Who Are You?

You remember that post from the end of June when I said there was no chance of seeing a female Doctor Who in my lifetime?

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about being wrong in my life. Waking up this morning, to the first day when Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who is… well, part of me still doesn’t believe it. My Twitter feed yesterday summed a lot of it up quite well, but if I’m honest this tweet is the real reason I’m celebrating:

That’s been me since I pretended to be James Bond, because all the women in his world were simply afterthoughts. Then I discovered Emma Peel, and I’ve sought out my own female heroes ever since… but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still aspire to be the men. The ‘problem’ here is not the gender of the people involved. It really does not matter one iota whether these heroes are men or women. The bigger issue, by a long way, is their sexuality.  That’s what detonated all those bombs yesterday, will cause wailing and trauma for months to come. As Doctor Who becomes a woman, NOBODY should lose their minds. The problem with the individually focused, me-cultured Social media climate we live in is that lots of people can’t separate gender from desire.

I lost a fair number of followers yesterday on the back of my joyous ranting. I asked one of them why this appointment was so galling: she cited the trouble coping with the fact that the Doctor has a grand-daughter. How was it possible to reconcile this fact now the man is a woman? This is, of course, using established conventions that you need one of each sex to reproduce and create offspring. It is the same convention that will imprint on men that the Doctor was their hero… except now, she’s a heroine. The man they looked up to and aspired to become is now someone they could find sexually attractive. That is going to be difficult for many people to cope with.

There’s a flip side to this that’s made me especially angry, and it is watching certain women complain you can’t have a woman in the TARDIS. They enjoy the idea of a man being in control. Capaldi might not have been the most visually appealing of Doctors, but you could always go back to the days of Matt Smith and David Tennant and pretend you were one being rescued, or you were the favourite companion they’d turn to after a long day of saving the Universe. How can you write fanfic when the 13th Doctor’s forcing you to become a lesbian?

All of these issues are underpinned by conventional notions of sexuality. Once one dismisses these, it does not matter one iota who plays what role. What then comes into play is whether your canon will support the change. When a female Thor was announced by Marvel, already established wisdom backed up the decision by stating that Thor’s hammer would only imprint on someone worthy of wielding it, and that choice was not gender specific. The path to gender fluidity in the Time Lords has been laid well in advance, placed into canon as far back as the transformation of Tennant to Smith.

‘The Doctors Wife’ establishes, IN CANON, the Corsair who (according to 11) ‘didn’t feel like himself unless he had (a) tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Oooh, she was a bad girl.’ It is another thing to thank Mr Moffat for, I suppose, apart from breaking the whole show apart and putting it back together in a modern, progressive fashion. You can choose to forget all this for the sake of non-canon sensibilities, of course, but anyone who offers shock and surprise that this could happen has really not been paying the right amount of attention.

You can’t complain now, because that’s your fandom, and you should know better.

I want to quickly mention 007 here. This is a Universe that, as it stands, won’t support anything other than a white, hetrosexual Bond, if you look at canon for guidance. Sure, the franchise has tried to reinvent itself (see my mate Roger’s excellent dissection on License to Kill and how changing this male lead’s not as simple as writing in some historical precedent) but even now with Mr D. Craig, Esq in the lead roll, that reinvention has only gone so far. Unless something radical changes in terms of how the lead man is portrayed, it is unlikely we will ever see change on the scale that now exists in the TARDIS. Personally I’d want to pair him up with an equal female agent as we did in Tomorrow Never Dies, but I’m not sure even that is possible at this stage. Some ideas, like it or not, just have to be left to die.

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There has also been, quite understandably, some comments on how the kerfuffle in the TARDIS could have been avoided if an actor of colour or from a non-white background had been cast. That is another large can of worms: it might help the Bond franchise reboot, on reflection, but I suspect would have caused similar levels of outrage in the TARDIS, which is ridiculous. This is 2017 and honestly, anyone getting upset at a TV show employing anyone in a lead role who isn’t white and male is on a hiding to nothing.

There are more important things to get upset about, and really this is not one of them.

