San Diego Comic Con Recap: Day 1


by Nicole Keating

San Diego Comic Con has officially begun!

First things first, I LOVE SDCC. I know people complain about lines and commercialism and the dilution of True Nerd Culture, but OMG THIS IS LIKE SECOND CHRISTMAS! It’s basically a four-day non-stop nerd party, and we started the fun almost as soon as we got offa the plane.


Last night was Preview Night, which I didn’t have tickets for, but it’s really only important if you want first dibs on exclusives. Instead, I picke up my badge offsite (in a place called Fashion Valley, so I’m 99% sure Barbie lives there), picked up some groceries so I don’t have to eat gross con food the whole weekend, and enjoyed a relaxing evening at the hotel pool before heading out to one of my fave San Diego restaurants, Gaslamp Strip Club: A Steak Place, for martinis and grill-your-own steak. (Seriously, go there if you’re ever in San Diego. It’s delish and the walls a decked with Vargas girls. Highly recommend.)


Today is when the con activities truly started. This is my fourth SDCC, but the first year that I haven’t wanted to attend any Thursday panels. In years past, Thursday panels have included Psych, Agents of SHIELD, an X-Files reunion panel, a Q&A with Joss Whedon, and Legend of Korra. See? Unmissable!

This year, even Hall H panels* were just…meh.

Instead, I got to sleep in–which here at Standing-in-Line Con 2014 means 7am–and spend the day on the exhibit hall floor. SHOPPING!

First things first. A large portion of attendees come for the entertainment guests. It’s what makes this particular convention so popular. Purists will lament about that, but it means the comic sellers aren’t super crowded. More for me! Plus any comic store who sends reps to SDCC has insane sales, like 50-60% off trades, so there will always be more comics than you will ever have time to read. Today I picked up Alan Moore’s Promethea, Harley Quinn in Welcome to Metropolis, Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by the author of the original pre-cartoon comics, The Sandman presents The Furies, and Girl Genius.


I also stopped by a booth for a comedy writing collective called The Devastator and picked up two small books that made me laugh: Dungeons & Douchebags and Satanic Baby-Sitters Cult.


I don’t think I’ll have any trouble staying entertained while waiting in line the next few days.

Of course, I did pick up some con exclusives. A plush Rocket Racoon from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and a Harley Quinn purse.


Okay, enough materialism. While I love to shop around this big nerdy mall, it’s 100% possible to go to SDCC and not spend a dime on entertainment outside of your con badge. Any large distributor or company or publisher brandishes the big guns. Studios like Weta, companies like Hasbro and Sideshow Collectibles, and publishers like Marvel, DC, and Image set up elaborate and beautiful displays for attendees to enjoy, whether buying stuff or not! Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite sights of the day. Enjoy!

The other amazing thing about the con floor is the cosplayers! Thursday is not the most popular cosplay day, but I still saw my fair share of awesome/hilarious/adorable/beautiful/inspiring cosplays. Even as I type this, in my direct line of sight I see Wayne and Garth, Piper and Alex from Orange is the New Black, Maleficent, the Evil Queen from Snow White, and a steampunk fairy princess Captain America. For Sunday’s recap I’ll be wandering the floor with my camera at the ready specifically to take pictures of all the fabulous cosplayers!

More impotantly, stay tuned for tomorrow’s recap, when I’ll tell you all about the hilarious Adult Swim panels (happening in my hotel #lazy), and Saturday’s, when I’ll be braving the Hall H lines just for you. Well, no, actually it’s for me. And for a screening of the new Gotham show. And for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And for Stephen Amell.


You know, Mr. Green Arrow, Black Canary is my signature cosplay ;)


Until tomorrow, live nerdy and prosper!

*Hall H is the largest room in the convention center, holding about 6,000 people, so the really popular panels are held there.

Webseries Spotlight – Space Happens



Our latest webseries profile is an upcoming project of a TLF regular, guest writer Nicole Keating! We are really excited to see her show, Space Happens.

(Ed: this is an e-mail recreation of a really awesome – but sadly lost – conversation between Keidra and Nicole about the show, Orange is The New Black, feminism, and other stuff.)

Describe Space Happens in a sentence or two for TLF readers.
“A Gynocentric Space Comedy of Mostly Epic Proportions.” Space Happens tells the story of Joy Jones, an earnest-yet-clumsy stoner chick who knows she’s born to do Something Extraordinary and who has no idea that makes her sound like an asshole. When she steals a seemingly mundane and kinda shitty government ship, she ends up among our fave sci-fi tropes — aliens, androids, plots to destroy the universe … She is in way over her head.

Tell me a little about where the idea came from, what stories or TV shows inspire your scripts?
This premise for the show has been percolating in my brain since 2007.  Late last year, I was lucky enough to join forces with my co-producers Deborah Craft, Melissa Fox, and Alyson Grauer, who were all as excited by the idea of a nerdy comedy featuring an all-female crew. Everyone was also incredibly jazzed by the webseries format. The Chicago film and acting communities recently fell in love with web-based entertainment. Everyone wants to broadcast their work online! Among all of these shows, Space Happens is one-of-a-kind: highbrow and lowbrow, sci fi and comedy, visual and verbal. On top of all that, we’re dedicated to showcasing talented women on and behind the camera.

We’ve been inspired by all the usual suspects – Firefly, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica–as well as more conceptual inspirations for our structure and humor — Edgar Wright, Archer, and Broad City come up quite often.

Who’s on the writing staff? How do you work together to develop the scripts?
We have a team of seven writers: myself, Deborah and Melissa, Justin Lieber, Laura Nash, Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Nathan Thompson.

Since January, we’ve been meeting 1-4 times per month for a formal “writers room.” We explore style, develop the world, outline episodes, and write dialogue collaboratively. We also write when we’re not together — dividing up episodes to be written, then reading and discussing them when we’re together.

Since January, we’ve gone through many drafts and many changes, with multiple people getting a pass at each episode. We also keep a shared Google Doc as a reservoir for jokes, dialogue, shots, et cetera that we’ve cut over the months. At this point, each episode is written with a combo of all of our voices, and our last couple months’ of work will be smoothing those into one collective voice.

Is there a specific character that you especially enjoy writing for?

Ummm, all of them? All of the characters have a really unique way of speaking, so they’re all really challenging. And because I’m a horrible masochist, challenging = fun.

How long is your initial season? How many scripts have you written already?

For the first season, we have 10 episodes. (It’s actually 11, because as TV is wont to do, the finale is an epic two-part finale. The title of the episode is actually ‘Epic Two-Part Finale.’) At this point in the process, we have at least one draft of every episode. We’re researching, revamping, and revising throughout the rest of the summer to create a master shooting script as well as a show bible.

