Yes, Years Are Arbitrary and People Will Die in 2017

That doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk about it. We get it, we do. The calendar arbitrarily changing to 2017 isn’t magically making everyone immortal. That doesn’t mean that 2016 hasn’t been a horrible year for many of us when it comes to celebrity deaths. Many icons died this year, and on top of that the year has a whole has been pretty crappy for many people.

When it comes to celebrity deaths people don’t mourn because they actually knew the person, they mourn because those people helped them know themselves. Carrie Fisher was a hero to many a woman with mental illness and addiction and a sign that it can get better for you. David Bowie and Prince were heroes to men who don’t fit the typical view of masculinity. Alan Rickman was a prominent member of a franchise that has literally spawned activist movements and according to studies actually makes its readers better human beings.

That’s also not to mention the other ways this year has been exceptionally crappy. Fascism is on the rise at home and abroad with Nazis literally becoming a prominent political force in the U.S. and other right wing populist factions gaining followers abroad. Looking at you France, Brexit. And with that increase in fascism comes the real fear that traditionally oppressed minorities will have their lot in life made even worse than it is at the moment. One only has to look at certain political platforms to realize why people are afraid.

So yeah, when people are mourning celebrities and saying “F*** 2016” they’re not thinking that when we arbitrarily decide that this is definitely a new year and a distinct unit of time that’s real instead of just a method for our human minds to be able to compartmentalize and not shut down at the idea of the immensity of time that no one will die, what they’re saying is that “This period of the Earth orbiting the sun has sucked because of these reasons and that’s why I’m sad.” They don’t need your sanctimonious “I’m sure no one will die in 2017.” or “Time is arbitrary and so 2016 isn’t what’s killing people.”

Because yeah, we know.

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Art Is Not, Has Never Been, nor Should It be, Apolitical

When Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the musical “Hamilton” on Broadway, he was addressed from the stage by the current actor portraying Aaron Burr with a message from the cast, crew, and producers. Essentially he said that the cast were representative of the diverse America that hoped Pence and the administration he was representing would protect all citizens of America. Pretty innocuous, if you’re not a conservative who thinks that diversity and equality means oppression.

The reaction from the Conservasphere was fast, predictable, and oh so wrong. They denounced the cast for their actions and for making the performance “political” like art should not be political, and isn’t inherently political. Here’s a tip, art has always been political. From the earliest attempts at art on cave walls art has been political. Hieroglyphics? Political. Greek Statues? Political. Roman Architecture? Most definitely political.

This idea that art has ever been apolitical is just wrong, and the belief that comes with it that art should not be political is dangerous. Believing that there’s nothing political in art leads to complacency, and an inability to look at art critically. Every piece of art, be it movies, music, sculpture, painting, embroidery, theater, television, books, newspapers, comics, everything, is political. There is always a message behind a piece of art, some of them aren’t as open about their message as others, not everyone is “Hamilton”, but all of them have a message. Even those that say that they “have no message” have a message. The fact that they are professing to not have a message is a message unto itself. Terry Pratchett was specifically talking about Fantasy writers and their dependence on Tolkien, but his point is extremely relevant. “J.R.R. Tolkien has become a sort of mountain, appearing in all subsequent fantasy in the way that Mt. Fuji appears so often in Japanese prints. Sometimes it’s big and up close. Sometimes it’s a shape on the horizon. Sometimes it’s not there at all, which means that the artist either has made a deliberate decision against the mountain, which is interesting in itself, or is in fact standing on Mt. Fuji.” The idea that your art is apolitical is itself a political statement.

And for that matter, art shouldn’t be apolitical. Art has the unique ability to change culture, and influence people. If you aren’t making a statement with your art you have no story. Themes are political by nature, and if you don’t have a theme in you art you have no plot.

Art is political, realize that, and stop being disingenuous about what it is.

Evangelical Christianity Needs to Take a Good Look at Itself

Honestly, the way that many of my friends and fellow Christians have been conducting themselves in the past few months honestly makes my skin crawl. Between the support of the absolutely deplorable politics of Trump, or the reaction to Jen Hatmaker saying “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t tell LGBT+ people that they’re not inherently going to hell based on who they are, and maybe we’re mistaken about homosexual relationships.” you’d think that the message of Christ was “Take advantage of everyone you can, enrich yourself at the expense of the poorest among you, degrade those that are unlike you, and don’t love your neighbor.” Which, maybe I’m missing some lessons from my youth, but I don’t remember that being taught in the kids department. Granted, that would probably be a better message for many people that claim the mantel of “Evangelical Christianity”, but that’s not what Jesus said now is it?

