Star Wars: How To Make It Better!!

Recently, I went and saw Solo: A Star Wars Story. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It was fun, full of action, loved seeing Donald Glover as Lando. But here’s the thing. I had to ask myslef at the end whether I truly enjoyed it as a Star Wars fan, or if I just enjoyed it as a fun movie? It took me a while to realize it, but I hadn’t enjoyed it as a Star Wars fan. If anything, it was just a generic science fiction movie with some interesting characters and a fun heist going on (though I will admit I did love the Kessel Run. Less than 12 parsecs, haha). I wondered why it had worked for me, but not on the level of it being a Star Wars film? There are several reasons and I think they actually start with the Last Jedi, which I’ll get to after the discussion on Solo.

Han Solo has always been one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars Galaxy. We know his look, his attitude, and his weaknesses. We also know his history, If one looks into the character of Han Solo, they’ll realize that he already had a well established origin story starting with the book series in the 1980s, I do believe, and followed in the late ’90s with The Young Han Solo Trilogy that pretty much covered his entire youth from being a their on Corellia, to pissing off the Hutts on a regular basis (there’s also a Lando Calrissian series that I hope they consult before making any new Lando adventures). The fact that they took Han Solo’s origin and almost completely threw it out the window is part of the reason why it didn’t resonate with die hard fans.

The characters didn’t resonate with fans because most of them didn’t exist, which actually makes it more of a mess than Tauriel in The Hobbit movies. There were only three characters out of the original origin that they kept, Han, Lando and Chewbacca and that is an issue. Why? Because when you mess with people’s heroes and break canon, fans don’t like that. They want the hero that’s always been what he is due to the origin they already know and love, not some bullshit that someone is just pulling out of thin air. That’s not the way it works, especially with a fandom like Star Wars. With the continuation of the story after the Trilogy and the creation of The First Order, fan were sort of okay with that, but Disney is kind of pushing their luck. Again, completely breaking with canon is not wise.  Also, where did these characters that they added to Solo come from? Who is this Qi’ra character, or these bandit types who keep chasing them, and WTF is with that reveal at the end? It’s just confusing. And for Star Wars fans who know anything about the canon, it’s just nonsense.

So what do we have to do to fix this mess? Solo wasn’t a bad film. It was actually quite good and I enjoyed it. There were just far too many issues as a fan that didn’t make it a Star Wars film. And that is what fans have to decide now. Whether they can enjoy these films as Star Wars films, or if they have to put their faith in the franchise aside and watch the movies as “just another science fiction movie.” Because, Star Wars fans won’t keep watching if they don’t feel like the franchise is staying true. They will abandon it, because suggesting that you can give them crap and they’ll just keep coming back isn’t true at all. Down the road, they’ll realize they’ve been had and they’ll walk away grumbling about the fact that Star Wars messed up Star Wars. Some already have. And no this doesn’t have anything to do with subliminal messaging from “the left” or “social justice warriors.” Star Wars has been about social justice warriors since film one. That’s just a fact.

Solo definitely didn’t get enough marketing time. Also, it was definitely released too close to The Last Jedi. There’s no doubt about that. There was literally no time to build up hype or get excited about it. Also, I don’t think Star Wars is anything they should even try to make into a Marvel Universe kind of franchise. Releasing a film every six months is just going to create over-saturation and then there will be no excitement at all because, “oh, it’s just another Star Wars movie, who cares?” I care. Many other fans still care. What they should do Disney should space them out like Warner Brothers is spacing out the Harry Potter prequels and maybe put out a new Star Wars film every year-and-a-half or so. That way people can get excited about it, hype it, make it special again.

Diversity is never a bad thing. I think that we need a director and a writer of color to work on Star Wars. The last woman to even touch Star Wars was Leigh Brackett in 1980 for The Empire Strikes Back. She passed away from cancer before the script was finished which is why George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan also have writing credits on it. Bringing in PoC is never a bad idea. If we can get someone like Ryan Coogler to direct a Star Wars film, it would probably be great!  As for me, as I’ve stated before, I want to be the first WoC to write a Star Wars film. In fact I’ve already started. It may never see the light of day, but at least I did what I said I was going to do. Adding new voices with diverse perspectives is just something that should happen. And, we’re tired of J.J Abrams and his ridiculous nonsense, haha.

The last thing I would suggest for Disney is to go back to the original canon for the series. Maybe not completely, but just nudge it a little bit. There are so many great Star Wars characters that you’re just basically throwing in the trash. Like Mara Jade, Kyp Durron, Corran Horn, Kam and Tionne Solusar, Winter, Salla Zend, Talon Karrde, Admiral Daala, So many whose stories deserve to be told because they are part of the Star Wars fabric. And to totally throw them out and ignore them is to basically spit in the face of fans who loved them.

I have always had one rule for any director or writer who works on Star Wars, no matter who they are. They have to be fans. So far I have seen very little evidence of that. The Last Jedi was the closest film so far (maybe Rogue One), but that’s just not good enough. You have to do better, Disney, or all of the Star Wars fans are going to jump ship. Thanks for reading. I hope you liked this post! Let me know what you think!!

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Martin Freeman: Not As “Problematic” as You’d Like To Think

 

The other night, an interview came out that said that Martin Freeman was kind of glad that they were taking a long (probably permanent) break from Sherlock because fan expectation were simply too much.  I had no issue with this. If anything, I thought it was a good thing for him, after the success of Black Panther, to kind of move on from what he had been doing to whatever comes next.

Other fans weren’t that accommodating. The moment he came out with this statement, people began to attack the star and the show. They were convinced that Freeman was just whining about his success and that he was ungrateful to the fans. Well, we’ll get to the fans in a bit, but here’s the thing that really pisses me off. They think they have an excuse to call him a bad person, or in fact a terrible person, because of some of the things he has said in the past. I have been following Martin Freeman since his days in The Office, watched him when Love Actually came out. Enjoyed him as Arthur Dent in HitchHiker’s Guide, Loved him in all of the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg films, was thrilled when he was cast in The Hobbit, endured The Hobbit and loved him in Black Panther. It just annoys me that people think that they can just get away with calling him racist. So I would like to address some of the “problematic issues” that people have with him. Just address them. Your opinion is your own. You certainly don’t have to agree with me.

