. As I mentioned in this post, I feel myself slowly treading into a similar territory of Twilight and 50 Shades, although if you argue that Edward is not a "bad guy" either because he doesn't really do anything morally wrong (arguable) or because he's not dangerous and just a sparkly "vegetarian" vampire (also arguable), I'm not going to disagree. However, there is a trend for "bad boy" sort of characters and attractive villains. (And fun fact, upon Google image searching "bad boy characters," Robert Pattinson was the most common result. I wonder if he is aware of this.) This is not recent. In fact, there is one culprit I can pinpoint some of this on - and his name is William Shakespeare.

Probably due to the fact that I'm taking a Shakespeare class this semester, I'm seeing the Bard everywhere. But he kind of is everywhere. He invented a lot of the words we use, established plot elements and characters that appear again and again in fiction today, and joined in on creating a certain way of thinking about humanity and the human mind. And so the idea that his villains set precedents for later works isn't really that surprising.

Let's take Iago, perhaps my favorite villain and the one I'm most familiar with, from Othello. Iago, as you may know, is Othello's ensign and trusted friend (at the beginning of the play, at least). However, Iago hates Othello and plans to destroy him, which of course can only end in tears. Iago has a way with words and is known for his "honesty" - even though he twists words and ideas to do his bidding throughout the play. As Russ McDonald states, "It is Iago's talent for language and fiction - or lies - that permits him to realize those imagined circumstances. Iago takes the same attitude towards words that he takes to toward other people: they are merely instruments, vehicles that he uses on the road to vengeance" (McDonald 57).

Sound familiar to anyone?

http://twoshotsofhappyoneshotofsad.tumblr.com/post/38675867878
(Okay, can we just take half a second to appreciate that this is Tom Hiddleston? Because, I mean, really... Movies, guys. They're amazing.) (Oh, it's a good thing I'm not an film critic or director or anything.)

Point is, Iago and Loki share a similar rhetorical strategy that makes them rather seductive (seduction, from its French root, literally means drawing aside or leading astray, which is essentially what villains aim to do). Of course, Shakespeare didn't make his characters romantic, but there is a sexual element to them. Iago is busy convincing Othello that his wife is sleeping with Cassio and Richard III (which I haven't read yet but will be reading this semester) apparently "tells Lady Anne that he has killed her husband and her father-in-law, and then he woos her in marriage anyway" (McDonald 56).  In McDonalds' words Shakespeare "does the unpredictable: he makes his villain a wit, a jokester, an actor. And Richard is such a memorable villain because his words are unforgettable" (McDonald 55).

(Also, on a tangential note, you should know this happened at one point:

http://alwaysiambic.tumblr.com
Yes, that is Ewan McGregor as Iago and Tom Hiddleston as Cassio. That's 2 out of 3 of my all-time favorite actors in the same Shakespearean play. I can't decide if I'm elated this happened or tormented that it was an untaped stage performance. Both. Both is good.)

http://whatwouldtotowatch.com
Where was I? Yes, witty villains. Not only are they smooth-talking seducers, they are funny. Even if their humor is morbid and disturbing, we're still entertained and thus perhaps a little more likely to empathize with them. I was thinking about this in terms of The Dark Knight's Joker. The Joker, at least in my opinion, is the most interesting part of The Dark Knight. Even though he's terrifying and twisted, I can't help but root him on a bit. Why? Because Batman has too much power in this film? Because it's easier to identify with a common man albeit criminal mastermind than a millionaire superhero? Because the Joker is just devious and there's something really fun about devious characters?

http://unrealitymag.com
Fun. Fun is important. I remember the first time I saw Die Hard and didn't care about anything other than how totally awesome Alan Rickman was in it. (This blog post is turning into an excuse to use awesome pictures of my favorite actors, isn't it? Yes, yes it is). It's been a while since I've seen this movie, so correct me if I'm wrong, but Rickman's character is not a nice dude. I don't know if he does anything we'd generally describe as nice or kind or even remotely okay at all. However, he does stuff we'd never think about doing in our everyday lives. And is kickass and fun and evil. And also is conveniently played by the amazing Alan Rickman. Pretty much the same goes for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I do not watch for Kevin Costner being the only character with an American accent in the film, but for Rickman as the conniving Sheriff of Nottingham. I think the first time I watched that film and fangirled over Alan Rickman was the moment I realized I actually liked boys (which is what I'd like to think this Kate Beaton comic is about).

But now I'm just scattering things all over the place, with Shakespeare and wit and villains just being... villainy. When it comes down to it, we're dealing with villains that are more than just cackling guys with mustaches and 2-D bad guys. And this has been going on for some time - it just occurred to me that religious leaders were really put out (that's putting it mildly) when John Milton wrote Paradise Lost and made Lucifer sound a hell of a lot more interesting than God and the angels. But the why is still really baffling: if for the most part we're people who are relatively compassionate, don't like violence, and might be what some people would call "morally sound," then why the hell are we so interested in bad guys? Why are they so cool and sexy?

I think it comes down to a few basic things: for one, they do things we'd never do ourselves. They perform acts we'd never dream of doing, except perhaps in our darkest moments or strongest revenge fantasies. They also lead us astray and seduce us in many ways; there is a strong tie between sex and villainy, but also skilled language and temptation. We may also sympathize with the villains portrayed to us because, especially in recent films, villains are given problems and obstacles we ourselves may face. As Alfred Hitchcock said, "In the old days villains had mustaches and kicked the dog. Audiences are smarter today. They don't want their villain to be thrown at them with green limelight on his face. They want an ordinary human being with failings." (See, this is why Hitchcock is a director and I'm not.)

I'd also like to take us back to Loki for a moment to draw in some feminist theory. Susan Bordo has some interesting words about tricksters/shape-shifters in her book Unbearable Weight, which she uses in conjunction with discussing cyborgs (which I've mentioned before on this blog). Using the influence of Donna Haraway, Bordo says,
The cyborg is not only culturally "polyvocal"; she (?) "speaks in tongues." Looked at with the aid of the imagery of the archetypal typology rather than science fiction, the postmodern body is the body of the mythological Trickster, the shape-shifter: "of indeterminate sex and changeable gender... who continually alters her/his body, creates and recreates a personality...[and] floats across time" from period to period, place to place (Bordo 227-228).
Loki, prince of lies and god of mischief, can do what we cannot - he change both minds (with his words) and change his own body. He is able to recreate himself while the rest of us are "trapped" in our  permanent forms. He, quite simply, does what he wants (ironic for a guy who tells us that freedom is life's greatest lie, right? Ah, no, Loki feels coming on, must avoid that tangent for now...) Bordo continues, "the Trickster and the cyborg invite us to 'take pleasure' in (as Haraway puts it) the 'confusion of boundaries' in the fragmentation and fraying of the edges of the self that have already taken place (Bordo 228)."