It’s notable that you explicitly refer to Space Happens as “a slash fic between feminism and science fiction” (I love that the ship is named the HMS Janeway!)  How do you think mainstream sci-fi TV/Film is doing these days when it comes to female characters and feminist perspectives?

TV/film as a whole is pretty dismal when it comes to us ladies’ perspectives. The gender gap in Hollywood is insane; read Jezebel for like a day, and I’m sure you’ll see at least one article lamenting the prejudice against hiring women. Producers, directors, writers, and actresses all have a hard time getting hired and staying employed. Of course, entertainment is difficult for men, too, but there is no prejudice based on their gender. When a woman pitches her script, the response from production companies is overwhelmingly and notoriously “yes, but it’s about women.”

Science fiction is particularly rough on women. My Space Happens character is loosely based on Black Widow, who even in the capable hands of Joss Whedon couldn’t escape a close up on her ass. More recently, look at the reaction to Thor’s next incarnation being a gal:

And that’s the kindest of the social media interactions I’ve seen.

I don’t even wanna talk about how Wonder Woman keeps getting pushed to the back burner in favor of male heroes.

Okay, maybe Wonder Woman is just waiting for me to become famous so I can direct it.

Space Happens is looking more towards smaller-studio produced shows like Orange Is the New Black. Obviously we’ll be drawing our humor from very different places, but OITNB places a similar emphasis on showcasing the female experience as well as incorporating women behind the camera as producers, writers, and showrunnerrs (my dream job).

Space Happens is a Chicago based show with a lot of local comedy and theatre talent, in what ways do you see a Chicago influence  (as opposed to Hollywood) possibly weaving its way into the tone and writing of the show?

Chicago is a town that focuses on process and craft. There’s a perfectionist tendency inherent in all artists–I want my piece to be the absolute best that it can be before I show it to audiences — but instead of pushing for a perfect product, Chicago practitioners push for an intense process. I see this in our writers room already. We start with questions and work collaboratively to develop the answers. Our Space Happens team also places a lot of emphasis on intelligence. Regardless of whether the comedy is highbrow or lowbrow or unibrow–which is how my high school English teacher described my sense of humor–we want the show to come from an informed place.

Chicago is also a hub of exciting theatrical productions, which rely on visual storytelling and sophisticated direction in addition to high-level acting. This is the school of thought that I was born and bred in: framing is part of the storytelling. On top of this, we layer wit, visual jokes, slapstick, and plenty of references.

What are your plans for distribution for Space Happens?
We’ll primarily broadcast on YouTube and our own website, with plans to release the entire series on DVD once the show is complete. We’ve also struck up a partnership with another Kickstarter-funded Chicago nerd project, Geek Bar, who will be able to show our episodes on their screens alongside other popular webseries.

Like Space Happens on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @SpaceHappens

We’re Part of the (Global) Game: U.S., Twitter, and the World Cup 2014


As we reach the end of the World Cup, I figured it would be a good time to look back at the social media impact of the games, as I did four years ago.

Certainly, in the world of social media, a lot changes in four years. In 2010, Twitter was pre-IPO, pre-advertising and still largely seen as a platform for news professionals and social media douchebags to network and communicate with each other, rather than a real-time news and information platform. Since that time, Twitter’s demographic has gotten significantly younger and brands/media organizations have gained more awareness of Twitter’s culturally diverse audiences.

Notice that I didn’t say that Twitter became more diverse; as I have said several times in the past few years, Twitter diverse audiences have existed under the radar for years, only now since the outing of “black Twitter” have we started to see an acknowledgement from the media and ad agencies that the audiences here are not solely comprised of white male tech/marketing types or mom bloggers in the U.S..

But I digress. We’ve only had two proper experiences with the World Cup and social media communications platforms. While 2010 offered a taste of what was to come (Twitter was long ahead of the game on appealing to its global fanbase, with its flag hashtags.) this time around we saw the full impact of real time social media communications, we saw more Tweet volume around the World Cup and a lot more brand bandwagon jumping from companies, sometimes with face-palm inspiring results.

Yeah Delta, I’m talking about you. The U.S. Ghana game saw the first example of the folly of social media news-jacking, when Delta decided to use a giraffe as Ghana’s avatar (as opposed to the U.S.’s Lady Liberty) even though there are no actual giraffes in Ghana. Delta quickly apologized but by then it was too little, too late.


On the other hand, with the impressive showing of the U.S. this year, we certainly did not see a repeat of 2010′s borderline xenophobic response to World Cup Twitter activity from the U.S. In fact, U.S. fans (and brands) were pretty quick to showboat, as the team moved forward into the Round of 16. (This time I’m talking to you, Waffle House, and your “ban belgian waffles” tweet.)


After goalkeeper Tim Howard’s historic performance against Belgium led to one of the most memorable memes of the year, #thingstimhowardcouldsave. (Man, has it been a great year for clever memes!)


Then, on the other end of the spectrum, Brazil’s crushing 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals, led to some pretty lolsob worthy memes of their own and a record breaking volume of Twitter activity.


Twitter comes out a clear winner at the end of this championship, however. They built from the momentum of 2010 by continuing the flag hashtags but also creating a Twitter guide to the games (players, official accounts, news orgs, etc.) and an enhanced experience for following game hashtags. As a company, Twitter has stepped up their efforts in their bid to become a source for real time news and information, and at least for me it worked. I learned about Muntari and Boateng’s ejection from Ghana and was updated about Neymar’s injury from Twitter first. With this impressive showing could we see Twitter emerge as a legitimate real time breaking information source for non-sports news in the near future? Possibly. Even so, it’s been interesting to see how far cross-cultural conversation has come in such a short time. Who knows what awaits for 2018!

SOPOCU Con: Singing the praises of a successful, Mississippi-based convention


by K. Hopson

My home state just had its first real convention, guys.

SOPOCU Con, which stands for Southern Popular Culture Convention, was on June 21 in Jackson, Miss.

Yes, I am aware Mississippi is late and infamous for underachievement. Precisely why this is a big step for us! I’m beyond pleased and proud. I don’t care how small it was! *waves I <3 Mississippi flag*

dalekNo, but seriously, there was a good turnout for this little indie con! Very good, especially considering the organizers only had five months to put it all together. John Hanks and Jay Branch said they got about 1,800 through the doors for the one-day event by pounding the pavement and using old-school marketing tactics. It worked though, because they exceeded their 1,000 goal. applause If you want that Maserati, you better work, bish.

There wasn’t much in the way of programming, and the guests weren’t exactly what you would call an all-star lineup, but I think they made up for it with enthusiasm and informativeness. And there were a lot of cute things on sale.