I found this interesting list of problematic Martin Freeman quotes here . I am not going to address them all, but I will go through at least some of them. First of all, the racist thing. I found this quote especially interesting because I agree with it quite a bit.

 

I actually agree with this because I don’t like hearing that word. And I literally hear it all the time. And not just from African Americans. The teenagers in the school that I often work in are really into rap. Most of them are Hispanic. A good many of them actually call themselves and each other that word despite the fact that it’s not their word to use. So saying a word to point out that you don’t like to hear it and there was a time when people knew that it was an inappropriate word to call people; that’s not racist. If anything it’s the opposite of racist. What he’s saying is, “as a white man, I find this word to be inappropriate, and yet there it is.” He probably shouldn’t have called it “gangsta rap” and using the word was inappropriate, but that’s all it was. Inappropriate, not racist. And if you’d like an example of what he’s talking about, this is one of my nostalgia rap videos, but it uses that word  A LOT. So be for-warned.

 

Whenever I see this argument that he’s racist for his comment I think:

This is primarily because it’s white people saying these things about him while ignoring actual PoC who are telling them that what he’s saying is not technically racist. It would be one thing if he were saying that word to someone, or was saying that that word was okay to say. He’s doing the opposite and saying that he finds it annoying that it’s there. There was an incident last year with Bill Maher where he called himself that word. That was also not racist, It was wildly inappropriate and a bit flippant, but it was not racist.

Here’s another one that I just love. It’s just so funny that it’s sad.

  • His ENTIRE performance in Ali G Indahouse was super racist and classist. Here are a few clips to give you a taste, the entire movie is on Netflix instant.

Oh my golly. Look who missed the point of the ENTIRE film. The ENTIRE film. That’s the point. And for goodness sake, it’s Sasha Baron Cohen. He has never made in inoffensive film in his life. If this is what you truly think, then the satire went so far over your head that it’s not even funny. I mean, really.

 

Lets do another one, because I’m not really done making my point. And I do have one.

I met Lucy Liu at the Emmy’s who was charming, but very ugly.  She’s a dog, come on, she’s a very unattractive woman.

And here we have it. The one everyone seems to be obsessed with. Yes, he said an assholic thing. but Lucy Lui is a strong woman who has always played strong characters. She does not need you to fight her battles for her. Also, they probably know each other, had a good laugh about it, and then she called him a pasty white pile of  mashed potatoes. You don’t know what they’ve actually said to each other. And yet you’re just going to assume someone is a terrible person based on information you don’t and can’t know.  Trust me, she’s okay, and she’s gotten over it. If you ask her, she’ll probably say, “who?”

On his comments about multiculturalism. Yeah, they’re probably not good, but they’re not racist or Islamophobic. It basically means that he’s afraid of scary brown people. A good many people are. I mean, according to President Trump, I’m a rapist, murdering, durg peddler because I’m descended from people south of the U.S. border. My birth father was probably here illegally.  I’ve gotten a lot of flack for being a brown person. People chucking rocks at me, sitting behind me and telling racist jokes just for my benefit on the bus, the words spic and beaner coming up quite a bit. That is racism. Someone telling you to suck AIDs from a beaner d%$k. THAT is racism. Saying that some people make you uncomfortable and that they might be dangerous, that’s not racism. And given the research he must have done for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the chances are he knows the difference between terrorists and peaceful Islamic people.  When I see things like this, as a WoC I immediately think again:

One last thing I’d like to address before I get on with things.

He’s talking about a hobbit climbing a ladder to slip something to an elf. In case we don’t remember, elves aren’t real.

While it’s not alright to say that you were trying to slip something into someone’s goblet, he knew it was wrong almost right away and backtracked on it a bit, knowing that he had said something wrong. That’s why I don’t like websites that post quotes like this. They’re all taken out of larger conversations, and out of context. They make the person look as bad as possible while ignoring the actual conversation that’s being had. Not to mention that no one called Jason Momoa on his comment for five, maybe six years. The one where he was talking about raping women…not elves. Making a joke about raping anyone is not good. We either need to call everyone on it and hold them equally accountable, or no one. It can’t be, nah, we’re just gonna dump all our hate on this guy, but this other guy is okay. That’s not the way it works. He immediately knew it was bad and wrong. It took us five or six years to call Momoa on his comment.

Then again, Freeman came from a comedy background. That doesn’t make it okay, but it does make it somewhat more understandable. Jokes like that are rampant in the comedy world. Every comedian in the world has made at least one rape joke. And there Comes a time when you have to decide whether you’re going to be offended, or just let it be what it is, a piece of comedy that you don’t like. There are many comedians that are like this.

I don’t think Freeman is really like that. I think he does care. I think he cares about people and about his fans. But you have to understand, everyone is human. We all flub up. I certainly have. I’m not a freakin’ saint. Even if I were, I’d be a terrible one. I don’t know Martin. We will probably never have cause to meet. I just don’t like people crapping on others based on second hand information that’s created to make someone look like a jerk.

I love Martin’s work, but when he announced that he was getting tired of doing Sherlock because the fan expectations were too much, I heard everything from, “the show sucked anyway,” to, “yeah, but he’s a racist asshole anyway.” No, that is not acceptable behavior. Especially from some people who are supposed to be professional. A few years ago, he and his wife received death threats from an obsessive Sherlock fan. The writers and producers have received threats. And now, fans are claiming that the show was all about queerbaiting when the characters never were and never would be gay? Who are the real bad guys here? The guy who speaks his mind and should be free to do so as a human, or the idiots who are threatening him over his role in a television show. I know that’s a bit harsh, and it’s not representative of all Sherlock fans. But those who are responsible; you should be ashamed of yourselves.