Am I saying that Loki helps us understand the confusion we feel about our own bodies and to enjoy the fact that being a human is really confusing? That being a human is sOOOooooo changeable?

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m25ezavvQW1qbwrzi.gif
Maybe. Loki doesn't shape-shift too much in the films, but he still adds that element of unpredictability, of chaos, of uncertainty that is refreshing perhaps for those who have banal, monotonous elements in their lives. But perhaps Loki also asks us to push our own boundaries, plays devil's advocate in asking us what we consider right and wrong, good and evil, and what society condones and dismisses. I've certainly been questioning my own moral compass while writing this fic, let me tell you...

That felt like a lot rambling. If you're still with me after all of this, congratulations! You get Mark Gatiss being maniacal and evil as a reward:


Mark Gatiss, you are my hero. I mean villain. I mean... never mind.

Also, on one quick final bit, if you are interested in Iago and having your moral compass utterly obliterated and everything you stood for in the world questioned, please read Nicole Galland's wonderful book I, Iago. It's a wonderful read, providing a whole rationale for Iago's actions, which is both wonderful and the worst thing ever. You'll never be able to see Othello the same way again, I assure you.

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzlgh1rTpe1rnq2y2o1_500.jpg

All citations from:

Susan Bordo. Unbearable Weight. University of California Press, 1993.

Russ McDonald. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, Second Edition. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keep my hands to learn

(God, I am never going to write that post on villains at this point... I am soooooo distract-able...)

I write about myself on this blog a lot (A LOT... is it irritating? Please let me know if it's irritating). And tonight, I feel the urge to do a post that is entirely about me - or at least about me and what I'm planning on after my graduation. Why? Because I have a phone interview this Saturday and, while I'm not nervous for it (okay, not too nervous for it; I'm more excited, really), it's certainly coloring my way of thinking this week.

Tonight I went out to dinner with my parents and I ended up talking about my reservations for this job I'm interviewing for. It's through an organization called Teach For America and their goal is to help close in on the achievement gap between schools, particularly those in low-income areas in cities or rural areas. They take people - generally recent college graduates - and place them in schools to teach for two years, hoping to give kids a shot at quality education that they wouldn't get otherwise. I'm really thrilled that a program like this exists but I'm feeling myself criticizing it more than I think is healthy. Part of this is out of a self-protecting way that, if I don't get the position (which I likely won't, as only 17% of those who apply are selected), I won't be heartbroken. Part of it is because it is a two-year commitment, I'm terrible at making decisions, and I'm afraid of choosing something that I'm not actually passionate about or will burn me out or make me jaded or cynical. I know it's not going to be Freedom Writer's Diary or Mr. Holland's Opus or anything of that nature. But I'm more concerned that it's going to be more beneficial for me in the long run than the students I'm teaching.

http://www.militarytimesedge.com
Overall, what I'm worried about is having to throw away my ideals completely to make a difference. Let me explain this - I am a ridiculous idealist. I know this. My parents are struggling - understandably - to reckon with the fact that a lot of critical thinking has made a bit of a monster out of me; I don't want a normal job and have a dangerous disregard for money (for the most part - except for the fact that I very much like food and music and books and need money to have those things). But I don't want to accept the ordinary and hope that one day I find a way to push-back - I want to start now and keep going forward. I'm worried that Teach For America (TFA from here on out) will be a push-back, but one that I won't find strong enough. An article I read for an online activity I did as part of the application process (though not necessarily expressing TFA's views) suggested that the No Child Left Behind Act was doing a lot of good. And while I'm sure it is, I also have HUGE issues with it - namely that it makes testing the pinnacle of measuring knowledge and it's caused a lot of cuts to arts/music programs in to focus more on the math and sciences (I once read part of the act in high school... it was painful).

http://www.texasprojectfirst.org/nclblogo.jpg
I have a not-so-secret secret to share with you - I HATE TESTS. Not all tests - short answer/essay ones I like. Because I'm a decent writer and, if I don't know the answer, I can at least meander my way through with some notion and try to explain my way through it. But I really hate multiple choice. Really do. Sure, it's easy - if you know the answer. Or the ones available are legitimate. You know what I hate? When the best possible option isn't available on multiple choice. I find this ridiculously frustrating. I also hate tests because they insist on reducing knowledge to a question and four (or so) possible answers, when it is so much more complicated than that. It also focuses on scores and numbers and reducing people to grades and averages... and I'm just not a fan of this way of learning. I much prefer discussions and talking over things and working with people or at least expressing oneself through words than just circling in dots that correspond with an apparently correct answer and treating people as just data points. Also, people have test anxiety - there's so much fear of getting the wrong answer and doing well that it makes taking tests really hard. This is why I always liked band in high school - there were no tests (okay, there were playing tests, but they were pretty chill). And it's music - there's more than one right way to do something. But I digress...

This all comes out of a supreme worry after I did this online activity for TFA and had to read a lot of data charts about test scores and collecting data for schools and dealing with school boards (ugh... the stories I could tell about attending school board meetings in my hometown. Don't ask my why I did that now; that's an entirely different story...) and I began to worry that this was going to turn into the psychology department, where data reigned supreme and everything was focused on testing performance. When I really want to hear about how the students are feeling and fairing and doing in the classroom.

You can find a ton of posts on Tumblr about how schools are actually not very good environments for education - they're like prisons, they promote hegemony (which we all know is boring), they make students develop self-depreciating attitudes about themselves. I had a really interesting discussing last summer with a friend from the Scotland trip I went on a couple of years ago about the book Instead of Education by John Holt. I haven't read it yet but I did get it for Christmas and am curious about it. From what I understand, it poses the idea of moving away from an instituted education system that might not always promote the best of ideas and instead, taking it upon ourselves to prize education and teach one another. Yes, yes, talk about ideals, but I'm interested in this idea, none the less. Because I went to school in a wealthy middle-class suburb and my experience still sucked. Imagine what it must be like in an low-income city or town?

Which is why I want to so badly get involved with TFA. But I'm also worried that their ideas of promoting change will mirror the very things I think are causing problems. I'm worried that I won't find their ideals enough, that I'll want to push farther beyond what they propose. And now I'm left worrying that I can't be happy with anything; that I've got too grandiose of hopes and ideals and that I can't just be grateful for the good that's being done. Everything doesn't have to be huge and revolutionary, as I've mentioned in bits before; change can come from small acts - for goodness sakes, our lovely hobbit friends teach us this in Lord of the Rings. But at the same time, this is going to be a gigantic commitment and huge step for me - and if I'm going to do it, shouldn't I feel comfortable making this step and believe it will really do some good? Sometimes I feel like I'm incapable of really being gracious; I know change can't happen overnight; it is slow-going and takes time. But I'm so worried that the things being done to make change are actually just leading us back in a big circle.

