Fandom Friday | The Problematic Fave

Problematic favourites – we all have them, whether they’re TV shows, musicians, characters or books. I think everyone has something or someone they love but feel reluctant to discuss or recommend. Personally I worry that if I mention liking something problematic I run the risk of appearing to agree with that thing entirely, when this simply isn’t the case.

The term “problematic fave” has become somewhat of a joke, but I feel like the topic is actually something that is worth discussing seriously. Is it possible to like something problematic without being problematic yourself? How?

Of course it’s possible to like something problematic while still trying to not be problematic yourself – if it wasn’t we would be very limited as to what we could actually like. I believe that the most important thing about liking something problematic is realising and understanding that that thing is problematic – if you’re asking this question you’re probably already there. You can enjoy something while still recognising the bad aspects. Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s as much as you like, so long as you understand the problem with Mickey Rooney’s Mr Yunioshi.

An example of one of my problematic favourites is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This differs from examples such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s in that the characters are intended to be terrible people – they are offensive and non- PC, and often get their comeuppance. The show often gets incredibly close to the bone, and although I enjoy it there are often moments that are incredibly problematic. Yes, this is the point, but it makes it very difficult to explain the show to people who haven’t seen it without sounding like a horrible person. I think what the show does well when you do watch it, however, is having a character step back and acknowledge how problematic the gang’s antics are.

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Found here.

It’s important to remember as well that characters are just characters, and that they don’t reflect writers or audience’s opinions. On the same lines, it’s important to remember that you can separate art and the creator – you don’t have to like an artist/writer as a person to appreciate their work. Justin Bieber’s behaviour is often deplorable, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t sing along to Sorry if it comes on in a bar.

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Photo by Beth at GeekShot Photography, found on her blog.

Another example of one of my “problematic faves” is Isabella (Bunny) Bennett. Bunny is a member of Steam Powered Giraffe, a band who perform as steampunk robots. A while back she caused quite a stir online after making several jokes about eating disorders and self harm. It became important for the band to emphasise that their work isn’t directly connected to the people – fans don’t have to like them as people in order to like the music and surrounding art (Bunny and fellow band member Sam often sell prints and band merchandise that they have drawn themselves). Further still, you don’t have to agree with everything Bunny says/does to like her in general. I like Bunny and connect with her in many ways, but these jokes were shocking and not something I support at all. I find it important if “Saladgate” comes up to reiterate that I don’t agree with the joke at all, but that I still like the band and the people.

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I mean look at that costuming. Found on the Steam Powered Giraffe website.

While you don’t have to like a creator or even the whole piece of work, it’s incredibly important to recognise and address problems with them. We cannot ignore problematic aspects of film, music, literature etc, or this adds to the problem. We have to say “I like this, but I don’t condone [offensive aspect]”, in order to send a message to creators about what is and isn’t acceptable.

What are some of your “problematic faves”? How do you describe them to people?

See you soon,

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Writing About Writing: Why I Hate The Word ‘Aspiring’

I am very lucky to say that I am friends with a lot of creative people. Doing a creative writing course I naturally made friends with a lot of writers, but I also know a lot of artists, and more recently have come to know a lot of bloggers. One thing all of these creative people have in common, other than much larger emotional ranges than normal and a tendency to lean to the left of political issues, is that they’re all reluctant to label themselves as such.

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Look at these lovely ladies. So much talent in one photo. 

A lot of people I know have a tendency to say they’re ‘wannabe artists’ or ‘aspiring bloggers’. This frustrates me because it shows a lack of confidence in the incredible work they produce. It downplays and even erases the hard work they put in to what they do. I had a seminar tutor once who told us it was bullshit to think of ourselves as anything but writers – we write, therefore we’re writers. We blog, therefore we’re bloggers.

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Harry Potter and Social Issues -Could JK Rowling Have Gone Further?

It is undeniable that the Harry Potter series deals with social issues in many ways – they are written into the text in such a way that has shaped the way generations have and continue to view the world. Millions of young people have grown up with Harry, often looking to the Wizarding World for guidance. It is unsurprising, then, that as we and our society develop, that we both appreciate the ways the series explores social injustice and acknowledge the aspects that are unsatisfying. While the series tackles many issues in an immensely overt way, there are things that could be improved.

