The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (A Fanfiction Screenplay Part 3)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

Act Two: Perceptions

Scene One – A Map

Interior – Cruise ship corridor, main control deck, lounge

Two cruise ship personnel in uniform come out of a door.  Both of the crew members are shorter. Tony and Steve are waiting for them in the hall.  Steve and Tony make quick work of knocking out their opponents. They drag the unconscious bodies back into the room from which they came. Tony and Steve then exit the same room now wearing the personnel uniforms. Tony’s uniform fits perfectly, but Steve’s pants are way too small for him. There’s a good 4 inches of leg showing between his socks and pants   He walks with an odd gate.

Tony: You alright, Captain?

Steve (tugging near his crotch): Yeah. I’ll be fine…in a minute.

Tony: That’s what you get for being tall and handsome.

Steve: I don’t understand. Clothes always fit in the movies.

Tony: Just hide behind me if someone comes. No one wants to see that.

Steve:  Shut up!  I’m sick of…

Steve grabs Tony by the throat and shoves him against the wall.

Steve:  Shut your damn mouth now.  If you mess up this mission…Let’s just say I don’t care what punishments Fury can come up with, but if this virus escapes…If you’re the one that screws it up, I will deal with you myself.

He releases Tony who shrugs him away.  Steve and Tony reach a locked door labeled “Control Room.”  There’s a card scanner to the side of the door. Tony searches his pockets and pulls out the personnel’s identity card. Looks at it.

Tony: Thank you…Wallis Becker.

He slides the card in the reader. A green light flashes on and Steve opens the door a crack.

Steve: There’s just one guy in there.

Tony: I’ll go in. Hopefully he won’t notice that I’m not Wallis. You wait out here and keep watch, Skinny Britches. Crow if someone’s coming.

Steve: Crow?

Tony puts on the crew members hat and walks inside. The door closes and Steve looks back and forth down the corridor.

Inside, Tony nods at the man at the control panel who looks up at his entrance.

Tony: How’s it goin’?

The man turns back to his work and Tony starts rifling through different things. He opens different cupboards and drawers.

Tony: Hey, do you know where I could find a…

Three large men walk in from another adjoining room.

Man: You’re not Wallis.

Tony: A map!

Tony yanks open one last compartment which is filled with blueprints. He grabs all of them.

In the hallway, Steve hears a number of bangs and shouts. He looks concerned, but doesn’t try to open the door. Tony emerges from the room into the corridor where Steve is standing. His hat is missing, his hair is mussed, and he has blood on his face. He still clutches the blueprints under one arm.

Tony: Crow!

The two men start running through the ship. The ship’s crew pursues them. They keep running. They knock things over as they go to trip up their followers. One of them goes down. Tony tears open a door which blocks the hallway behind them. The personnel run straight into it and one of them is knocked out. Tony and Steve rush into the ship’s bar and lounge which is full of people. They hide in the crowd and try to catch their breaths.

Steve: I think we got ‘em. Did you still have the maps?

Tony (whacking Steve with the blueprints): Yeah.

Steve: Let’s try to blend in.

Steve picks up an empty glass from a table just for appearances. Tony does the same. They move through the lounge. Nodding and smiling at the people they encounter. By the bar, they knock into Violet who is wearing a little black dress now. She looks at the cut on Tony’s head and then Steve’s too short pants.

Violet: Whoa.

Steve: They shrunk in the wash, ma’am.

Tony: Don’t mind him. He’s had one too many.

Violet: That’s okay. Laundry can be tricky. I turned all my clothes pink once. You never know. You might start a new fashion trend. You gentleman like some new drinks?

She grins at Steve.

Steve: No. Thank you, miss. We would love to, but we have other duties that we should get back to.

Tony: I might take you up on that later though. Tomorrow? Same time, same place?

Steve pulls Tony away toward the door when something stops them.

Scene Two – Fight

Interior – Lounge

Sly is at the bar getting a drink. Loki approaches him from behind and rips him away from his stool.

Loki: Who are you and why are you watching me?

Sly: I don’t know what you mean. I don’t know you. Security!

Flashback:  Sly and his wife are having lunch at a restaurant in New York City.  They are sitting at a table outside with a green umbrella over them.  They lean in close to each other, laughing and talking.  Sly feeds her a bit of his lunch from a fork.  The next moment, people around them are screaming.    Strange alien beast fly over their heads shooting at people as they scatter.  Sly grabs his wife’s hand and pulls her toward the restaurant.  A crushed car comes rolling at them from off-screen.  The car hits Sly’s wife and she is pinned underneath it.  She’s still alive.  He cries out to her and goes towards her.  Above them Loki and Thor are fighting at the top of Stark Tower.  The giant “K” gets blasted off of the building and falls.  The “K” lands between Sly and his wife, wreckage blocking his way to her.  Sly has to watch his wife die from a distance.  Another hover craft zooms over him.  On it is not an alien, but Loki.The-Avengers-Climax-Loki-the-avengers-34726348-1920-1080

Back on the cruise ship Loki punches Sly.  Sly falls to the ground and Loki pulls him back up again. Loki squeezes his throat. People around him yelp.

Loki: Do that again and I will make you wish you’d never seen this ship.  My brother’s friends will find you conveniently unconscious on the floor.

Sly:  And they would just let you go in the process?  How fast can you run?  How strong are you against Captain American and Ironman?  How clever do you need to be without your magic powers?

Loki presses in closer to Sly.

Loki:  What do you know?  How do you know I don’t want to be caught?

Sly:  You don’t.  I took your powers.  You don’t want to be caught until you get them back.  Not now.  You’ll wait until the right time.  And you won’t kill me until you know how to get them back.  Here they come.  So what now, Loki?

From across the lounge: Steve and Tony watch the two men’s encounter.

Steve: Is that…?

Tony: I think it is.

Steve: Loki.

Tony lunges forward at Sly and Loki.  Hearing his name, Loki looks over at Steve, loosening his hold on Sly. Sly twists out of Loki’s grasps.

Steve:  Tony!

Steve tries to stop his friend from attacking, but is too late.  Tony hits Loki with the empty glass he’s carrying.  Sly steps back, rubbing his throat.

Sly:  This man attacked me for no reason!  He should be locked up and taken off the ship!

Loki, Steve, and Tony continue to fight.

Violet:  Wait!  Stop!  Security is on the way.  Argh, men.  Stop hurting each other!

Violet throws her drink into the middle of the group.  Glass shatters onto all three of them.  Loki breaks free from the group and escapes through the crowd.  Security guards arrive and put handcuffs on Steve and Tony.

Scene Three – Speculations

Interior – Bruce’s cabin

Thor watches as Bruce conducts an experiment at a table that involves a Bunsen burner, beakers, a stop watch, and data sheets on a laptop.

Thor:  Is any of your memory coming back?

Bruce:  Do I remember that if something ticks me off I’ll turn into what Tony refers to as “a big, green rage monster”?  I still don’t remember how we got here on this ship though.  You?

Thor:  I come from a different planet.

Thor looks over Bruce’s shoulder.

Bruce:  Yes.  And shouldn’t you be planning sieges to unite your realms or something?

Thor:  Sorry.

Thor steps back.

Thor:  I do not blame you for misjudging me.  My people are great warriors, yes.  But we also value knowledge.  My father gave up his own eye for it.  I respect your profession.  Jane –

Bruce:  I appreciate your interest, but let’s just stop right there.  If you must know, I’ve taken the information from the files we were given on the zombie virus and I’m trying to figure some things out about how the virus might have been developed.  Now, I need to concentrate.

Bruce drips a liquid into the beaker with a pipette.

Tony and Steve enter Bruce’s cabin. They have lost the uniforms they’d been wearing.  Tony flops the blueprints out onto the table covering Bruce’s own papers.  Bruce flinches, squeezing all the liquid from the pipette into the beaker all at once.  He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath to try to calm himself.

Tony: We got plans of the ship.

Bruce: I see that.

Steve: What’re you working on, Dr. Frankenstein?

Tony: Hey, don’t talk to him like that.

Steve: Why shouldn’t I? You would do it.

Bruce: Ok, guys. Let’s just sit and talk.

Steve: No. I want to know why it’s okay for him to be an asshole to everyone, but as soon as anyone else tries to give him shit, he’s all righteous.

Tony: I can’t help that I’m such an awesome badass. But you shouldn’t take out your jealous rage on the doc here.

Bruce: Stop. Just stop it. You don’t want to make me angry.

Steve sits down and the others follow suit.

Bruce: What happened? What’s this really about?

Steve: We got the blueprints, but were pursued. We ended up at the lounge and lost our tail. Then Mr. Badass thinks it’s a good idea to start a fight. Security kicked us out of the bar. The guards have been given our id’s and photos in case we ever decide to go back there again.

Bruce: You got banished?

He looks at Tony.

Bruce: From the ship’s bar?

Steve: And now, thanks to Tony, our targets have access to a part of the ship we don’t. An extra advantage for the enemy. Plus our identities have gotten out to the ship’s security. They’ll be on to us for the rest of this trip.

Tony (to Bruce): If you saw what I’d seen, you would’ve done the same thing. It wasn’t just a fight, anyhow. It was Loki.

There’s silence while the men in the room look at Thor.

Bruce: What’d you mean? Loki’s floating around somewhere in the back alleys of the cosmos making connections with alien crime lords and who knows what else. But he certainly isn’t going on a family vacation cruise liner.

Thor: Where is he now? 

Steve: It was him. You don’t mistake someone’s identity when you’ve seen them do what Loki’s done. He was with some other guy too. They both got away.

Thor: Who was this other man?

Tony: We don’t know.  He said that Loki just attacked him for no reason.  They didn’t look like they were friends.

Steve: Loki doesn’t have friends.