I came across this marvelous quote today on Tumblr, one I keep tossing around because it is relevant to my life in so many aspects and expresses myself in ways I'd never really gotten from a quote before. From Naguib Mahfouz's Sugar Street: "It's a most distressing affliction to have a sentimental heart and a skeptical mind." I want to help people; that's the one thing I know I want to do in my life/work/art/what have you. I'm just so worried that it will not be the right change I want to make. But I also found this quote from Shauna Niequist's "Bittersweet" relevant: "It's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about."

http://us.123rf.com
What do I care more about? My ideals or helping people? Having this opportunity or clinging to the hopes that I can somehow be part of something that revolutionizes the education system? When else will I get the opportunity to do something like this? I think now I know - if I get it, I'll do it. It's certainly better than trying to find a job elsewhere that I probably don't really want and will only be taking until I can find something I really, really want to do or become an established writer. I think I'm just so afraid of failure and having to give up on my ideas to be a part of this that I'm forgetting that an action can have greater results than I think. I'm afraid I'm not good enough for this, that I'm not what they're looking for, that I'm too renegade or not strong enough or just not... inspiring enough maybe. I'm just a white girl from the 'burbs. But then I hear this line from Brother Ali's "Only Life I Know": "Who decided you don't got enough to teach children?" and I think, "Hell, yeah, I got enough. I can do this. Of course I can." And who said I really had to give anything up? (Well, I did. Forget I said that. I doubt my own integrity too much.) I don't have to give up my ideals but perhaps just keep them in check with the world I inhabit.

Because when it comes down to it, I want to do this. I really, really do. I want to make a difference. And this is a great way to start. I've always loved teaching. I've always cared about the education system. Yes, I want to write and travel the world and do crazy, adventurous things - but I also want to give back for all the blessings I've had throughout my college career. What have I got to lose? Absolutely nothing :D

Sorry that this has been such a word vomit. I know this has nothing to do with fangirls or media or anything but maybe you can glean something relevant from it. In final words, I would like to add something more upbeat (I feel like my posts have been a bit bogged down and blue lately, so I'm pulling this in for fangirly reasons and for positive inspiration). I've become quite the Tom Hiddleston fangirl as of late (*awkward foot shuffle* if you haven't noticed) and been paying loads of attention to his Twitter. He's currently doing awesome Hiddle-esque things in Africa through UNICEF UK and posting pictures and videos and so on. I read his blog post tonight about his first day there and, I have to admit, while I was feeling reservations about TFA, they pretty much evaporated after reading this. Tom Hiddleston, though I have never met you and you have no idea who I am, I would just like to take the opportunity to thank you for being a totally phenomenal human being. Not that you're reading this, but, you know, to the rhetorical powers that be, I would like to pay homage to your awesomeness. Seriously, man. You are pretty much the most inspiring person I know that I don't actually know (wait... yes, that makes sense. Sort of). I know people are going to congratulate you on going out and seeing the "real world" and getting in touch with reality and all of that jazz... but I think some people forget that most of us are pretty aware that the world isn't as idealistic as we'd like. We're not wrapped up in our ideals all the time or so hopeful and insulated or protected that we don't know the pain that goes on in the world. You know - and yet you stay utterly upbeat and positive and amazing. You've managed to balance realism and idealism. And for that sir, I salute you. Godspeed. (*ends fangirling speech and curls up in embarrassed blushing ball*)

Oh, hey, I did make this relevant to fangirls. Thanks, Mr. Hiddleston.

http://waterismyfav-oritecolor.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

50 Shades of Grey Revisited, or: In Defense of Twilight Fans

http://www.blogher.com/50-shades-grey-and-twilight-when-fan-fiction-not-fan-fiction

I know I've written several posts on 50 Shades of Grey (at least two) but I've been meaning to write a different sort of follow-up post for several months now after I started thinking about the book outside of the context I read it in. I found a really great video from the Youtube user manwithoutabody (who does some great dramatic readings of fanfiction; many thanks to Paulina for making me aware of his existence) and I wanted a way to discuss it for a long time, but I couldn't find the right way to grasp it.

Well, another video came at just the right time (thank you, thank you, Jordyn, for sharing it) and it's finally all come together. Let's start with the video I just found - the material I'm particularly interested in starts around the 2:55 mark but I recommend watching the whole thing - it's all relevant and this vlogger is awesome:


Now, keep that in mind for a moment and watch this other video, the one I found ages ago from manwithoutabody where he discusses the extreme hate for 50 Shades of Grey:


My exact reactions to watching this video from manwithoutabody at first were something along the lines of: "Wait, what are you talking about, I... OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO RIGHT."

Let me explain: I still hate 50 Shades of Grey. I still hate Twilight. I still think they are poorly written, possibly promote dangerous ideas of relationships, and are terribly sexist. That being said, there has definitely been a problem with the way I've hated Twilight in the past. And to explain this, I'm going to have to explain my history with Twilight.

The first Twilight book came out when I was a freshman in high school. And I loved it. YES I SAID IT. I LOVED IT. It was one of the first contemporary romance novels I'd read, one of the first targeted at my demographic, and one of the first where it didn't seem to be all about sex (yet). I liked the fact that Bella was awkward and didn't think she was pretty. I liked the fact that she was not in full command of her coordination and that she did dumb things. I liked the fact that Edward was a Byronic hero (yes, Byronic heroes may be assholes, manwithoutabody, but beyond reasons I am capable of understanding about myself, I still like them. Fictional ones, at least).

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs
I loved these books all the way through the last one, as they were staggered perfectly throughout my four years of high school and allowed me to grow with them. I actually liked the last book at first because, honestly, after reading the heartbreaking end of the last Harry Potter book, it was a nice change to have an ending where nothing really bad happened. Then, while discussing it with a friend, I realized that I did have some reservations with it - because not only did nothing bad happen, nothing really happened at the end. That's when the book started to fall apart. I felt like a fool for spending my money (okay, my parents' money) and my time on such trash. This wasn't an overnight realization though - it came about slowly, through much cognitive dissonance and a lot of influence from my friend (my best friend at the time) who hated Twilight. I found myself (unconsciously - it's not like I was parsing this all out like I am now) in a difficult situation - I could continue to love Twilight, even though I knew it was crap, or I could reject my previous self and spurn anything that represented it. Which choice did I make? Considering I was a secretly emo, bordering on hipster, self-hating uncomfortable teenager who was being pushed towards cynicism, I ended up with the latter option. I openly lambasted Twilight and couldn't believe anyone would like it after the last book (I did retain that I had once been a fan of the books (and had hipster moments of, "I liked them before they became movies") but that I had in some way "seen the light" and come to my senses). How do I explain all of this? The best reflection of my mental states seems to be Reliant K's "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" - a friend introduced me to this song and it became one of my favorites during senior year. Nothing could be a more accurate summation of how I felt about my Twilight fandom phase and how I loathed myself for ever liking the books.

