Let’s Talk About…Andrew Smith and Sexism

Today, patient an interview came to my attention, ambulance an interview concerning one of my favorite authors, more about Andrew Smith, who just released his newest book, The Alex Crow, yesterday. The interview seemed to be going quite well until the last question. And then things seemed to sort of…implode. Take a look.

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So basically what happened is this: Andrew Smith answers this question in the same way that he writes his books: with complete honesty. And what emerged was a ton of outrage and claims that Andrew Smith is sexist. He doesn’t write female characters, he doesn’t write books that females can read, and he doesn’t want to try.

One particular response that I read (which I refuse to link because honestly she doesn’t deserve the views), points out Andrew writes science fiction and fantasy. How is it that he can write about horny grasshoppers and that sort of thing but he can’t contemplate writing about girls? “The fact that he can do this — because he has a great imagination — suggests that women are more alien to him and to the context of white men in America than are giant bugs and pedophiles”.

And I fumed up. About this response and the many responses to this.

One, I think this was taking completely out of context.

Two, the lady who wrote that above. She’s only read one of Andrew’s books and she admits it was years ago. Good one. Keep writing about things you don’t know, honey.

Three, this question is already negative. It says right in that first sentence “there isn’t much of a way into your books for female readers”. They’re calling Andrew out already before he’s even had a chance to respond, and they’re completely wrong too.

There isn’t much of a way into his books for female readers? Says who? Because the main characters are male? Sorry to be so ineloquent about this but seriously, that’s complete and utter bullshit. I don’t care about the gender of the main characters when I read novels. I care about how well the book is written, how good the storytelling is, and how well I connect with the main character. When I read Ryan Dean’s story or Austin’s or Finn’s or Ariel’s, I’m not sitting there, thinking, “I can’t connect with them because they’re boys”. Of course not! I’m sitting there and going, I’m so Ryan Dean because I get his obsessed with rugby (baseball for me), and I get Austin because he’s struggling with his sexuality. And so forth. To suggest that females need female characters in order to read a book is the sexist remark here. I actually frequently enjoy reading male characters in YA because its so rare that we get to anymore.

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This picture (credit to Katie Ferguson) was taken at the Pasadena Teen Book Fest last April. This is Andrew Smith, signing his books, and yes, that’s me in the background. But let’s see…there’s no way for females to get into his books and yet…this entire line is female. Every. Single. One. You still wanna tell me that its impossible for girls to read his book? Really? Tell me more…

Four, Andrew’s answers. He immediately says: I spent my life around boys, I am a boy, I don’t have a lot of experience with girls, not until my daughter, so I write about boys. Yeah, he’s saying “I don’t really get girls”. Not “I don’t want to understand girls” or any of that. I’m a writer and one of the biggest writing things we’re told over and over and over again is to write what we know and what Andrew Smith knows is teenage boys. Makes sense to me. One thing that has always stood out as a major reason that I love Andrew’s books so much is that his character’s voices are SO real and raw and genuine, more so than any other characters I’ve read before.

But people take this out of context, like he has no desire to learn about females, because they’re so complex when compared to grasshoppers, etc. That’s not what he meant at all.

Look, I’m a writer. I write 100% female protagonists. Why? Because that’s what I feel comfortable with. The very last chapter of my science fiction novel is told from the male lead’s point of view and a few time in my current work in progress has some point of view insight from that male lead. And even though both of those are so small, I don’t feel 100% comfortable with it. I don’t know that my voices for those characters are authentic enough. I don’t think I’ll ever write a novel with a male protagonist. I don’t feel comfortable with it, I won’t feel like I’m writing a strong enough character.

Look I don’t know exactly what was going on when Andrew answered this question. I can only read it. Maybe if I had been in the room, I could have read his facial expression or read his tone. Perhaps he was being serious and is saying, look I write what I know. I know teen boys and I know their voices and that’s what I’m going to do. Perhaps he thought it was a stupid question (which straight up, it is) and he gave a stupid answer. I don’t know. I do know that he said he was “trying to be better” and he even talks about how a core thing in The Alex Crow is about the failure of male societies. Doesn’t sound that sexist to me…

I do know this. I’ve met Andrew Smith on several occasions. I’ve interviewed him, and read several of his books, and feel confident enough to call him a friend. We’re not super close or anything but we’re on first name basis, and I know him well enough to say this…he’s the last person I would call sexist. He’s the last person that I would lump in with white American males, bla bla bla. He’s one of the kindest and funniest people I’ve met, and I’m always happy to talk to him. He’s an incredible writer and storyteller. He has shown nothing but absolute respect for me, and has done nothing but encourage me in my own endeavors to become a writer.