As you know, that’s enough to keep me occupied for a couple of hours. I caught the panels for Q&A sessions with Mary Kate Smith and Kelsey Syers, from TBS’ King of the Nerds, and Theodus Crane (aka Big Tiny), from The Walking Dead. His panel was so endearing. The audience was kind of shy, so he ended up turning the questions on them instead of the other way around. Just adorable.



It was really cool to know that Smith is a real-live rocket scientist, and so down-to-earth and funny! I’m late on that, but I have a valid excuse since I no longer have cable. Syers also revealed that she speaks like…four languages fluently. Actually, the panel just before theirs was a lecture from Dr. Angelle Tanner about extrasolar planets in science fiction universes (and, I think, their hypothetical locations in the solar system? I only caught the end of it.) It’s always good to see chicks doing cool, smart-people shit. Now that I think about it, there was a good bit of racial and gender diversity at this con. Here’s what organizer John Hanks had to say:

“I told Jay [Branch] that I was putting the show on for selfish reasons. I basically wanted a show where I could show my daughter a bunch of cool things that come from Mississippi and the South. It was cool for me to have a female rocket scientist, female artists, and a great diversity in the vendors and artists for her to see.”

Heart-warming, right? Btw, Hanks owns a company called Southernerds, which aims to combat stereotypes about us all being unexposed, cousin-marriage-supporting hicks. (Bought one of their shirts.)

Dude also burst my bubble and revealed that this was actually not the first Mississippi con.bumblebee

“It’s actually not the first Mississippi based convention, but a lot of people keep saying that. There has been the aforementioned MS Pulp Con, Mississippi Anime Invasion, and CoastCon has done like 40 conventions,” he said. “There are cons upcoming like Anime Invasion, Geekonomicon, and Hub Con. However, I will take the compliment. It means we are doing something right and our face to face, old school marketing plan is working.”

Wow, how did I not know all this?! Going to play that off now…

Hanks said they were very happy with the attendance numbers and hope to branch out next year:

“We hope to do it all over again next year and possibly expand into two days, while also leaving room to grow in the future. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and ruin the great thing we think we are building. In the future, we want to have more programming, more vendors, more options and things for people to do throughout the day. Just try and make what we did even better.”

And because I had a good time, I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with for next year’s event. This will be on my to-watch list. (GO MISSISSIPPI, WOO!)

You Died. Again: A Review of Dark Souls by Someone Who Didn’t Play It


by Kristin Bezio

To be fair, I did watch someone play most of the game. Many of those moments repeatedly. And if I wasn’t in the room, the plaintive “Nooooo” that would echo from the living area told me that I’d be able to see whatever it was in another ten minutes. And probably again another twenty after that. And another twenty after that.

You get the idea.

Dark Souls, and its successors, have developed the reputation of being the most frustrating game in existence. In fact, when Dark Souls 2 was announced, it was being touted by gaming journalism sites as the game in which you could “die a million times.” I always laughed at those, thinking, “okay, the game must be hard, but it can’t be that hard.”

Yes, yes it can.

The person in our house who played it is a professional game developer with years of playing and testing and designing under his belt (hint: it’s not me). This is not a game for the faint of heart or the slow of trigger finger.

He told me a few days in that he had intended to play slowly and carefully, and just not die. He gave up on that idea in less than an hour.

Among the reasons why Dark Souls is a brutal, soul-crushing experience are the following:

–Everything respawns when you die, meaning that if you’ve only just finished clearing out an area, and die to the last thing in it… yup. You get to redo the whole thing all over again!

–You lose all the souls and humanity you’re carrying when you die, which is rough. Now, you can go retrieve them from a little glowing green ball located wherever you died, but if you die on the way to it, you lose it all forever.

–So the solution is not to die, right? Well, yes and no. You see, in addition to respawning when you die, everything also respawns when you save. (Your save points and your respawn points are the same – campfires.) So when you finish that horrible garden level with the spikey trees and giant mushroom men and save… they all come back. There are some boss monsters that don’t respawn (thank god that dragon-tooth-maw-thing only dies once), but most of the common enemies will be right where you left them. Yay!

–All this wouldn’t be so bad if the enemies weren’t so difficult to deal with. The husband points out that while
individually they aren’t so bad, when three or four or six of them swarm you, it doesn’t really matter how easy one of them is to kill.

I learned about those things within the first few hours of the husband’s playthrough, and that was more than enough to convince me that attempting to play Dark Souls would turn me into a murderous harpy, and not in a good way. That said, the husband really does love the game. It lets him do a lot of exploring and resource management (it’s like Skyrim in principle, if not really like it in execution), upgrading of equipment, and tactical combat. It seems to be – as the observer – to be fairly slow-paced (not in a bad way), but that might simply be a product of the husband’s playstyle.

That said, all of the aforementioned reasons why I won’t be playing Dark Souls provide a challenge that many players have very obviously found intriguing, entertaining, and fun. More power to them.

There are some really interesting mechanics that appear in Dark Souls that don’t usually factor into most single-player games, because they’re really multiplayer components incorporated into singleplayer:

–Players can write messages to each other across the game ether. This is actually kinda cool. The game doesn’t tell you at first that these messages are (or might be) from other actual people. But as you travel through the world, players start to warn each other about hidden enemies, loot they can pick up, and strategic tips on how to kill that giant dragon on the cliff (ranged attack, the note says). These hints can be erased and up or downvoted, too, so that people are encouraged to be useful or at least funny.

–Players can ghost into each other’s games, so that from time to time you will encounter a ghost that does nothing to you (the ones that hurt you aren’t other players), but usually has some really cool gear. It’s a reminder that you aren’t alone in the horror that is the Dark Souls experience.

–If they choose, players can even pay to enter other players’ games and attack them, although this costs resources and is only available if both players have “agreed” to let it happen by choosing to become “human” (players are undead by default, and can lose their humanity by dying).

There are advantages – and disadvantages – to playing with “humanity,” and it is a resource that can be gained and lost throughout the game. In addition to being subject to attacks from other players, playing with “humanity” enables the player to summon aid – that of other players and that of AI placed strategically around the world. The inclusion of “humanity” in this capacity is not only mechanically interesting (and exciting), but produces interesting commentary on the developers’ view of human beings. Possession of “humanity,” that thing that is unique to human beings, enables us to be both our best (helpful) and worst (hostile) selves; only by embracing the polar opposites contained within the mechanic can we be considered human. Without “humanity,” players in Dark Souls must walk the game’s path alone – they will not be able to summon allies to help them – but they will also not place themselves at risk from attack by other players. The best and the worst of being human.

One of the other components that the husband likes and that I don’t is the fact that there is functionally no plot, no complex narrative. The game has more of a premise than a plot, really, and a lot of it is shrouded in mystery. Mystery can be a good thing. I loved it in Braid – the game didn’t tell us what was going on, it let us figure it out as we went. I just like some narrative to make me care about my player-character, and Dark Souls doesn’t really have that.