 

Running in the Family

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Friday night was quite scary, all told. We discovered our son has an allergy to cashew nuts, and two hours after the ambulance crew left us you’d be hard pressed to see he’d even had a problem. Piriton plus expert triage equalled another reason for me to be grateful the NHS exists and to ensure it is not buggered by anybody, especially the current excuse for national government. It does mean that, over the summer, I’ll be getting both him and his sister tested for a full spectrum of allergies. Neither of them have a problem with peanuts (Thank the Deities) but still, better go make sure we know. Knowledge is power, after all.

Knowing this, I do now grasp that I can’t keep working seven days a week like I currently am: stuff needs to change.

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Yesterday I didn’t write anything of note for most of the day because there no brain to write with. Friday’s stress hit like a punch, and instead I went and filled three bags with clothing and threw away weeks worth of accumulated rubbish, going back as far as my Operation. I’m going to need to take at least a day ‘off’ a week, and I think it will be Saturday, because then I can not stress over being constantly producing content. My daughter’s Summer Holiday begins Friday (son’s still chilling post exams and starts 6th Form College in September, grades willing) and so I will want to be out enjoying what is in the main a Staycation this year. The fact I never even factored this in pre-Patreon’s a bit stupid really. I just live to work.

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Knowing this, I have a long list of stuff to finish this morning, and I’m confident that can be knocked off by the time husband’s back from another organised bike ride. After that it is next week’s planning and then just getting on with process. That in itself is progressively easier, and once I’ve done July I’ll have some actual content to try and woo  new followers into August and beyond. After that? Honestly dunno. Got some stuff ‘out’ there in terms of possible writing-based advocacies and mentorships. Who knows.

Time to just take each day as it comes and crack on.

I am the Law

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Spiderman’s reboot’s been getting a lot of airtime in my Twitter feed this week, people stating it is by far the best version of the character as yet committed to celluloid. Except, amongst the platitudes have come some sniffs of unexpected dissent. I’m not talking about the apparent disparity in the Marvel timeline (the nerds can argue that one) but the assertion that perhaps the film could have been… well, a bit darker and dangerous. Everything is, like it or not, the path of least resistance: there is no risk taking. Now, as I’ve not yet seen this movie I cannot and won’t comment on these claims. However, I can use some evidence that does suggest that maybe, possibly, Marvel was never here to be edgy and controversial to begin with. They’re just here to make money.

I watched Dr Strange on its TV ‘rental’ release and was, I have to say, disappointed for the first time I’ve experienced a Marvel Universe title. The conceit is well executed, Mr Cumberbatch exactly the right fit for his character, and the journey that takes us from selfish to selfless well written and presented. However, without doubt, there is something missing. Maybe it is because I’d argue the origins of Strange are a little too close to those of Tony Stark to allow a measure of sympathy, but that isn’t the only discomfort. I’m also not about to get into Tilda Swinton’s casting, which creates more problems than it solves for the purists but finally establishes that, in the male-centric Marvel Universe, women took a while to graduate past supporting roles. One wonders what might have been different here if Black Widow had got a solo movie before this one was made, but that’s a different conversation for another blog.

The problem with the franchise, as it stands, is adequately demonstrated in this video which dissects the musical cues presented in Marvel Universe titles thus far. The key when you look at the bigger picture of the arc, is not to create a series of peaks and troughs in terms of cinematic presentation. All these movies are being produced with a very specific tone in mind, obviously consistent bar in terms of visual and audio cues. It is, like it or not, like reading a comic. Depth is not provided by the film but you: ambiguity kept to a minimum. You’ll rarely see blood either, to ensure the finished product reaches the widest possible audience.

In fact if depth is what is required one needs to go to the small screen: the various Marvel TV shows have been open to a range of criticism and perhaps even higher praise than their film ‘parents’ because it is abundantly obvious a different set of production and narrative values are at play. Ironically here’s where true diversity exists and has been allowed to shine: Agent Peggy Carter, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage presenting a far more realistic view of the superhero landscape as it should exist. The fact it has taken this long for Black Panther to make it to the big screen is, on reflection, not really a surprise. If the trailer is any indicator, Natasha Romanoff’s awful treatment plus the recent arrival of Diana Prince in the ‘other’ Universe is going to significantly redefine our ‘comic’ going forward.

