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Fantasy Feminist Team

I’m finally doing it.

I’m forming a girl squad.

I’ve put it off for years because my friends keep choosing true love over the sisterhood. They tell me marriage is a whole lot of fun.

BUT IS IT?

GIRL SQUAD, ASSEMBLE!

What would this squad do? I don’t know. Win? Fight for love and justice? Discuss film theory? Have pizza nights because I miss those most?

“Girl squad” sounds juvenile for something this important.

How about…Fantasy Feminist Team?

Perfect. Continue reading “Fantasy Feminist Team”

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TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Little kids

*sigh*

Writing in dialect is difficult. Getting dialogue to sound right is difficult.

Just…

If I could…

One suggestion…

JUST DON’T WRITE OUT HOW LITTLE KIDS TALK, OKAY?

I do not believe this FOUR-YEAR-OLD is having this conversation, even with her cutesy (if inconsistent) speech impediment. “Aw, it’s cute because she says words wrong.” NO! FALSE!

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TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Derailing love interests

Goodness. Gracious. The problems with Pride and Popularity abound.

My biggest problem with this book is that everything was told to me. I was never shown what characters are like or how they interact–the heroine summarized events after they happened. So as the book neared its climax and the romance came to a conclusion, the author had to work with two characters she hadn’t developed by making one the obvious right choice and one the bad guy.

She wasn’t exactly subtle in her efforts.

Suddenly we hear of all Taylor’s previously unmentioned good deeds and accomplishments from Chloe’s dad, a pretty unlikely source. APPARENTLY, Taylor is involved in charities and is a doer of good deeds, all with a smile on his face. It’s not that this characterization is unlikely, and the point was to be surprising…it just seems abrupt. I can’t say, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming, but it makes sense,” because up to this point I haven’t gotten to know Taylor. At all. I just know he plays basketball and gets around. Also he’s rich, so there’s that. Honestly, he seems like kind of a tool.

Blake’s character derailment I can believe, sadly. Taylor reveals in his e-mail to Chloe that Blake went on trial for rape.

I have so many feelings about this:

  1. NO ONE REACTS APPROPRIATELY TO THIS. Chloe is mildly horrified, but doesn’t think too much of it. Later, she is amazed at what a great family the Andersons are. You know, the family who COVERED UP BLAKE’S RAPESCAPADES AND PRETENDED THEY’D NEVER HAPPENED. THAT FAMILY. GOOD. AND. WHOLESOME.
  2. Author Jenni James prides herself on writing “clean romance.” I have feelings about that genre I won’t go into, but that’s not the point. The point is, in a squeaky clean romance where people are ambiguously Mormon and say “sugar” when they stub their toe, you can’t bring up RAPE. That’s pretty heavy for a light-hearted romantic comedy.
  3. If you’re going to go there, go there. I don’t need graphic details or tons of trauma, but at least say the word. James sticks to the euphemism “took advantage of” and calls Blake a “pervert.” Call him what he is: he’s a rapist. And let the emotion go there. Make me feel afraid. Being wishy-washy and euphemistic does not allow me to connect emotionally, so in the climax, when Chloe and Taylor are frantically trying to find Cassidy before she goes off with Blake, all I could think was, “Oh please. What could he possibly do to her?”

The whole thing feels rather extreme. Taylor couldn’t be a good guy with faults; he had to be a saint. Blake couldn’t be a jerk; he had to be the MOST EVIL, DISGUSTING, IRREDEEMABLE PERVERT WHO EVER WALKED THE PLANET. You could have sold me on a less drastic twist.

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TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Stakes

I love adaptations, especially of Austen’s books. I think they can work, if done well.

This book…not so much.

Even though the main characters are teenagers, I can’t stomach the unnecessary drama. Jenni James acts like everything that happens between the two leads is the most traumatizing thing ever. Every conversation they have spirals out of control.

I sort of remember this from high school. I remember snapping at people and things getting out of hand. I still maintained the ability to have normal–not even civil, just normal–conversations with people I didn’t like. Not so with Jenni James’ characters. The act of sharpening a pencil quickly becomes, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU, TAYLOR ANDERSON!” “YOU NEVER UNDERSTAND ANYTHING, CHLOE HART!”

The amount of drama and bile these characters have doesn’t work because the stakes are so low. In the original Pride and Prejudice, the Bennett sisters are poor and are considered lucky to attract any man at all. When Lizzie rejects the wealthy Darcy, while undoubtedly the right decision, it’s a big deal because she has no guarantee of ever attracting another suitor.

In Pride and Popularity, Chloe refuses to date Taylor…because he’s popular. The biggest thing to come out of this is she doesn’t have a Valentine…or a date to prom. Quite the hardship.

The amount of angst they wring from this event makes me laugh. When your big emotional climax is funny instead of heartbreaking, you know your writing needs work.