So that’s it. That’s my final word on this whole debacle. But the fact is, you have no right to call anyone a horrible person when all you know about them is something you found on a website with little quotes that are meant to make him look bad. No. That’s not cool. Not everyone is 100% politically correct all the time. And if you’re offended, ask yourself if what you’re reacting to is truly offensive, or if you’re being offended merely to be offended. Because that’s ridiculous.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. If you’re offended by anything here…m’kay…

Writing Male and Female Characters: Why We Need More Women In The Writers Room

Recently, Wil Wheaton posted an article about the fact that Gillian Anderson was bothered by something. The fact that the writing team for the X-Files was all male.   Here is the link to the article. While this is indeed annoying, it is actually quite common. Despite the fact that Hollywood has called for change, little change is happening, and the status quo is still in effect. This could create a problem however. The issue being that the show has a team of men who are writing both male and female characters. There’s nothing wrong with men writing female characters. The issue is that there is a “team” of writers, and yet there is no room for even a single female writer on that team, meaning there is no true female representation or perspective. Writing for the opposite gender can be difficult. I’ll give you a few examples from myself that are interesting to consider.

As a writer who does not have a team, I cannot really and truly understand the male perspective. I have written male characters; many of them, but I am not an expert on maleness. For example, when writing a book that should be out this winter called Dragon Fire, Angel Light. Both of the main characters are male. In fact they’re males who love each other and have chosen to be together despite the fact that both are a bit supernatural and it creates issues. When writing the characters, while I can make the males male, some of their mannerisms and things that they say aren’t exactly the most male. There are quite a few instances in which the characters engage in what would be considered “mushy” behavior.  They will come straight out with the “i love yous” and the “I want to look in your eyes” when having sex (oh golly). They have no qualms about calling each other “my love”, “my lover” using terms like “making love” instead of just “doing it”. It’s all very romantic, but is it male? The fact is, I don’t really know because I’m not male.

Another example is my book Tales of the Driss, Krystal Dragons. It’s a fantasy novel based off characters and actors that have influenced and inspired me (thank you Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner). These guys aren’t lovers, they’re brothers, but even with their lovers, they don’t act very male. They have long conversation about how much they love their lovers after sex, they wax romantic when they’re asking their lovers to marry them, once again coming straight out with the “I love yous”.  They talk constantly about the merits of love and how it’s effected them. I don’t know if this is especially male either. Do men often go off on romantic mush fests? Do they just lie in bed and talk about how much they love their lovers after sex? Once again, I couldn’t say.

Screenplay Harold Godwinson has gone through many incarnations. and many drafts, however, the story has always stayed the same. So the relationship between Harold and his consort Edith has always been the same, and they face the same issues. An over romantic man driven more by feeling than by power, gain or perhaps even reason. Instead he’s more invested in justice, happiness, and caring. which is, once again not very manish, of so it would seem. One would think that the second most powerful man in Britain would be mad for the power that he could claim for himself, going forth on his own conquests and calculating his possibility for advancement. That’s not the way he’s written because when I looked at his life, that’s not the way he seemed. A man writing for this character might have seen the more calculating man in search for power. I did not. He loves his consort, he loves his land, he’s not out for himself, he’s looking out for everyone else, which may or may not be very male.

There are many stereotypes that still exist when one writes female characters. This may be because that is how women have always been portrayed to men. Seeing as history and many of the great works from the past were written by men, the male perspective may have overshadowed some of the truths about women. Throughout history, women have always been cast in certain roles. The two most classic being the fool and the seductress, or sometimes even both. If we look at the Bible, there is the story of Adam and Eve. There is Eve who is the first one seduced in the garden to eat the fruit which makes her the fool, and then she convinces Adam to eat the fruit as well, in a way seducing him into doing so. No one considers the fact that the second hand information given to her from Adam about the Fruit may not have impressed the danger of eating it. There is the story of Pandora who just couldn’t resist opening a box because, you know, the curious woman. There’s the story of Samson and Delilah, the seductress who betrays her lover through seduction and lust, and there’s the fallacy that Mary Magdalene was a whore. If we can break the stereotypes, then we can write better women. And who is the best at understanding women and the stereotypes applied to them? Women.

While it’s not a bad thing for men to write female characters; some female characters are wonderful, powerful, beautiful, and non-stereotypical. They’ve been written by great authors like Ibsen, Tolkien Hardy and so many others. However it’s also not a bad idea to have a woman to at least help better understand women and how women think, act, interact. And when you can have a team of writers, I’m sure that there’s room for at least one woman. Women need to be heard, as the female voice is just as important as the male voice, especially when a woman can write a woman for women. She wants the same opportunities that male writers get. She’s just as good, just as creative, just as interesting, and has the added bonus of being a woman. This also applies to people of color, but that’s a discussion for another time. Maybe next blog. Women want a chance to write. If Hollywood gives it to them, Hollywood won’t be sorry.

 

Thoughts on “Logan”

*I shall attempt a no spoilers post*

I recently went and saw the movie “Logan” which is the last film in the Marvel film series about the X-Men (or so it would seem).  I must say that as a person who has found just about every Marvel movie annoying since the original X-Men series, I was very pleased with this movie.  While all of the X-Men films, and Marvel films in general, have been the same special effects driven, generic movies, “Logan” had a a gritty, real world feel to it that made it far more engaging than the usual superhero movie.

That is because Logan (played by Hugh Jackman) is one of the few characters from the original films that is still a mutant and still has powers. However it becomes clear very early in the movie that his powers are waning, and he’s not the paragon of strength that “Wolverine” used to be. He’s looking old, his scars are showing, his eyesight is failing, he limps like a man whose worked too hard and is in his sixties, and his wondrous healing powers that had seen him through so much are disappearing. He also seems to be extremely depressed. After years of being something, he’s been reduced to a limo driver whose purpose is to drive around drunken idiots. He’s also taking care of his old friend, Professor Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) whose very old and suffering from Alzheimer. Logan has no choice but to watch as one of the most powerful minds in the world deteriorates into nothing. Professor X, on the other hand, is very aware that people are “just waiting for him to die.” Many older people experience this, which brings to Xavier a feeling of mortality as he realizes the restrictions of his brilliance brought on by old age.

