Saturday, March 15, 2014

Byzantium Review

You know how they say that when you mix crap with chocolate you don't actually improve crap, you just get more crap? Yeah, that's kind of like what Byzantium is like.

The 2012 British film produced by Demarest Films by director Neil Jordan tries very hard to escape the vampire conventions, but it doesn't really do it's own thing, either.

Let's get this out of the way first: My rating for this movie is: ♥ (5♥) I am more critical than Rotten Tomatoes are.

I want to quote Maven here, who says: 'Vampire stories that go: 'I exist, isn't that creepy and unnatural?' don't really do anything for us anymore, because we've seen them before. For a modern vampire story to work it has to be 'I did something' and I have to say, I completely agree.

Personally, I want to give Byzantium props for two things:

1. Incredibly pretty visuals. I am not sure if the visuals are worth your while, but still.

2. Changing the vampire mythos.  I like it when things are different, even though I like my conventional vampires.

Now for the breakdown:


1. Clara - Clara is the more dynamic and more interesting main character. She's the mother. I really wanted to like Clara, but the movie doesn't really know how it feels about her and therefore, I don't know what the hell I am supposed to think about her.

2. Eleanor - Eleanor is our completely one-dimensional, emo protagonist. She isn't exactly conflicted about being a monster as a good vampire protagonist would be. Her big story arc is about not able to share her secret, which is a  weak source of conflict. All she really does throughout the film is wangs.

3. Captain Ruthven - This is the guy, who turned Clara into a prostitute. He is just a shallow, mustache-twirling villain. He's never given any depth or even a reason. He just does it for the evulz.

4. Noel - Noel is the guy Clara hooked up with. He's sweet and really seemed to care about Clara and want to take care of her and Eleanor, yet  he got a very bland and offensively dismissive ending. I felt bad for the guy.

5. Frank - Frank is Eleanor sort of human boyfriend and appropriately so, as he was just as one-dimensional as she is. I did not understand his thought process at all and that's really all I have to say about him - there's simply nothing more to the character.

The relationship between mother and daughter:
What relationship? The movie wasn't about their relationship and either way, nothing was solved by the end of the movie/

This was one of the most boring movies I've seen. It never felt like the story was leading me somewhere. There was no story goal, nothing that points to where you are in the movie, besides the climax, which was the last 20 minutes.

The end:
This is not a good word to describe it, because the movie doesn't really ends. It just sort of... stops. It doesn't conclude it doesn't feel like a coherent story that leads you somewhere.

The romance:
One of these romance had no previous prelude or indication to it, besides the ending and the other was you basic emo whiny high-school romance. I am only glad that it was set aside as a subplot, because the romance was really underwhelming.

Life Begins At A Man:
This is probably one of my biggest problems with the film. These two women basically just pop into existence one day, when a man shows up in their lives. They have no character before that and  therefore they are just clich├ęs. I didn't feel for them as much as I wish I did.

Couple Dynamics and Why Similiar Personality Types Can Be In a Relationship

I few years ago I started reading a lovely YA series (I still read them) called Percy Jackson and the Olympians. All of Rick Riordan's books have a great combination of adventure, mythology and twists plot; well-developed 3D characters and a style of writing that's charming, but does not distract you from the plot. Anyway, this post isn't about that. This post is about couples (in fiction).

At first, I predicted that Percy (the main character) and his friend Annabeth will become a couple. And no, that's not a spoiler, it's obvious from the very moment she shows up in the story. I thought - well, it's kind of obvious, but I guess it's a fine pairing.

But then 'The Titan's Curse' (the third book of the series) came around the corner and we were (properly) introduced to Thalia. She was a great character and she and Percy had this... incredible chemistry so I thought - 'Now, THIS is a pairing I want to read about.' Of course that didn't happen and I think that was the exact moment I realised I hated Percabeth. I am going to talk about that in length another time, but to sum up my reasoning:

- The canon keeps trying to shove the paring down my throat by constantly having other characters marvel at how awesome they are together, what a good team they make and how much they miss each other, when they are apart etc.

- Everything was neatly ordered in a way that they'll end up together and nothing will stop that [SPOILER for the entire series (you need to select the text to read it): Thalia was removed as a possible love-interest for Percy way before that was even an option - way before she had a chance to relax and the two got to know each-other better by becoming a hunter of Artemis and therefore giving up guys/love; Rachael - a girl Percy sort of liked at one point - was also removed from the equation by becoming the Oracle and therefore unable to have a boyfriend; Annabeth liked Luke, but he was evil and then he died - plus the author finished that subplot with 'Luke saw Annabeth as a little-sister') 

- Percy and Annabeth do not in fact make as great of a team as the books are trying to convince me they do; sure half the time being with/close to each other helps, but the other half they make stupid decisions for one another.

Anyway, I had this friend, who read the books and became a fan. So the two of us had the following conversation (well, maybe not exactly the same one):

Me: I loved Perlia (Percy and Thalia) and I want to see them as a couple. I'm so angry with the resolution of The Titan's Curse.

My friend: But they can't be! They are both alpha personalities, so it's impossible for them to be in a stable relationship.

Me (I still stand by it): Screw that! Sure they can! And it would be much more interesting than not-so-opposite personality types, too!

Now, before I move on, let me say that I have not in fact seen for myself two alpha personalities together in real life, but this is not a blog about romance and dating advice - it's a blog about fiction and exploration of concepts.

With that in mind, let's move on. I strongly believe that two alpha personalities can in fact be together. It will be a little harder than an Alpha/beta dynamic and the two parties will need to make more compromises that they won't be very happy with (but that's the point of compromise anyway, isn't it? Someone once said 'A compromise is a solution neither party is satisfied with.') And the two people would need to really fight for the relationship. Yes, there will be more fighting than what some people may consider 'normal', but I believe that every couple is different and everyone should have their own way to solve their problems and make their relationship work.

