Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Tell Me Another, Episode 26

A couple of weeks ago, I joined Josh Jordan, P.K. Sullivan, and Ryan McSwain on the Tell Me Another storytelling podcast.

It was posted this weekend! Part One (43 minutes) and Part Two (49 minutes).

It was a ton of fun to join the crew for this podcast. I enjoyed the experience and felt that I helped contribute to a lively discussion.

Tell Me Another also sponsors the Actual Play Festival, a collaborative storytelling vlog festival from December 1 through 15. Expect to see me post something between those dates– I have Nefarious Plans with some friends! And if you want to participate, get a friend or two, a camera or webcam, and get going!

Interstellar: The White Guy’s Hero Space Adventure!

I saw Interstellar last night.

interstellar-photos-pictures-stillsIt’s a good sci fi movie. It felt like a cross between Contact and Gravity, but with a larger cast of crewmembers. It was gorgeous visually, had amazing special effects, and significantly limited the “that doesn’t work like that in space” that many other movies fall into. For example: things were more or less silent in space, except when the musical soundtrack had to swell up to make sure we knew Drama! was happening, and drown out the dialog.

But I digress. Clearly, I have a few…. problems with the movie. That’s okay, right? It’s okay to like problematic media, right? And it’s okay to blog about them and give a nice little rant about the things that made me go “huh.” while I was watching, right?

Spoilers ahead! No, seriously. LOTS OF SPOILERS. I WILL RUIN THIS MOVIE FOR YOU! STOP READING NOW! And I’m all over the place with this post, bouncing from one problematic part to another. I’ve put them behind a cut-tag and a new spoiler-tag plugin, but if you’re reading this somewhere other than directly on my blog, that spoiler tag might not work the way I think it should.

This post is like the spider-baby hatching of spoilers for this movie.

Continue reading Interstellar: The White Guy’s Hero Space Adventure!

Follow-Up: Some GREAT Resources for Making Games

So. My post last week sparked some really good discussion among tabletop game creators!

Side note: It also hit the twittersphere and was inaccurately associated with video games, which it’s rather explicitly not about. As a result, I received a number of well-meaning comments from video gamers, and I just want to give a shout-out to those and let you know I heard you, and I appreciate your view, even if I chose not to engage further or de-moderate them due to being out of scope for this discussion.

The problem statement I made in that post can boil down to “new tabletop game creators are disadvantaged in the following areas, and women and minorities are especially disadvantaged for various reasons:”

  1. Time
  2. Creativity
  3. Experience
  4. Confidence
  5. Extra People
  6. Money

I loved the responding blog posts, from men and women, sharing their own experiences, many of which mirrored mine. Here’s one from William Maldonado talking about his experience creating Agents of Change with a $1000 budget. Those obstacles aren’t unique to women, and it was gratifying to get multiple perspectives on these challenges.

Update (Nov 17, 2014): Golden Cobra winner Wendy Gorman sums up the importance of representation rather nicely:

Representation matters.  Although I never consciously had the thought “I can’t design games because I’m a girl,” the pervasiveness of this message leaves me with no doubt that it did indeed play a role in my decisions and thoughts.  I am also certain that the lack of women in the field, and the under representation of the women who ARE in the field plays into my feelings of discomfort with calling myself a “game designer.”

Below the jump, there are a bunch of links and resources and some follow-up comments on the technical and social challenges of this problem. You will definitely want to read if you are at all interested in creating tabletop games.

Continue reading Follow-Up: Some GREAT Resources for Making Games

Rob Lowe, DirectTV and Shame

This post is about male narratives and men’s stories, and gender equality and not emasculating men. I acknowledge in advance that this is not my narrative, and I appreciate those who are willing to listen and think and question this cultural artifact with me.

Although I like Rob Lowe and his new commercials pimping for a dish provider (which have the advantage of letting me watch Rob Lowe with Rob Lowe)…. I am not so enamored of the peeing scene.

It’s unnecessary and shaming. It’s a patriarchy-reinforcing scene.  It could be cut without losing any of the rest of the message, which focused more on Rob Lowe and Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe and their experiences with DirectTV and cable.

You would never show a woman peeing on network television. At most, you might show her in a bathroom, or an anonymous hand under a stall (such as asking for TP, or a feminine product). This is in part because we have doors on our stalls, but also because women’s waste elimination is treated as some kind of mythical thing (which is why the Poopouri ad is so shocking). Whereas men have both literal and figurative pissing contests.