Bruce: So the real question is: Is the enemy of Loki our friend? Is this mystery guy Zhivkov’s friend? Or the thief we’re looking for?

Steve: You think Loki and Zhivkov are connected? Maybe Loki is the thief?

Thor:  No matter if Loki and Zhivkov are allies, this man Loki attacked is important.  The man lied to you.  Loki does not attack for no reason.  If we find out who the man is, we will be able to find out why my brother is on this ship.

Steve: I think that it’s safe to say that an enemy of Loki is, unless we have evidence otherwise, our friend. We need to divide the ship into sections so we can split up and do a search for Zhivkov and our new mystery man.

Steve spreads out the blueprints.

Steve:  Thor, you take the ballroom/dining room and this surrounding area.  Bruce, you can have the lower decks in the bow area and the smaller auditorium here.  Tony, gets the stern lower decks…excluding the lounge.  I’ll take the upper decks and outdoor areas.

He looks around for confirmations or challenges.

Scene Four – Karaoke

Interior – Ship’s lounge – Three days before virus outbreak

Violet is on a stage singing karaoke. She has picked the song I’m the Only One by Melissa Etheridge. She is a little out of tune, but the passion for the song is there.

Violet (singing): Please baby can’t you see, I’m trying to explain. I’ve been here before and I’m locking the door and I’m not going back again. Her eyes and arms and skin won’t make it go away. You’ll wake up tomorrow and wrestle the sorrow that holds you down today.

View expands to include the bar where Tony is sitting in a disguise. He is wearing a fedora and sunglasses. He takes a drink and glances over towards Violet.

Violet (singing): But I’m the only one who’ll walk across the fire for you.

She points randomly at no one into the crowd of drunken listeners and dancers. A man hoots thinking that he’s been specifically chosen. Loki is there, eyeing Tony.   He glances behind himself when Violet points, and raises an eyebrow.

Violet (singing): I’m the only one who’ll drown in my desire for you. It’s only fear that makes you run, the demons that you’re hiding from, when all your promises are gone. I’m the only one.

She finishes the song. Tony takes another drink. She joins him at the bar.

Tony: Nice Singing.

Violet: Thanks. Do I know you?

Tony: Maybe.

Violet: You were here the other night in uniform. I saw what happened. You’re lucky you didn’t get your nose busted up or something. I always wondered what that would be like. What would I look like with a broken nose?

She turns towards him, waiting for an answer.

Tony: Like yourself. I don’t think I am who you think I am.

Violet: Yes you are. You wanted to have a drink with me tonight, so let’s have a drink. Same time, same place, remember?

Tony looks at the bar tender who is busy at the other end of the bar.

Tony: Don’t say anything.  I’m here against orders, but somebody has to do the dirty work.  And what you said…drinks.  Maybe you can help. I’m looking for this guy. Have you seen him?

He slides a picture of Zhivkov across the counter to her.

Violet: Ooo. Are you a detective? FBI? Undercover.

Tony: Yeah. You could say that.

Violet: I haven’t seen him, but I’ll keep an eye out. He’s got nice hair. What should I do if I see him?

Tony: Call me.

He gives her his calling card. She reads it, flips it over and reads the back.

Violet: Stark Industries. Ironman. Okay. Let’s drink. My dad always said I was good at making friends, but he never wanted to be mine. So, Ironman, let’s be friends. To fathers.

Tony: To fathers.

They clink their glasses together. There’s a time-lapse in which they are drinking and the two of them appear somewhat drunker. Violet isn’t as drunk as Tony. She’s been conserving her drinks.

Tony: How are you still sober?

Violet: Practice. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we sing a song together and while we’re at it, we can both search the crowd for your guy?

Tony: I don’t think that’s the best idea for me. I’m a wanted man.

Violet: Oh, come on.  You seem like such a confident man.  Or maybe that’s the problem?…  Besides, what are they gonna do if someone recognizes you? Clap you in handcuffs and make you walk the plank? You disobey orders, but you won’t sing a little song?  You’re scared.

Tony (jokingly): No. I’m not scared. I just want people to like me. And they wouldn’t like me if I got up and sang at them. The ‘O captain, my captain’ guy I was with the other night would really not like that. I don’t want anyone to know who I am, right now. That’s all. And karaoke is…kinda girly.

Violet: It’s not girly at all.

Tony: You’re a girl. A damn pretty one.

Violet: You’re just saying that.  Who cares if they like you or not? You say you’re not afraid, but here you are hiding your identity behind a costume. If people shoot you down, you have all the more reason to stand up strong for who you really are.

Silence then drunken ramblings.

Tony: You’re not the only one with daddy issues. If this boat had a daddy, it would have issues. You know, I remember something now. Drink is helpful. (To his whiskey) Thank you. I came here on a time machine from the future. Fury said I couldn’t have my suit. It’s not right, SHIELD. I don’t like it. I just want to make it right. So many things my daddy did. How can I make it right, if I don’t have my superhero suit?

Violet: You’re from the future. What’s it like? Wait. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know what kind of alien takes over the world. Surprises are better. Ironman. That’s you’re superhero name. (She looks at Tony’s card again.) If your dad did so many bad things, how are you going to put it right if no one knows who you are? If you operate under an alias, does it matter if you put things right? An apology doesn’t mean anything, if people don’t know who it comes from.

Tony: They do know who I am. See the card. Both names.

Violet: And yet there’s this.

She reaches up to take Tony’s hat off. He grabs the hat and secures it against his head.

Violet: So what. You started a fight in here. You’re human even if you don’t want to be. You can’t change anything – people can’t like you for who you are – if you’re hiding. But see here, we’re friends. I like you anyway. Costume on or costume off.

She takes his fedora and this time he lets her. She stands up and tosses it over the crowd. A young man catches it and puts it on his head. Violet takes Tony’s sunglasses and sticks them on top of her own head.

Violet:   Now, come on. What song do you want to sing?

Tony: Ladies choice.

Cut to: Tony and Violet on stage together with microphones singing Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash.

Tony: It’s always tease, tease, tease. You’re happy when I’m on my knees. One day is fine, and next is black. So if you want me off your back, come on and let me know. Should I stay or should I go?

He sings more tentatively as he is busy skimming the crowd. He keeps singing as the camera focuses in on Sly who was spying on them for Fury. Sly is worming his way closer to Loki, but Tony doesn’t spot Loki.

Tony (whispers): I think I know that guy. SHIELD. (To Violet) This is girly. Why’d we pick this song?

Violet (to Tony): You didn’t want to pick it.

Violet: Should I stay or should I go, now? Should I stay or should I go, now? If I go there will be trouble. And if I stay there will be double. So come on and let me know.

Loki is scowling at Violet and Tony as they dance together while they sing. Violet is wearing his sunglasses now and they face each other on stage.

Tony and Violet: Split!

Scene Five – Let’s Dance

Interior – The ship’s huge ballroom – Two days before virus outbreak

There is live music and the place is full of people dancing. Violet dances enthusiastically by herself at the edge of the crowd. People clear a space for her so that she stands alone. Thor makes his way through the dancers, looking at each person to see if they are Zhivkov or Sly. He is not even pretending to dance or blend in as he moves past Violet. He examines her from a distance and she sees him staring at her.

Violet: Hey! Would you like to dance with me?

He puts up a hand to decline and then changes his mind. He goes over to her and begins swaying back and forth. Thor tries to copy the moves of another guy nearby. He looks at the guy instead of at Violet.

Violet (laughs): You’re good!

He looks at her questioningly.

Violet: I mean it!

Thor: In my…country we dance only at certain festivities. Weddings and rituals for our ancestors. But our dances are much different from yours. They are a bit more…orderly.

Violet: Oh, where are you from? No, let me guess. Finland? Netherlands? Australia? Greenland? Germany? Antarctica?

He shakes his head after each question as they continue to dance.

Thor: No, no. It is a place far away that I do not think you would know. Have you by any chance seen these men?

He shows her a picture of Zhivkov and one of Sly. She points at Sly.

Violet: He was at the bar while I singing karaoke. But he wasn’t doing anything. Just hanging around. You must know the hiding man.  I mean Ironman.

Thor: He is my friend. My name is Thor.  The man in this picture, Sly, works for the same …company – I think is the word – that I work for.  But he was not asked to come on this mission with us.  We believe he is a double agent.  If he speaks to you, you should not believe what he says.

Violet: I’ll watch out for him.  You know I had dinner the other night with a man who was also named after a Norse god.

Thor:  Loki.  He ate dinner with you?

Violet:  How did you know who I was talking about?

Thor:  He is my brother, but the last time I saw him, he was imprisoned in our dungeons.

Violet steps away from him.

Violet: Your family keeps your brother in their own personal jail?

Thor: It is not what you think. His cell is as finely furnished as any chamber on this ship. Loki is immeasurably evil and feels no remorse for any of his actions. He is cruel, treacherous, and holds childish grudges.

Violet: Perhaps because you lock him in his bedroom as if he were a naughty child you are ashamed of.

Thor: You do not know him as I do. He is in the dungeon not only to keep him from causing trouble, but also because I wish to protect him from himself and from the world.

Violet: First of all, no, I don’t know him well. He’s different, cold and distant, yes, but I tend to judge people by my own experiences. Not by what the world wants me to think of them. Secondly, how does what you just said make you any less sadistic than your brother? You’re like an evil stepmother and it doesn’t suit you.

Thor: That is the problem.  I do not want to be his mother.

Violet: Then treat Loki like an equal and not like a princess locked in a tower. You say you love him, but here you are on vacation with him – in the same space as this boat – and yet he is completely alone and you are off running around with your other friends. You say he is cruel and hateful and yet you take no responsibility for your own actions towards him.  No wonder he hates women, when you treat him like one and act like it’s your righteous privilege.  Do you ever think about what it would be like to be outcast by your own family?