There was an excellent episode of “Beauty and the Geek” where the Beauties and the Geeks acted in a soap opera. The scenarios they came up with were amazing because they were so outrageous, e.g., “I can’t believe you went back to Chris! Don’t you remember when he faked his own fiery death? What about when he was kidnapped by pirates?”

That’s what this reminds me of. I want to like and connect to these characters, but I’m put off by the melodrama of these mundane events. Either make the stakes bigger or make the characters’ reactions more believable. This is not a soap opera.

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TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Boundaries

I wasn’t going to write about this, but I changed my mind because I’m outraged.

I’m not sure if there’s a cultural difference at play–maybe it’s a Mormon thing–because I can’t imagine parents in the United States who would actually do this to their child.

In the original Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie rejects the odious Mr. Collins. Her mom insists on the match because she wants her daughter married and in her mind marriage and happiness are the same thing. While Mrs. Bennett isn’t known for her parenting skills, she’s at least consistent.

In Pride and Popularity, there’s a Mr. Collins-esque characters named Collin (HA) who takes Chloe out on one or two dates at her mom’s behest and assumes after the second that they’re a couple, trying to kiss her to “seal the deal.”

Up to this point, Chloe has begged her mom not to make her date Collin to no avail. Her mom guilts her into every date, calls Collins herself and tells him Chloe will be his girlfriend, and tries to ground Chloe when she rejects him.

She calls her daughter “stubborn, selfish, and prideful” for not dating a guy she isn’t interested in. All she’s asking is that Chloe become Collins girlfriend for a couple of weeks; completely reasonable and not at all ridiculous, right?

WHAT KIND OF PARENT DOES THIS?

Here’s what you’re teaching your daughter:

  1. Her preferences don’t matter. I stand by (in theory) the idea that you should give [insert appropriate term for undesirable partner here] a chance. Someone might make a terrible first impression only to surprise you [see Fitzwilliam Darcy]. HOWEVER, Chloe has made it clear she’s never going to be into a guy who finds his phone more interesting than he finds her. Somehow that means she’s selfish.
  2. Her feelings don’t matter. At least, not as much as Collin’s do. In fact, her having feelings at all is selfish. Chloe has to reward this guy for pursuing her…even though he’s socially awkward, had his mom set them up, doesn’t try to connect, and spends entire dates on his phone. Telling people their wants and needs are selfish is probably the worst thing you can do.
  3. Her choices don’t matter. Chloe has rejected Collin multiple times, and her mom goes behind her back to override her disinterest. That’s messed up. You’re subtly telling her that her “no” doesn’t mean much, which would be horrifying enough if there wasn’t a rapist in this story for whom “no” means nothing. Awesome.

I’m confused by the reaction to this event. Chloe treats it as an inconvenient but normal part of her regular parenting, i.e. “You know how parents get.”

None of this is cute; it’s controlling, and not something to laugh off.

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TERRIBLE PROSE TUESDAY: Obvious villain is obvious

Love triangles are a fixture of many romances. I have mixed feelings about them, but I have no problem with another character posing an obstacle to the main love story, especially if it’s done well (see Clockwork Prince.)

As this book is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it’s only fitting that the heroine of Jenni James’ Pride and Popularity fall for the wrong guy somewhere along the way.

I realize that people know the original story well enough that they see a lot of the original “twists” (e.g., Wickham is actually a bad guy with dishonorable intentions) coming.

HOWEVER. If you are adapting an older work, IT IS YOUR JOB to reimagine these plot points in a creative way. This novel is missing both foreshadowing and subtlety. This particular passage is as bad as–if not worse than–Theo’s creepy letter in A Thousand Pieces of You.

This conversation comes up in the middle of a discussion of “Magnum, P.I.” where Chloe (Elizabeth) and Blake (Wickham) come onto the topic of Taylor Anderson (Darcy). Blake is so filled with rage he ALMOST SAYS THE A-WORD.

After a cringe-worthy conversation about swearing (side note: lots of people complain that people sound stupid when they swear. You know what sounds even more stupid? Substituting words like “chicken butt.”), Blake asks when Chloe turns 18. Because that’s not disgusting.

First of all, WHO TALKS LIKE THIS? Is this how flirting works!? Have I been doing it wrong?

Second of all, WHAT GIRL HEARS THIS AND DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY THINK SHE’S TALKING TO A RAPIST?

Blake Winter is the rapiest of all the rapesters.

FUN STORY, the twist in this iteration of Pride and Prejudice is that Wickham/Winter is…actually a rapist.

He drugged and “took advantage of” an underage girl, went to trial, and was never convicted.

I’m not sure Mr. Winter comprehends the severity of his past actions, though, or even understands what rape is.

“You better call me the second you’re eighteen, you hear?”
“Why?”
“Because then you won’t be jailbait. Don’t worry–I won’t ravish you before then.”

Pro tip: age doesn’t matter if she’s unconscious.