Partway through the game, the husband became convinced that Dark Souls was in some way aping the premise of Shadows of the Colossus: that his player-character is in fact evil and is killing off guardians in his desperate attempt to once again become human. The fact that the player-character begins as undead and is collecting “humanity” may have had something to do with this idea.

Interestingly, most of the monsters one battles appear to be giant versions of animals – really badass animals. cat2There are giant plague rats that poison you, giant three-eyed frog things that curse you, and a HUGE wolf that wields a sword with its mouth. There are also big grey Cheshire-cat-things (at least one of which who speaks to you) that look disturbingly like my cat, Grimm.

But the creepy resemblance of a fantasy videogame creature to my pet aside, the game feels as a whole very much like a version of Through the Looking Glass, at least to the outside viewer. Perhaps it’s because the similarity of the things in the game to things outside the game – but with a twist. Trees will slowly walk to the side to reveal hidden entrances, but otherwise appear like normal trees, the creatures that are big but otherwise just a little bit off… and the fact that the other speaking characters in the game seem like a little bit (or more than a little bit) mad…

Despite this, the game has a good deal of logic that is often absent from games. In one castle, there is the requisite corridor down which a large boulder rolls, squishing the player who gets in the way. But unlike in most games (and Indiana Jones movies), Dark Souls follows the boulders through – it later shows the player not only the mechanism by which the boulders are thrown down the corridor, but even has a giant pulling them from a large pile and dropping them down a chute into the mechanism. In other words, in Dark Souls everything has an origin, an explanation, a mad logic of its own.

One of the other distinctive parts of Dark Souls is the game’s refusal to supply a player with a standard experience; in most games, the majority of players will see the same things; acquire the same loot, weapons, and armor; fight the same enemies; and follow the same pathways. In Dark Souls this is not the case. Certainly there are many common things across different playthroughs, but there are also certain scenes and loot that only appear under specific circumstances. There are others that randomly appear for different players: the Mask of the Mother/Father/Child, for instance, will be one of the three, chosen at random for the player when a three-headed enemy is defeated. In some rare circumstances, a player may be able to acquire the other masks later (if they have accomplished certain tasks when the monster is defeated), but most players will only ever see one. This is a way for the developers to gain replayability (players will want to play again), but it also virtually guarantees a unique personal experience – and generates discussion between players, thus creating a sense of community.

In terms of the game’s narrative… well, there just isn’t much. Even the ending is ambiguous – have you just [spoilers] destroyed the world? Saved it? Replaced the guardian of the fires? Destroyed yourself? It’s not terribly clear. It isn’t even clear whether you – as the player-character – are good or evil, which I actually find rather intriguing. But the Alice in Wonderland-esque sense lasts even to the end of the game, leaving you as the player rather confused about which worlds were “real,” which undead, and whether any of them really mattered at all. It causes the player to be confused, certainly, but also provides an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the choices made throughout the game – it’s uncertain which actions are good, which bad, which neutral, and whether any of them ultimately made a difference. In short, it seems to be a game about the oddity and, ultimately, futility of life.

[Major spoilers] In fact, once the credits roll, the player ends up back where they started – in the Undead Asylum. This time, though, with all the armor and weapons and upgrades they earned in the first playthrough. Perhaps a commentary on reincarnation, or the idea that we have to keep reliving our lives – day by day – until we get “it” right, whatever “right” is. Is this a hopeful message or a depressing one? That all depends on perspective, I suppose.

In the end, the husband and I disagree about this game because although I do concede that it is carefully, deliberately, and diligently crafted, I have absolutely no interest in playing it. It doesn’t appeal to the things I look for in a game – narrative complexity, gameplay that is challenging without being frustrating or punishing – even though it does do several things I do find appealing – gameplay woven into the (sparse) narrative rather than being tangential, rich world-development, logical structure of gameplay and player-character choices. It appears to be a good game, just not one I want to play.

The husband, however, has become what one might call obsessed. The detail of thought that went into the mechanics and gameplay is enough for him – he’s a gameplay junkie who doesn’t really care much for narrative at all. And for what he likes, Dark Souls appears to be the be-all-and-end-all. It’s crafted, not just built, and has a level of detail that one generally only finds in a master creator. The logic of the puzzles, the smoothness of gameplay, the “easter eggs” that are not shoved forcefully in the player’s face but built seamlessly into the rest of the game… These things are balanced against one another and the game’s difficulty such that a player like the husband who lives for gameplay will always be on the edge of failure, always so close that replaying a level is an addictive pleasure rather than (as it would be for me) a chore.

In short, this is a game for those who love gameplay for its own sake, who have no desire to be instructed in where to go or why, and who are uninterested in complex narrative or character development as the core part of their gameplay fantasies – players whose fantasies are about challenge and skill progression. Ludics over narrative. And for those players, Dark Souls is an amazing jewel of a game. Even those of us who aren’t those kind of players can appreciate and respect what Dark Souls is doing – but if you aren’t keen on riding that knife-edge of failure, if you like the story of your game to direct your actions, if character development is part of your fantasy, then this isn’t the game for you. It’s a great game, but it isn’t for everyone.

Update on Rain: X-Men Fan Film Project

from Rain Facebook Page

by Keidra Chaney

from Rain Facebook Page

from Rain Facebook Page

A couple of months ago, TLF wrote about a fan-film project focused on Storm from the X-Men, Rain. We decided to catch up with Maya Glick, the creator/star of the film.

TLF: Can you give us an update on production? Have you started shooting yet?

There have been months and months and months of pre-production.  So much goes on to prepare for something like this, I had no idea.I guess when people think about making a film, you pretty much just imagine rehearsing your lines a couple times and then filming.  Sounds pretty simple.  

Yeah… no.
 There’s location scouting,  costuming,  building the crew,collecting resources, script revisions and on and on… and in our case all of this has taken so much longer because we really don’t have the kind of money that we should to pull off the kind of production we have in mind.   So we’ve had to be creative to figure out how to get things done at all on such a tight budget… which is what ultimately led us to this second Kickstarter campaign.  The little bit of filming we have done so far has been test filming, and you can see a bit of it in the video on the Kickstarter page.  Legit filming should take place in August.

At this point we’re waiting to see if the fundraiser is successful or not to know how much of it we actually CAN film.   

In the meantime,  things are getting done.  I recently heard some of the music that was made for us by my good friend in Harlem, New York, Luqman Brown.  He’s amazing and the music he’s coming up with for the story is f**ing epic.  Also, we just had our official auditions last weekend so we’ll finally have a full cast very soon.  And some time this week I’m supposed to start rehearsing fight choreography.  All the pieces are starting to come together, we just need to make sure we have the budget to pull it off.