Some great alpha couples (in fiction) that seem to work:

1. Gabrielle and Carlos from 'Desperate Housewives'

(Yes, I saw all eight seasons of that show. I don't flaunt it, now let's move on.) There was something very romantic about the way that no matter how much they fought and what challenges they faced (and they didn't face very few challenges),  they would always find a way back to each other. Their love was strong and passionate and they made it work!

2. Jordan Sullivan and Dr. Perry Cox  from 'Scrubs'

These two fought constantly, pretended they hate each other, insulted each other, but at the end of the day their dynamic just worked. At one point, Carla decided that they were not a good couple, but then she saw she was really judgemental and arbitrary and that Dr. Cox and Jordan actually pulled each other through the hard times. Yes, their relationship may have seemed unstable to an outsider, but in reality were just perfect for each other.

Secondly, people are complicated and there are many different ways to describe a relationship dynamics. Some that I have heard (again, not always a 100% true or applicable, but usually one partner would more this or that than the other)
1. The settler and the reacher (One person settles for the other; the other reaches over their league.)
2. The sweetheart and the hardass
3. The practical one and the dreamer
4. The safe one and the adventurist
5. The rebel and the one who follows the rules
6. Extrovert and Introvert etc.

Now, this was just as an example, it doesn't mean that all relationships should fall into any of those categories, whether in fiction or in Real Life. But why do you even need to put labels on everything - alphas, betas, sometimes things just are what they are and that's enough.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sellouts and Fads (Writers' Edition)

Think about the two most popular Young Adult series (books, mostly) in the past few years. Can you name them?
That's right: the answers is Twilight and The Hunger Games.

Now, think about what genre are the other popular YA books from the past few years:
Once again, that's right, it's usually supernatural romance (or urban fantasy heavy on the romance) or dystopias.

Why? Well, because of the simple rule of business demand & supply.

After Twilight and The Hunger Games became popular (because they were new - sort of -  and the people were excited about them) there was a demand for similar literature and the publishing industries supplied.

But you know - that's their job.

As a writer, however, you are not obliged to supply anyone's demand for anything.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that writers shouldn't be telling stories about broken societies or human girls falling for inhuman boys, possibly with some adventure going on the side. I am just saying: before you write the next Twilight or the next Hunger Games, or even the next 50 Shades of Grey or the next Next, ask yourself this simple question: Are you writing because it's a story you want to tell (and most likely will be sell, because there's demand for it right now), or are you doing just because there's demand for it right now?

I was reading an essay in the book 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey (kindle editions available on Amazon), which coincidentally talks about the most popular book in the adult romance genre that started another fad (kinky e-rom). An essay (or a few) in this book basically advocates selling out and doing what's 'in' right now. Yeah, writers, don't keep your integrity, sell out, be like everyone else, because there's money into it!

Through the years I have wanted to write:
1. A better Twilight
2. The next Hunger Games
3. Something similiar to 50 shades, but better
4. Something similar to Heroes

And whenever I try to start writing I have a huge creative seat-back. These days I sat down and thought to myself that I don't actually want to write something that is in so  similar to something else. Not on purpose, anyway. I want to be original. And yes, while some day I may get around to writing an YA dystopia, it won't be because it's a story I want to tell. And here are some other stories I want to tell:

1. A New Adult exploration of the relationships of  six young people (3 couples - straight, lesbian and gay) and the people in their lives
2. A haunting, ghotic-style feminist vampire story with dark themes, where the main character isn't necessarily 'nice' or 'good' or even likable, but is still redeemable.

Will they become the next big thing? I don't know, probably not, even though I like to dream they will. But you know what, once I am done and I see them published, no matter how much money they make, I will feel proud because I will have told the stories I wanted to tell and I will have kept my integrity as a writer and person.

Now, if you want to be a sellout I can't stop you - there are some definite perks to it - financial security and whatnot - but just remember this: those books I've mentioned and many books before (and after) that have also started fads, started those fads because they were original. Because the writers wanted to tell their own stories and just so it happens the public really wanted to hear that story. And then they wanted to hear it again, but a little bit differently. And again and again and... well, you get the point.

I think that at the end of the day, if you feel good about yourself, then you've won.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Spousal Rape and Stockholm syndrome in Game of Thrones (Khal Drogo and Khaleesi) short

Spousal rape is a relatively new concept.

In the timeline (despite being of fantastical one) occupied by Game of Thrones it does not exist. Being married equals sex included and arrange marriages are a common practice. There is also the cultural viewpoint we must take to see the issues from all sides. For instance, in our Western culture an arrange is a dystopian nightmare, but for other cultures it is entirely different thing).

This is not in any way to say I condemn spousal rape in any context and I did not like Khal Drogo at first. However, Daenerys takes control of her marriage, life and sexuality and Khal Drogo becomes a lot more gentle with her.

Stockholm syndrome is also not applicable in that context.  Daenerys isn't anyone's slave or prisoner, in fact she becomes quite more authoritative and commanding. Not only with him (as they become equals), but with the entire tribe and even her brother, who she feared. She becomes a queen, or rather - a Khaleesi.

In fact, she was a lot more nervous and submissive at the beginning of a season, whereas by the end she is an entirely different person.

In conclusion: This is not the story of a someone coming down with a battered-wife syndrome, due to abuse and spousal rape. It is a semi-feminist tale (though with murky origins) about a young girl getting a hold of her own body, life and birthright.