Thor: He deserves what he has gotten. He turned on us.

Violet: I don’t doubt that. But it still doesn’t mean that it’s right to pretend like nothing’s happened when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. You could tell him you’re sorry for what’s happened, even if you can’t change it.

Thor: He would not listen.

Violet: Not to you maybe. I’m an outside party, and perhaps you need mediator.

Thor: Why would you do that?

Violet: I know what it’s like to have family conflict. I judge fairly. I have emotions beyond happy and macho. And I do what I want.

Thor nods.

Thor: I must leave you now.

Exit Thor. Violet goes back to dancing and jumping around on her own. She whoops when the band finishes the song they’re playing, clapping her hands above her head.  Loki watches his brother walk away.  The song Believe by Mumford & Sons plays.

Say something, say something,

Something like you love me

Less you wanna move away

From the noise of this place.

Enter Loki. Violet sees him and he approaches her.  He nods once at her.

Violet: Hello. You have a striking face, you know. It stands out in a crowd. I mean that in a good way.

Loki: I can’t believe you enjoy this.

He gestures to the crowd.

Violet: Why wouldn’t I?  It’s freedom.  Anonymity.  I can be whoever I want to be in a dancing crowd and nobody cares because we’re all people having fun.  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else?  Here’s your chance.

He looks at his hands which have been drained of their magical powers to disguise him.

Loki: No. Be one of these idiots?

Violet: I will take your initial disbelief that I would be here as a compliment, since it means you don’t include me with “these idiots.” Thank you, Loki. You’re very kind.

He snorts and looks around.

Loki: They don’t think, they just do whatever they’ve been told to do.

Violet: And of course there’s never been a time in your life when you’ve wanted not to think.  To just do something, strangle someone or laugh out loud.  Absolutely not. You could have never wanted that freedom before either.

Loki: You mock me. My brother has made you his friend and turned you against me.

Violet: Your brother…is an acquaintance of mine who I think has good intentions towards you. They’ve just been put into practice in unfortunate ways. He seems like he can be quick to anger, and yet there is an innocent charm to him that perhaps makes him more dangerous to women like me.

Loki: He’s nothing but a stupid, human-loving oaf.

Violet: Maybe. But like I told him, I tend to use my own experiences when judging people instead of thinking whatever I’ve been told to think.

They stand in silence.

Violet: I believe Thor would like to get along with you, but I don’t think he’s done a very good job at showing it. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to treat you. Perhaps he needs your help. I’d like to help you.

Loki: Then you’re wasting your time. Thor has made his choice. I’ve made mine.

Violet: I’m getting tired of this crap. Let’s dance.

Loki: No.

Violet: Okay.

She disappears into the mass of dancers.  For once more in his life, Loki is left alone.

Scene Six – Attention Seeker

Interior – Ballroom

Loki tears through the crowd, ripping men from their dance partners.  He punches one man in the face and his date screams.  People start looking at him and paying attention to what he’s doing.  He drags the yelling woman out of his way by her hair.  Then he knees another man in crotch before kicking him to the floor.  He knocks another woman’s legs out from underneath her.  She shrieks.  He realizes a good portion of the room is now looking at him.  His lips part in a satisfied smile as he glances around at the fear in the room around him, wondering if Violet is watching.  Hoping that she is looking and is terrified by him.

He doesn’t see Sly come up from behind him.  Sly injects something into the back of Loki’s neck.  Loki drops to the ground unconscious.

Sly:  Security.  I’m security.  Everyone stay calm.  Is everyone okay? 

No one responds.  The disheveled and bleeding crowd stares back at him like he must be joking.

Sly:  This man will be taken into secure confinement and released to authorities when we make the next port.

He drags Loki from the room.

Scene Seven – Prisoner

Interior – Storeroom

Sly pulls Loki into a storeroom and ties him up with a cord.  There’s a cargo container inside.  Sly opens the lid of the container and shoves Loki inside.  The container is small enough that Loki is stuck in the fetal position with his knees pressed against his chest.

Sly:  That injection should knock you out until tomorrow.  Then I’ll pay your little girlfriend a visit.

Scene Eight – Brain Magic

Interior – Magic show in small auditorium – One day before virus outbreak

The magician produces a wind blowing throughout the room.  A small sailboat is carried through the air on the breeze, returning a woman’s gold earrings to her which she never knew were missing.  She removes them from the boat with a gasp.

Violet:  You’ve got to be kidding me.

She walks around trying to get back to her seat with a new long island ice tea in her hand.  The liquid splashes out onto Bruce Banner’s sleeve.  He brushes at the wet spot with a napkin.

Bruce:  You’re tellin’ me.

Violet:  I’m sorry.  I feel like I’ve been running into people ever since I got on this boat.  Must have balance issues…Sea legs.

Bruce:  Why don’t you sit here?

Violet:  Oh, thank you.

She takes the empty seat at his table.  He doesn’t clap as the magician bows and the crowd cheers.

Violet:  I take it you don’t like magic?

Bruce:  It’s kind of against my beliefs.  If you have any scrap of logic in your brain, you can figure how the tricks are done.  It’s not magic to me.  It’s a puzzle. 

He looks around the room.

Violet:  And you’re looking for someone.  Are you friends with Thor and Ironman?  What’s your name?  The Puzzler?

Bruce:  I like it, but no.  You can call me Bruce.

The magician appears to be walking on the ceiling.

Violet:  Do you think he feels like he’s in The Poseidon Adventure?  What if he’s the right way and we’re wrong?

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, film (1979)

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, film (1979)

Bruce: Yup.  Magic is all about perspective.  Are you looking in the right direction at the right time?  Everything is about perspective really.  Ever heard the phrase, “It’s all in your head”?

Violet: Do you think I’ve lived in a barrel my whole life?

Bruce:  Sorry.  You never know.

Violet:  Are you suggesting that if you could change your mind, you could convince yourself that magic was real?

Bruce:  Why would I want to do that?

Violet:  Could I change my self-identity like the white lady who told everyone she was African-American and then believed it was true?  What about other abstract things like love, hate, or anger?  Could you can convince yourself that you love someone?

Bruce:  You could, but it would be difficult and possibly take years for the feeling or lack of the feeling to be genuine.  You would have to have a very strong will.  Theoretically, if you tried hard enough you could control all your emotions with your head.

Violet:  That seems like magic to me.  Also, if you still haven’t found this guy, don’t you think you’ve been looking in all the wrong places?  If I wanted to hide on a cruise ship, I wouldn’t go to a magic show or a bar.  I would stay in my room as much as I could. 

Bruce:  But then we wouldn’t be able to do all these fun things on our vacation.  You can’t be vigilant all the time.

 Scene Nine – Intruder

Interior – Corridor, Violet’s cabin

Sly picks the lock on the door to Violet’s cabin.  He goes inside.  The door slides open and Sly’s form is outlined by the lights outside the room.  Inside is darkness.  He moves further into the room.  There’s a bed where Violet is fast asleep.  He watches her for a minute to see how soundly she sleeps.

Sly (aside):  The zombie virus is within my grasp.  I just have to waiting for the right time.  At the last minute, I’ll switch out the machine’s cartridge containing the virus with a harmless one.  Then I will steal the real cartridge and bring it back to SHIELD.

He approaches Violet as she sleeps.  He starts to reach out to brush her hair off her forehead, but then stops.  Instead he kneels down at the head of the bed so that their faces are level.  He scoots her nightstand away from the wall, revealing an electrical outlet where Violet’s phone is charging up.  He takes out a screwdriver and removes the outlet cover.

Sly (to Violet)I’ve seen you with Loki.  Are you helping him?  But you were also with Tony, Bruce, and Steve. Could you possibly be another double agent?

He rises and then does run his hand down the side of her face.

Sly (aside): Not while I’m around.  There’s only room for one villain in this story.  If she’s not a double agent, then she’s Loki’s friend.  Loki killed my wife in New York, anyone who calls herself his friend deserves to die.

He takes a small device from his coat and acts like he showing it to the sleeping Violet.

Sly (to Violet):  See this?  It contains just enough of the virus to infect a single person.  I’ve chosen you to be the first host.  It’s an honor!  I’ll just leave it for you when you unplug your phone in the morning.  Then you will go around infecting all of your new little Avenger friends.  But Loki is mine, of course. 

He snatches the device away.

Sly (aside): Fury can have the virus if he wants it, but not until it’s done its work here.

He turns back to install the device into Violet’s outlet.  Sly leaves as quietly as he came.  When Violet’s door clicks shut, she jumps out of bed and tip-toes to the hallway.  She peers down the corridor and glimpses Sly turning the corner.  She follows Sly to the storage room where Loki is being kept.

Thank you to Marvel, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, and all the other writers, directors, and creative minds/hands involved in producing such a large number of enjoyable films.  And of course the actors: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hiddleston, and Chris Hemsworth.

Philosophy in the Novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5)

Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake is a fantastic dystopian novel with powerful characters and emotional truths.  The story of Jimmy and Crake presents us with a horrifying and thought-provoking look at the projected future of the natural world and our existence within that world if science, entertainment, and the economy continue on in their current courses.  Margaret Atwood does all of this while asking the philosophical questions: What is real and why does it matter?

“We understand more than we know.”

About the Book

Snowman lives at the top of a tree near the ocean wearing nothing but an old bed sheet, a baseball cap, and broken sunglasses.  His life consists of foraging for food and other equipment for survival while avoiding natural enemies.  The heat of the sun is so strong at its zenith that Snowman can do nothing but lay in the shade of his tree until the daily afternoon thunderstorms drag the heat away with them.  After a disease has destroyed all other natural, human life, genetically altered animals have become wild and more numerous.  Snowman does what he can to deflect the notice of the wolvogs (wolf/dogs).