What was it that Jesus actually said? Something like, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Take care of those less fortunate than you.” “Don’t judge others or you will be judged the same.” Personally I feel that last one might be the most pertinent for many of my fellow Christians. Especially those that choose to judge Hillary Clinton by the actions of her husband (who she clearly has completely under her control since she’s a witch, or is it because she’s in league with Satan? I can’t keep up with the inanity these days.) but yet excuse Donald’s many, many, many, many, many, many, many, instances of cheating contractors, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, hatred, and oh yeah, HIS MANY FASCIST TENDENCIES! He has literal Neo-Nazis and the KKK supporting him. If that doesn’t tell you that maybe you shouldn’t be supporting him. I don’t know about you, but if I’m on the same side of the KKK, I would take a good long look at why that may be the case.

And I hear you over there my Christian Libertarians “I’m voting for Gary Johnson! I’m absolved of any of this!” Sit down. The Libertarian Party’s plans are horrible for the least of us. If that phrase sounds familiar it’s because it’s a paraphrase of Matthew 25:39 (ESV) “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” The idea that the Libertarian Party’s platform is better than the current GOP platform is laughable. The only good thing about their platform is that they care about civil rights. Their economic policies and ideas about government are horrible for the country and horrible for people that aren’t rich white guys.

So right now Evangelical Christianity has to come to a conclusion. Do they continue on this path and eventually, in my opinion, lead themselves into irrelevancy and eventual oblivion? Or do they repudiate the Fascist candidate their party nominated and hope that they can try to regain any respect they may have had from the public at large. Because at this point the way that they are going, we’re looking at an increasingly irrelevant church that doesn’t attract new converts.

Orlando Was a Hate Crime

Say it with me “Orlando was a hate crime.” This is the consequence of homophobia being accepted, and coddled in society. There’s a reason the shooter chose to attack a gay nightclub, and it’s because he hated gay people. You know what wasn’t the reason? Islam. According to the shooters family he wasn’t a practicing Muslim, he didn’t pray, he didn’t fast during Ramadan, he wasn’t a practicing Muslim, he was just an angry homophobe who decided to shoot up a gay nightclub.

“But Nick!”I hear you shout convenient strawman “He pledged allegiance to ISIS in a phone call! That means he’s a muslim extremist and this is ISIS’ fault!” No, no it doesn’t. Anyone can say that, hell, I could say I was pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II but that doesn’t mean she’s responsible for whatever stupid crap I pull immediately thereafter. That’s not how this works. We have statements from his family that what precipitated this was that he saw two gay men kissing and he was angry about that.

So yeah, call this what it truly is, a hate crime against LGBT+ people, that was allowed to happen because Americans love their guns more than they care about people being able to live their lives. We can talk about gun control, but the truth is that Sandy Hook proved that Americans don’t care about mass shootings, they just love their guns too much.

And Republican lawmakers? Constantly attacking LGBT+ people and denying them basic human rights means you need to shut up and keep your “thoughts and prayers” to yourself. You do literally nothing to help prevent events like this from happening. Your thoughts and prayers are useless.

To My Republican Friends

You had one job! One job and you really screwed the pooch on it. All we asked was that you didn’t nominate a racist fascist in this election. Simple right?

Nope! Look who’s the the nomination. This idiot.

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Which is just wonderful. As if this election wasn’t enough of an international laughing stock as it is now. What is it about Donald Trump that is appealing as a candidate?

Is it the overt racism that spews forth like a poorly written KKK stream of consciousness novel? The multiple failures as a business man? The low level vocabulary? The inability to make anything resembling coherent policy statements? The bullying on stage? The absolute travesty that he calls a hairstyle? What is it?

You couldn’t select John Kasich or Jeb Bush? Honestly I’d have more respect for the party if that was the direction it went in. Too bad y’all decided to crap the bed. Trump is the second worst choice as your nominee, so congratulations on not selecting Cruz. Which is kinda like congratulating your dog on puking on the laminate flooring rather than the bed. Technically it’s better, but it’s still pretty bad.

So congratulations GOP. You seem to truly deserve this candidate.

Is It Too Late to Accept The South’s Secession?

Honestly, at this point, with the South seemingly competing with itself to figure out “Who’s the bigger asshole?” I propose we reopen negotiations and accept the Confederacy’s secession and just let them go. Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee can go first, so that they can start building up a National Government. Then we can just slowly let the rest of the Southern States join the new government. Georgia seemingly had a good head on its shoulders so we can keep it on a provisional basis, but if and when it goes stupid we can just let them leave as well.

How do laws like the ones recently passed in MS, TN, and NC even make it through a basic “Am I being a dick?” test? Like, seriously. This is absurd. These people claim to be Christians and following the Bible, but what happened to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Is this what you would want to have happen? Be an oppressed minority in a state that hates you? I know you like to get your panties in a wad about persecution  because the person at the store said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, but grow up and and read a newspaper. True persecution of Christians doesn’t happen in America, it never has and at this point probably never will. You know where it’s actually dangerous to be a Christian? The Middle East in Daesh controlled territory. But what do we want to do with people fleeing Daesh? Deny them access to a safe country because they might be dangerous. It’s patently ridiculous.