Hermione, for instance. In the current stage show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hermione is played by Noma Dumezweni. Many were unhappy with the idea of a black actress playing her. Others however, myself included, feel that Hermione as a black woman adds to Hermione’s story. She faces racism in the wizarding world for her ‘blood status’ – she’s a muggleborn, which is frowned on by some “purebloods” – wizards born into wizarding families. She faces immense prejudice at the hands of Draco Malfoy and other purebloods, and in the film series has a racial slur, “mudblood”, carved into her arm by Bellatrix Lestrange (Deathly Hallows, Part 1).

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Noma Dumezweni. Found here

In the novels, JK Rowling doesn’t specify the colour of Hermione’s skin. While I believe that writers should limit character descriptions and leave the reader to garner their own impressions of the characters, stating that Hermione had dark skin could have strengthened the impact her struggle with racism stronger.

Another aspect I feel could have been explored was Dumbledore’s sexuality. Rowling revealed on a book tour for the last novel in the series that Dumbledore was gay. Many LGBT+ people look to the series for it’s messages of acceptance and love, and relate to struggles such as Hermione’s. A gay character further opens up the world to LGBT+ people, however Rowling chose not to write in Dumbledore’s sexuality – at least not overtly. Of course it would be difficult to publish a children’s book, particularly in the 90s and early 00s, with an openly gay character – but considering the immense success of the Potter series, I seriously doubt sales would have been that affected if she had written it into one of the later novels.

In a book series that has taught me and so many others about acceptance, love and equality it is disheartening that some things like these examples that could have easily been included were left out. At the same time, the series isn’t solely a social commentary, and manages to balance discussion of several important issues with magic, dragons, mermaids, Dark Lords and even the odd Quidditch match. We can make several real life comparisons and learn a lot from the series, even if it isn’t perfect.

See you soon,

Ro x

Featured Image by Vondell Swain


Book Review – The House I Loved

‘Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her late husband. As Rose delves into her memories, she reveals the secrets held within the walls of her beloved house.’

The House I Loved is set in Paris, 1869, towards the end of Napoleon III’s reign and the height of Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s ‘Renovation of Paris’.  The renovations saw whole neighbourhoods in central Paris demolished and rebuilt in line with Haussmann’s designs. Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel centres around one particular road, the rue Childebert – now part of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Her protagonist, Rose Bazelet, lives on rue Childebert, in her late husband’s family home.

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Taken from the front of the book.

The novel is written in the form of an extensive letter, written by Rose to her late husband Armand. Rose is an elderly woman who is set in her ways and is incredibly attached to her home. She sees it as the last link she has to her late husband and beloved mother in law. She often reminisces about happier times, but ends up delving into dark, repressed memories of the house and her life.

Before I read it, I wasn’t sure about this book. While the time period and location seemed interesting, a closed setting such as the basement and the style of writing the book as a letter/series of letters is restricting and been done a lot. I found myself fortunately mistaken in many ways, but I did find it predictable in many ways. It is the kind of novel that you predict the ending of from the start of the novel. Although the story does go off into many tangents, these can also be easily predicted. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in small doses, but I managed to predict large portions of the novel, when I’d much rather be surprised in at least some small way.

Despite this, it was an enjoyable and emotional read. For historical fiction, it was easy to read but informative. If I could go back, I’d have read up on the context a bit beforehand – I knew nothing about it, and while the novel does explain it well I find that when reading historical fiction I prefer to know at least a small amount about the context in order to fully understand it. Tatiana de Rosnay does provide a good level of context and the text was easy to understand without knowing anything else about the time period.

See you soon,

Ro x


Politics Doesn’t Stop – Neither Should You

Over the last few weeks, a lot has happened in British politics. If you know me, you will probably have guessed that it was only a matter of time before I waded into this mess. I, among a large number of others, have been bitterly disappointed in the decisions made by our country and its leaders. Still, this isn’t going to be a rant about the EU referendum; rather the things I’ve noticed during it.

Social media can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to politics. It allows for open discussion and sharing of information. It also allows for false information, scaremongering and aggressive arguments – with very few consequences. Throughout the process of the EU referendum I’ve seen a vast amount of both good and bad political discussion on social media, particularly Facebook. The scale of these posts is very unusual, unless there’s a vote coming up. It’s not necessarily that people don’t care, but people don’t believe they need to remain active in politics – and this is simply wrong.

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Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend… (not my picture, or my union)

Political decisions literally shape the way our country is run, and the only way we can have a say in that is by being active and showing our country’s leadership that we care. Voting, while incredibly, incredibly important, is not the be-all-and-end-all, and to truly use your vote it’s important to have a good understanding of what you’re voting for. It is vital for young people to stay active and use our voices throughout the political cycle – the government may not always listen, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak our minds and get our opinions out there; we cannot be heard if there’s nothing to listen to. Our futures depend on the decisions our government make now; that isn’t something to be apathetic about. So what can we do?