The audience gets the feeling that Logan is about ready to give up. He’s carrying around an Adamantium bullet, the only thing that he knows that can definitely kill him. He’s realized that most of the purpose in his life has gone away, and he is ready to die. When he meets the little girl Laura, who has powers just like him, his will to live is renewed as he cannot help but love the child who becomes more than a little special to him.

Logan is a very interesting character to study, especially as he progresses through the series. When we first meet Logan, he is, indeed, a cage fighter in Canada, running away from a past he can’t remember and trying to avoid all human contact. This is probably because he’s trying to avoid getting hurt. He is very aware that if you care about anything, losing it means the potential for emotional pain. While he presents himself as a character with a massive chip on his shoulder who cares for no one, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, he may be a loner, but he also has a big heart that is easily shattered by loss and pain. Throughout the series there are several deaths and un-requited love stories that he goes through.

What Logan’s attitude boils down to in the end is fear of loss, fear of pain, and possibly just a desire to not have to deal with that anymore. By the time we reach the Logan story, he has to be almost three hundred years old. In that span of time, one can be witness to more human tragedy than anyone should ever suffer. Some part of him probably longs for mortality, the release of death means the release from pain, which is probably why he carries that bullet around with him.

As Logan goes through the story, he realizes that he doesn’t have to kill himself. With his failing powers, he’s staring down mortality. And he realizes the limits of his strength just as any normal human would. The audience can tell that this brings him both relief and fear. But there’s one last thing he has to do. That he has to finish. And finish it he will, even if it ends him.

The movie “Logan” is all about endings. In some ways it is also about beginnings. There is the classic theme of passing the torch from one generation to the next. This is a theme that is as old as story telling as the old hero passes his sword to his child so that the child may carry on when he can no longer. It is also a story about how even heroes all fallible. Logan, who was once invincible, is no longer what he used to be. The mask of the hero is lifted to reveal a mere mortal. It is also about facing down fear, whether it be the fear of taking the risk and loving someone, or the fear of mortal limitations. All in all, it is perhaps the best film in the series.

Just like Deadpool, this movie is not really appropriate for children as it has it’s share of swearing and stabbing people through the head. However the violence in this movie is not a bad thing. It actually contributes to the story and the character as Logan, the Clint Eastwood cowboy type, carves his way to a difficult victory. In some ways it is like watching an old Western movie like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, or a Chinese Kung-Fu film like The Blood of the Dragon where the hero doesn’t even fall down to die. Which in some ways kind of makes it a guy movie, but just about any X-Men fan, or action movie fan and sit and enjoy it. In fact it’s kind of nice that heralds back to that old action movie feel. The tone is both modern and nostalgic for those who have always loved action movies.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.

The Value of Fan Fiction, Fan Art, Fan Videos and Costumes

 

 

Hello all. Thought I would go ahead and post something because it is one of those things I am interested in.  It is often said by some that “fan projects” are not worth the time or effort. This is not true at all. “Fan projects” are more pivotal now than they ever have been. Why do I say this? Because engaging in fan activities such as writing fan fiction, doing fan videos and creating fan art are fostering the next generation of artists. Basically what I am saying is that, with these projects comes knowledge, practice in the art that you want to be involved in, and experience.

Lets start with fan fiction. Many authors will say that this is not the kind of thing that “real” writers engage in. That is not true. Even writers and film makers that are well respected have dabbled in borrowing, fan fiction and “ripping off”. Take Suzanne Collins who wrote “The Hunger Games”. It is quite clearly based, in some form off of the film “Battle Royale”, A Japanese film about a group of Japanese students who are forced to fight to the death in a contest where only one is meant to come out alive.

Then again, “Battle Royale” is much more interesting and amusing, because it is not a film made to be considered as “overly serious film”, it is a film that caters to the interest of many audiences, action fans, Japanese film fan, people who like the irony and strong social messages put forward by the film. But basically it is an “it is what it is film, and if you try to make it something more, you’ll merely disappoint yourself”. The Hunger Games” caters to it’s built in audience, and is therefore full of teen angst and characters that one only finds interesting if they are into that sort of movie. There’s nothing wrong with the films. For me, they are just not as entertaining as a film like “Battle Royale”. But still, it cannot be denied that the premise is basically the same and one is simply more entertaining that the other.

Let’s take a moment to look at “Star Wars” and George Lucas. George Lucas’s earliest movie was “THX1138”, a dystopian film about a very controlled society. Here we actually have Lucas who has borrowed from George Orwell, who’s books (that later became films) are basically the same story. People living in a controlled society. Then when it came time for “Star Wars”, George Lucas, who was a great fan of Akira Kurosawa, basically took the plot of Kurosawa’a film “The Hidden Fortress” and set it in space. The George Lucas ripped himself off and Created “Willow” which is the same story with little people and Val Kilmer. Then, as Honest Trailers pointed out, J.J. Abrams basically recycled the plot, except this time around, Luke was a young woman who didn’t whine or complain as much. And in fact, you could say that Collins ripped off both Lucas and Orwell…Haha…

Even a smutty book like “Fifty Shades of Grey” was borrowed from the plot of “Twilight”, which I have always found amusing. Anne Rice took the plot of “Sleeping Beauty” and filled it with smut. Also borrowing from other people is what remakes are, adaptations are, they are also why Marvel keeps regurgitating it’s superhero franchises.

So here’s the thing. If these people are allowed to borrow, adapt, rip off and do all these other sorts of things, why can’t we fans do so? Some writers will say that, “ah, fan fiction. That is no good because you’re just taking someone else’s story and doing things with it.” Well yeah! That’s what art is all about. Copying and borrowing from the masters in order to gain competence. Even Da Vinci and Michelangelo started, probably from copying some of their art, or borrowing it from the person that they learned from. Everyone learns something. The difference is how quickly you can pick it up.

Also they say, “oh you don’t get good feedback on fan fiction”. Not true at all. If you are a good writer, people will know it and know how to respond to your writing, regardless of what it is based off of. There is a difference in writing styles and motives in fan fiction. One is for the writer who someday wants to write. The other is for people who use it for some kind of odd wish fulfillment, which shouldn’t be in the same caliber. However, I have gotten a lot of good feedback from writing fan fics. People seem to like what I write and know what kind of writer I am, and therefore, they ask questions, point out plot holes, make comments on my having too much exposition, all kinds of useful comments. So one cannot claim that they do not get good feed back. If you are a good writer who is working to morph a good narrative, readers will know it.