In fact, once I wrote a FB status, saying that I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a baseball novel, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to work and honestly I didn’t know if people would even care to read about it, especially in YA. But Andrew basically commented on my status and was like, I’d read it, just write it, screw everyone else, just write it. And I took that to heart. He’s a great person, who loves his family (his wife, his son and his daughter), he’s great with his students and he’s always available to his fans and bloggers and aspiring authors. I would never, even for a moment, think of him as sexist. I read that answer above, and it just made sense to me. He creates natural, relatable, genuine teenage boys in his stories and I can’t really imagine him writing as a girl. Doesn’t seem to fit to me.

Look, I’ve written more than I meant to. Basically, it comes down to this: Andrew is one of most genuine and kindest people I’ve ever met. He’s a kickass storyteller and he’s honest as he can be and today that bit him in the ass in a way that he doesn’t deserve. His comment is taken out of context, and frankly, by someone who doesn’t have much say in it anyway, having only read one of his books. It seems to me as another avenue to attack someone in the name of “feminism”, but the sort of feminism that is more male-hating, less about equality.

Andrew writes male characters. No big deal. No one is getting in Cassandra Clare’s face or Veronica Roth’s face or Suzanne Collin’s or any other popular YA author who writes female characters and demands to know why they aren’t writing male voices. It only happens because its switched. Andrew doesn’t write females….well, must mean he’s sexist. Um. No. He writes what he knows and well, he does it pretty damn well. And most of the people that I know who have read and loved his books and are huge fans of his…yup, you guessed it right, they’re female.

It hurts me to see this happening, especially when its so unwarranted. He’s a talented writer, and an awesome guy. He’s deleted his social medias, whether in response or not, I’m not sure, and I already miss him for sure. He doesn’t deserve any of that. I wasn’t going to read this stuff, I wasn’t going to get involved but I honestly had to. When I saw fellow YA authors ganging up against him as well, I just couldn’t handle it. Yeah, maybe it should have been worded differently. Maybe you had to be there. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But anyone who KNOWS Andrew Smith knows that this is NOT the person he is nor is he the person that puts females below males at all. Sometimes I think these people are also forgetting the high regard that he has for fellow authors like AS King and Laurie Halse Anderson, etc. He’s honestly the last person I would even think this of, and I can’t believe the incredibly ridiculous response to it.

I don’t much want to write anything else, mostly because I’m still fuming and I just can’t understand how people can jump to this sort of conclusion. I can only assume that they don’t know Andrew Smith, haven’t read his books, or are the sort of person that loves to make quick judgements about men in general, assuming that they’re all anti-feminist. But meh, what do I know? What I do know is that I adore Andrew, I support him and his books and I hope that my fans and friends will do the same.

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The Fake Geek Girl Thing Needs to Go Away!

I was browsing around Facebook yesterday, pills like I tend to do. While doing this, I stumbled upon an article on the geek girl site, The Mary Sue. You can read the full article here.

Basically it featured a full rant from Greg Rucka, who is a novelist and comic book writer and more. After spotting a very offensive shirt at a booth at this past weekend’s WonderCon, Greg felt the need to rant about the shirt.

The shirt in question? Here it is:

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God this shirt makes me want to throw up.

So how do you think I reacted to this?

By recording a vlog, of course!

I do warn you, I try to keep my vlogs as tame as possible. In this one, a few choice words slip out and I get a little angry. But I’m passionate about this and so I hope you can watch and share your thoughts in the comments!

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Let’s Talk About…Casting

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I was recently chatting up some fangirls online when someone mentioned that they were upset about complaints that some Divergents fans had about Theo James. They were saying he wasn’t attractive enough to play Four (more on that later), cure that he was too old, find etc. etc.

And I really could understand where she was coming from, cheap and it really got me thinking about the world of YA adaptations (or just adaptations in general) and the process of casting our favorite characters.

Now, before I really dive into this, I do have to say this: was that person blind? Seriously? I can’t understand why this person thought Theo James wasn’t attractive enough to play Four. I mean, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that stuff, but really? I think most people would agree that Theo James is QUITE attractive.