Remember That Your Vote Counts.

If there’s one thing this referendum has shown us, it’s that our votes count. The majority of people, including Leave campaign leaders and many Leave voters, believed that we would vote to remain in the EU. Over the days following the referendum, there were many stories in the press of ‘Bregretters’ – people who had voted leave, mostly as a ‘protest’ vote, and were now regretting it. There is no such thing as a protest vote; if you don’t believe in something or don’t want it to happen, don’t vote for it. There are consequences to all of our actions, especially in something like this. Our entire country’s future has been changed – that isn’t something to take lightly.

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Image found here, regarding the 2015 General Election. I’d say it’s pretty accurate!

Have an Opinion – and Back It Up.

Having an opinion on general issues and current affairs allows you to choose who/what to vote for more easily. You don’t have to know everything about everything, but reading up on issues that interest you will help you see who else is interested in and working to deal with those issues in a way you agree with. In order to be able to back up your opinion of course, you’d need to;

Get Educated.

Again, I’m not saying you need to learn how everything in British politics works, or who makes the tea in the Houses of Parliament, but getting educated on the issues allows us to make informed decisions when it comes to voting.

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Bit daunting. Found here

Having an opinion is important, but it isn’t enough – being able to back up your opinion with facts and figures is vital; if you can’t find the research to support your views, you may need to rethink. Often political parties and groups rely on people not researching, and instead following their emotions wholeheartedly. Britain First, for example, use speculation, scaremongering and “patriotism” to reel people in and convince them to join their cause; a cause built on racism, islamophobia and hatred. One of their most recent campaigns has been based on a claim that there is an illegal immigrant camp in Sherwood Forest, and that inhabitants are cutting down trees and littering; a claim that has been debunked by the real builders of the camp, British teenagers (now in their twenties) who built it from fallen trees several years ago – not by destroying the forest. A quick Google search is enough to refute many of BF’s claims, and the same goes for a lot of political campaigns and promises.

Don’t base your votes purely on election propaganda – a lot of the time this is grossly over-exaggerated and promises aren’t likely to be kept. Research party leaders, watch debates and work out who you trust and agree with before believing any promises made in the run up to a vote. In the EU referendum, for example, many Leave voters were left regretting their decision after promises to put £350m a week into the NHS were debunked by Nigel Farage, and later Iain Duncan Smith. Of course they should have kept their promise, however with their reputations and track records, it is hardly surprising that this was never the intention.

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Is that really a face you can trust? Thankfully not my image.

Michael Gove was recently quoted saying that “People in this country have had enough of experts” – while this may well be true, it’s simply bad politics. We need experts for a reason; they know what they’re talking about. Of course your opinions can be partially based on emotion, you have to care about what you’re talking about, but that can’t be your only reasoning for thinking and voting how you do; you’re better than that.

Engage in Conversation and Have An Open Mind.

Don’t be afraid to discuss politics and your views with others, even if they disagree – it is just as important to understand other peoples’ views as well as your own. We can learn and develop our views in talking to other people – plus it gives you somewhere to show off all of your research! Saying that, however;

Keep it Civil.

It doesn’t matter how awful or just plain wrong someone else’s opinion is, it won’t get you anywhere to get angry. Share your views and use your research to back them up; no one can argue with fact, no matter how hard they try.

Last but not least, just to bookend this:

VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.

I don’t care who/what you vote for or how tactically you vote, so long as you get out there and do it. We could be faced with a general election much sooner than planned, so be prepared and use your vote wisely.

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These are our voting faces. (This actually is my image)

See you soon,

Ro x


Book Review – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

‘Love is not breathlessness; it is not excitement; it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love”, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.’

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a novel by Louis de Bernieres. Set in 1940s Cephalonia, the novel explores the realities of love, life and war for the people of the island. This review will have spoilers but it was published the year I was born so I think it’s been around long enough!