TLF: Any challenges or changes in the script or the production since you started the project?

The script has definitely developed and evolved over the past several months,  but the heart of the story remains the same.  I’m lucky to be working with brilliant co-directors Zane Rutledge and Jeff Stolhand who also happen to be writing partners,  and they have been working with me to help tighten up the story and tweak things here and there to improve pacing.  I was terrified originally at the idea of someone else making changes to something I created,  it’s very personal and scary… but Zane and Jeff are pros and the loved the story as it was, so their adjustments didn’t change anything, they only smoothed things out.  

As far as challenges, again I have to point back to budget… or lack of it. Most of the people who have seen my script say it should be about a $50,000 production… and after the first Kickstarter we had about $8900. So we’re trying one more time to add to that pile so we don’t have to cut it down to nothing or lose any of the story.  It’s going to be really awesome when it’s done, I’ve had glimpses of that already… but it turns out that awesome is expensive!

TLF: How can people see the film when it’s finished?

People who want digital downloads or DVD’s can get them by contributing to the fundraiser … otherwise it’s not the kind of thing that will be distributed. It will just be available to view for free on Vimeo or YouTube.
 So folks who think it’s worth it to pay for a film like this are welcome to help out now!

TLF: What scene or element of the film are you most excited to share with people who have been following/supporting the project for awhile?

Maya: Hard to say… it’s all so dear to my heart. [It] sounds corny but this story really is my baby.  I love it dearly.  The whole story and the passion behind it come directly out of my very raw heart, so I am just anxious out of my brain to get the whole thing out there and shared with the world. It will be a fun and cool thing, yeah, but I also think it will have a positive impact in one way or another, if only because it fills a giant empty space where a lot of people have never had the chance to see themselves represented.

I’m having the opportunity to share my voice in an arena where people like me don’t really get a voice. There are no other fierce women of color in badass superhero or action roles. But it’s much more than badass action. It’s not all “Yeah I kick ass and everything is awesome!”There is an intense amount of pain and darkness and struggle represented in the film as well.I think the whole thing is going to surprise people in a lot of great ways.  I am already a fan of my own fan film… I cannot WAIT to share it, but even more I can’t f**ing wait to SEE it!

Standing on the Shoulder of Giants: My Project as An Affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Santa Clara County 118 US 396

by Raizel Liebler

I am so pleased to announce my upcoming status as an Affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Starting in the fall, I start planning the creation of an infrastructure that both documents legal related sources of the past and prevents lost sources of the future. Considering the ambitious scope of this project, partnering with the great minds at the Berkman Center, will help me to think out and implement this project. Of course, I will continue my employment duties and my responsibilities as the co-founder/co-editrix of The Learned Fangirl.

A surprisingly large number of documents cited as legal authority cannot be accessed without great effort, and too often, they cannot be accessed at all.  These practically unavailable sources include long out-of-print treatises (or individual pages from looseleafs),[1] historical documents, documents obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests, and even internet links – which die easily.

My article, Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation on the rate of link rot and the importance of retention of citations in Supreme Court cases published in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology was the first article that completed a detailed analysis of link rot within the Supreme Court. Adam Liptak cited me and my article in his New York Times article about Supreme Court link rot. The Yale published study helped to contribute to the additional research at Berkman by Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert, and Larry Lessig that is the basis for the project, run by Harvard Law Library’s Library Innovation Lab, which is collecting internet links from cites in law journal articles and expanding outward to citations in court cases.

Santa Clara County 118 US 396The potential scope of my project is quite vast and therefore I will be working with the Berkman Center community, engaging in the conversations that can help to make this project as useful as possible. Berkman’s mission states that it is “premised on the observation that what we seek to learn is not already recorded.” This project turns that thought back around on itself because here the materials are already recorded, but not in a way that can be fully observed. Working with Berkman will allow for learning from the hidden recorded information that is contained in opinions.

One of the critiques for this type of work will be that there is no need to add in this type of service to the public – after all, courts and their clerks verify the sources beforehand. But we as the public also serve a role to answer Juvenal’s question of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” by double-checking and retaining the sources that create our law, considering what we think is solid within the law frequently isn’t. In addition to the shifting language in Supreme Court opinions, as shown by Richard Lazarus’s forthcoming Harvard Law Review article showing opinion revisions that include “truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning”, we also have at least one example in United States Supreme Court history of inaccurate information creating precedent. In the 1886 case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, dicta not included within the opinion forms the basis for the doctrine that corporations are entitled to protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.[2]

Wouldn’t it be better for us all to be able promote accountability in our judicial system by making these cited sources available to all? And if the sources were linked directly to where they are cited in cases? What if all of us could work together to make the sources of Supreme Court cases available?

I look forward to this great opportunity, and please let me know if you have any suggestions for what you would find the most useful in this database/platform!

[1] My co-author and I wanted to see the first version of a specific treatise, McCarthy on Rights of Publicity and Privacy, for our article, Games are Not Coffee Mugs: Games and the Right of Publicity, 29 Santa Clara High Tech. L.J. 1 (2012), that relied on how McCarthy removed a section of the treatise recently. No problem, right? Even the Library of Congress didn’t have the oldest version – and after several rounds of interlibrary loans, we needed to rely on the earliest version of that section we could find – from 1993, despite the treatise first being published in 1987. We couldn’t make the strongest argument we could because the source wasn’t available.

[2] Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, 396 (1886). While reporting the decision, the official Court Reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis, included a commentary not within the actual text of the decision: “One of the points made and discussed at length in the brief of counsel for defendants in error was that ‘Corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.’ Before argument Mr. Chief Justice Waite said: The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of opinion that it does.”

Webseries Spotlight – Cowl Girl


by Keidra Chaney


Any show that bills itself as a “TV Show for fangirls and pop culture junkie”s is sure to get our attention here at TLF, and that’s what the webseries-in-progress Cowl Girl did a couple of weeks ago. The producers of Cowl Girl describe the show as “a quirky, comic inspired sitcom that revolves around one fangirl’s mission to complete her classic Star Trek villain display and overcome her agoraphobia in order to attend San Diego Comic Con …” and that’s pretty much all they had to say to get me excited. I chatted with cast members Yunuen Pardo and Carlo Lorenzo Garcia about the show, their Indiegogo campaign, and representation in fandom.

How did you (Carlo and Yun) join the cast?

We participated in a national reading series called 30/30 and when we read Cowl Girl by Anna Capunay, we really fell in love with the character of Cowl Girl and wanted to expand upon the story in an episodic format and asked Anna to help make it with us. Anna really supported the idea and now we are in full force pre-production mode on the pilot episode! We’ve joined the cast as actors/producers.