He has only one duty, to keep an eye on The Children of Crake, a community of genetically modified humanoids.  Unlike the humans we know today, The Children of Crake are unable to conceive and understand a number of different things including death, rape, the need for clothing and need for art in their society.  They are a gentle and innocent people who have no understanding of the destruction which has taken place in the world around them and how it has impacted the life of their friend, Snowman.  They only know what Snowman teaches them; that Crake created them and that Oryx created the plants and animals.  Snowman tells The Children of Crake that he must leave for a few days in order to visit Crake.  He will really be making a 2-3 day journey to a nearby compound in order to collect more supplies and food.

While Snowman embarks on his mission, he relates to us his life leading up to his current circumstances.  Before the end of the human civilization, Snowman was known as Jimmy.  Jimmy grew up in a world made up of the compounds and the pleeblands.  The compounds are housing developments for the employees of large companies which are experimenting in the field of genetic science.  They house the richest and the healthiest people of society.  Imagine a futuristic version of the ideal domestic life of the 1950’s.  All the houses exactly the same and each one pristine.  The world inside the compounds is faultless and unvaried.  On the other hand, the pleeblands are natural chaos.  Nothing is uniform and the poorer classes struggle with illness, crime, drugs, and violence.  Jimmy always lives in the compounds due to the fact that his father works for OrganInc – a company which has created the large pig-like pigoons.  The pigoons act as carriers for human organs.  The wealthy can give OrganInc a sample of their DNA which is then used to create the body parts that the donor possibly might need for transplant in the future.  After facing an ethical dilemma, Jimmy’s mother quits her own job at OrganInc and eventually runs away taking Jimmy’s beloved pet rakunk (racoon/skunk) with her.

In high school, Jimmy meets his best friend who becomes known to him as Crake.  Crake is an anti-social genius who continually theorizes the problems of the human condition such as war and overpopulation, and how these problems can be solved (Note: The quotes you see in this post are sayings on a number of fridge magnets which Crake has collected.).  Jimmy and Crake live in a world that is fueled by a cycle of desensitization.  They spend their time watching shows on the Internet featuring live suicides, live executions, and child pornography.  Entertainment has become more and more graphic due to the fact that people become insensitive to seeing a certain image of sex or violence and are bored.  Therefore in order to continue to shock an audience, content must become more and more graphic (even the normal news reports are not entertaining enough so the news anchors are now reporting in the nude).  Jimmy and Crake are unaffected by everything they watch until they come across a porn video in which a small girl looks at them through the camera.  This girl will later become Oryx to them, but until they find and rescue her, her image remains in the hearts and minds of both the boys as they grow older together.  She is one of the few things that they both hold fast to as their lives take separate paths throughout their college careers.

To stay human is to break a limitation.

Jimmy and Crake both go on to graduate from universities.  After a number of events (you have to read the book to find out what), Jimmy gets a job working in advertising for a project that Crake is developing for one of the more prominent companies.  The project has two parts.  The first part consists of a pill which will increase libido, and at the same time prevent all sexually transmitted diseases.  However, the pill will also do one other thing that its users will not be aware of and that is that the pill will make anyone who uses it sterile.  In short, the population rate will be controlled by how the company controls the marketing of this product.  Crake hopes the pill will limit the strain on resources due to overpopulation.  Crake is also under the impression that sexual frustration is the cause for much violence and war in the world.  Increasing the libido of the general population, he believes will reduce crime.  In order to sell the product, Crake has found and hired a woman who may or may not be the girl from the porn video.  However, Oryx has been involved in the sex business and is able to travel within it in order to find sellers for the new pill.  The second part of the project is The Children of Crake – a version of the human which Crake has created.  The idea behind The Children of Crake is that they are human beings which are designed to create an ideal society around themselves.  Crake, I think in some ways wants to reverse the fact that society creates and forms people into the fact that, for The Children of Crake, the human being gets to create a new perfect society in which to live.

The relationships between the three characters, Jimmy, Crake and Oryx, become at once more intimate and more strained as they work on the two projects together.  Tragedy strikes around the world with the outbreak of the rapidly transmuted disease, which leads, in ways he never suspected, to the end of Jimmy’s friendships forever.  All that is left of the only two people Jimmy ever cared about are The Children of Crake, whom he now has the responsibility to care for as he believes them to be the only other human-like creatures in the world besides himself.  But first Jimmy must survive his trip back into the ruined compound to find supplies.

no-brain-no-pain-T-ShirtsPhilosophical Questions

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers who focuses on philosophical content.  Oryx and Crake is no exception for Atwood in this regard.  The main question she asks readers is simple and yet thought-provoking because it can be answered in endless ways.  The question is: What is real?  Atwood examines this question through her characterizations of Crake, Jimmy, and Oryx.  Crake with his sharp, questioning mind and cynicism tends to the extreme that nothing in the world is real.  Oryx, on the other hand who has experienced hardships her entire life is more likely to believe that everything in the world is real.  Jimmy falls somewhere in between them and in many ways is on a continual journey towards truth or reality.  Atwood also examines what is real through aspects of the society she’s created in the novel.  The two most important of these aspects of society are housing and entertainment, which I will explain in more detail later.  But I think that attempting to answer the question of what is real, is only a part of what we can gain from Atwood’s novel.  The other part is a question which I have asked myself: Why does it matter?  Here is a look at the two questions and how Atwood presents them to readers.

1.  Housing – It seems as I start writing this, that in order to explain the question at all, I need to give a rather general definition of the terms “real” and “fake.”  Atwood seems to connect reality to anything that is natural or found in the natural world.  In turn, anything that is fake is created by man.  For example, a glacial lake versus using machines to dig a hole and fill it with waterThese definitions become important when trying to explain the two different areas where people in the novel live.

The characters in Atwood’s book are either born in the pleeblands or born in one of the compounds.  The compounds where Jimmy and Crake grow up are in a way fake in the sense that they are highly controlled.  There are strict rules about what can come in and what can come out of the compounds.  The corporations that the compounds are centered around have put into place security systems – mainly military-like systems – which help to create a uniform environment. In the compounds, everything seems to be a copy of something else.  Jimmy describes the furniture in his house for us. “The furniture in it was called reproduction.  Jimmy was quite old before he realized what this word meant – that for each reproduction item, there was supposed to be an original somewhere.  Or there had been once” (26).  This  description can be related to the process of cloning.  We start out with an animal that has been born naturally, and then we take its DNA and create something that is man-made.  This fakeness also allows us to create the exact same animal over and over again like the reproduced furniture.  The compounds are also described by Jimmy’s father as being a reproduction of how life used to be like before things became “serious.”  I took this to mean that the compounds are a copy of our world as it is today.  However, the fact that this world would seem real to us, the compounds are still fake because they are an ideal version of the world that we know.  The control and security over the compounds has reduced illness by limiting the movement of infection and infectious individuals from the pleeblands.  The security has also reduced crime and violence by having highly enforced rules.  The pleeblands are the opposite; an uncontrolled place filled with chaos.  The pleeblands are a bit like a wilderness uninhabited by any humans in which plants and animals live and grow wherever they please.  The pleeblands are also rampant with crime and death, but they are more natural in the sense that the people are free of being manipulated by the higher power of the companies which control the compounds.

This distinction between the compounds and the pleeblands matters because it shows us the pros and cons of what it would be like to live in each of these societies.  The compounds are a better place to live in several ways.  They are safe from violence and disease.  People can live there without having many worries.  There’s peace.  The corporations take good care of their employees and if you work for them, you will be paid well.  The problem with the compounds is that they are also similar to prisons.  Once inside, you must have special passes in order to leave again.  Jimmy sees the compounds as having negative effects on the person into which he had developed.  During much of Jimmy’s life, he pursued any type of pleasure he could find – sex, smoking, and alcohol.  His main fault as a human was that he lacked the ability to have an intimate relationship with anyone other than Crake.  Jimmy becomes a player – using up women like they are clothing he can discard.  Just as the compound security controlled and manipulated their residents, Jimmy manipulated women into showing him their vulnerabilities, while he gave them nothing back.  This behavior,  Jimmy later reflects, was because he wanted to remain ignorant, perhaps of his responsibilities or his own emotions.  Jimmy believes that he learned this behavior from the compounds.  He states, “there had been something willed about it though, his ignorance.  Or not willed, exactly: structured.  He’d grown up in walled spaces, and then he had become one.  He had shut things out” (184).  Whereas if he had grown up in the pleeblands, he might have been forced to examine his life and the emotions of those around him because in the pleeblands nothing is hidden – not even the worst faults of individuals or communities.  There is a price that must be paid in any case when moving from the real to the fake.  The fake takes away something that is essential in making us human – mistakes.  However,  in the compounds we no longer have to look at our own blemishes even if we still fear them.

In our current world, we are also faced with the problem of balancing individual freedom such as in the pleeblands with individual safety such as in the compounds.  I see this mainly in the debate over gun rights.  Individuals have a right to their person safety which is gained with either control and order or by a greater show of violence.  The first solution of control is beneficial, but at what point does that control become like a prison to us?  And the second solution of safety through fighting back, brought to its extreme, undermines the ideal of personal safety itself.  It seems that Atwood is perhaps showing us that finding some sort of middle ground is the solution to these types of debates.

There are two moons, the one you see, and the one you can’t.

2.  Entertainment – As teenagers, entertainment is the main part of Crake’s and Jimmy’s life.  They spend most of their time in Crake’s bedroom where there are two computers.  On these computers, they watch live entertainment.  Live entertainment itself is an interesting combination of the real and the fake.  It is real in the sense that what you are seeing and hearing is happening at that exact moment.  There is no manipulation in what you are seeing.  On live TV what’s done is done and you can’t go back and change it.  On the other hand, what you are watching is fake in the sense that you are not actually present when the action occurs.  There is a distance between yourself and what is happening on the screen in front of you. 