I’ll admit that it took me a long time to finish this book. The writing is incredibly detailed and rich, and as a result can be quite difficult to get into. It’s certainly worth the effort though, and de Bernieres’ characters are incredibly realistic and multidimensional, as is his description of the island.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is for the most part almost like a collection of short stories, as opposed to one novel – it is told through various peoples’ viewpoints, which eventually overlap and merge into one story. Although it was hard to get into, it is easier to tackle if you read it part-by-part. This method of writing is an interesting one, and certainly something de Bernieres does well. In using different viewpoints to tell the story he not only keeps the writing interesting and varied for the reader, but also adds to the effect of the story. This way of writing builds up the world in a way that simple physical description can’t –realistically we all see the world in different ways, and de Bernieres’ characters are no different. Dr Iannis, for example, sees Cephalonia in a largely intellectual way; he sees history, his pride for his home is built on hundreds of years of imperialism and rebellion, survival and victory. Captain Corelli, on the other hand, has no such connection – he simply sees it as a beautiful island. He grows a connection to it, but one completely different to anyone else’s and unaffected by the history and ancestry Dr Iannis associates with the place.

In the same way, we see many different views on life and the war. De Bernieres’ characters are all sympathetic in some way – readers even find themselves sympathising with Gunter Weber, a German soldier who follows Nazi ideology quite firmly. In fact I think while reading it I found myself sympathetic to almost all of the characters – Mussolini and Hitler being obvious exceptions.

The setting of Cephallonia itself is an interesting one, and lends itself to incredibly tragic historical context. In 1943, the island was the location of one of the biggest prisoner of war massacres of World War Two, and yet it isn’t widely known about or discussed. The Massacre of the Acqui Division saw over 5000 Italian soldiers killed. De Bernieres uses Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to give a voice, not only to the island and normal people in the war, but also to those killed in this tragic event. It seems a shame to me that events like this aren’t put into history books, and that we often only see the facts and figures, rather than real stories. De Bernieres is an advocate for social history, and this is obvious throughout Corelli.

Okay, let’s get on to the unpopular opinions. The ending. I know a lot of people who love this book, and for the most part I agree, but I found the ending largely unsatisfying. I understand what de Bernieres was trying to do in separating and later reuniting Pelagia and Corelli, and I realise the effect that leaving the novel on a hopeful note has, particularly in a social commentary like this, but I’d almost have preferred the book to end without the reader knowing what happened to Corelli. Maybe I’m just cynical but it felt like de Bernieres was told to make the ending happier by his publisher. It’s been a few weeks since I finished it, and in that time I’ve come to terms with the ending and why de Bernieres chose to end it that way, but I still can’t say I like it, personally.

All in all, this is a brilliant piece of historical fiction and portrayal of smaller social groups in a largely generalised and politically regarded historical era. Corelli is realistic, funny and surprisingly optimistic. Maybe one day I’ll learn to love the ending. Maybe.

See you soon,

Ro x


Books on a Budget: The Miracle of The Charity Shop.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but charity shops are a beautiful thing. Not only is your money contributing to good causes, but they’re also incredibly cheap. I have a lot of love for the charity shop. I just finished my book (review in two weeks – you’ll see why on Wednesday!) and although I have another on the go, I’m not quite in the right mood for the style of writing it’s in – it’s not an easy one to get into, and the language can be difficult to tackle. Having only just finished Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, another one with rich and heavy language, I need a break.

I’m travelling to London for a few days on Monday, so I need plenty to read for the train journeys as well, but don’t have a lot of funds – here’s where the charity shop comes in. I bought 3 brand-new books for 49p apiece at Barnardo’s, a children’s charity. All 3 have prices printed on them, and should’ve cost £22 at retail value – not a bad discount!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle – I’m not a snob when it comes to paper vs electronic – and I love a brand new book, but charity shopping for books is generally speaking cheaper, and works much better than Kindle when you don’t know what you want exactly. Of course, you’re less likely to find independent authors or self published works, but they tend to be fairly cheap on Kindle anyway. The main problem I have with charity shopping for books that you don’t get with eBooks is that I never get rid of any – while I should donate my existing books before I buy any new ones, it never happens and the mountain of books I need to sort through just gets bigger and bigger!

I had the added benefit last summer of working at a charity shop, and intend to return once I’m settled in a paying job. I worked at a Cats Protection shop, and not only was the experience incredibly rewarding and something I thoroughly enjoyed, I also often got first look in with the books! I used to sort donations, particularly gift aided ones, so I was often the first person to look at the stock. Clothes go through the process of being steamed, tagged and priced before being ready to be sold, which could take a while if we had a backlog, but books could be put out straight away – meaning I could hoard any I wanted and buy them at the end of the day. This was not a healthy environment for my purse to be in.

Even if you don’t have the time to volunteer, I would definitely recommend going into charity shops for books, especially if you’re on a tight budget or looking for something different and unexpected – you never know what you’ll pick up!