Cowl Girl is is based on a stage play. Were you in the original play? Are there any major differences between the play’s focus/story and the show?

When we did the 30/30 reading, Yunuen played the title character of Cowl Girl and Carlo directed the reading. In the play, we only see 3 of the characters in the story, Cowl Girl, her buddy Jason, and Alex. With an episodic format, we are able to see more of the characters in her world, and add some additional people to help move the story along. There are some exciting new characters in the TV pilot that are not in the play and that’s the most fun part for us is building out Cowl Girl’s world and enriching the story in that way.

As a geek girl of color, I am excited to see your focus on bringing Latino characters on the screen in a non-stereotypical way. (And of course, I love the focus on fangirls). I’d love to see a show with this kind of diversity on network or cable TV, but can’t see that happening any time soon. Do you think online TV (Amazon/Netflix) is a better venue for TV producers/writers to launch new/diverse ideas these days?

Things are starting to change but slowly, we are going to push the pilot to as many different distribution channels as possible, because it is a unique experience that many can relate to. Being a show that sees the geek-o-sphere from the female perspective is very important, we’ve met so many fan girls along the way so far, that only encourages us more to produce this show. There is definitely a lot of freedom and flexibility in the online streaming world, and we would welcome the idea of becoming a Hulu or Netflix original series because this show would flourish in that format.

On a semi-related note, Awkward Black Girl creator Issa Rae once said that her show was inspired by “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld”. Do you have a similar TV show inspiration?

We are inspired by a lot of different TV shows and movies, I like to think of Cowl Girl as a mix of The Big Bang Theory meets New Girl meets Kick Ass. I adore the character of Hit Girl in Kick Ass and would love to bring that type of energy to Cowl Girl.

What can TLF readers do to help spread the word among their networks in the next couple of weeks of your fundraising campaign? Are there other ways for people to contribute? (joining the crew, marketing, etc.)

We have 10 days left on the IndieGoGo campaign, sharing the link would be awesome, if you can make a contribution, even more awesome. We are also looking for in-kind donations, so if you have any action figures or memorabilia that you want to donate for set dressing or if you have a restaurant that would like to cater the food for a day on-set to feed the actors/crew that would be amazing, if you want to submit for a crew position, drop us a line at We could use as many hands as possible, so if you have a special skill you’d like to contribute let us know. Thanks!

Digital Decorating: Sarkeesian’s “Women as Background Decoration: Part 1”


by Kristin Bezio

Having moved beyond damsels in distress, Anita Sarkeesian’s new sequence of videos in the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series focuses on the theme of “Women as Background Decoration.”

The video begins with Computer Space (1971), the first commercial computer game ever made. Sarkeesian points to its original ad as an early example of the use of sexy women to sell games – the proto-booth-babe, if you will. And given how very transparent her dress actually is, that’s really the point here. There is no suggestion that she’s there to play the game at all.

And this is just the first of a list Sarkeesian shows us that track through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in which “women predominantly exist as passive objects of heterosexual male desire.” She also notes that this is an attempt to sell a particular “gamer lifestyle” that is both sexy and defined as intrinsically heterosexual and male.

What she doesn’t say (although she does imply it) is that this ad campaign (and the ensuing trend) may in fact be singlehandedly responsible for starting the trajectory on which we find ourselves today, fighting for equal representation and the de-objectification of women as fetish and fantasy objects.

Her point here is good – valid, thoughtful, and supported by a lot of social science research into the motivations and power of visual advertising. But it’s about advertising, not games, and I’m therefore not completely certain why she includes it in a series that’s ostensibly about games. Don’t get me wrong, I think the industry needs to very carefully examine the way it advertises its games both in terms of demographic bias and content, but that seems like a different (although connected) creature with relation to the content of the games themselves.

In all honesty, I’d love to see a book or series that talks only about gaming advertising, but that’s not really what Sarkeesian set out to do in her proposed series. It also points to the not-infrequent disparity between what a publisher and ad agency suggest about the games and the actual games themselves – and to conflate the ads with the games has the problematic potential to do a significant disservice to the games.

Yes, most of the video is actually about games – not ads – but to equate the two at all immediately derails the conversation, and certainly opens up Sarkeesian to more attacks from people who will do anything they can to undermine her criticism.

The trope itself – “Women as Background Decoration” – is defined as follows:
The subset of largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavoring into game worlds. These sexually objectified female bodies are designed to function as environmental texture while titillating presumed straight male players.

In large part, this appears in the gratuitous cinematics that emphasize female boobs, butts, and legs, and are predominantly (but not always) NPCs (non-player characters). They are often completely unnecessary, and provide absolutely no narrative or ludic purpose. Sarkeesian terms them non-playable sex objects (NPSOs), a fair enough term for the slew of harlots, dancers, and prostitutes that seem to populate many videogame worlds, whether contemporary, fantastic, or futuristic in tone.

These women are sex objects in the games – they do nothing else, serve very little other purpose other than as sex objects. Yet even while I recognize the problem here, I also feel as though Sarkeesian isn’t acknowledging that some (certainly not all, and probably not even many) use these images as cultural criticism, showing women as sexual subjects in order to criticize the common practice thereof. For instance, the prostitution that appears in Irrational’s BioShock (2007) is vilified rather than tolerated. The presence of sleaze in many games is designed to emphasize the criminality of such behavior, as in games like the Fallout series, the Saint’s Row series, or Dishonored (2012).

So – as has been my primary concern throughout the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series – although the identification of the trope itself is certainly worthwhile, and there are many, many, many cases in which these NPSOs serve no purpose beyond titillation, there are many cases in which there is an additional purpose to their presence. There are also games – usually those that are already critical – which include men in an NPSO capacity (although not nearly as many and usually not in the same numbers).

The extension of NPSOs from set dressing to playable components of the games – as in GTA, among many others – in which players can deliberately watch sexual dances (something of which even Mass Effect is guilty, despite its otherwise progressive egalitarianism), pay for sex (especially at brothels), fondle female characters, and seduce NPSOs (rather than romanced NPCs, as in some RPG titles). This is an instance in which I cannot criticize Sarkeesian’s point – since as far as I can tell, in 95% of instances, these actions are completely unnecessary and bear not even a tangential relationship to the purpose of the game.

This becomes worse when the NPSOs are not only potential sexual toys, but toys to be beaten or broken. Sarkeesian’s section on Violability, in particular, highlights the rampant violence against NPSOs that is often encouraged in some games. She does gloss over those games – like Dishonored – in which violence can be perpetrated against any NPC, not just the NPSOs (and Dishonored in fact enables players to not kill anyone, including the women).

