Dear JJ Abrams: Star Wars Was a “Girls Thing,” Too. Ya Twit.

In an interview on Good Morning, America, JJ Abrams, director of the newest Star Wars installment, said, “Star Wars was always a boys thing and a movie that dads took their sons to.” He went on to spew, “and though that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers take their daughters to as well.”

Mr. Abrams, if you really think that it “was always a boys thing,” you’re a total fucking maroon. You’ve never talked to a female Star Wars fan, or any woman, really. And that’s pathetic. Because if you had, you’d realize that Star Wars wasn’t a “boys thing” or a “girls thing” — it was everybody’s thing.

If you knew me, you’d have probably already read my essay, “Dogma, Darth Vader and My Sexual Awakening,” which describes how much I loved Darth Vader growing up. But I wasn’t just a Darth Vader fan. I was a fan of all things Star Wars from the first movie onward. (I admit my enthusiasm waned with the barfy prequels.) My little sister Danielle, too, loved the films. However, she was five years younger, and no film captures a toddler’s imagination the same way it does a precocious pre-tween. Still, we both begged our parents to see the first movie. My father resisted. “For Christ’s sake!” he’d say. “Lines are around the block!” We’d just moved to Simi Valley, which was not in Los Angeles proper. Still, the film was as insanely popular there as anywhere else. Danielle and I begged him to take us until he relented.

The whole family went and stood in those long lines because it was an everybody film. And everyone in my family loved it. That’s why it’s a classic, JJ. I hate to break it to you, but if everybody didn’t love Star Wars, it wouldn’t have been the phenomenon that it was. So please stop congratulating your Y chromosome for something it couldn’t have done on its own.

Me? I was obsessed. My parents bought Danielle and I light sabers for the following Christmas, as well as the board game. (I still have that light saber. The handle broke years later, so I replaced it with a yellow flashlight.) One of my good friends in sixth grade, Julie Byram, gave me the original Star Wars poster because I was slightly more obsessed than she was. (I’m pissed because my ex-husband absconded with it. IT’S MINE, DAMMIT.) Every girl and boy I knew loved that movie. I loved the film more, in fact, than any of my male friends. And I had plenty, as I was the only girl in my junior high school who played Dungeons & Dragons.

When I was in high school, I joined the Official Star Wars Fan Club with the help of Mom. (Mom, not Dad.) I thought I’d absolutely die of suspense waiting for the second film as I read rumors about the plot and saw photos of my heroes in the snows of Hoth. I had Star Wars dreams. I bought — but couldn’t bear to use — Star Wars notebooks, which sat in a drawer untouched with my beloved comic books. I drew pictures of Darth Vader and other characters. I wrote Star Wars stories in my head. I counted down the days until The Empire Strikes Back opened. I even recorded the cheesy radio series off of NPR, The New Hope. Talk about a geek!

And as I watched the film with my family, I blissed out. The sequel was possibly the best movie I’d ever seen. When you’re sixteen, that’s not a great feat, I admit. But it remained the best movie I’d ever seen until maybe… I don’t know. Amadeus? Blade Runner? Apocalypse Now? Silence of the Lambs? Last time I checked, those were “everybody” movies, too. (Well, maybe for grownups.)

Star Wars Fan Club Memorabilia

Remnants of a Girl’s Childhood

The revelation that Darth Vader (Dark Father) was Luke’s dad remains to this day one of the greatest movie revelations of all time. If you’ve ever read my story, “The King of Shadows,” you’d see how deeply I identified with the themes in Star Wars — specifically The Empire Strikes Back. I’m sure I’m not the only child who did, either, male or female.

I spent weekends at my friend Linda’s house. Whenever her parents stepped out, Linda and I listened to their copy of the Star Wars soundtrack. Thankfully she stayed my friend even though I asked her to replay the Imperial Death Star Theme about a thousand times.

In all the films, Princess Leia was a powerful role model. She saves Luke, Han and Chewie when they’re supposed to be rescuing her. She leads the Rebel Alliance. She saves Han again. She…fucking…ROCKS. I could not have asked for a stronger female role model. Yes, I loved my “bad boy” Darth Vader. But Leia was The Ass-Kicking Princess and Senator of Alderaan. And I loved her, too. Why? Because I saw myself in her.

Look, JJ. I don’t know what possessed you to yammer on like such an ignorant twit to Good Morning, America. One might well ask what planet are you from. Because even on Hoth they know Star Wars was beloved by both boys and girls, and that dads never, ever had a monopoly on the franchise as a bonding experience with their sons. At best, you were probably trying to make the movie sound like it has wide appeal. Instead, your comments came off ridiculous and condescending. “Oh, see? This used to be for men. But now we’re doing something for the ladies, too.”

Seriously, dude? Go fuck yourself. I have a plastic lightsaber you can use. Glad I hung onto it.