Some fan videos are wonderful, and I enjoy watching them. They can be funny, touching, interesting visually, and just plain emotional. So here the thing. What you are looking at are the writers, comedians, film editors, and producers/directors of the future. If you can make a good fan video that people like, then chances are you want to work in film. The fact that you are working with someone elses content, just as long as you make it clear that you are playing with someone elses baby, and you’re not slapping your name on it saying, “this is mine”, I don’t see a problem with it. When I edit photos, people know they are not mine. Nor do I claim them as mine. They belong to someone else, and I try to make that as clear as possible when I give credits to people. So we should not demonize people for stealing when all they are doing is borrowing. If they have the footage, chances are they own the original, and most people still like to buy the DVD. Personally I don’t like downloads of anything, whether it’s film or music or game content. I want something I can hold, that is mine. So I still buy DVDs and things. I love things like commentary and interviews and extras, so I buy the damn movie! It isn’t mine. I claim nothing because I cannot. All I do is what most other artists do is borrow and take what I can from a given plot and work with it. Here are a couple of videos from Sweetladybat that I just love.

Fan art is also a very useful teaching tool. Again, learning from the masters. Also fan costumes. If you go to conventions, you will see thousands of costumes that people have worked numerous hours on, sometimes just to wear to one event. What you have here is artists in the making and future costume designers. You may have the next Edith Head amongst their numbers. Or even a Donatella Versace is you think about it. why would the film industry and fashion industry not take advantage of these people and their art?

There are so many fandoms out there, and there are so many people who want to be a part of them. And if you do not foster the talent of the next Shakespeare, or the next Da Vinci, or the next Edith Head, the industry will be missing out on some great and awesome talent.

Thank you for reading, I greatly appreciate it!! Shara

Recent Issues In Hollywood. You know, the diversity thing and the rehashing…

Hello ladies and gents!! Decided to do a little something different this time around!! I have been checking out entertainment and film news lately, and there are some interesting things going on. First of all, Jennifer Lawrence pointed out that when the Sony emails came out, she noticed she was not being paid as much as her male counterparts. Also, Viola Davis recently pointed out that people of color were not offered as many opportunities as their Caucasian counterparts. Also there was the bit where Matt Damon said on his show, “Project Green Light” that diversity behind the camera was not as important as diversity in front of it.

Jennifer Lawrence makes an interesting point when she said that she was not paid as much as the male actors in her films, but in some ways, that has been the way that it has always been. Males have generally made more money than females throughout history regardless of what profession they are in. Why is that? I could not say for sure, but it sort of reeks of some sort of superiority thing, and it is definitely a control thing. Consider a scenario where everybody made the same amount of money for doing the same job. This would be ideal, and would make everyone equal. However, the world is not ideal. Not that that ideal situation cannot be achieved. It certainly can. The problem is, we’re not there yet in any facet of society. While Americans claim that there is equality between men and women, it is not necessarily true. If it were true, then we would be in that ideal zone. So that does not exist yet. While women currently have some amount of respect in Hollywood, because they do their jobs and do them well, that does not make them equal to their male co-star. If they were, everybody would be making the same kind of money. Ms. Lawrence is also right when she says that when you ask why you are not getting what you want or need, people tend to call a person difficult. It is especially easy to call a woman difficult. I even tweeted recently to Elijah Wood that, “it is easy to call a woman difficult merely because you don’t want to deal with them”. Again, true and not true. While there are some women who genuinely want to do things in order to better their situation, there are those who are in fact difficult. So there is a difference between that woman who wants to make things better and the woman who is truly difficult and a pain. And certainly there are male actors who are difficult as well. It is not a solely female issue. There are many people in the film industry that are just plain hard to work with. It is whether or not the reputation is true to the person that is the issue. Some people are difficult, others they want you to think are difficult.

Diversity is an interesting watch-word these days. Viola Davis says more people of color, Matt Damon says not necessarily. She’s right, he’s wrong. We need people of color in front of the camera, behind the camera, writing, directing, doing costumes, music, everything! Not on every film, but it is best to make sure that both cast and crew are as diverse as possible. Having more diverse people means having more creativity, ideas, direction, whatever. Not only that, but an Asian person, say a Chinese person, or a Korean person, or a Japanese person, Malaysian person, or what have you, are going to know more about Korean, Chinese, Japanese culture than a Caucasian person who is trying to write for them. They know their culture better than a person from outside of it. This is also true for Hispanic people, African American people, or people of African descent, whoever the cultural person is. So we need those writers and directors and producers. They will make the project more authentic. (one thing that kind of offended me was the fact that they chose Scarlett Johannsen to be the lead in “Ghost In The Shell”. Any hard core anime fan has seen it a million times, any science fiction fan has seen it a couple of times, and then there are people who just love good Japanese animation who loved it too. This was the perfect opportunity to use a Japanese actress, but they decided to go with a woman who was not Japanese. This made me incredibly sad…)

Last thing that has been bothering me lately. Recently, Hugh Jackman was in a movie called “Pan”. It sounds to me like it didn’t go very well, or at least it was not as great of a success as people expected it to be. What is the reason for this? It is not the fault of the actors, as I am sure that they all did the best they could. It was perhaps because of the fact that the story of Peter Pan has been told a million times in a million ways. And while each method of telling the story might be slightly different, it’s still the same story. Very often people get bored when they are offered the same thing over and over again (what’s the definition of insanity again?). If it is a story people have heard over and over again, they are going to lose interest. Batman=done to death, Marvel=also done to death, films about zombies=done to death!! Where’s all the great stuff that people used to make? The quirky science fantasy stuff and the action flicks that weren’t sequels, and the comedies that didn’t run off of bad sex jokes? All gone. Traded for rehashing, endless sequels, and a whole bunch of other stuff that nobody asked for. I will admit, there are a few dramas that I am anxious to see, and I am going to go and see “Star Wars” at least once (I hope I am not disappointed). Somehow it disappoints me that studios aren’t willing to take risks anymore. They want guaranteed hits as opposed to the films that may merely break even. What that does though is it leaves the little guy, passionate film makers who have the drive but not the resources, out in the cold. I know many fine young film makers who are starting out on fan films, and webseries, and other ambitious projects who would love nothing better than to be given a chance to make a film with the resources that the production companies and studios spend on the big guys. If we don’t help them out, then there are so many diverse stories that will never be told. Many of the people I know that are working on film projects are young people of color, and they deserve a chance. So lets finish with the rehashing and give these guys a chance!!