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Seriously? I’m still insanely baffled. Also, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Four isn’t exactly attractive, not conventionally so. Neither Tris nor Four is supposed to be good-looking, its their personalities that really jump off the page. But again…Theo James…not attractive. I’m baffled.

Moving on.

This is not the first time I’ve heard outrage like this for a casting of a character.

Think Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior and Hazel Grace Lancaster.

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All fans had of Shailene Woodley was her stint on The Secret Life of an American Teenager and her performance in The Descendants before suddenly she was cast as Amy in The Spectacular Now, Mary Jane Watson in Spiderman, Tris Prior in Divergent and Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars. Fans of alll of those were not happy.

Think Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri Belikov.

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Most fans of Vampire Academy said that Danila was not attractive enough (seriously? are people blind?) and that he was too FAT to play Dimitri. Yeah. Too fat.

Think Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland.

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Fans were in an uproar because they didn’t find Jamie attractive enough to play Jace, and they also said that he was entirely too skinny to play a character that was a warrior, fighting demons all the time.

Think Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair.

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Again, fans said Sam was not attractive to play Finnick, who was described in the book as incredibly attractive. They also said that he wasn’t built like Finnick, who was also a fighter and needed to be well equipped to using a trident.

Think Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark.

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Again: attractiveness, not built big enough, too scrawny, too short, etc.

(I’m starting to see a trend with the boys here…)

And it continues even now. People were in outrage over Charlie Hunnam’s casting as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (though they were a lot quieter when Jamie Dornan was cast as his replacement). The same can be said of Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and even the four actors chosen to play the Fantastic Four in the reboot.

Look, I could go on and on about unhappy fans and casting choices. I really could. Because it seems every time someone is cast as a known character, whether from a book or a comic book or a previous adaptation, people just tend to be very unhappy.

What I’ve noticed with it too, is that its mostly looks. People get absolutely obsessed with the look of a character.

And I can understand that. All the people that I named, and pictured, above are from book series that mean something to me and are important to me. If you asked me if Shailene, Jamie, Danila, Josh, Sam, or even Theo, was what I pictured as those characters, the answer would be a resounding “no”. Definitely not.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think ANYONE is what I pictured for Tris or Hazel Grace or Jace or Four or Dimitri or Peeta or Finnick. Because that’s the beauty of reading: escaping into these pages, into a made up world. Sure, the author has exactly what they have in mind when they’re writing but there’s a beautiful translation to each reader, who pictures the setting, the story, and the characters in their own unique way.

So no, I wouldn’t have picked any of those actors to play those characters. Tris and Four, Peeta, Finnick, Dimitri, and especially Jace are characters that I am especially close to and have a firm idea in my head of what they would look like. But perhaps what I have in my mind is completely different from you. That’s the beauty of reading and imagination. Its both the same and completely different experience for each reader. What we see these characters as is going to be different person to person. That’s kind of the fun of fancasting; everyone has a different person in mind. But even when I fancast, its still not what I picture. I have my own imagination of what these characters look like and no one is going to fit them.

I always laugh when I see people nitpick too, like when Jamie’s eyes weren’t golden like Jace’s are in the book and stuff like that. Is that really important? Is that really going to change the dynamic of the story? It always takes me to the Harry Potter movies, which is SUCH a huge franchise, its the top grossing of all time. And think about it: Daniel Radcliffe had blue eyes not green. Emma Watson had blonde hair not brown. And so on. And I’m going to sit here and say, yeah, I don’t think that ruined the movies in the slightest.

Because beyond that, isn’t there something way more important than capturing the look of a character? To me, its all about capturing the essence of the character: their personality, their soul, the way they walk, talk, and act, their morals and beliefs. I want the character that I’ve gotten to know so well to breathe out of the actor/actress that is portraying them. I want to know that the person portraying this character did their homework and understands them as well as we do, and is going to get in front of that camera and show us. I want them to say those lines I know from the book and have it feel like its really Tris or Jace or Peeta saying them.

That’s more important to me. I want to see this person represent what I love about the character and what I love about the character is who they are as a person. I love that Tris is incredibly selfless and brave but is constantly doubting herself. I love that Peeta is such a good person, its almost unbelievable, and that he tries so hard and it just never seems to work for him, until the end. I love that Jace has an incredible level of sarcasm and cockiness but is so amazingly vulnerable and emotional as well. I love that Four is so dark, and mysterious and closed off but when you see him, you see such a thoughtful, intelligent and incredible person.