Forgetting “A Fish Called Wanda”

Last night, I re-watched A Fish Called Wanda with my boyfriend, who’d seen it dozens of times and had even memorized the script. I’d seen it when it came out with my then-boyfriend (who would later become my ex-husband).

The thing is, I didn’t remember a single thing about it. In fact, whenever someone would mention the film, I’d feel an aching, nauseated hole in my memory. Not just a dislike, but a visceral unpleasantness. And I had no idea why.

Netflix said I’d give A Fish Called Wanda almost 5 stars. I mean, like, all the stars except the tiny corner of the last star. Holy sure thing, Batman! I’ve rated enough Netflix movies over the years that it’s pretty accurate. All those red stars combined with my beloved’s enthusiasm for the film made me decide to re-watch it.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s brilliant — the twisting plot, the fantastic acting, the characters, all with Kevin Kline huffing a patent leather boot. But as I watched the movie, I realized exactly how I’d not only forgotten the film, but why I shoved it off into Vague Hateville.

I was an Evangelical Christian when I saw it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think Jesus approved of crime comedy. He seemed pretty okay with my infatuation with Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther movies, as well as my love for Get Smart and The Naked Gun. (If I had known about my future friend Alan Spencer’s Sledge Hammer, I’d have been totally smitten with that, too.)

No. It was because I was terrified of Jamie Lee Curtis’s incredible sexual power. Wielded by her sharp intelligence, her body was deadlier than any gun — or steamroller — brandished in the film. Between the extramarital affair and the multiple backstabbing affairs, I was terrified of her seductive powers. Not only were her actions “sinful,” she was unstoppable. And appealing…

Was Michael Palin fantastic as the stuttering, animal-loving bank robber? Yes. Was John Cleese completely endearing as the domestically challenged barrister? Yes. Was Kevin Kline hilarious every time he tried to “apologize”? Fuck yes. But all I had remembered was the vaguely sick, horrified feeling I’d had when I’d realized how powerful sex was: the “bad” thing I’d been fighting my whole life, whether it was the painful fallout of my father’s affairs or my own, more innocent quirks.

And Jamie Lee Curtis just proved it was all true. Sex outside of a proper Christian marriage was, without a doubt, bad bad bad.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of films since I was “unsaved” in 1996. Like The Piano. Oh, god. When I’d first seen the film, I’d watched with satisfaction as Flora tattled on her ho mama, which led to the axe scene with George. I’d been so uncomfortable with the infidelity, I could barely stand watching the film. But as soon as I was “unsaved,” I watched the film again on a whim and OH MY GOD! I LOVED IT! I loved every moment, every detail, every gorgeous shot, Michael Nyman’s haunting music…just everything. And I cried during the axe scene. Oh, god! No! Ada! Poor Ada! I felt sorry for George, too, but not when he turned into the axe-wielding asshole.

Afterward, I thought, “Christ. Do I have to re-watch every goddamned movie I’ve ever disliked before now?”

I stuck to comedies mostly, like The Life of Brian. I could barely tolerate it before, but now I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED IT with blasphemy sauce on top! I probably appreciated it more than most people.

Cinema opened up to me. Books. Music. I stood awash in the glorious downpour of human experience with new-found compassion for human frailty. It wasn’t that I suddenly had no moral guidelines. Far from it! I had strong feelings of right and wrong, but for once no one was dictating them to me and I could appreciate nuances of circumstance. I no longer obsessively checked everything I took in against some soupy salvation list that’s ingredients changed depending on the perspective of the pastor I consulted. And the maddening, deafening inner din of “Is this of the world? Or of Christ? Is this godly? Would Jesus approve?” had finally fucking stopped. That peace that Christians talk about? The one that “surpasses understanding”? Once Jesus had cleared the room, it arrived at last. I met art quietly by myself — just me with my intellect, my tastes, my sense of humor. I could still reject a story because of its violence against women, racism, or what have you, but my inner compass interfered far less with my ability to enjoy a story for what it was.

Best of all, I could tell my own stories without worrying about what Jesus or anyone else thought. I started writing and never stopped…

To be honest, I still don’t like Wanda. (I’m not sure we’re supposed to, anyway.) And I am certainly not thrilled with the message that the right man with enough money can tame a woman and make her behave, either. Still, I really enjoyed A Fish Called Wanda.

I give it four stars.

Shriekfest Film Festival This Weekend!

I’ll be at the film festival this weekend enjoying tons of dark features and short films.

I’ll also be biting my nails, since MRS. WINCHESTER is a Finalist in the Feature Screenplay competition. Winners will be announced  at the awards show Sunday night.

If you see me and Trog, say hi, whydoncha!

Meanwhile, my potentially incendiary topic for the WyrdCon Companion Book — Eulogies During an Accouchement: Transition, evolution and growth in LARP — has been accepted for the non-academic portion and I’m madly writing the paper. Fortunately, the book’s topic extends to interactive storytelling and transmedia, which is where my topic lives. As I’ve been writing, the subject feels like a TEDTalk, which is a good thing, I think.