I began to lighten up about this once I got to college, accepting that people can like what they like, even if I don't like it. But I still wasn't very kind about the whole thing, to be frank. I don't really know when I stopped judging the fans more than the text, but it was relatively recently - at least in the last year or two. It comes down to differentiating between hate for the text versus hate for the fans. I certainly no long dislike the fans - there may be things they do I dislike but I don't personally dislike them as people. It's interesting that this also correlates with my immense reduction of self-negativity. Do I think there's a link? For me personally, yes, there's something to that. Hating Twilight fans involved hating myself in some ways, because I really, truly did like those books and some of the issues they grappled with. But I found it impossible to dislike the books and like them at the same time and, because I felt like a fool for liking them in the first place, things backfired on me and it fed an already present dislike for myself. Which I got out of, thank God. But because I wasn't happy, I took it out on other people and thus disliked people who liked it as well. Which is pretty messed up.

http://assets.bizjournals.com
Why did this occur? It seems it's very, very easy to be depreciating of other women. As Twilight and Fifty Shades are for a majority female fan bases, it's interesting to note that these groups, as well as the fans of Justin Bieber (as the vlogger notes) are probably the most hated fandoms in the U.S. Things that women and teenagers enjoy are considered petty and not important and irrelevant. Their interests are marginalized and mocked, often by women like me who don't intend to come across this way but are caught between what women want and what women are getting. I don't think I have ever said anything against Twilight fans or 50 Shades fans on this blog, but I can't be certain. I know that in words not written on the internet I certainly have. It's a very, very hard position to be in. What women are getting in these novels are sexist, misogynistic relationships that romanticize abuse and control. And yet they are extremely popular. Why? Because it provides many things - a chance to escape from the world around the reader, an impossible romance, extreme emotions that may not be felt in daily life. Besides, what other sort of romance writing is out there? The popular trend of romance novels tend to be focused around love triangles and romanticizing relationships that probably shouldn't be romanticized. Of course books without these themes exist, but they aren't always marketed as romance novels and don't always have happy endings (and, if you're like the women interviewed in Reading the Romance, a book all about the appeal of romance novels, happy endings are key). Women find these books appealing for many reasons, in part because that's what culture tells them is appealing and that's what offered to them. And then, when they like it and embrace it, they are judged for it. It's a vicious cycle. And it's terribly unfair.

I feel it is getting difficult to avoid stories like Twilight. Even in my writing I have been fighting against this same themes - girls falling for the "bad guy" (which is why I NEED to finish that post about villains...) - and I'm not so sure I'm doing any better at it. Yes, maybe I'm more aware that it's happening in my writing than maybe Meyer and James were, but it's so hard to keep from throwing in cliches and trends that occur Twilight - because them come from writings other assumptions in our society. Of course the cliches can be worked out and avoided, but with the idea of "this is what women like" and "this is what is popular" ever present in culture - and because Twilight does stem from a very long line of preconceived notions about romance - it is hard to get around. Especially when you still have a fondness for Byronic heroes.

What's more, this only further separates marketing, making "things for guys" and "things for gals" (seriously, when you start marketing potato chips for men, we have to talk. Yes, this happened. Shame on you, Ruffles!) and stating that there are certain binaries that are and should be enforced. I'm sorry, I just really need this Martin Freeman gif to express my feelings on this...


Guess what? You can like both One Direction and the Beatles. You can like Twilight and Marvel comics. You can like football and ballet. You can like whatever the hell you want to like - and even though people like me might have been asshats about it in our past or are still asshats about it, ignore us. We know not what we do. What I'm not saying is that we shouldn't be critical of texts like Twilight or anything like that. I am obviously a big fan of cultural critique and think that it's incredibly beneficial in our media-saturated world. However, I also think we (myself most definitely included) need to be careful about how we talk about such critiques. Are we being constructive? Or are we just mocking something because girls like it? Because gay men like it? Because African Americans or Latinos like it? You get the picture.

However, it's hard to be critical of something and like it at the same time. Simon Pegg, brilliant awesome human being that he is, talks about this a bit when he describes studying film in college. As a student who studies media, I find his description ridiculously accurate in trying how to to deal with being critical of something you love:
It's not totally debilitating, you can turn it down to a muffled complaint in the back of your head or even suspend it, if you're determined to enjoy something despite its shortcomings, which is sometimes entirely possible. It leaves you with slight multiple personality disorder since the little voice is impossible to silence completely, but you can ignore it, like you might ignore an annoying younger sibling or the sound of pigeons having sex on your windowsill or your best friend kissing a French exchange student (Pegg 253).
Which is exactly Tumblr is not always a big fan of self-reflexivity, as I have come to know, and why fangirls don't want people hating on their stuff. IT'S HARD. You can do it, but it's hard. It takes a willingness to accept that sometimes, not everything is what it seems. At the same time, I hate that people assume that fangirls are totally incapable of this. They very much are - and they do practice it. I believe that many of them know what they are reading. But when you're looking for an entertaining romance to escape for a while, and your choices are Twilight and not much else, then why not continue to turn to Twilight?

I understand why fans like it, I really, really do. It just worries me how much they are hated for liking it. But then again, they aren't the only ones judged for what they like. We know about the issue with "fake geek girls" and women being ostracized in the comic book fandoms. It doesn't seem to matter if a girl likes "guy stuff" or "girl stuff." A girl just can't seem to win - and it's caused girls to start saying things like, "I'm not like other girls" or trying to prove how different they are from other women. It's like no one wants to be a woman, or worse (as the vlogger pointed out) a teenage girl. Not even Bella, our heroine in Twilight. She becomes a bloody vampire, after all.


http://mynews.mumbleabout.com
This is a serious problem. I don't think it's fair to create multi-million dollar franchises to feed off of girls' interests and have the media advertise it and create a whole spectacle about it and then turn around and rebuke girls for liking it. It's the text that should be criticized rather than the fans. I also don't think it's fair to skew things into either love or hate - sometimes it's not that simple. I love The Hunger Games books, for example, and enjoyed the movie, but have really uneasy feelings about the franchise. The Hunger Games are also a good example of something I didn't like at first but then changed my opinion about. We shouldn't be afraid to have opinions and change them. Changing your mind is good. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I wish to say what I think and feel today, with the proviso that tomorrow perhaps I shall contradict it all." Contradiction seems to be a running theme with all of this - and maybe it's time we stop seeing it as such a negative thing and accept how present it seems to be in... everything.