Atwood has made the fact that live TV is simultaneously real and fake problematic because of its graphic content.  Crake and Jimmy watch live videos of people committing suicide and also live videos of executions.  These videos are done similarly to what we would call “reality” TV.  There are aspects of the videos which Jimmy suspects have been added in order to create drama for viewers.  The suicides include readings of individual’s final letters and slide shows about their soon to be previous lives.  The executions often feature criminals who attempt to make an escape or who have particularly shocking last words for certain people.  These live shows have convoluted what is real by adding things that are fake.  The boys are watching things that are actually happening, and yet to them, these things have become fake.

This flip-flopping of real and fantasy is relevant and important to our current world because it creates a cycle in which our entertainment becomes increasingly graphic.  Our entertainment today involves gruesome crimes that you might find on Dateline or 48 Hours Mystery.  We also have exploitation of the strange and unknown like Little People, Big World and Breaking Amish.  Then there are the shows that create drama through sex and relationships like Wife Swap and The Bachelor.  At first we might see these shows as thrilling because they shock us and show us something new.  However, after watching them a number of times, they might lose their original thrill.  There are only so many times we can look at the live pictures of a bloody murder scene and dead body before they become just that – just some disembodied blood and just an empty shell.  Therefore, in order to be entertained – in order for the people making the shows to continue to make money – the content of said shows must increase in shock value.  Perhaps to the point at which – like Jimmy and Crake – we will be watching the actual death take place.  The problem is that these things that Jimmy and Crake see are real.  There are people dying and somehow, it no longer matters.  The reality of the boys world becomes fake, which allows them to ignore the facts.

The proper study of Mankind is Everything.

This matters in today’s world if we ever want to know the truth and if we want to allow ourselves to make informed decisions in our lives.  News is also included in the category of live TV.  What we see reported is real and yet unreal at the same time.  The other shows which I mentioned above, work to increase the shock value of entertainment through desensitizing the audience.  Unfortunately, this, I fear, is becoming the case with our news programs.  The news must not only be true, but it must also be entertaining in order to keep a hold of its viewers who are becoming more desensitized.  Drama is added into the facts to make things extreme – something is always this way, or never that way, it was the greatest day he could ever imagine, or it will never be forgot in the history of the entire town.  Are these things true?  No.  Not at all.  However, the story they are reporting did actually happen.  Though we can’t know how much of it is true when it is clouded by extreme language which leans more toward opinion than fact.  This has an impact on us as a society by preventing us from being informed and educated about our own communities.  The consequences are detrimental not just to individuals, but to all of us.  What will happen if Jimmy’s world suddenly realizes that thousands of people have died at the expense of an audience’s enjoyment?  The guilt and the lack of responsibility lies on the shoulders of every person whose community allowed these deaths to occur.  And it is also the fault of those who modified information which could have allowed the community to be educated about what it had been permitting.

Where God is, Man is not.

There are many other ways that Atwood explores the question of what is real.  You will have to read the book to discover the others.  There are two more books which accompany Oryx and CrakeThe Year of the Flood and Maddaddam.  They are both available to read at this time if you are interested in continuing with the story of Jimmy and those who knew him and Crake before the destruction of humans.

 Source

Atwood, Margaret.  Oryx and Crake.  New York: Anchor Books, 2004.  Print.

The Danger of Writing Stereotypes in a Politically Correct World

My Personal Experiences Related to Stereotypes

My own definition of a stereotype is a generalization made about a person based on their culture, religion, sexuality, socio-economic status, profession, or even their hobbies.  Stereotypes are used to categorize people into groups.  If you think about high school, some common stereotypes might be: 1.  The popular football player who has the “best” girlfriend, but who struggles with his grades.  2.  The kids who wear black, smoke in the bathroom, and skip class.  3.  The brainy kid with glasses and acne who sits by himself at lunch and who won the science olympiad.   The groups are then given certain characteristics that define the people within them.  Football players are popular, goths are druggies, and brainiacs have no friends.  Therefore; according to the stereotypes, if you are a football player you must be popular, if you wear black you must do drugs; and if you are smart, you are also friendless.  The generalizations don’t always make sense and limit individuality in our society.  There is no place for the stereotypical football player on the science olympiad team.  More importantly, stereotypes can also be used to promote racism and other forms of hate.

Throughout my life I’ve lived in communities that are highly open to diversity and in environments where stereotypes are avoided.  I’ve learned that every person is unique.  If someone is different from you, then you should try to understand them rather than shutting them out.  I  have to say that I believe that there are very few lifestyles or beliefs that are wrong.  They may be different from my own, but they are not wrong.  The only thing that I believe is wrong is closing off your mind from understanding differences between yourself and others.  The only thing that is wrong is closing the door.

This way of thinking makes me super sensitive to anything and everything that may offend someone else.  In addition, my training as an English major, has made me super observant to the world around me.  Even tiny details can bother me.  There was a TV commercial that I couldn’t stand to watch because of the way a man and a woman were standing next to each other – the man leaning toward her with his hand on the wall and she against the wall.  It was a rather subtle image of female vulnerability and male control and yet it made me cringe.  The result of this attention to detail is that I am easy offended by statements and images I see or hear everyday, even if I do not belong to the group they are directed towards.  Another good example of a stereotype that bothered me can be found in a film I watched recently called The Lorax.  The antagonist of the film wanted to produce more smog so that his company, which sold clean air, would become more profitable.   It was troublesome to me that this character’s appearance was somewhat stereotypically Asian.  Despite that fact that his voice was that of American Rob Riggle, the character was short with black hair cut in a bowl shape and had small, dark eyes.  I don’t belong to the group the stereotype represented, but still I have this fear and guilt that made me squirm when I saw something offensive towards another race.

Even though stereotypes are often negative, I think that sometimes we are too focused on sensitivity.  Political correctness has become such a big deal in our society that sometimes I feel like we have to tiptoe around everything to the point of being ridiculous.  Our society is haunted by the fear of offending.  The fact that we are over sensitive to hurting someone can be just as damaging as using too many stereotypes.  Political correctness can suck all of our enjoyment out of something like the film The Lorax which was made for children.  You might think that because the movie is for kids that makes it even worse that it contains hurtful stereotypes.  On the other hand, does a character’s haircut or height really matter to the 10 year-olds watching the film?  Should we not allow children to view the film (with an overall positive message)
because a detail makes us adults feel uncomfortable?  It’s hard to say.

Political correctness and the fear of offending someone prevents us from discussing the stereotypes at all.  Our need to avoid stereotypes in a way continues to close the door on understanding differences of culture and beliefs.  The golden rule if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, although it is a good rule, it doesn’t solve the problem of the deeper discord that caused us to have to censor ourselves.  The stereotypes don’t go away just because we don’t want to see them.  Is there a way to balance the use of stereotypes and the fear that we may offend someone or close the door on them?  How do we teach our children to be sensitive without instilling in them a fear that will prevent us from solving problems of racism, sexism, etc, later on in life?

Stereotypes Positive or Negative when Writing Fiction?

In the same way that stereotypes reduce unique qualities in individuals in the real world, they have the same effect on the quality of writing when used in fiction.  When a character becomes too stereotypical it can limit creativity.  I’m guilty of having stereotypical characters.  It’s hard to avoid because certain images/ideas have become so engrained into how we view the world.  I’ve tried my hand at writing chick lit. before, and the main temptation for me was to create a gay best friend who acts as the leading lady’s fashion/relationship consultant.  This character would have lacked originality and detail.  He would have been boring, cliché, and predictable to anyone familiar with the stereotype.  Anyone could write this character which also means that we would know every detail about him even if we saw him from two miles away.

However, like I explained above, I don’t want to be over sensitive and throw out stereotypes in writing altogether.  Categories do exist in society if we want them to or not.  Placing characters into certain stereotypes can be helpful in understanding who the character is that we are writing about.  It might be good to start out with a stereotype if you are having trouble developing a character.  There is nothing wrong with a heroine in chick lit. having a gay best friend.  But perhaps you can twist his character a bit from there.  Maybe he had no mother growing up so he doesn’t know how to dress himself well.  Perhaps he tries to become the fashionable stereotype, but fails.  Perhaps he has a fear of becoming a stereotype and avoids fashion completely.  What the character thinks about other people seeing them as a stereotype can change who the character wants to be.  By using a stereotype as a jumping point, we’ve now created a more interesting and complex person.

Stereotypes can also add more meaning to a story if you want to make a critical statement about a greater issue we face.  One of the benefits about stereotypes in writing is that they give straight forward, solid definitions of the people they represent.  They might get rid of unique details, but everyone will understand who it is that you writing about.  Your gay best friend character could be an advocate for gay rights by generally representing the legal/social challenges faced by LGBT individuals all over the world.  By categorizing the character and giving them a solid definition, we can now critique that definition and say what is good or bad about how society reacts to the definition.  By using the stereotype of the gay best friend we can show how love and acceptance towards individuals that we place within the stereotype can positively change the world.  Or perhaps if your fictional world mistreats the stereotypical character, we can better see issues of discrimination against that stereotype in the real world.

The ironic problem is that we don’t really want to offend anyone.  To go back to The Lorax, there should be a line between making a positive statement about environmental issues and attaching that issue to a certain race.  The stereotype becomes more strongly racist than it promotes awareness of the issue of air pollution.  To help find a balance, I’ve come up with some questions to ask yourself about a character that you might think is too stereotypical.

1.  Did you intentionally make the character stereotypical or did it just turn out that way?  If you did intentionally choose a stereotype then:

2.  What is the purpose of having a stereotypical character?  What statement are you trying to make about the world by using a stereotype?  What issue would you like to bring to light?  Does the rest of your writing focus on this issue or do you get caught up in trying to define the stereotype itself?  Does the stereotype exist in a world that never acknowledges it?