The biggest issue I have, however, comes when Sarkeesian suggests that violence against women is “encouraged” – which I don’t buy. When the game does encourage violence against NPSOs, she’s right, but simply because a player is able to do something, does not in fact mean that the game is actively encouraging it. To come back to Dishonored, the fact that the player has the choice of whether to kill or not kill anyone in the game (NPCs and NPSOs), including the primary targets, does not in fact mean that players are encouraged to kill them. In Dishonored, players are encouraged to play in more than one way (and play the game more than once). Instead, players are meant to experience both lethal and non-lethal playthroughs with the intent, I would argue, of demonstrating the overall moral high ground of not killing people (NPSOs, who are innocent of wrongdoing in the game, included).

Miguel Sicart’s The Ethics of Computer Games makes a point regarding this which suggests that the eliminating of choices in fact makes a game less ethical; no choice requires no active engagement with moral conundrums and can therefore produce no moral growth. In essence, refusing to allow players the ability to choose not to assault NPCs (NPSO or not) functionally eliminates thought about the morality of doing so. In order to force a player to consider the morality of violence or disposability, the player needs to be able to make the choice to assault or not assault and NPC, with the consequences – even if just “feeling bad” – enable moral consideration.

So while I think that Sarkeesian should recognize the need for choice, her last point – that media has significant and, in this case, negative impacts on us – emphasizes the need for careful consideration about the ways in which we include these choices and depictions. NPSOs are harmful to both men and women, to our understanding of acceptable behaviors, and to our expectations of one another. They foster the misperception that men should be dominant and that women should be passive and concerned first and foremost with men’s pleasure. They create a false image of inequality that perpetuates and is perpetuated by other forms of media and rape culture.

Yes, I agree that the NPSO is a dangerous and often exploitative feature of many games. Even though I’m a huge Mass Effect fan, I hate the Asari stripper clubs that are ubiquitous to the series. I also understand that BioWare has done a lot to complicate the sexualized image associated therewith, but they still bother me. The attitude in GTA bothers me a lot more. But as much as I would like to see games without NPSOs, I also recognize that the images and attitudes they represent are a part of our culture, and that we can include them in critical rather than lazy, misogynistic ways. Instead of focusing exclusively on the negative, I’d like to see some examples in which games use NPSOs constructively, ways in which we can overcome exploitation and inequality in games, rather than the typical laundry-list of “this is bad.”

All that said, though, I think that Sarkeesian’s series is maturing, whether because she’s been spending more time on the project and playing games, or because she’s responding to the thoughtful criticism of her series that’s out there. This episode suggests that there are exceptions – that games that are otherwise positive can include NPSOs, that there are male NPSOs as well as female ones – and is careful to explain the negative implications of objectification in both theoretical and social terms.

It makes me hopeful that Sarkeesian’s series will continue to get smarter and more nuanced as she goes along.

Three Thoughts on Twitter, Activism, and Emotional Exhaustion



KDC: I have avoided the topic of hashtag activism on TLF for a long time for … reasons. Make no mistake, I am very much supportive of the intent and the action behind #yesallwomen, #notyourasiansidekick #blackpoweryellowperil, #fasttailedgirls, and the “grandmother” of them all #solidarityisforwhitewomen. By the time #yesallwomen came about, I will admit to a level of outrage fatigue. And honestly, it’s not even really outrage fatigue, but more of the fatigue of being a woman of color and fighting the multiple battles of racism and sexism everyday, in small ways, both offline and off, and just wanting a goddamn break from it all for a little bit when I go online, and not have to be reminded that every day is a snowball of tiny stupid battles to prove I am a human being.

I get tired of having to think about walking into a meeting room and immediately having to justify my existence because I’m assumed to be the substandard minority hire. Or the fact that even talking about this publicly online, in my line of work, may be costing me MORE work because no one wants to hire a “troublemaker”. Or the fact that I was harassed by grown men when I was as young as eight years old which means I have DECADES of sexual harassment on my psyche. Or when I get into to fights with well-meaning so-called allies that seem to want a special pat on the back for doing what they SHOULD be doing, treating women and people of color and gays and lesbians and trans people and disabled people as human beings. I do get weary about talking about it because people ASK ME ABOUT THIS SHIT EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY. For decades. My black lady feels are so valuable. Supposedly.

But that’s the thing, I guess. There is no break from this. This is life. Long after the race and gender think pieces on Salon and Daily Dot stop bringing in the pageviews, I’m still gonna be a black woman dealing with this shit everyday. We will all still be here, fighting this fight. At work, at home, on the street, online. Like our mothers, and grandmothers. Like our daughters, and granddaughters.

But let me be perfectly clear: the hashtag movements that have emerged from this aren’t some curious internet trend like fucking LOLcats, it’s people’s lives and voices – women’s lives and voices – being amplified on a platform where they just might get listened to. At least for a moment. I am happy for that. So happy and so grateful. This is what social media can do at its best. But I am also so tired, because I see the long view in this. I know that once the topic of our valuable oppressed person’s tears aren’t raking in the pageviews for these online publishers, we won’t be asked back to talk about anything else. (And let’s not ignore the fact that it took #yesallwomen to get the internet masses to consider so-called hashtag activism as something more than “divisive,” “bullying” women of color complaining online.)

Hashtag activism is a tool, a process, not an outcome, and many of those who engage in this dialogue, i believe, are quite aware of that fact. Mostly because many of those who engage in it are already fighting the daily fight against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. everyday offline. There’s no respite from it, really, and no need to justify what we share of our lives on Twitter or anywhere else online.

I avoided writing about this, not because I don’t care, but because I care too damn much, and I am too damn tired. I fear that even writing this will somehow be used against me, once again reduced to my black lady feels, defined by my black lady pain, so some anonymous dudes online can have something to bitch about for a few seconds.

I won’t be speaking of this topic again here.

KB: I’m obviously not coming at these hashtags from quite the same place as everyone else, since I only have to contend with one of the disadvantages associated therewith (the female part), but the #yesallwomen movement in particular has made me simultaneously proud, depressed, and annoyed. Certainly, there’s the backlash – #notallmen – which makes me irate, but there’s also #allmenshoud, which is problematic in its own right, although less so. I think I’m less impacted by many of the others – #notyourasiansidekick, #blackpoweryellowperil, #fasttailedgirls, and #solidarityisforwhitewomen – not only because I’m a white woman (because that is part of it), but because in the circles I follow, there have been so many MORE #yesallwomen tweets and posts and what have yous.

This does, I think, a couple of things. First, it points out why we have the other hashtag movements to begin with. I’ve read several #yesallwomen posts by WOC, and they are telling similar stories to those written by white women. This particular hashtag movement is meant to be all-encompassing, representative of just over half the planet who are being told that they are inherently lesser for not having a penis between their legs.