Wow, this has been a long post. I was in a bit of a rut for ideas and them BANG this happened. If you would like to know more about the appeal of romance novels, please please read Janice Radway's Reading the Romance. This book may be from the 80s but it is ridiculously relevant today. I know I've mentioned it on here before and she says things far more cleverly and with better background than I can.

http://cuteoverload.files.wordpress.com
All citations from:
Simon Pegg. Nerd Do Well. Gotham Books, 2011.

Friday, January 18, 2013

British Invasion (Part 2?)

Thanks to this amazing blogger, I encountered this tidbit from BBC Radio about the plethora of British actors in Hollywood right now. Give it a listen if you've got the time; it's only a little over a minute and a half of audio.

I think Stephen Frears makes a really interesting point about a crisis in Hollywood right now. While I am a fangirl with an inclination towards British actors, there are also A LOT of British actors getting attention right now... well, there have been for a while, but it seems like there's a great resurgence. Tom Hiddleston, Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch - this trio of awesome has been getting a lot of buzz this year for their films. And let's not forget that actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Damian Lewis both won Golden Globes for their performances (Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Lewis for the TV show Homeland... wait, both of their last names are Lewis... weird...) I also think Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson (especially Emma Watson - on my God, Perks of Being a Wallflower... feels) are a new generation of actors to keep an eye on. And Andrew Garfield and Eddie Redmayne, of course. Plus I think once Robert Pattinson gets away from Twilight, he's capable of total awesomeness. And there's Rachel Weiss (man, I'm so bummed that The Deep Blue Sea didn't get more award buzz) and Daniel Craig and Ewan McGregor and Tom Hardy and Alan Rickman and Colin Firth and Gary Oldman... hey, you know what would be easier? Listing the American actors I really like.

Also, all British actors seem to know each other. What the heck is this all about? (http://twoshotsofhappyoneshotofsad.tumblr.com/post/40864465541)
I mean, I love actors like Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr... the list could go on but I'm running out of people coming off the top of my head and honestly, you get the point. But when asked who my favorite actors are, over half of them are from across the pond and those actors from across the pond come more readily to mind. Which I think is interesting, considering I'm surrounded by American cinema and media culture, which is more focused (as it would be) on American actors.

Apparently I've discussed stuff of this nature before (I'm getting to the point where I've forgotten what I've written about and what I haven't. Oh no), albeit in slightly different context. I think I avoided talking about this directly before because I don't want to come across as saying that one country's actors are better than anothers. I do, however, think they're different. I don't exactly know what it is, but they're different. And I mean that for European acting as a whole. Christoph Waltz and Daniel Bruhl and Gerard Depardieu are just different from American actors. I can't really say how or why. They just are.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/
Maybe it has something to do with different acting styles. "Method acting" seems to be pretty big in the States and I don't know if how its taught here is different than elsewhere in the world. And honestly, I don't know much about other acting styles outside of "the Method." And according to the Wiki article, both Leo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis use "the Method." So nix that idea.

Maybe it has something to do with different sorts of training. I mean, a lot of British actors get their start in theater, especially the theaters of London, while I feel like like often actors here catch their break on TV or film and then might go to theater, as theater seems pretty separated from the film industry in the States. But then again, this doesn't seem quite right either. Lots of American actors begin in theater, like Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman. But it does seem like maybe more Americans start in film and crossover to theater, whereas British actors start in theater then crossover to film, though both continue to do theater throughout their careers.

Maybe it has something to do with the parts British actors are given. I mean, a lot of British actors are cast as villains. AND VILLAINS ARE JUST SO COOL (ahem... sorry about my enthusiasm. But more about that in a later post). But not every single British actor currently acting has played a villain. So...

I don't know. It just seems like a lot of the big, break-out stars are British. It's not that there's no big break-outs from Americans; it just seems like there's a lot of Brits. And then when make fun of them at awards shows (which is getting old; stop it, award shows) because we're totally baffled by it. 

Yeah, I got nothing else. This is still a mystery to me and will continue to be a mystery. Any further thoughts on this are, as always, welcomed and appreciated.

http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/Mistoffelees/fancy_igel.jpg

Saturday, January 12, 2013

So... how exactly do you crash the Academy Awards?

As the Golden Globes are tomorrow evening and the Academy Award nominations were announced on Thursday, I feel this is a fitting time to talk about two things:

1) I have some pretty ambivalent feelings about awards, award shows, and shiny golden statues.

2) I'm going to steal...

http://media.tumblr.com/80a14f4e73e60fd103e51a16b54c3216/tumblr_inline_mfbp17eDt91qbd7br.gif
No, Nick Cage, I'm really not. But I am going to steal an Academy Award for Leonardo DiCaprio.

But back to #1. Continuing the thoughts that began on this post and because I'm a loser, I have some weird complicated feelings towards award shows, especially the Oscars. I enjoy watching the Academy Awards, for pretty much the same reason I keep buying People magazine - I keep hoping that maybe something unexpectedly wonderful will occur and not only will awesomeness ensue onscreen, I will also feel like less of a freak. Not to say that the Academy Awards are not generally awesome. I mean, for the most part, they are pretty alright. For example, last year was pretty good, except for the part where I spent the entire show looking for two actors in particular (c'mon, you know which ones, don't make me say) and cameras basically avoided them like the plague (unless you were watching Red Carpet stuff on a magical British-loving channel or something. I often wonder where all this gifs on Tumblr come from...). But Christopher Plummer won an Oscar and suddenly everything was bright and beautiful and I remember being pretty okay with things. At least until I watched the Emmys this year and cried tears of rage into a pillow when Kevin Costner won Best Actor in a Mini-Series. (Long story. I don't actually dislike Kevin Costner. I've just never forgiven him for his lack of a British accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

http://www.animationmagazine.net
However, studying culture and film has made it slightly harder to enjoy awards shows without thinking things like, "Why do we award people expensive gold statues for portraying characters that would never receive things like that in their lives?" "Why do some films become worthy of nomination and renown instead of others?" "Who exactly is in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? And how to do I contact them?" and, inevitably, "So... how exactly does one crash this thing?"

It doesn't matter how much I know that the Oscars are imperfect, that they make it more difficult for international films or indie films or just films in general to do well when this is one of the main markers for success we have other than box office earnings, how much they overlook certain films and certain actors/actresses/directors, etc., because I still watch them and I still want to go to the bloody ceremony. I'm not an actress. I'm not a screenwriter. I don't direct. I will never go to this thing. And yet I still really, really want to.