Thank you for reading this post. I know it is slightly long winded and perhaps a bit dour, but it was an opinion I just had to get out. I appreciate your readership!! If you like what you see, or you have an opinion, please comment, follow or like. This is my opinion, and I thank you for giving it a read!! Cheers and many thanks!!

Shara

Loyalty and Justice In Samurai film first chapters

Hello all, this is the first five sections of a book I am trying to get published. It is about Samurai films and loyalty and justice within them, and cover such films as Gohatto, Bunraku and the original 47 Ronin film. Anyway, feel free to look it over and comment, if you feel like it. And this is only the first few sections, so this is not the whole thing, so let me know what you think. Cheers!!

Examining Loyalty and Justice in Samurai Film

By Shara Maude

First 4000 words

Film Genre
Samurai film comes under the heading of Jidai-geki film, which basically means a film based before the Meiji Restoration, or a film involving samurai. Galloway points out two genres within Jidai-geki that are in fact very important. Sengoku-jidai is based during the Sengoku period, better known as “the Warring States period”1, which was a violent time within Japan where multiple factions were fighting each other for supremacy. A good example of a Sengoku-jidai film would be The Hidden Fortress, which was set in this era and shows the malice between states as the Princess’s clan has been completely destroyed by the neighboring state.
The other genre is the Tokugawa-jidai, or Edo-jidai, a film set in the Tokugawa or Edo period.2 A good example of a film from this period would be Sanjro, or Chushingura (The 47 Ronin)3, even though these films deal with corrupt officials, they are set in a time of relative peace where states very seldom went to war with each other. It is also a time when the act of revenge was not allowed, which will mean ruin for the 47 Ronin when the time comes.
Within these genres there are also sub-genres of film. Desser describes several samurai film genres, starting with The Nostalgic Samurai Drama4 a good example of a nostalgic film being The Twilight Samurai, being more about the story than the action. Another genre Desser describes is the Zen Fighters5 genre that pits men of faith against enemies. A good example would be Princess Mononoke, and the warrior monk Gigo. Sanjuro could probably be considered a Zen warrior film as well. Finally there is The Sword Film6 also known as Chambara. Since every film for this project involves some kind of swordsman, it is difficult to find a film among them that is not Chambara. The Twilight Samurai would probably not be considered Chambara. Since the only real action in this film is in the last 20 minutes, Chushingura (The 47 Ronin) would not be Chambara, but would be considered drama along with Twilight. Also Gohatto is more about drama than action, so it also would be thought of as Nostalgic and not Chambara.
Some of these films are difficult to fit into a time category as well. Princess Mononoke appears to take place during the Sengoku period, but the guns and the mention of “Lord Asano” in the film makes me think otherwise, as Asano is a name that does not appear until late in the Sengoku period and early in the Tokugawa period. I say this because in Chushingura (The 47 Ronin), there is Lord Asano, a young man readying himself to meet the Shogun. The Last Samurai7 actually takes place during the Meiji Restoration after the Shogunate has been dissolved. Would this be considered to be a Tokugawa-jidai film? Bunraku8 is not a period film at all, but features a samurai in a post apocalyptic world where he is forced to team up with a cowboy to find a medallion and revenge. This being the case, the only genre it can really fit under is Chambara. Then it is not hard to place it in a time period as it is obviously a modern film, but it does complicate genre a bit.

Bunraku—Justice Through Revenge
Bunraku9 is an interesting film to talk about because it is not a conventional samurai film. The film, set in a post-apocalyptic world, in a land ruled by a ruthless gang leader. Two strange visitors come to his city one day, a lonely Drifter and a samurai names Yoshi. Together they must bring down this evil gang leader before he takes over the world. Woody Harrelson who plays the bartender says it best, “a cowboy in a world without guns and a samurai with no sword team up to fight a common evil.”10 Yoshi the samurai11 does not originally come to the land of Nicola The Woodcutter for revenge. He has come on behalf of his dead father who wants him to retrieve a family heirloom.
This is all well and good until he runs into trouble with Nicola’s gang. When the vicious Killer Number 2 kills his uncle and kidnaps his cousin, it very much turns into a story of revenge. Now Yoshi must fight and defeat Killer Number 2 if he is going to go any further. This follows the classic outline of Desser’s outline for the sword film12. There is a scene of violence, Nicola’s men defeating another faction. The hero is identified when we see Yoshi on the train. The heroes circumstance is that he has come to reclaim his families heirloom. The victim is both the city, and Yoshi’s uncle and cousin, but actually we meet both the villain, Nicola the Woodcutter and the henchman, Killer Number 2, very early in the film. Yoshi does not actually meet Killer Number 2 until late in the film, but the audience is introduced to him early, so 2 knows about Yoshi, but Yoshi has never met 2. This leaves Yoshi at a disadvantage. There is the interlude, the slaughterfest and the spectacular duel where Yoshi helps eliminate Nicola’s army and his other killers. Then Yoshi kills Killer Number 2, the evil henchmen, bringing the story of the samurai character full circle. He does not get to kill Nicola though, as that is part of the Drifters story, but he does retrieve his cousin, the heirloom and avenge his uncle, which means the sword film story arch has come to a successful end for our samurai.
While Bunraku may be an unconventional samurai film, it follows the basic story arch of what a samurai film is. Yoshi also is not the main character in the story, but his story does end with a relatively happy ending, as Asian cinema goes. He and the Drifter walk off into the sunset, leaving to go on other adventures. The narrator in the film tells the audience, “revenge is an act of style”, and this film is very full of style.
This film can be odd to watch because it is an action film and not a traditional samurai film. It is also completely shot on sets in the studio, no kinds of exterior shots whatsoever. The film has a very distinct look to it, and while interesting, the art effects can be quite dizzying at times. It is a film that was very clearly made with the action fans interest in mind. This is the first action film written and directed by Guy Moshe who had only done shorts before. As a first attempt at a feature length action film it is not a bad film. It is merely a different style of film, and was made with cost very much in mind. Not that that is a bad thing, as many low budget films have done amazingly well. It is quite clear however that this was made for a Western audience and for lovers of samurai and martial arts films in general. The samurai values and honor are very alive in the character Yoshi though. As a samurai in a modern film, he is an interesting representation, and the fact that he is going on this mission to find something for his dead father means that he is placing family honor very much before his own well-being.