I kop a lot of flack for my love of the DC Universe, almost on a daily basis, because of all manner of reasons, but mostly because nobody likes Zack Snyder. I still maintain that Watchmen is as good an adaptation as was possible at the time, have a soft spot for Sucker Punch (despite the fact it is quite easy to label it soft porn in certain lights) and am one of the nine people who think Man of Steel is a Superman worth rooting for. Here’s a Universe that is refreshing and obviously missing both thematic and narrative  consistency: one only needs to look at Suicide Squad to grasp the hit and miss nature of that particular approach. However, this is the same place in which Wonder Woman now looks set to outpace and conquer pretty much everybody else’s origin story, regardless of their affiliation. The unexpected irony of the man who wrote The Avengers now working on Justice League is not lost on me. Movie making is quite a small universe in itself at the top end.

Marvel’s approach to the business of movie making has always been ‘better safe than sorry’ which might make for a lot of fanboy love, but in this case the fangirl in me is being increasingly left wanting. Listening to nerds getting upset over Aquaman’s trident (which isn’t) has been typical of the toothless criticism I’ve seen levelled at DC. Sometimes, looks aren’t as important as actual depth. I suspect the true sweet spot for Superhero movies lies somewhere in between both camps, and maybe Whedon’s influence might have some sway in producing a continuation of the franchise that makes more people happy.

I for one love arguing that both group of Superheroes have equal merit.

Where’s Your Head At?

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A lot has happened in the last week. The second of the IoW essay’s has gone up, there’s a workable short story on the table for beta reading and honestly, things are far better than expected. Forget for a moment that, personally speaking, the previous five days are a personal bomb crater: I’ve managed to get the routine cracked, and genuinely believe the long term future of the project’s getting increasingly viable with each passing day.  I’ve replaced what used to be my MMO Games Wednesday post with something I can dictate in both content and direction: most importantly, it has absolutely nothing to do with Warcraft. In that regard, I’m not going to lie: I don’t miss that work, but remain grateful for the lessons taught during my time as a columnist.

I’ve seen the very worst of humanity thanks to Azeroth, as well as the best. The decent people I have met and call friends will always outweigh the petty, angry minority: to succeed at what I desire means leaving these destructive people in my wake. I am continually reminded that some individuals will take your words and twist them for their own ends, often with little thought of both consequence and casualty. As a result of someone else’s stupidity I lost the trust of someone whose honesty and brilliance will be greatly missed. In the end, however, the most damage was all my own doing, providing salutary reminder that 140 characters is the harshest of mistresses when you want to make a point.

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Inevitably, when someone decides that your work is an attack on them, there is the panic that whatever you write will now be interpreted in the same way. I can remember the last time this happened, and the time before that… and the list goes on, because when you hold a mirror up to yourself as I do with regularity, it is inevitable that others see their reflection and not yours. Of course, I can invoke Occam’s Razor at this point, and decide that really the problem is with me. Perhaps if I stopped pointing out this stuff, I could have a quiet life and everybody would be happy… except that’s no longer the case. Being like this is what makes me happy. Discussing my thoughts, considering the shortcomings I posses… without this vital release, I’d not feel strong and confident enough to begin a Patreon, and here’s where we came in.

If you want to truly know what I am, it is all here, hidden between the lines. There is no secret plan to destroy other people’s lives: what I do, on any given day, is simply shine a light on what I see reflected back at me, that has to be dealt with by all of us eventually, in one way or another. I am saddened greatly when someone ends up being hurt where there was never, ever that intent, but in all honesty life is full of these moments, and it is how we deal with them as human beings that defines not simply our place in the world, but how the World reacts to us. Each time it happens the lesson is learnt: think when you use certain words, make sure if the person matters you apologise in person. However, I won’t take the words back if I know they were never written maliciously to begin with. I have admitted culpability when I knew I was wrong in the past. When I know I’m right, I stand by my assertions.

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Once upon a time, of course, I was too afraid to do this: easily bullied by others who felt that my opinion and voice was irrelevant. The only way you ever get stronger is to believe your own conscience, and after sixteen years of working with my demons, there is at least some peace for me. I abhor those people who think they can manipulate and twist outcomes to suit their own ends, and so many of these people care not one iota for those that they hurt along the way. If I was one of those people, yesterday I would have blocked several people and simply continued on with my life, but as I’m not? I choose to deal with the inevitable (and very personal) mental fallout the only way I know how. When I look back on this week, however many months it is from now, I’ll know I was given a lesson to learn.