I used to not understand why I wanted to go so desperately. It seemed like it should be the epitome of everything I don't like - not eating and wearing uncomfortable clothes while sitting down and appearing on a red carpet like it's the grand march of prom (not that I went to that - people at my school didn't go to the grand march unless you had a date, it seemed. And I was rocking it with my group of gals from high school so I did not have a date. By the way, high school prom? Kind of overrated). However, the Oscars also epitomizes what I still really want to be - cool. With the fly designer dresses and suits, suave appearances and acceptance speeches, a ceremony of glamor and glitz, it's pretty much assured by everything our society supports that this is the coolest place to be. So, while I am incredibly uncool, enjoy being uncool, and support other modes of uncoolness, I also still like the cool and can't help wanting to be cool. It's a quandary.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1303/5190202788_f2f8f52e32_b.jpg
Not to mention, celebrities are very, very cool and I long to see my favorites do well, because it's the accepted way of measuring success and, damn it all, can we just have this one thing?

Which brings me to #2: Leo DiCaprio, I am so, so sorry. I really am. For those of you who aren't following my weird strain of thought, Leonardo DiCaprio has once again been overlooked in Academy Award nominations. I am not the only one who thinks this. I am not the only who has noticed this over the course of the years. And I am not the only one who has a problem with it. And yet it keeps happening. The question, of course, is why?

http://handson.provocateuse.com/
I certainly don't know. But I have a theory. Leo DiCaprio became incredibly popular after starring in James Cameron's Titanic and in Baz Lurhmann's Romeo+Juliet. When I was a kid, he was kind of known for being a "pretty boy" actor, the sort that does romantic chick flicks and had girls wearing "Mrs. DiCaprio" t-shirts in his honor. (Ooh, the 90s....) (God, that makes me feel old.) I got the feeling from the press at the time that people thought he was just going to be kind of a popular actor but not do anything "serious," any "substantial work." And then, in the 2000s, his career shifted and he started doing more action-drama sort of films. I remember reading an article in a newspaper where they talked about the change and how he was taking on "adult" roles and so on and so forth (interesting at how they view different aspects of his career, huh? The serious roles are more praise-worthy than the early romantic leads, apparently). The same article mentioned that it was upsetting that he'd left his romantic leads in the past and could be ostracizing his original fanbase, but considering his original fanbase had aged significantly since the early years, maybe there wasn't much to worry about. Leo is certainly still very popular and a good actor in all parts of his career. And yet...

For several films now, Leo has been grossly overlooked. It probably started before this film but I really noticed it when I saw The Aviator. DiCaprio was brilliant as Howard Hughes and I'm terribly disappointed that DiCaprio did not win the Oscar for this role (though he was nominated). Inception, J. Edgar, Django Unchained... this guy does not make films that don't win other awards. He just hasn't won an Oscar... or even been nominated for some roles, as has been the case for the last two years. The only thing I can figure is this: either he did something really unforgivable and the Academy knows about it but it's all hush-hush otherwise and he will never win or they don't like him. They don't like the fact that his career has changed and expanded and he did what Kristen Stewart could do if media sexism and Twilight get their claws out of her. They don't like that he was always more than a romantic pretty boy and they were blind to an unexpected tour de force. That's all I can figure at least.

https://twitter.com/LeoDiCaprio
Thus my rationale for stealing an Academy Award for him. Because I was positive he was going to get nominated for Django Unchained (I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard it's fantastic. Plus it's Tarantino, he's yet to disappoint). And then he didn't... and now all is lost. Because he MUST win for The Great Gatsby (because it's Gatsby, dammit, and F. Scott Fitzgerald is my bro) but the problem is Gatsby is released in May, and films that are released in the spring are usually overlooked in nominations (notice that some films that have been nominated either just came out or are still in limited release). And if he doesn't win for Gatsby... which I'm pretty sure he won't... guess we're just going to have to take matters into our own hands. I feel like that's a pretty rude step to take (crashing an awards show, stealing someone else's award, generally wreaking havoc) but if you think of it as restoring balance to the universe, then it sounds less bad...

So.... if you've got any helpful pointers for how to A) crash the Oscars, B) steal an Academy Award and give it to Leo without being a rude asshat about it and C) not get arrested or expelled from my university in the process and/or D) want in on such exploits, I'd love to hear it all. Maybe I should hone up on my ninja skills.

http://image.shutterstock.com

A post of randomness

http://richarddingwall.name
Now that winter break has only a week left, I am faced with the depressing realization of how many things remain on my to-do list. Especially the number of blog posts I was hoping to write up here and never got around to it. Mostly because I've been busy. Also because I got the flu last Monday, fought it off for the most part, and then had it spring itself back upon me on Friday. I feel pretty crummy but writing is better than staring off into space wishing my coughing and general malaise would disappear. So I think I'm going to take the opportunity to write a post to cross-off a bunch of topics from the "to write about list" that don't really have anything to do about the usual theme of this blog and to distract myself from being ill. Let the randomness ensue:

1) I/O Psychology

I mentioned in various posts my immense dislike for Industrial/Organizational Psychology and mentioned at one point I would write about why. I/O Psych is different from the other psychology classes I've taken in the way that it deals less with people and more with businesses. The great finding had by I/O psych researchers in the early years of the field was that humans aren't actually machines and work places should be reflective of this. The fact that we actually needed to create a field of psychology in order to tell us this sort of saddens me. With rosy retrospection taking hold, I/O psych wasn't that bad of a class - I really liked the professor and the material was fairly interesting. I just really didn't like how it dealt with people. Which is a problem, because psychology is all about people. I/O psych, because it's psychology in the business world, has a focus on white-collar work and has a sort of unkind bias to lower-level workers and/or blue-collar jobs. The way lectures and studies talked about certain jobs and certain groups just seemed really... dare I say it... bourgeois. There just wasn't a whole lot of respect or concern for jobs that don't involve office settings or corporate ideas of leadership and communication. Also, the part of I/O I was more interested in - "organizational," which is a little bit more like social psychology and deals with hired workers (where as industrial deals more with hiring workers) parts of it are known as the "touchy-feely" side of I/O because it deals with emotions and feelings and sentiment.