Chushingura (The 47 Ronin)–Extreme Loyalty and Justice through Revenge
Chushingura (The 47 Ronin)13 is an interesting film to watch because it is based on true events. There really were forty-seven men who sought vengeance for their lord. Young Lord Asano is chosen to receive the Shogun for a visit. Sadly is is tricked by a trick from Lord Kira into drawing his sword within the Shogun’s castle. It all begins with Lord Kira feeling he is being slighted because Asano fails to give him a satisfactory bribe.
Asano’s celebrated refusal to bribe Lord Kira because such action is forbidden by the Kemmu Shikimoku, the legal code established by the Muromachi shogunate in 1336, becomes more an act of anachronistic stubbornness than existential revolt against Tokugawa policy in 1701.14
Basically bribery was expected at this time, and young lords who refused to give into such things were praised by some for their honest, but the person expressing the bribe feels slighted, and will seek out their own revenge, so to say. In this case, Kira refuses to tell Asano how he should receive the Shogun, as there are traditional behaviors and customs that need to be met and Asano does not know what they are, and it is Kira’s job to tell Asano what to do.
Kira seems to be a very vindictive man, as he refuses to tell Asano anything, and insults Asano by saying that he is no better than a commoner15, which is considered a great insult to even a young lord. He draws his sword and his fate is sealed. He must commit seppuku or be executed for his crimes, which is a great dishonor. “…everything leading up to Lord Asano’s seppuku—is fully detailed and consumes a major portion of the narrative. Certainly Asano’s prideful behavior up to his interrogation and the Shogun’s clipped comment (“the rules are clear. Keep to the rules.”) serve as ironic undertone.”16 It is a rather over dramatized moment leading up to Asano’s seppuku and the seppuku itself17. This is because Asano is a young man who made a minor lapse in judgment and decided to act upon an insult rather than keeping his temper.
This is where the story of the 47 ronin really begins. Asano is dead, but his men want to avenge what they think is an injustice toward their lord. Because of Asano’s death, they all become masterless samurai, and must find other means of living. Then again, that is part of the plot, to make the Shogunate believe that they have accepted the death of their lord and have moved on as ronin. However, at one point in the film, Oishi, the chamberlain tells one of his men who is about to die by seppuku that, “we are going to deceive the shogunate.” This means that they will take on roles that will make them seem like they are no threat to Kira, but Kira still fears them.
The 47 ronin did exactly as Oishi said they would. The deceived the Shogunate and took their revenge upon Kira, the man responsible for their lords death. Turnbull says,
What is extraordinary about the story is the fantastic lengths to which they went in order to make Kira think that they had all split up, had no communication with each other, and had all abandoned the profession of samurai. Their leader, Oishi Yoshio, even divorced his wife, and kept the facade of drunken, dissolute pleasure—seeking. One snowy night in December 1702 the ronin, dressed in homemade armor, struck at Kira’s mansion in Edo….Kira Yoshinaka was eventually found hiding in an outhouse.18
In the end, the samurai got their revenge, but it was bittersweet. The act of revenge was actually forbidden at the time, and all forty-seven men, though they had survived, had broken the law. The only way for them to repent for this sin, was for all of them to commit seppuku. Victory and revenge sometime come with a heavy price.
The fact that this was based off of a true story is interesting. While most Western audiences might not be familiar with the story, Japanese audiences certainly are. In a way, this could be considered a historical text because it deals with an actual historical event. This film more than any of the others, is a real story about people that actually existed. Not only that, but this film stays very close to the actual events that took place, as it showed Oishi as the drunkard, and in the end, the fear of Kira as he is found shivering in the outhouse.
There is also the fact that all the men who participated in the raid on Kira’s mansion had to kill themselves. A Western audience might not see the sensibility in this action, but a Japanese audience knows that these men have broken the rules of the Shogun who has forbidden revenge killing. Again, the question would be “why would they do it then?” The answer is simple to some audiences. They had total commitment to the lord they served and loved. It made sense to these men to continue to serve their lord even well after his death. This dedication to one’s lord was what made a truly good and loyal samurai. While some might have just accepted the death of Asano and walked away, the loyalty of these men, and their need to seek vengeance was greater than any need for self preservation. Since this is a very typical Asian film, it requires that in the end, the men must die or face dishonor. In the film, while many men swore to protect Asano’s good name, after well over a hundred men said they would help, only forty-seven showed up for the event. So there were some samurai in the film that did not show up out of fear, and probably a need for self preservation, but it was Oishi and his men that became legends, and their story still survives today.
If a Western viewer is looking for action in this film, they will be hard pressed to find it. While the film is a film about samurai, it is a very non-violent drama. The film is certainly about the adventures of the forty-seven ronin, not all of those adventures require violence. It is actually a very “true” samurai film, as it shows the ronin in their day-to-day lives which are actually kind of boring, but this is part of their deception. If they had acted in a violent manner from the beginning, their plan would not have work because everyone would know what they were trying to do. To lull the enemy into a sense of false security was a great strategy and it worked perfectly. The only really great action sequence in the film happens in the last twenty minutes19 when they actually put their plan into action.