But the stories of WOC are similar. Similar. Not the same. It’s important to recognize the similarities, but it is also important for white women particularly to recognize the differences. Our harassment is coded in terms of gender, but ONLY in terms of gender. We experience degradation and objectification, but not also categorization based on racial and ethnic stereotypes. To be a woman is already to be second class, but to be a white woman is to be second, rather than third, fourth, fifth, etc.

White women especially – and with #yesallwomen – like to talk about (straight) white male privilege. We don’t often admit that we, too, are speaking, writing, and tweeting from a position of relative privilege and that there are plenty of women (more than there are white women, certainly, on a global scale) who experience oppression on multiple levels. And this creates a problem for a lot of white women that we all need to get the hell over (my students especially, sometimes): we don’t know how to be seen as both privileged and oppressed, both victim and victimizers. So we create this weird sense of paternalistic solidarity that I often struggle to find my way around – I know I have life pretty damn good and that my woes about being called “little lady” in the American South are pretty much nothing in comparison to what a lot of women, and woc in particular, experience on a daily basis.

But I also really fucking hate being called “little lady.” (And a whole host of other things, many of which can be distilled into the fact that it is socially acceptable, even polite, to call a woman “little lady.”) I want to embrace the feminist outrage, to participate in the yelling and flag-waving. But sometimes I have to remind myself that there’s a lot more yelling and flag-waving that needs to happen for things that have no impact on me – and that those things are just as if not more important than the things I’m already yelling about.

Which brings me back to #yesallwomen. Justifiable anger feels good, and people like to jump on board the bullet train of moral outrage. And when that train happens to consist of nice, first-world things like blog posts and tweets, it’s very easy to jump on the train. It’s not so easy to get off when the train arrives at its inevitable destination.

Now I think – like Keidra – that ultimately the hashtag movements are doing a lot of good. I think there are a lot of people out there who learned that they “aren’t alone,” or that the way they were thinking about the world was harmful to others (and want to reform), or realize just how pervasive and insidious things like rape culture, racism and racial profiling, trans- and homophobia, and general misogyny really are. I think that if tweets and blog posts can bring even one or two people to the realization that something needs to change, then they are all worth it.

But if we really mean what we’re tweeting, then it can’t just end at the glow of a computer screen with a satisfied nod of vindication. We can’t just say “me, too” and leave it at that, somehow knowing that we’ve created a sisterhood of suffering. I’m not patient Griselda and I have no interest in waiting nicely for a nice prince to come and remove me from my Tower of Misogyny so that I can teach my daughter (no, I don’t have one) to emulate my Steadfastness and Purity. (Sorry about the small medieval rant there.)

We need to embody the intent behind these tags, to take them out of the realm of the virtual and into the realm of the physical and immediate. I try to show my students where and how these things appear in their lives every day in ads, in movies, in tv, and in the classroom when their teachers tell the women to not wear short skirts and tight tops because it might distract the male students. It appears when they dismiss me as being “feminine” or as not being as hard on them as their male professors (which they quickly realize was in error when they get their first papers back). I try to live the idea that I do not have to be constrained by gender normative behavior, perhaps to excess, since my husband has been known to complain that I would rather break my leg jumping off something than accept his help (I might, too).

But Keidra is right, too, that this is exhausting. It’s exhausting being hit on every time I go to the grocery store after dark. It’s exhausting having to work harder to prove that I’m good at my job (although my department is highly supportive, so it’s mostly at conferences and in publications). It’s also exhausting being pigeonholed as “doing gender,” rather than as someone who engages in cultural criticism. Someone the other day expressed surprise that I didn’t write about gender in Shakespeare, because I “do gender stuff.” Yes, I do. But I also do other things, like sociopolitical contextual criticism of political theory in early modern history plays.

Mostly, though, I think it’s exhausting because while people might be tweeting, they aren’t doing. The men who write #notallmen are defensive, but they aren’t stopping the sexism on the street – they’re congratulating themselves on not BEING overtly sexist. And for those who are standing up against misogyny and racism and homophobia… they don’t need a hashtag.

Maybe part of why I’m writing this is because I still do. Because I’m getting sick of having to live it, and for once I just want to let someone else do the work. Because I’m already so tired from being a white woman that I can’t imagine doing twice or three times the work. The hashtag is easy. It’s also better than nothing. So if you can’t do anything else – because you physically or mentally cannot or simply because you choose not – then hashtag it up. But if you can – and I say this to myself, as well – then get off your ass and make it so that the hashtags stop being necessary.

RL: I’m not really “on” Twitter, so I don’t have the same “watching it happen”-ness of the two of you seeing hashtag activism happen live. I did read some of the responses to all of these hashtags, but they made me so … tired.

After #fasttailedgirls and a certain xojane piece that was eerie in how much it reflected my own similar experiences — just switch out the ID pic — I wanted to write something about how everyone (teens) knew about the actions of a CERTAIN FAMOUS PERSON at the time, but how no one would have been believed. He was walked in the door by an authority figure, so what power did any kid have? And even with that, there was an overwhelming response from the white irony crowd of blase incredulity. We all know about once a straight white educated man starts talking about something it matters — though even here, when someone did years ago, it was ignored too. So why didn’t I say something right then when the hashtag took off? Because those that were listened to the least regarding this issue — black women and girls — were speaking up and it was my role to listen to them.

So the issue for me with hashtag activism is about who is speaking and who is listening. I think it can be very, very powerful for those who have never spoken up and want to add their voices to the chorus of “yes, this really happened and happens and here is my story”. But the point of these hashtags isn’t just that — it is also to have others without these experiences listen, and often, listening is not a skill sharpened by years of use by those who are listening. And so there are the backlash tweets, the “you are just too sensitive” tweets, the “this is your story, but there is no overall evidence of a society that supports racism or sexism or both” tweets.

So those that participate open themselves up to being attacked for sharing their lived experiences, and while that can be brave, why does this continually need to be brave? People who share their lives with these hashtags are already living their lives, and now when they share, they are questioned — and told by others “this is just you, not a trend, not something that happens to a group as a whole.” And stepping up to talk yet being smooshed down by others, happens all the time for so many, so does hactkivism help, or continue existing patterns?

I’m not sure if hacktivism can actually cause change to happen. I still think 140 characters allows those that want to deny others lived experiences, those that want to ask for “evidence” to easily stay within their bubbles and not open their eyes. Oddly enough, from the other side, I think it will cause people staring back at privilege to call it out more — hopefully away from Twitter — regardless of whether it is polite or angry.

But I hope that for those who consider themselves to be allies, to not continue to be on a cookie quest. One doesn’t need to be a to see when people in that group are discriminated against, but one does need to open their eyes to it — and have the strength to step up and call that !@#$ out.

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