Laws like these do nothing to actually protect people, and are passed for the sole purpose of oppressing minorities. How much hate do you have to have to want o go out of your way to harm people? Bathroom laws aren’t going to protect anyone, especially since the stated “Men will go in women’s bathrooms to sexually assault them” defense falls flat when you consider the fact that SEXUAL ASSAULT IS RARELY PROSECUTED! It’s not like if people who are transgender are truly going to sexually assault people that the cops are going to do anything about it. All these laws do is increase the risk of physical assault and murder for a vulnerable segment of society. Of course, the best part of this whole endeavor is the fact that more GOP senators have been arrested for misconduct in a bathroom than people who are transgender ever have. Let’s just let that sink in as we proclaim them as predators.

So congratulations the South, keep it up and maybe the rest of us sane people will be over here waving goodbye as you go down in a ball of flames. Don’t write, we’ll just use it for kindling.

A Tale of Two Writers: Or How to Apologize Properly

Two writers, working on the same show, make a mistake. The decision is made to kill off the lesbian love interest of the main character. This in and of itself is not a problem, the world is a post-apocalyptic society where literally a crap ton of characters have died. However, they decide to do it after a love scene, one of the most tired tropes in media.

This is where their paths diverge. One of our writers is Jason Rothenburg, or JRoth, or JRot as he is known depending on how much you like him, and the other is Javier Grillo-Marxuach. Jason, the showrunner of CW’s series The 100, which heinously killed off a lesbian main character in Episode 307, has done an abysmal job of apologizing for the hurt and pain inflicted on the LGBT+ community, whereas Javier, aside from the very beginning of the backlash where he tweeted some things defending himself and the writer of the episode in question, has done an amazing job of taking stock of why the narrative choices were so hurtful, and why LGBT+ viewers are so affected by it and are choosing to no longer watch.

To begin this, we have to have a little bit of understanding of what happened with the marketing of the show. As many people know, LGBT women have a horrible history of actually getting a happy ending in television. Autostraddle actually has an article discussing all 148 LGBT women killed in television history. When that’s your background, you start to get wary of any media that has openly lesbian or bisexual woman, especially in a world like The 100’s. And they voiced that, and this is where it gets hairy. Writers on the show, not just JRot, actively sought out this community to get more viewers and to get those that were trusted in the community to believe that they were going to take care of them, and that they weren’t going to hurt them. One of the writers actually went on a Lesbians Only forum to reassure them, at one point saying “If you can’t trust us by now you need counseling.” So they believed them. This was going to be different. Some people still voiced concerns based on shooting schedules and the fact that Alycia Debnam-Carey, the actress who portrayed Lexa, was a series regular on AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead”. Jason responded to those concerns by saying that they were reading too much and that they were being silly. He even invited fans to the filming of the finale to try to reassure them that all was well.

Well, all was not well. Lexa was killed off and the backlash was immediate, it was fierce, and it was angry. It was large enough that the BBC wrote a freaking article on it. Jason’s twitter follower count went down faster than a mafia member turned informant. His reaction was to call the fans bullies for calling him out on his bullshit. Javier initially tweeted out a defense of his writing, but eventually came to understand why it was so harmful, and what he had done.

Jason’s actions in the weeks since episode 307 have been classic “I did nothing wrong, why are you guys being such bullies?” He’s complained about losing twitter followers, he defended his actions in interviews before someone with an inkling of PR spin experience got a hold of him. Then he posted an “apology” on Medium that some in the industry took at face value (looking at you with disappointment The Mary Sue) when it was nothing but “please don’t be mean to me at WonderCon”. His “apology” (which I won’t link to because I refuse to promote anything he’s done related to this) does nothing to discuss the baiting of LGBT+ viewers, nor actually apologizes for using the tired and harmful “Bury Your Gays” trope. It’s “I’m sorry you felt hurt” instead of “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

On the other hand, our friend Javier Grillo-Marxuach has been a true champion in regards to his apologies. Almost his entire Tumblr has been him taken questions from fans that have been hurting and wanting an explanation or given them an explanation as to why it went down. One of his best posts is here and it shows how much he has learned, but really, almost every single one of his posts recently has been about the shitstorm and how he is sorry about how it went down. Additionally, he follows my rules for apologies that I laid out back in “Why Writers Need to be Careful with Minority Chacters”, in that he not only recognizes what he did wrong, but also admits to it, and has promised to do better. Now, he can’t do that on The 100 because he’s no longer a part of the show, but he is the man responsible for bringing Xena Warrior Princess back to the small screen and has promised to do better by the fans. Of course time will tell if he a) is allowed to do that as he’s still writing the script, and b) if he actually does so. I personally have faith in him to actually have changed, but if you don’t, that’s your prerogative.

To conclude, if you do mess up as a writer, or heck, as a person, follow Mr. Grilo-Marxuach’s example, and not JRot’s. Listen to what the people you hurt are saying, and adjust your actions to keep from hurting them again. Don’t make it about you and your feelings, because honestly? Your feelings aren’t the most important at that moment.