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mbcl83sS9J1rpi6r3.gif
Excuse me for liking sentiment. Maybe it's my university, but it seems the farther I get in psychology, the more obsessed with empiricism they become. Which is funny, because empiricism is all about explaining things through sensory experience, but man, if you have to account for something without numbers, a nice little graph, and maybe a meta-analysis, psychology thinks you're not as legit and soft and "touchy-feely." Long story short, I don't like how psychology (which the rest of science sees as a soft science - not a bad thing, but some people think it is) is trying to become a hard science by privileging a certain form of empiricism over another. Calling one part of pscyh as more "touchy-feely" than another is kind of dumb because psychology is about people and people are pretty "touchy-feely" overall. But this stands out pretty boldly in I/O because a lot of time you're talking about corporations, not people (yes, yes, corporations are made of people, but trust me - there is a difference) and it's a very "cog in the machine" or "another brick in the wall" sort of feel. I/O is trying to fix this, but when companies are focused more on profit than on making workers happy... it's sort of a problem. Regardless, out of the many psych classes I've taken, this has definitely been my least favorite (except for stats. But that wasn't a psych class; that was a class of Satan).

2) $ellebrity

I came across the trailer for this film a while ago and thought it was... interesting.


I really don't know how I feel about this movie. I think it's an interesting topic, but I'm torn between hoping that it'll actually be a substantial documentary that takes an opportunity to really look critically at the paparazzi and the chance that this is just a chance for celebrities to appear onscreen and complain about how hard it is to be famous. Darlings, we know being famous is not all it's cracked up to be. But why are you appearing in a film about it? Don't you think that's kind of a part of what led you to the paparazzi madness? It's more than just the people holding the cameras following celebrities around - it's the way Hollywood treats celebrities in the first place, how even talk shows and interviewers treat them, and even how we think of the idea of celebrity in general. So I think complaining in a film - a film doesn't stand out from other films (you still have to go to a theater to see it, I mean, as apposed to distributing it on Youtube or through Netflix or something) - might just be perpetuating a vicious cycle and making the paparazzi look all bad instead of considering what sort of system both sides are working in.

Also, I'm sort of wary about this film because I worry about it overlooking the difference between those who are trying to make money off of celebs and those who are their fans and just trying to get a photo with them or an autograph. There are great differences between certain members of the press, certain paparrazi groups, and certain fans. But I sense that a film like this might end up lumping them all together and label them as "the crazy obsessives that make our lives suck." Which I don't appreciate. Some press members and some paparrazi members are kind and courteous. Most fans are especially so. I worry that a film like this would come off as really pretentious and whining rather than actually having a serious conversation about this sort of thing.

Then again, I haven't actually seen the movie so.... consider everything I've said completely hypothetical. If I get the chance to see this, I'll get back to you and we'll see how far off I am.

3) Minneapolis

I have a mad amount of love for the city I live in and just feel the need to share this photos. I don't really talk a whole lot about Minneapolis, but damn is it pretty:

 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151276211969626&set=pb.224447869625.-2207520000.1354630243&type=3&theater
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/artdept/artblog/schwartzman_00197.jpg

4) Writing non-bloggy things

I intend, very soon, to write briefly about my personal fanfic writing (in the scope of discussing something else). But I've realized that I don't think I've ever let on that I've been writing other fiction as well. If I can actually get stuff done this coming week, I might actually finish my novel. It's not too far from the end (though how exactly it's going to end is a bit fuzzy yet). If it does get finished, I'm going to proof read the hell out of it and try to get it self-published before I graduate. Can I do it? I sure as hell hope so.

You'll probably want to know what it's about, but I'm notoriously bad at describing my own work. I personally like to describe it as glorified Frankenstein fanfiction. It's a modernization of Frankenstein with the main character being a pre-med student who discovers that her mentor is keen on building a human being out of dead matter. I don't think it's totally terrible, which means it might actually be pretty good. So here's for hoping I can actually get it done :P

Well, that's all for now. Since I've got this junk out of my draft box, I'll be back to writing the usual posts next. And that'll either be on evil villains or Oscar nominations, depending on which I feel more motivated on. :)

http://www.thefeaturedcreature.com

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Bolt From The Blue

Ah, hello my lovelies! It feels like I haven't written a post on here forever. I love the holidays, but they always throw me off into this weird nebulous space where time is passing but I can't really sense that it is and I wake up one morning and realize, "Hey, it's 2013... where the heck did 2012 go?" And then I feel very terrified about life for about a half-second before I remember that I'm only 22 and I should chill out and read Thor comics and not worry about things for a few weeks. At least until classes start up again.

I've got an entire list of posts to write about for ye olde blog but I've been struggling to come up with one to focus on. Seriously, I've got a whole smattering of ideas that seemed all organized a few weeks ago but now I'm looking at it and going:

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mab4c8HnYj1r16s8n.gif
Not to mention I've still got visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in my brain and whatnot. So, we're going to jump back in with a post I intended to write before I waltzed off to Denver (which clearly didn't happen) but have been hesitant to write because it could easily go into some outlandish over-dramatic arena of sappiness. However, I will strive my best to avoid the feared overly sentimental vibe as I rather like the idea behind it. And it has somewhat to do with a very lovely book....

http://mockingjaysandshawarma.tumblr.com/post/38402984183
I had this epiphany while rereading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green shortly before Christmas. If you are a living breathing organism, I highly recommend that you read this book. It's wonderfully written, it's a moving story, it's written by a Hoosier (look, I was born and spent eleven years of my life in Indiana. Hoosier authors rock my world). There are many epiphanies to be had whilst reading this book because it's that rare magical book that seems a bit like it swallowed poetry and philosophy and emerged with this amazing, magical representation of life that sounds amazingly elegant but also reads like a teen novel. I'm kind of a fan, needless to say.

Anyway, I had a very specific epiphany, around page 240, to be exact. Every once in a while I have a moment of realization. And it is scary as shit. I'm reading this passage:
"You know," he said after a while, "it's kids' stuff, but I always thought my obituary would be in all the newspapers, that I'd have a story worth telling. I always had this secret suspicion that I was special."
"You are," I said.
"You know what I mean though," he said. (Green 240)
This book, in really short, totally glossing over many important details and the fact that the scope of this book is really far more intricate than a really sort sentence summary can provide, is narrated in first person by Hazel, who is speaking with her friend/ (SPOILERS) boyfriend Gus/Augustus Waters. They both have cancer and are talking about dying. Augustus feels like he hasn't done enough in his life and is worried about dying with nothing greater having been gained. Augustus speaks to me on a truly spiritual level here and I have to say - and I don't say this about many people - but I'm pretty sure I would marry Augustus Waters. I can't really explain why. It's something to do with the spiritual level thing. Because the sheer obvious recognition and empathy I felt when reading this is pretty staggering.

Sometimes, I think it's the really blatantly obvious things about live and about ourselves that are hard to see. While reading about Augustus' fears of his life not being meaningful and not being special, I realized, Holy fishsticks Batman... Those are my worries. I want to be special. Or at least feel special.