3.  What is positive and negative about the stereotypical character you’ve created?

4.  If you did not intend to make a character stereotypical: Are there any details about the character that are not necessary?  If you can delete any of the details about the character that seem more stereotypical without taking away from the plot or image of the character, than do it.  What makes your character unique?  Create a detail that makes them different from all your other characters and emphasize that one thing.

5.  What is the character’s background?  Do they have universal experiences?  Is their history something that could happen to anyone or a history that happens to one in a million?  How does the one-in-a-million experience in the past change who the character is in the present?   If you can create a unique past for the character, than it is easier for them to have a unique future in the story.

My Current Writing Project

I’m having doubts right now about a character that I’m working on that I feel might be too stereotypical.  She is from Mexico and her family is faced with the challenge of become financially successful in America.  She works as a maid at a hotel and ends up stealing from guests at the hotel to add to her income.  I feel that her employment is rather stereotypical and that the stereotype becomes negative when she commits a criminal act.  I’d like to address each of the questions I asked above in terms of my own writing project.

1.  I did not intend to make the character stereotypical.  I’m most familiar with Latino culture and I wanted her character to be a minority.  It just seemed natural that she should come from Mexico.

2.  I didn’t intentionally create a stereotype, but I did want to make a statement.  I wanted to bring to light that fact that America is meant to be the land of opportunity and yet there are citizens living here that can’t make enough money to live.  I wanted to write about how opportunities are limited for minorities despite the fact that America prides itself on equality.  I also wanted to create awareness about what Latinos experience when they come to the United States – that many of them are harmless people who face incredible hardships.  The problem again is that my character commits theft.  This has a reverse effect on the statements that I want to make.

3.  The positive things about the stereotype are connected to the issues that I want to highlight.  The negative aspect again is the criminality and lower level of employment of the character.

4.  Unfortunately, the fact that she is stealing is essential to the plot of my story.  It’s a detail I can’t change.  In this case, I think I need to reconsider the importance of this character being a minority.  She could be a white American from a middle-class family that comes upon hard financial times.  Perhaps the idea that she is a minority can come from her gender and not from her race.   She could have a partial education from a university and career goals.  This would take care of the negative aspects of the stereotype.

5.  I could focus on the past of her family coming to America from Europe hundreds of years ago.  This would still maintain a theme related to immigration issues in America by stating that we are all immigrants.  It would also create a unique past for the character that we don’t always hear about in regards to modern, American characters.

 

I Hope this has been helpful to you in developing your own characters.  It has been very helpful for me to think about and the process of answering these questions might later lead to new connections in the plot of my story that I hadn’t thought about before.

Questions in Harry Potter Fandom

So, I made my word count goal today and this is my fun literary related post.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Harry Potter and have been a loyal fan since I was in third grade.  But some of these things on this page can’t help but be funny.  It’s a list of 29 major ideas regarding Harry Potter that were raised on Tumblr.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukebailey/lol-wizards

Reaching My Word Count Goal

I’d like to do something fun on this blog that will help me reach my daily word count goal for the piece I’m working on.  On my days off from work, my goal is 1000 words, and on days that I have to work, 700 words.  Starting tomorrow, everyday that I meet my goal, I’ll post something fun and literature/writing related like this:

Are you working on writing a paper for school or maybe a speech? Maybe you’ve written something already and want to have a little fun.  Maybe you want to write something right now.   In any case, try putting some writing into this BlaBlaMeter and see what it has to say.

http://www.blablameter.com/

If I don’t reach my word count goal, I’ll have to make up a story about why I didn’t.  Like this:

I started working on my story when my cat threw up on my dad’s $5,000 dollar suit that he’d left out to take to the dry cleaner.  I washed it up as well as I could, but there was still a nasty stain right on the front of the jacket.  I had to do something before my dad got home from work, so I got in my car.  I drove to the store to buy stain remover.  On the way to Wal-Mart, the police were chasing down a criminal driving a Corvette.  The villain had escaped from prison and hijacked the governor’s car.  The Corvette came right at me.  I couldn’t let the convict get away.  Swerving in front of his car, I helped the cops block his route.  The thief slammed into my car and crushed the passenger side, but I was a hero.  They wanted to interview me on the local news station.  How could refuse that?  I had to stay at the scene of the car wreck until the media arrived.  Then the governor promised to get me a new car just like my old one.  For now, he gave me an entourage to escort me back to Wal-Mart in a limo.  I bought the stain remover and fixed up the suit when I got home.  In the meantime, the governor had my new car dropped off at my house.  I had just enough time to sit down and write before my parents got home.  But then somehow I found this video that I had to watch:

You get the idea.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll do one kind of post or the other.  Hope you have fun reading them!

So…Fan Fiction?…Wholock?

Basically, I’m writing this as some silly justification for wanting to write fan fiction.  Everything is okay if you can explain it away with literary theory, right?  I’ll get to that later.

Being a bit of an academic snob, I’ve never been much for fan fiction.  I love the idea of it, but I’ve never tried writing it…before.  I guess there’s a tiny fear in the back of my mind that by allowing myself to enjoy fan fiction, I’ll become some crazy lady who lives more in her imagination than in reality.  In addition, fan fiction is not entirely original.  It bothered me that someone could come up with all kinds of stories about Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy characters and sell them as novels.  What right have we to make up some relationship (possibly containing “sexy” scenes) between them for our own pleasure when Austen never would have wanted it or understood it?  Those characters belong to her.  For those reasons, I have steered clear of fandom.

However, there is an aspect of fan fiction that I appreciate.  It allows you to change a story in ways that make the original characters and plot more meaningful.  It lets the mind go to places it never would have gone and this means new discoveries.

What could be more exciting?

Wholock.  I found it on the Internet last night and I can’t get it out of my brain.  It’s a mash up of the television series Doctor Who and Sherlock.   Because it’s a mash up, I’m wondering if the fan fiction surrounding it still counts (as much) as borrowing from an original source.  This argument is based on a postmodern literary theory.  I’ll explain.

Postmodernism is in part about smashing two unlike things together to get something new, which is exactly what Wholock is.  Then there was this French guy named Jean Baudrillard.  Jean came along and said, “Hey, there are four stages in which these two unlike things become one, completely new thing – a new reality or rather no reality at all.”  I’m not sure if Wholock is a perfect example of this theory, but we’ll apply it anyway.  So the series Doctor Who contains its own world or reality.  It has its own unique characters and plots.  We can say the same of Sherlock.  Holmes and Watson exist in their own world or reality untouched by the world of Doctor Who.  They are two unlike realities that stand on their own.  However, when the two things smash together, they become a third reality.  Wholock is not Doctor Who, nor is it Sherlock.  It is something new that exists separately from the original two things that smashed together.  Baudrillard’s theory is much more complicated and detailed than that, but you get the main idea.

How is this connected to fan fiction?  Well, my main concern about writing fan fiction was that I would be borrowing from someone’s original ideas.  But if Wholock exists in it’s own reality separate from both of the original TV series, than am I doing as much borrowing?

This is a horrible argument!  I know that.  I just want to write Wholock fan fiction, but my sad, little, scholarly mind is preventing me!  I don’t care!  I don’t care!  Kill me with your judgements, college professors!  I can take it.  So here goes…I’m diving into Wholock.  I’ll keep you updated!

50 Shades of Grey: A Topic for Conversation?

I stood in the break room at work, leaning up against a counter with the other mostly female employees – there was only one guy who is in his early twenties.  We waited patiently for our supervisor to come and give us a little pep talk before the night shift began.  She entered the room with a relaxed but confident stride – she’s a tall, middle-aged woman a little bit younger than my own mother; relationship status: unknown.  Our supervisor preceded to explain some changes that would take place around the workplace.  At the end of this speech she added:

“If you haven’t noticed, I’m back from my vacation! Ten days just sitting on my butt and reading.”

“What did you read?” Someone asked.

Fifty Shades of Grey!  All three of them!  And I can’t wait until the movie comes out!  They were so good!” My supervisor declared.

At this point, I’m thinking, Oh, Please.  She must be joking.  I looked at the faces around the room as the other young women joined their boss in a discussion about which actors they want in the movie.  If anyone is shocked or uncomfortable, they are trying to hide it just as I am.  My glance lands on the one guy in the room.  My thoughts change to: Oh, my dear Lord.  He is smiling, but has retreated, along with myself,  to the back of the group.  Has society changed so much without my notice that it is now appropriate to discuss pornography with your boss at work?  Am I missing something?  I feel awkward and vexed, still glancing at the young man beside me.  What are we doing to ourselves and to each other by regarding erotic fiction as part of our everyday lives?  What sort of role are these books playing in our society? Are they provoking/transforming our view of sexuality or simply bringing to light issues/aspects that already exist?  How can we as a society have issues with overt homosexuality and nudity on TV, yet openly talk about Fiftly Shades of Grey in “normal” conversation while ignoring the fact that the book is graphically about inflicting pain during sex?  The questions have been in my mind for sometime, but until now I have lacked a springboard to get my mind really thinking about them.

Let’s face it people – Fifty Shades might be on the best-seller list, women of all ages and places in life have read them, but they are erotic novels featuring a controlling, male sadist.  The combination of these things is concerning to me and I think it calls for some reflection on ourselves as a society.

I have a bit more explaining to do and a confession to make.  I myself have read all three Fifty Shades of Grey novels.  Shocking.  I know.  Believe what you want.  However, I did not read them for any sort of “pleasure.”  I read them so I could talk about them, think about them, and make arguments about them that are based on my own experiences and evidence from the books rather than hearsay.  I read them so I would understand what so many other women enjoy reading.  That way my thoughts and feelings about the books have a solid standing ground.