Gohatto—Justice and Loyalty to One’s Self
Gohatto20 actually means taboo, but as the subject of homosexuality might be taboo for us here in the West, it was not at all a taboo subject for the people of the Tokugawa era, in which Gohatto was set. Right at the moment though, the focus is loyalty and not homosexuality, which will be discussed later. Sozaburo Kano is the son of a wealthy merchant, but he decides to join the Shinsengumi, which Alain Silver describes as a “new group of select [men]”; citizen militia, quasi-unofficial police and vigilantes for the Tokugawa in Kyoto during the bakumatsu.21 Since the Shinsengumi are not technically samurai, they do not serve any lord, but they are pro-Shogunate, meaning that their loyalty is to the Shogun22. Kano, being only eighteen is one of the best candidates for the job, but his love for men and the unwanted attention he gets from the other men sometimes hampers his abilities.
The fact that he is chosen for the Shinsengumi, which was actually an elite squad means that he has to prove himself. The thing holding him back though is the constant speculation about who he’s sleeping with, whether or not he’s ever been with a woman, and basically every other sexual query the leaders of the squad can think of. Kano, while being the youngest and most beautiful is very susceptible to being taken advantage of. So in this film, his greatest loyalty has to be to himself, and there also has to be that loyalty to the Shogun, but he must watch out for number one in the end. In the end of the film he is the only one who can protect and champion for himself. This is because, while Kano is good at what he does, he cannot say no to a superior and keep his place in the Shinsengumi. He is his own greatest protector.
In the end, Gohatto is a film about gay samurai and how Kano solves his relationship issues in the end. This is however, a very taboo subject for Western audiences who may be scared away by the “gay sex” in the film. It is also a very dramatically heavy film, and it relies on the drama to push it forward. While it certainly has an interesting storyline, Western audiences might not appreciate it as much as Eastern audiences might. Even Eastern audiences might find it a little difficult to handle, as there are people in Japan who are still very conservative. This film is intended then for the open minded drama lovers out there. It is what a viewer might consider an arthouse film, or a film made for a certain Western audience.
Gohatto does have one love scene in it between Kano and another man, Tojiro Yuzawa, and there is another implied scene earlier in the film where the viewer knows what is happening behind closed door, but we are not allowed to see it. This is just one of the matches they believe Kano Sozaburo is involved in. They have also seen a man named Hyozo Tashiro sniffing around Kano. Despite the fact that homosexuality was practiced in the late Tokugawa era that Kano lives in, the film makes us wonder if Kano really wants the attention of these two men who are pushing themselves on him.
The first night that Kano sleeps in the same room with Tashiro, Tashiro asks Kano in his sleep, “have you ever killed a man? Have you ever made love?”23 Kano is only eighteen years old, which suggests that he may be a virgin in more than one respect. Tsuneo Watanabe and Jun’ichi Iwata say in the book The love of the samurai : a thousand years of Japanese homosexuality24
the term which designated the object of pederastic love changed from chigo (literally:young child) to wakashu (literally: young man). This corresponds to the change in the age suitable to be loved: the chigo would have been from about ten or eleven to sixteen or seventeen years old; the wakashu was now from about thirteen or fourteen to eighteen or nineteen, sometimes even more than twenty years old. There appeared a homosexuality of a military type comparable to that of the Spartans. This kind of pederasty was called shudo.25
Kano is just about the right age to be somebodies beautiful wakashu, but neither man who is attempting to seduce him really ask him if he wants to be a willing participant. In some areas in the film, you get the idea that he is an unwilling participant in what is happening to him. When he and Tojiro have sex during the film, afterward, Tojiro threatens Kano twice, once with a hand around his throat and another when he says he will “kill”26 anyone who is in their way, but when he first says it, it sounds as if he is saying he will kill Kano, but he says “no, not you”.
While Kano has to be loyal to his comrades, he also has to find a way to protect himself. This is a very complicated situation that could end in his death, so the need to tread carefully is important. Again, he is his own best friend, and he has to try and figure out how to deal with the situation without threatening his place in the Shinsengumi or putting his own life in danger. This is easier said than done, and Kano must find a solution on his own. If he tells someone within the Shinsengumi that he is an unwilling participant in sex with these two men, it will make him look weak in front of his superiors. If he does nothing, he will continue to be the victim, which is equally unacceptable. Finding his way out of this without making it clear what is truly happening is a must.
Kano, being smart young man knows exactly how to fix his problem of having two unwanted suitors. Kill Yuzawa and frame Tashiro for the murder. Thankfully for Kano, everything falls into alignment and he is chosen to execute Tashiro when he’s been duly framed. Tashiro doesn’t realize until they are dueling that he has been set up, and when he does realize, he tries to kill Kano. Kano knows what to do and says “forgive me”.27 Tashiro falls for this, his heart softening, and Kano takes this moment to kill him. In her book The Waves at Genji’s Door: Japan Through Its Cinema28, Joan Mellen says that Kurosawa’s women in film are, “angel on the outside and demon within”.29 Can the same possibly be said for the young wakashu Kano who does not even have to try to get attention? Could he be the victim of those who take advantage, and is merely taking revenge against those who have hurt him? It is hard to say, but in the end, he took care of his problem. Justice has been served because Kano has dealt with his antagonists. He stayed true to himself and his his plan and everything turned out for the best. He came out of it without help and without looking weak. It can therefore be seen as a triumph over the wills of evil in his life.
The love/hate triangle going on in Gohatto might be difficult for some American audiences to understand, as it is an odd and different sort of relationship going on between Kano and the two other men involved. Basically Kano is trapped in two relationships that are being forced on him. While he can’t object to them, they have no idea that they might have to fear him. Kano does not love these men, they love him and look on him as some sort of lovely pet, or something. This was very much the way it was in Japan between samurai and wakashu in the Tokugawa era. Sometimes a young apprentice did not choose to be in a relationship but ended up in one anyway. There is definitely a social pecking order in this case where Kano, the son of a merchant who joined the Shinsengumi at the age of eighteen, is at the mercy of the samurai and higher ranking men within the Shinsengumi. His solution is to set up his enemies and destroy both of them while making himself look like the innocent. In some ways he is, and in some ways he is not. When the audience figures out what has happened, they will judge him and decide whether justice has been done.