The paper is due November 30th. I’ll post the title and abstract as soon as I’m able.

Yummy Things Minus One

Things that have made my weekend yummy:

1. Shiro Restaurant. I took The Frenchman here for his birthday and it was amazing. Easily the best fish in Los Angeles. While The Frenchman enjoyed a grilled snapper with a light tomato basil sauce, my dish was by far the tastier: black cod on pureed Japanese eggplant soaked in a sake sauce and dusted with parsley. Our appetizers were mini masterpieces, as well: quail salad for me with sesame and a buttery lemon sauce, while The Frenchman had a plate of smoked scallops each crowned with caviar or salmon roe. And the service? I’ve always thought Maison Akira had the best, but for some reason I simply liked everyone better here. Maybe it was because it seemed to be run by elegant, hip matriarchs. I can’t say exactly what it was but I loved the friendly, convivial people.

2. Iron Man. This film was mega fun if otherwise stuffed with stereotypes, product placements and a weirdly young-looking Gwyneth Paltrow (I swear she looks 22 years old in this thing). I also hated the “I’m a rich genius and the perfect woman for me is my 24/7 secretary/mother/butler.” Somehow I don’t think this would fly if it were a female superhero. Yet I let it slide in the name of comic book fun, of which there was scads and scads.

3. Rosemary’s Baby. Your jaws are going to drop on this one, but I’d never seen this film until yesterday. Swear! It’s yet another movie I somehow missed because of my many uber-Christian years. I howled with laughter at parts (particularly the black crib with the upside-down cross), shook my fist at Polanski for complicating the lives of Wiccans for the foreseeable future, and got caught up in Rosemary’s paranoia. The movie sucked me in big time. His portrayal of Rosemary’s personal life was highly problematic, though. She had a huge Catholic family and scads of female friends who would have been all in her shit FAR before all the mayhem began. He should have made her more isolated with a scattered family. I also had a problem with the sudden flip her husband makes from doting husband to evil, ambitious jackass. Maybe it was something in the cigarettes he was smoking with the old evil dude. Still, I loved it. Hail Satan!

Okay, what’s making my weekend NOT yummy are these weird foot cramps like what I used to get when I was dancing the cancan at Middlebury. I’m getting these sudden, unexpected spasms on the toppish outer edge part of my foot (not near the toes but rather somewhere on the flat part just under and north of the knobby part of my ankle). This is making me quite cranky as I hadn’t even been walking much before they started. Damn this mortal coil!

A Veritable Post-pourri of Movie Madness

I’m here at work, recovering from a filling this morning. My mouth is still quite numb and I’m trying not to dribble espresso all over my clothes and keyboard. I’m thinking lunch will be liquid. All in all, though, it wasn’t that bad and certainly not nearly the nightmare that has been suffering. So all is good.

La Haine
The Frenchman is back now from Princeton where he was travelling on business. While he was gone, I finally watched a movie that he’s lectured on extensively and about which he’s written many papers: La Haine, also known as Hate, which was distributed by Jodie Foster’s production company here in the U.S.

It was, to put it mildly, explosive. Filmed in black and white, the story tracks three young men — Arab, Black and Jewish — who live in the suburbs of Paris in 1995 where the riots would eventually break out. The movie is positively prophetic (or inspiring, as the case may be), as it was released in February of 1995 and the civil unrest that would rock the nation breaks out the following November. With liberal dashes of humor and poignancy, the story follows the lives of these unemployed young men through 24 hours of poverty, racism and brutality as one of them comes across a gun lost by a cop during a riot that kills a friend of theirs.

I get why The Frenchman is so passionate about this film. It should have shaken awake France to its hate. It did — a little. Not enough to prevent the death and destruction of the ensuing unrest. It’s shameful that this same director went on to make Gothika and now what looks like an awful science fiction thriller with Vin Diesel. I think aliens (aka Hollywood) have abducted his brain and put it in a jar somewhere so that he can no longer make world-shaking films.

Death in Charge
I also went to AFI to see a screening of my friend Devi’s latest short film that she made during her directorship program. The very funny dark short is called “Death in Charge.” Apparently after Death kills the babysitter on her way to her next job, Death heads to the house itself to take out the Mom. But when the Mom mistakes Death for the babysitter, much silliness ensues involving violent video games, macaroni and cheese, and a toy army tank.

It rocked seeing Devi (we’ve been friends for over a dozen years) and her Indiana Jones husband, Dr. Fuentes, as well as meeting Devi’s folks. Dr. Fuentes and I lamented the number of popular science books and waxed admiringly of PZ Meyers et al. While he’s written a few books now, he’s working on a book that’s more accessible to the average reader.

Okay, back to work!