A more important question than what parts of our lives really need to be censored is how can censored topics be openly and positively discussed in a manner which excludes no one.

About the Books

The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy by E.L. James (a pen name) started out as a piece of online fan fiction which took on its own unique path to popularity.  Before Fifty Shades was well known, James enjoyed writing Twilight fan fiction.  This brings to mind another question:  Why should I take seriously something that has had such a light-hearted birthplace?  Well, as long as there are people who do take it seriously, in order to understand these people’s thoughts and actions, I too must take it seriously.

For those of you who don’t know, the books are about a young woman, Anastasia Steele, who is still getting her undergraduate degree when the story begins.  Through a series of circumstances, Anastasia meets the powerful Christian Grey, the CEO of a company in Seattle.  We soon find out that Grey has had a disturbing past that has turned him into a sadist who seeks out women to submit to his violent, sexual fancies.  He gets women to sign a contract which outlines a strict set of rules that they must follow.  These rules include things such as what they can wear and what they are allowed to eat.  Grey’s relationships are about three things: control, sex, and pain.  Christian decides that he is going to convince Anastasia to sign his contract.  However, Anastasia eventually ends up wanting “more” from the relationship.  The whole question is: Can Christian change who is in order to give her that relationship?

Not All Bad For What They Are

Apart from the fact that the books are horribly unvaried and the first novel lacks anything close to a plot, I could tell that James, in part, knew what she was doing when she wrote them.  We have to consider that the purpose of these books was not to live up to Shakespeare’s standards.  They are erotic fiction which is meant to entertain and arouse the pleasure centers of our bodies.  This purpose does not demand that there be a plot or complex characters.  It does, however; require a certain amount of psychological priming.  This means the author must understand the art of building anticipation in the minds of readers while building tensions between the characters.  I noticed that James creates this tension through having the characters sexually tease one another.  I also noticed that she often repeated certain sexually charged words in different contexts – most often when speaking of Christian’s “penetrating gaze.”  Who knows if James intended this, but I believe that it does work to subconsciously manipulate how we are feeling.  This unfortunately makes the writing rather repetitive and eventually, to me, boring.

It’s hard to describe, but in any case, I got the feeling that James knew exactly what she was doing in order to gain the response she wanted from her readers.

I can understand why some women would find Fifty Shades of Grey appealing.  Other then the purely sexual aspects of the book, there’s the idea that Anastasia can heal and change Christian.  This adds an emotional element to the books that I think women enjoy fantasizing about.  It gives women the illusion that they can be in control and command over men like Christian (Note that it is mostly an illusion no matter how appealing).  To me, Christian’s “transformation” was the most interesting part of the books.    I also realize that some women are attracted to powerful men who can provide for them and protect them.  This is in some ways reasonable to me as long as the protectiveness is not damaging to the woman’s spirits.

Problems

Is this book really what a reviewer on Amazon describes as “a porn version of Cinderella”?  How do we go about judging the relationship between Anastasia and Christian?  There is no way I can approve of a sexual relationship in which one person is forced into pain.  Nor would I ever encourage a woman to be involved with a man who tells her what she can and cannot eat.  Indeed I would discourage it, even if the person was a complete stranger.  This type of controlling relationship in my mind is hands down wrong and extremely unhealthy.  But what if like at the end of Fifty Shades, the couple is married, still taking part in somewhat violent, consensual sex; but have a calculated way of communicating emotional distress and respect each others limits.  How do we judge them?  Can we say hands down that any kind of relationship involving occasional roughness is wrong even if it is mutually enjoyed and seems to have no ill mental effects on the participants?  Do Anastasia and Christian still have a happily ever after even if Christian still struggles with his need to always be in control and Anastasia still allows him to indulge in it?

The biggest issue surrounding these books for me is that women enjoy indulging in it.  The books themselves don’t directly promote being involved in a relationship like Anastasia and Christian’s.  Nor do I think it’s good for women to suppress themselves sexually.  Women have just the same rights as men to openly explore who they are in a sexual relationship and to indulge in sexual pleasures.  However, it is concerning that so many women are allowing themselves to fantasize about being in an unhealthy relationship and can declare with no scruples that they absolutely adored Fifty Shades of Grey.  My concern is for those who have become “fan crazed” over something that is destructive to the mental and emotional health of all women.

One of the things I found in the novel to be distressing and destructive in the minds of women was Anastasia’s “inner goddess” who I found to be rather misguided.  Throughout the novels we have access to Anastasia’s thoughts which seem to be separated into two categories.  She has a consciousness that expresses more logical thoughts and another which she calls her goddess.  This goddess then is the sensual part of her mind.  I say that this goddess is misguided because she gets excited about being in this relationship that is pain and a prison of control.  Here’s a passage from the book referring to Ana and Christian’s relationship in general.

My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old.  Please, let’s do this…otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company.

The only man I’ve ever been attracted to, and he comes with a bloody contract, a flogger, and whole world of issues.

That is something that a goddess would never ever tell a woman to do and if yours is telling you to submit yourself to a Christian Grey because you can’t find anyone better than you need to get a new deity.  To me this is not a goddess of sexual prowess like many female readers would interpret, but a goddess of low self-esteem and disrespect.  By the end I wanted to strangle this so-called goddess.

Another issue to be considered is what Fifty Shades might be doing to men and how that affects women.  I’m sure that not very many men have read Fifty Shades of Grey and this is in its own way interesting.  First of all the men who have read it are most likely to see the books as 100% about sex.  They would not necessarily care about the emotional aspects of the books which make them more appealing to women.  If they haven’t read the books, men are rely on what they hear secondhand from media and other sources.  They are probably going to come to the same conclusion that these books are straight up about violent sex.  This is a problem when so many women enjoy reading them.  Might some men make the connection that women are crazy about violent sex?  What might this mean for the welfare of women everywhere?

Either that or men step away in awkward fear as the young man that I work with did, perhaps losing confidence by thinking that women would prefer someone like Christian Grey over himself.  Or whatever…I can’t say I know the minds of men.  But the last point that I would like to make is not that we should not talk about topics like Fifty Shades of Grey at all or that we should get all hung up on our fear of taboo subjects.  Yes, it is somewhat ridiculous in my mind that we would should censor nudity in Greek art while allowing half naked women in TV commercials/magazines to be viewed in arousing poses.  However, the bigger issue I think is finding a way we can discuss our feelings and thoughts about these taboo issues in an open conversation that promotes growth without making individuals feel excluded.  That is the real challenge that our society is facing – where, when, and how should we talk about issues involving sexuality, pornography, and violence.  I believe that this is a work in progress that can only be achieved when everyone is willing to understand the differences in each other and willing to create an environment of safety that accepts these differences.

Under Wildwood By Colin Meloy: The Second Book in the Wildwood Chronicles

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

I believe this post is in need of a bit of a prologue (If you only want to hear about the book mentioned in the title, please skip this section.).  As I might have stated before, I have an interesting relationship with the works of Colin Meloy.  Sorry (especially to Colin) if I talk about this too much, but he is (perhaps sadly?) one of the more influential artists in my life.  I say “perhaps sadly” because I know that there are many other writers/musicians out there who have much more acclaim.  Why not make Allen Ginsberg or Shakespeare your artistic hero?  Or maybe Bach or Bob Dylan?  To choose Colin Meloy as my main influence in my writing might seem to some to be unsophisticated.  The more snobby, aspiring artists may look down their noses at me.  But frankly, they do not understand where I have been in my life and they can think what they want.  The only thing that’s meaningful to me is what results from the influence no matter what that influence might be. (And there are more than enough parentheses in this paragraph.)

To shorten a long story that you probably don’t care about, I rekindled my love for writing after a long stint focusing on music, discovered Meloy’s band The Decemberists, and then earned my degree in English, history, and writing.  This should be enough said if you are familiar with the band.  If you are not familiar with them, I strongly urge you to check them out.

Last year when I read Meloy’s first novel, Wildwood, it was a strange experience.  I read Wildwood for entertainment purposes, but I found myself being extremely critical of it.  I looked at it like I was an editor.  In addition, I had the eyes of someone who had just gotten a bachelor’s in English.  I compared Meloy’s writing to what I’d learned that writing should be.  He repeated words too many times in the same paragraph, strings of actions didn’t flow together but seemed like I was reading a list, the story didn’t have enough creative details, and Meloy was just using his fame as a singer in order to get his books published.  It shed some light on how I thought Meloy viewed his own work.  At the time I thought that he was arrogant and didn’t care about the writing as much as he did being published.  I resented this because I knew that no matter how good my writing was, it would be a huge challenge to get it published.  And here was Colin who had the power to get his work published and whose writing hadn’t lived up to my expectations.  I’m sorry again Colin, but that’s how I felt.  And perhaps I was a bit arrogant and snobby myself.  I did read Wildwood a second time and enjoyed it much more.

The Rating

As for reading Under Wildwood, it was a much different experience.  Something has definitely changed for the better.  Whether that something is Meloy or myself is yet to be seen.  I give the book 4 out of 5 hearts.  I loved reading it 95% of the time.  It has a fantastic entertainment value for people of all ages and has enough literary theory fodder to keep a scholar’s mind alight.