The reason this ad is so problematic to me is because it basically implies that Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe is less of a man because he can’t pee in public. That is patently ridiculous. Men do not need to urinate in front of other people to be men. To be a man, you need to identify as male– period. A penis doesn’t make you a man, as any transwoman will tell you. Everything in your brain that associates with your gender identity makes you a man, including the part of your brain that says “eliminating waste is a private matter and I wish to do it in privacy.”

I spent 4 hours in a huge mob a couple of weeks ago, and can assure you that a lot of people have a problem urinating in front of others, even in a near-panic situation. I stood with a 12 year old boy who was in physical pain, nearly crying, but unwilling to duck into a bush and relieve himself. Ads like “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe” tell him that he should be ashamed of this, and that’s not right.

As men can be allies to women in the struggle for equality, women can be allies to men in that same struggle, and help alleviate toxic masculine culture. That includes shaming men for being themselves. We can’t do all the work, any more than men can fix gender inequality by themselves. But just as I expect the men in my life to call out rape jokes as not being funny, I will call out emasculating jokes as being not funny as well.

DirectTV and Rob Lowe: This one missed the mark. I know you can do better.

American Idol Fail

I want to get something off my chest about American Idol.

First, my disclaimer: I don’t like the show. I watch it, because John watches it. But I don’t find it very entertaining. I enjoyed Seasons 3 and 4, but after that, I’ve just had a really hard time connecting to any kind of story in the show. I mostly now watch it as a kind of side-show with votefortheworst.

Now, my rant.

I think in almost every one of the past few seasons of Idol, there’s been some guy who comes to the audition and says something like “my wife just gave birth to our first child– an hour ago!!!” And then the judges all listen and hope he has a voice worth putting through, because otherwise, they’re going to pay plane fare to Hollywood for yet another tearjerker story that doesn’t have a chance of making it.

To my mind, these guys who do this are scum. Total scum. Not for manipulating the judges/audience, because that may have more to do with the producers than with the guys themselves. No. They are scum because they chose to attend a singing audition instead of their child’s birth.

Now, think about this purely from the point of view of the guy, ok? There are several possible outcomes of an American Idol audition. 1) You don”t make it through to Hollywood. You missed your kid’s birth for a rejection. 2) You make it to Hollywood, but are cut or voted out before the final 10 or 12 or however many they let into the tour. You missed your kid’s birth for a little bit of TV exposure, but no job or singing contract. 3) You make it to the finalists, so you get on the tour, but you don’t win the show. You missed your kid’s birth to become a c-list celebrity. 4) You win. You missed your kid’s birth for a some money and fame, and entry into an extremely unstable job in the toughest, least sympathetic industry on the planet.

There are other outcomes, like “you are so bad, you become the next William Hung.” In which case, you missed your kid’s birth to become a punchline.

My rant is thus: If you miss your kid’s birth in order to go on American Idol, the very best outcome is that you have traded an irreplaceable life’s moment for money, fame, and an unstable job. You are the worst dad ever. Your kid is never going to be born again (even if they become Christian!) but opportunities to break into singing will recur. Your priorities are totally wrong. Even if you aren’t with your kid’s mother, you have just put your job, your career, and your money ahead of your child.

Your kid is going to notice that, because I assure you, if you think auditioning for American Idol is more important that being there for the birth of your child, then you’re going to put that kid last after a lot of other things in life.

The kicker of this is that American Idol auditions happen in cities all over the country, so you could conceivably travel to and catch an audition in another city, if your wife/girlfriend went into labor the morning of the Idol auditions. This audition: it is not your last chance to stand in front of the judges and sing.

This day is, however, your only chance to see your child take his or her first breath. This is your only chance to capture those first seconds of life and really understand what the words “love at first sight” mean. This is your only moment to actually, deeply, completely understand what the lyrics of “Isn’t She Lovely” mean. You want to be a singer? Then man up and get your ass to the hospital, live life the way other people live, so you can connect with your audience’s experiences. I do not ever want to hear you sing about how much you love your kid if you ditched out on that kid’s birth to go to a singing audition. Disingenuous doesn’t even begin to describe it, buddy.

American Idol will also be there next year– it’s highly unlikely that Fox is going to pull the plug on this little money-maker for the next 3-5 years. If you had waited in line for three days and then walked away from the audition so you could be at the birth of your child, when you audition next year, you better believe they’re going to put your story on camera. Ryan Seacrest: “Oh, this is your daughter? How old is she?” You: “She’s a year old– I left the audition last year at this time because my wife was in labor. I’d choose her over anything, any time, but I’m doing this to give her everything I can.” *sniff sniff* And the crowd goes wild.

Please note that my rant hasn’t even addressed the problem of leaving your baby’s mother to go through childbirth without your support. That is such a jerk move, I can’t even form the words.

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