See you soon,

Ro x


It’s Not The Time.

I know I’m supposed to be posting a creative piece today, but this is just so much more important. I’m so saddened by the attack in Orlando and confused by some reactions to this that I couldn’t just carry on like normal today – creative piece will happen later on in the week.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, last night 50 people were killed and 53 injured in a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. A place that was considered “safe” for LGBT+ people to embrace and celebrate who they are was attacked. My heart is so heavy and while I started writing this angrily, it’s just turned into more sadness over the loss of life.

In a situation like this, you expect people to mourn. You expect Facebook news feeds, Twitter feeds, WordPress readers to be full of people paying their respects. Of course I saw many of these sorts of posts – there’s an awful lot of sadness and an awful lot of anger, as there should be. I also unfortunately keep seeing people making the comment that it “doesn’t matter” that these people were LGBT+, and that “all lives matter”. A lot of people are comparing it to the Paris shootings.

This attack was not just a terror attack. This was a hate crime – as Owen Jones so rightfully put it, it’s comparable to someone walking into a religious building and open firing. This wasn’t an attack on anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as in the Paris shootings. The victims of this attack didn’t happen to be LGBT+. The attacker knew most if not all people in there would be LGBT+. It cannot be denied that this was a homophobic attack.

It matters that the attacker targeted a certain group of people. It should be a no-brainer that this matters. It doesn’t mean that these peoples’ lives are any more or less important than any others, nor does it mean that the Paris shootings are any more or less tragic. It matters because the LGBT+ community have fought for so long just for the right to exist, and this has been taken away by one man with a gun. It matters because no one should have to fight for the right to stay alive and safe, especially in their own communities.

I could go on and on about how oppression works and what the impact of this attack will be etc, etc, but this isn’t the time. This isn’t the time to tell people to calm down. This isn’t the time to pick fights. This is the time to support the LGBT community and appreciate that people all over the world are grieving. Don’t make it worse.

Ro x

 


Writing About Writing: Who Should We Write For?

Since starting university three years ago, I’ve met a lot of writers – most in the same position as me, at university learning to hone their skills and now many of us are graduating and being thrown into the big wide world. In these three years, the same topic of conversation to do with writing has come around a lot; who should we write for?

The question is one that I struggle with personally a lot more now that I have this blog. I created it for myself, as a way to keep myself reading and writing, and so far that has also happened to be quite successful with readers; by no means is the blog popular as such, and I’m certainly not going to become a full-time, professional blogger any time soon, but my audience is steadily increasing and I think I’m doing fairly well considering it’s only been about a month. In posting what I write online, although it is from and for myself first and foremost, the reader becomes a part of the reason for writing.

I think it’s quite common with things like blogs to become easily discouraged, and for me I think writing solely for readers will do that to me; I need a schedule and I need to make myself write things on time, simply to keep me motivated, but pushing myself to write things that readers will want to see all the time will just make me tire of it. I’m currently tackling this attitude quite well; I’m not letting it bother me if my posts aren’t very successful, and instead focusing on writing the next one. This is often easier said than done, but making a conscious effort to do so is helping massively. Writing for me means writing things that interest me – and if other people aren’t interested by that thing, I have a million other things to write/review/discuss.

A friend of mine recently admitted that she was scared to set up a dedicated place on the internet for her creative writing, in case no one read it. My response to this, and I know it’s a hypocritical one, was this – who cares? It’s really scary to put your work out there, and I certainly worry that no one will read or like my creative stuff, but it’s better to have it out where someone can read it than leaving things gather dust in a 5 year old folder with an embarrassing title buried deep in your laptop.

On the topic of creative writing, we must discuss books and publishing works on paper. Historically speaking, many writers wrote for the money; Dickens was often paid by the word to write his serials, which we now of course read in the form of huge novels. It would be naive to say that many popular authors today write without money in mind, however for the majority of writers nowadays this isn’t a lucrative business; only the very bestselling authors earn enough money to live on, much less the fortunes earned by the likes of JK Rowling. Going into writing with the sole purpose of making money would be largely disappointing.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that people don’t write with the intention of getting published – there would be little point in spending all that time creating something to then not show anyone­, whether we publish for free or for profit.

So, who (or what) should we write for? Ourselves? Our audience? Money? Personally, I believe a mix is probably the best bet for success, but that’s just my personal opinion – I’ll get back to you when I’m a bestselling author!

See you soon,

Ro x