Like it or not, you will encounter conflict in your life. It is inevitable and often unavoidable, and when it does happen the true measure of your own humanity is how you choose to stand and fall. I do my best to repair damage when it occurs, because it matters. There’s a choice to be made, in every situation, and if a particular flashpoint is irretrievable, I will still make sure I tried my best. Mistakes will be marked down on the list of ‘People I upset by not thinking’ and that is never just because of a blog post I wrote. All those failures come from the precarious fragility of automatic response via Social media.

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If this stuff didn’t matter I’d not get so wound up in the business of putting stuff right. I’d not go and ask people why they left, or try and repair bridges that are often nothing more than sticks in the water. Once upon a time I’d lie and pretend I didn’t care either, and that’s never gonna wash with my current path. This GIF that I love so much, Daniel Radcliffe at his cheeky British best, almost sums it up: it ought to say ‘I tried, and everybody can and will criticise me regardless.’ Realizing you are wrong is a big ask sometimes. Saying you fucked up in public, and I have several times in the last few weeks, is an admission far more people should make.

That’s something I’m perfectly capable of doing for myself.



No Surprises

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Eight hours sleep is GLORIOUS.

The problems don’t go away after a good night. You just have more energy and desire to solve them.

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450 days of My Fitness Pal and it is only in the last two weeks that the process is bearing fruit. It is a sobering reminder that it doesn’t matter how long something happens, there’s only ever a difference made when application comes into play. Getting down to a target weight and staying there asks a lot of you, and it is easy to see after a hard day where the slip ups can come. Last night, I’ll be honest, ended up 15g over my fat goal with Breakfast Cups for dinner but boy, did I need them. Low carbs and sugar is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It has been an absolute revelation staring at food that I’d normally eat and realising just how much sugar is in just about everything.

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Knowing which basic foods are bad is not a problem: avoid starchy stuff, white rice is not great, white flour is the Devil’s work. The hope, of course, is that you end up in the ‘healthy eating’ aisle of the Supermarket where everything is 40% more expensive under the auspices of ‘balanced.’ Except, if you look closely, that’s often a lie too. We’ve already had the discussion about sugar in ‘whole food’ bars, and the alternatives I’ve discovered fall into two distinct camps: ridiculously expensive and essentially soulless or eating raw. I’ve therefore gained massive amounts of satisfaction in the last two days taking whole pomegranate and separating out seeds, saving a small fortune and pointless packaging. The future is doing it myself, if I wasn’t already grasping the truth.

Then, I remind myself I didn’t exercise yesterday. That was no bad thing, all told, and there’s energy in my legs plus determination in upper body to go do good work. I had an omelette at the Gym on Monday, as opposed to my normal order of flatbread and today I suspect I’ll do some kind of salad to at least keep up the pretence of vegetables. I’m not going to lie, all I want right now is cake and tea and bread and butter pudding until I’m full. I get how this works. However, if I’m going to break my body’s desire to not lose weight, something has to give.

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I don’t need a Treat day any more. I’m not looking forward to that bar of well-deserved chocolate or the slice of cake, because as soon as they are ingested my body swells. It is impossible to guilt free eat ANYTHING sugary right now, and that may be the case until my hormones finally leave for good. Knowing this, I am simply determined to keep going, not look back and run my way out of the craving. Most days, as it transpires, that works surprisingly well.

Let’s see if today is one of them.

Little Lies

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For the best part of twenty years, I’ve been trying to escape the gravity of a particular insult. Most of the time I manage to succeed, but occasionally comes the point when, after a flashpoint or a particularly stressful situation, that derogatory term is wheeled out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked for it to stop, but people have short memories and often find it easier to wheel out the nuclear option early on in a ‘discussion’ when they know it’ll end the debate and reduce you to mush.

Trying to explain to people what depression does to you is fucking hard work when you’re stuck in the dark. In those moments when all you hope for is a light and a friendly hand to help pull you though, often comes the realisation that yet again, there is no magic cure. Nope, still not getting better here, but managing everything far better than I have at any point in my life. I spend far less time stuck and disorientated, because now I can sit and write out the words I’m unable to vocalise under pressure.