This is nothing new. I imagine this is a pretty general consensus in humanity - we want to feel special. We want to know that we matter. However, it hit me in a way I hadn't really thought about before. Because I've been talking to a friend about a lot of relationship stuff recently, I have been thinking about crazy stupid love (the actual thing, not the film). I am fortunate enough to have friends and followers that make me feel incredibly special, which is a magical, wonderful thing, so I shouldn't have anything to worry about, right?

Except... not quite. Though it makes me feel like an ungrateful jerk, I still long for something more. Maybe it's partly due to the possible existence of never feeling good enough that I feel tends to linger in the darker bits of my brain. But it's also due to the strong distinctions made between what one gains from friendship and what one gains from romance. I am doing quite well in the friend department. Romance department? Not so much.

http://kluv.cbslocal.com/98-7-kluvs-rockin-new-years-eve-party/
Generally, I kind of enjoy being single. However, when the holidays roll around and the emphasis on romantic partnership our society adores is thrown in our faces ("Who will you be kissing under the mistletoe? Who will you be kissing as the clock strikes midnight on New Years?") it's a little hard not to get A) Jealous, B) Resentful, C) Tell everyone you don't care and love being single, D) Slightly hostile, E) A little bit sad or some mixture of all of the above. This is how I react at least. I really don't mind being single. Except when I realize how society treats single people and how I myself harbor a love-hate relationship about being single.

See why I was concerned about this getting too sentimental and sappy? I don't want to write like I'm lamenting being single or harboring a pity brigade for my singleness. However, considering the fact that I both want a boyfriend and don't want a boyfriend... yeah, it's kind of hard to do this. So let's just accept that I've failed and am acting in a hypocritical position, because that will make this a lot easier to write.

Back to The Fault in Our Stars. My epiphany was only beginning to take shape but it really hit me when I read just a bit further on:
I was so frustrated with him. "I just want to be enough for you, but I never can be. This can never be enough for you. But this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life. I'm sorry if it sucks. But you're not going to be the first man on Mars, and you're not going to be an NBA star, and you're not going to hunt Nazis." (Green 241). 
Aside from the super strong Third Star flashbacks this was giving me (why must you do this to me, great texts that I love? You all unknowingly relate and reference each other and I don't understand how this continues to happen...) I thought this was a pretty accurate summation of why I'm screwed. In Augustus' case, he wants to perform some amazing feat to be special, but he can't. Hazel is rather upset that she's not enough for him to feel special, which is terribly sad. In this case, I am a bit like Augustus. I have all these great things going for me, but they aren't enough. While I am concerned about doing something special, I'm also concerned with feeling special. And it's here that we go back to a topic I discuss all the time (sometimes with unwilling parties; sorry, Kevin :P) - fangirling.

Because, as it has been and shall be forever more, amen, fangirling is a very nebulous category of... nebulousness, a brief reminder that I can only pull from my own personal experiences here and can only discuss my own fangirling behavior and don't intend to make any assumptions about fan behavior as a whole. The thing about fangirling for me is that it makes me feel really special. I feel like I belong to a group that's really, really passionate about something and really, really passionate about the people who help create it. Connected to this, but also sort of separate, is my intense love for various celebrities. As discussed here, 80% of my daydreams involve meeting celebrities. Why? Because, as I realized from empathizing with Augustus Waters, my interest/love in/for celebrities makes me feel special.

I don't know why this occurred to me while reading TFIOS. In my defense, I was rereading it, but this makes my brain sound very tangent filled (true) and perhaps a little disturbed (reads book about kids with cancer; thinks about personal affinity for loving celebrities). I'm going to attribute that to John Green's amazing ability to make characters super relate-able and not my own narcissism. Anyway, it was kind of like a punch in my brain as it's something I clearly realized and yet hadn't really thought about. I'm single, can't settle on how I feel about it, and thus distract myself with fanciful thoughts of meeting and (I admit) dating celebrities.*

*Tangent time or, some thoughts on how being a fangirl can be complicated: Another interesting realization I had about this while reading another John Green book, Paper Towns. I continue to have adverse reactions to people talking in great detail online about real people fan fics or their daydreams of celebrities. "What if" text posts, no, but longer, very detailed ones bother me. Why? Q from Paper Towns puts it like this when talking about prom: "So yes, like Ben, I harbored ridiculous prom fantasies. But at least I didn't say mine out loud" (Green 133). So while this probably makes me a colossal jerk for not talking about my daydreams and maybe subconsciously thinking I'm a better person for it, at least I now know why reading other people's online feels too intimate and awkward for me and why it's better to shrug one's shoulders and scroll on than sound like a judgmental asshole. Back to business...

While a psychoanalyst might read this as me compensating by for not having a boyfriend, I'd disagree. No matter what, I'd be fangirl. I wouldn't stop liking or admiring a celebrity because I had a boyfriend. However, there is an aspect of my fanning that perhaps does have something to do with my status in singledom. I've been curious why I'm more interested in celebrities I've never met than guys my own age, why I'm more interested in some celebrities than others (I am so, so sorry Channing Tatum fans, but I just don't get it. Give me knowledge in your ways, I beg of you, so that we may come to some sort of understanding), why I suddenly fall hardcore for a celeb when I find out they read Keats or go skydiving or play guitar or speak Greek, and even more so when I read quotes of them describing their life philosophies which I can highly relate to... I think that brings us back to Augustus Waters. Augustus Waters is a fictional character and I still feel a spiritual connection with him. Living in a status of fictionality is completely irrelevant when falling in love with someone (also, apparently fictionality isn't a word. But it should be). I likewise feel a spiritual connection with said actors and, thus, the liking of them and imaginings of meeting them and discussing our similarities makes me feel special. Because I've never met someone who romantically makes me feel special. Not like "I'm king of the world!" special, just... simply special.

http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2012/156/8/8/the_fault_in_our_stars_by_eglemming-d52eu8y.jpg
Yep, we've reached that level of sentimentality I was so keen on avoiding, I'm sure. I don't feel it, I'm just laying out this strange thought processes I had that wasn't surprising but interesting, but I'm pretty sure this sounds way more sappy as a reader than it does as the writer. Also, I'm having a crap-ton of Augustus Waters feels right now so I think I'm going to have to stop here and go run on a treadmill while listening to indie rock and pretend I'm running outside (running through the snow is magical but I don't want to die on ice) and put aside my feels before they eat me alive. Hope you are all having a great start to your New Year! These hedgehogs are.

http://housefulofhedgehogs.typepad.com/

All citations from:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Dutton Books, 2012.
Paper Towns by John Green. Speak, 2008.