About the Book

“‘Nature, fickle nature, created the seasons.  For centuries man was imprisoned by these seasons.  He could only eat certain things at certain times.  Certain activities had to wait til the appropriate season arrived.  But then came the great, golden industrial age, and seasons were nothing to man.  Incidental.  A piffle!  Instead, we count our time by the passing of the great Fiscal Quarter – and we do what we like, when we like.  We eat whatever we want to eat.  And we eat well, don’t we gentlemen?'” – Mr.Wigman

In Under Wildwood (released September 25, 2012) we find Prue – somewhat depressed – back in her old life on the Outside.  Curtis on the other hand is undertaking his first lessons in “bandit training.”  When it is made known to the bandits that Prue is in great danger from a shape shifting beast which has been hired to kill her, Curtis and Brendon plan a rescue mission to bring Prue back to the Wood.  There she can be safer living under the protection of the bandits.  Prue; however, has different plans.  She has gradually been developing her ability to intuit the emotions of plants.  During a training race for the young bandits, she senses that something has gone terrible wrong in North Wood.  Prue drags Curtis with her to the Council Tree to discover what has happened.  They arrive to find that the Mystics have been attacked by the shape shifting assassins.  After funeral ceremonies, Prue communicates with the Council Tree.  The Tree gives her a mission.  She must reanimate the true prince of the Wood – the Dowager Governess’s automaton son.  But before she can do this, Prue must find the two exiled men that helped first create the robotic boy.  So Prue, Curtis, and Septimus the rat set out on their quest which leads them through tunnels under Wildwood and Portland where they make more new friends and enemies.

Since the great Bicycle Coup at the end of Wildwood, the new government in South Wood has taken a turn for the worst.  With a harsh winter already in place, the people of the Wood are starving and it seems that no one is willing to help them.  The government officials in South Wood are too busy stabbing one another in the back and accusing each other of being part of the “Old Regime.”  This has caused a rise in fundamentalist patriotism in the capital of South Wood.  Everyone seems to be suffering and losing liberties because of it.  If Prue and Curtis are successful in their objective of reanimating the prince, the Council Tree claims that these problems will be fixed.

Meanwhile, Curtis’s family is still looking for their missing son and brother.  Curtis’s parents choose to go traveling in order to find Curtis and so they drop Curtis’s sisters off at an orphanage.  However, Unthank’s Home for Wayward Youth is much more than just a home for abandoned children.  Joffery Unthank, the head of the machine parts industry uses the children of his orphanage as labor in his factory.  Despite his production of machine parts, Unthank is unsatisfied.  It seems that the only thing that will satiate his hunger for industry is the resources that the nearby Impassable Wilderness will provide for the production of oscillated bolt nuts.  Unthank will go to any lengths to breach the magical Periphery Bind around Wildwood which keeps intruders lost forever in a type of purgatory.  Unthank will even send the children into the Wood where they become stuck and together create their own community of lost boys and girls.  This continues until Curtis’s sisters, Rachel and Elsie are sent into Wildwood.  There the girls discover that they possess the Woods Magic and can pass in and out of the forest at will.  They endeavor to save the children who are caught on the border of Wildwood and launch an attack against Unthank.

“‘Sometimes, when the world is falling apart around you, all that’s left to do is dance, right?’ Curtis stood, bowed, and proffered his hand.”

Why it Got Its Rating

Under Wildwood is filled with much more “creative cuteness” than its predecessor.  The bandit’s camp contains a library with such books as “A Woodian on the Outside” and “Lewis and Clark in Wildwood.”  However, Septimus the rat has to be the cutest character in the entire book.  After coming out of a small hole, he stumbles around squint-eyed, waving his hand in front of his nose before letting loose a tremendous sneeze.  There’s nothing cuter than that.  Under Wildwood is much more kid friendly than the first novel in the series with broken family ties being a more important issue for the young characters.  It seemed to me that Meloy is much more relaxed and settled into his writing, which might be because he is spending less time on the music scene.

Like Wildwood, this new novel contains the conflict of nature vs. man when industrialization threatens the Wood.  The second book in the series also uses this conflict to bring in other theoretical interpretations to the story such at post-colonialism, eco-feminism, and this time perhaps Marxist theory.  Borders are a big thing in these books and in Under Wildwood we see that even more through Meloy’s inclusion of immigrants like Desdemona who came to the States for a better life, and Marsha whose parents have been deported.  Even the children getting stuck on the periphery of Wildwood can reflect on the United State’s somewhat flawed immigration policies.  As for eco-feminism, Prue’s empathy with plants plays a huge part, but I also find the first quote in this post to be particularly interesting.  If nature is considered to represent the female sex and industry male, the first quote here takes on a whole new meaning.  The quote could even be a contrast between types of paganism which honor the Mother Goddess and Christianity which has a greater focus on the acts of men.  The quote can show the idea of one religion slowly taking over the other.

Finally, Under Wildwood has a number of Shakespearean references.  How could I object to that?

“It felt as if she’s been slipped some powerful draft that had made her whole reasoning and perspective shift.  Or, she figured, perhaps it was of her own making.  Maybe this was what becoming an adult felt like.”

Related Posts

Colin Meloy Vs. John Connolly: A Comparative Book Review

Portals And Expansion: An Addition to “Colin Meloy Vs. John Connolly: A Comparative Book Review

Literary Look-Alikes – Colin Meloy, Chick Lit., and Satire

Sources

Meloy, Colin.  Under Wildwood.  New York: Balzer + Bray,  2012.  Print.

Coping with My Longing for Literature

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.  I’ve been visiting some of my old college friends in Eugene, OR.  Since I’ve gotten back from that vacation, I’ve had to pick my roommate up at Spokane International Airport which is two hours away from here.  Then I’ve had to start packing up all of belongings for moving back to Indiana.  My official move date is this Thursday, so I’ve been a little bit busy.  I’m picking up my father from Spokane Airport that Thursday.  We’re renting a U-Haul truck, towing my car behind that, and then driving from Idaho to Indiana.  Sounds like another great adventure.  I haven’t had much free time for reading or writing.  Most of my noveling materials have been packed away.  My books are also all boxed up.  That is except for my trusty Complete Works of Shakespeare.  I’m still trying to read that any chance I get.  There will be more posts on Shakespeare here soon enough.

Because I haven’t been able to read or write, I have instead been watching movies with a literary bent.  I will recommend some of them to you now.  The Hours is a unique film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s book Mrs. Dalloway The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a Forest Gump like story based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The Woman in Black is a film that features the star from the Harry Potter movie series, Daniel Radcliffe.  This film is also based on a book by Susan Hill and in some ways is similar to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. (Piece of randomness: Another thing about Radcliffe is that he kind of looks like Marcus Mumford of the band Mumford & Sons.  This band also relates to literature having songs inspired by John Steinbeck and Shakespeare.)  My absolute favorite literary movie that I’ve recently seen is Oscar And Lucinda, starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett.  The book of the same name is by Peter Carey.  These were all very good movies that will satisfy your literary pinings if you are away from books for too long.

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot: A Book Review

♥♥♥

My Rating

I give this book 3 out of 5 hearts.  I liked reading it 50% of the the time.

About Queen of Babble

This a fun and easy to read chick lit. novel.  A good summer read.

Meg Cabot tells the story of Lizzie Nichols, a new college graduate from Anne Arbor, MI.  Lizzie’s one downfall is that she can’t keep a secret and this gets her into all kinds of trouble.  Lizzie follows her passions and gets her degree in history of fashion and now wonders if what she studied will be at all useful in starting a career.  More trouble soon arrives at Lizzie’s graduation party when she discovers that she hasn’t even graduated!  She still has to write a 50 page thesis paper!  This doesn’t seem to get Lizzie down because she’s going to be leaving the next day to spend her summer in London with her wonderful, British boyfriend.  After arriving in London, she discovers that things are not at all what she expected.  Her boyfriend, Andy, turns out to be a gambler who is defrauding the government.  Lizzie decides to run away from him and instead spend the summer with her best friend, Shari, in France.

Shari and her boyfriend are helping out a friend name Luke at the beautiful Chateau Mirac, which is a popular wedding destination.  Luke’s family is letting them stay at the chateau in exchange for helping out with a cousin’s wedding.  When Lizzie arrives in France (All by herself for the first time in Europe!) her breath is taken away by both the scenery and by the handsome Luke.  Unfortunately Luke already has a gorgeous, rich girlfriend named Dominique that Lizzie will never be able to compete with.  Lizzie, however, seems to get along very well with Luke as their relationship develops.  Then Lizzie has to go and ruin the big wedding day and lose Luke’s affections because of her big mouth.  Lizzie is determined to put things right again and will go to great lengths to do so.

Why it Got This Rating

It took a while for me to see Lizzie as anything other than dumb and annoying.  Meg Cabot does a great job of writing a narrative that reflects the talkative personality of Lizzie’s character.  However, this bothered me for the first half of the novel rather than entertained me.  Lizzie is just a character that takes a while to get into.  Her obsession with fashion at first makes her seem like a superficial person and I didn’t come to appreciate her passion until the second half of the novel.  When Lizzie goes to Europe, she shows her stupidity by being clueless about British culture and somewhat culturally insensitive.  It really bothered me when she saw a sign with the word “centre” and thought it was so cute how the British misspell words.  How dumb.

The novel got better as I kept reading into the second half.  I got to know Lizzie a little bit better and came to understand that some of her stupidity and gullibility comes from that fact that she’s very kind and compassionate toward other people.  By introducing Luke’s money-hungry girlfriend, Dominique, to the story, Cabot is able to show how Lizzie is not superficial in comparison to Dominique who buys $200 flip flops.  This made me see Lizzie’s passion for fashion as something that had a deeper meaning to her other than just having the right outfit to make her look good.  By the end of the story, I was rooting for Lizzie to find a way to work out her problems with Luke and her friends.

This is a fluffy and fun read for the summer.  I bought the book at used bookstore because I knew that Cabot had also written the Princess Diaries series, which I thought were cute movies.  I’m glad I got the book used because I’m probably going to drop it off at Good Will.  But I had fun time reading it for two evenings and I think it would be a great book for reading on a plane or a beach this summer.  If you enjoy this book, there are also two more books in the series: Queen of Babble in The Big City and Queen of Babble Gets Hitched.

If you are interested, here is a link to Meg Cabot’s website : http://www.megcabot.com