Yes, anxiety is a pig. No, I don’t like being like this. Yes, I am trying to not get angry. No, shouting at you because that’s how I learnt to deal with this as a child is not the solution either. Really, truthfully, all this makes sense, even with approximately zero hours sleep. It is roughly akin to knowing the pieces you have in a puzzle make a picture, but you don’t have a visual guide on what that finished ‘thing’ looks like. There is the ability to pick out notable features and find the other bits to make a portion of a completed puzzle, but the lack of comprehension to work out how each feature in that whole is connected.

What makes it worse is that I’ve learnt to live without the need for completion. Closure is not going to suddenly make me happy. It won’t ‘cure’ me overnight. Management is the key now, I realise: if you really think that makes me less spontaneous, I’m sorry. This is the most adventurous and confident I’ve been for years. I’d not be pursuing the Patreon and trying to make sense of it all either. There would be no forward momentum. All I do now is forward, and I refuse point blank to go back. I know every mistake left in my wake. Honestly, you don’t need to remind me of any of them.

I am the problem here. That is an understanding that can exhaust me on the days when everything else is impossible. Trying to function as ‘average’ is an ambition on days like today, and guess what? I’m doing it. This is real, tangible progress. It might not look that way but trust me on this, if this was my last day on Earth I could say that yes, things were great, despite all of the turmoil that exists inside me. Sure I’d like to be happier, but sometimes, to make it up to the next level of your adventure, something needs to be left behind to lighten the load.

Writing makes me happy. Being able to speak without fear, and not to care that no-one could listen. That’s not the point any more: for so many years my voice did not matter and was irrelevant. I was never heard, truly, for what I was. Now I have a chance to change that and it will take a force of nature to separate me from this joy, for that is what it is. It is why I am happier than I have ever been, even on the days when surrounded in darkness. Finally, I am free to be what I have always been.

This is my true voice.

Words

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Once upon a time I had no fear over words that were used, and wrote them without consideration of consequence. Now, I am learning the lessons of what happens when words are used in various situations: anger, disbelief, amazement, surprise. Suddenly, the world is full of experts. Everybody knows better: you’re expected to do research, come to the table organised and attentive. If you rain on somebody’s parade, expect retaliation. Heaven forbid you might become popular or feel confident enough to voice an opinion, because down this particular route madness and deception lie.

Yes, I can suffer from anxiety and still want to do stuff that scares me.

There was a very important point in the last few years where the realisation registered that there has to be something better than what has come before. Perhaps age is the issue, or maybe it is an increase in mental facility driven by more exercise and less procrastination… until I remember the exact moment when it happened. In fact, I doubt I’ll ever forget that place or time. It was when I felt comfortable to admit out loud something, which then stopped mattering as a hindrance.

It was the first time I told someone I was bisexual.

This is not something I feel the need to stick in my Twitter bio, ram down people’s throats, or wave in people’s faces. I am what I am, effectively, and it has taken since my teens to truly understand what that meant. This doesn’t mean I’m about to divorce my husband either and go undertake some massive mid-life crisis spree of debaucheries and excess. It means that, yesterday, I applied to be an advocate and on the form where it asked me for my sexuality, I ticked a different box.

This will be the first time I’ve ever written my sexual preference in a blog post. That probably ought to be a big deal, but what is going to happen will now, at least for me, be an exercise in who does really pay attention, and who’s just here pretending they care. All the people I consider truly close in my life already know. Nobody has, as yet, rejected me as a freak but inevitably that will happen. When it does, I’ll know that I was right about them all along, and they never really got me to begin with, and honestly it will not be a loss.

That’s the thing here: I am not the same as you. I have never been the same for as long as I can remember and it is a precarious combination of factors that leads to this conclusion. I can be bisexual and happily married, with children and never sleep with a woman in my life. Yes, I’ve always found everybody sexually attractive. I just never understood until very recently what that meant I was. But, when the revelation hit, it was as if the entire Universe quietly and unobtrusively realigned in my favour.

No, I won’t be changing my Social media biographies any time soon. No, I don’t feel the need to keep reminding you. This is a journey I’m still in the early years of, and there are a lot of considerations at play. For now, and considering I’ve applied for a number of significant mentorships and advocacies under this banner, I can say it has been said, that I am ‘out’ and that’s it, basically.

Time to move forward.