And what I’ve seen of these movies, and these portrayals, there are very very very few disappointments. I usually find that the actors chosen to play my favorite characters do a damn good job of portraying them.

I thought Sam Claflin ROCKED it as Finnick Odair. I keep watching my Catching Fire blu-ray and marveling at how much he captures both the charming, flirty side of Finnick but also the painful, secretive side of him as well. Josh Hutcherson is so good as Peeta that I just can’t imagine anyone else playing him. He totally understands the character of Peeta and he brings that to life on screen. I think Shailene does a fantastic job portraying Tris, and the sort of uncertainties she faces when switching from Abnegation to Dauntless.

And to go back to what we started this conversation with: Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton. (Four. He’s Four. Don’t call him Tobias. That’s weird. Just…don’t do it). I saw Divergent about a week ago and I absolutely loved the movie, and a big part of that was Theo James. Four is one of my favorite characters and I think Theo really gets him. He plays the sort of hard, mysterious, intimidating Four that we know in the books. But as Tris begins to unlock him, we see more of him, which only makes us love him as a character more and I think Theo really understood that. He played the character immensely well and I didn’t care at all that he didn’t look like what I personally pictured in my mind.

Besides, seriously? Are you blind? Theo. James. Pure. Sex. Seriously. What is wrong with you?

Seriously? I’m so confused.

Okay, moving on from being obsessed with Theo James gifs…

The point is, I think people are focusing on the wrong thing when it comes to casting our favorite characters. Its not about the looks of an actor. I mean, sure, some physical similarities would be nice, but I don’t really much care about how the character looks, unless its pivotal to the development of the character. Like Tris for instance. She’s small, not classically beautiful and willowy. She’s someone you wouldn’t really expect to be a fighter, and she proves everyone wrong. So Shailene really fits that sort of character.

But that’s not what its about, you know? I want an actor to come in, read the book and embody the qualities that make this a worthy and memorable character. That is what makes me the happiest. I’ve been proven so wrong when it come to actors and I am now trying to be as open as possible when they cast my favorite characters. I really believe that the right actors are chosen to play the part, and I feel grateful that I even get the chance to see my favorite characters on the screen, and see worlds I love come to life.

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Hollingsworth v Perry and United States v. Winsor…and Books

Now, check my blog is about being a nerd…and mainly focuses on my love of books, and especially my big support for young adult literature. I keep most of my opinions and beliefs that are separate from books away from my blog, in order to maintain a balance, and not alienate any of my readers.

But there’s one point that I have to bring up.

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In the next couple days, the Supreme Court of the United States will be addressing two very important case: the case of Prop 8, and the case of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act).

For those of you who don’t know, Prop 8 was a proposition passed in California, the state in which I live, in 2008, that prevents same-sex marriages from being legal. This proposition barely passed, and was a proposition that I was severely against.

The Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA, as passed into law in September of 1996, stating that a legal marriage is a binding between one man and one woman, therefore ruling out the legality of same-sex marriage.

Both of these are being fought on the basis that they are unconstitutional and will be the subjects of the two cases presented to the Supreme in the next two days (March 26th and 27th).

Before I get into personal feelings, let’s talk about this for a moment.

 These are so important. You know all those court cases that we talk about in history classes, the ones you don’t pay attention to because you just don’t realize how important they are? This is it. So many of these cases have affected our lives today, even if we don’t take the time to realize it. And the next two days, the next two cases, they are going to define us once again.

And I hope and I wish, and I hope that we can make the right decision on this. This isn’t about personal beliefs. This isn’t about religion. This is about what the Bible says. For one thing, the constitution has always said: separation of church and state. Freedom of religion. We cannot deny a group of people the right to marry because our beliefs and because our bibles or religions tell us this is so, because religion doesn’t belong in the government, and it never has. If you believe that same-sex marriages are immoral, fine. I think you’re completely wrong, but that’s your opinion. However, this opinion is NOT a valid reason for restricting someone’s rights.

Let’s also recall the 14th amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause…that one cannot be denied the right that someone else has. Again, no matter what your personal beliefs are, you cannot deny the RIGHT of same-sex couples to marry if opposite sex couples can. Its against this very amendment that is written into our Constitution, our highest law.

Now, I’m not trying to really present an argument here for you; that’ll be the job to be done tomorrow in court. I’m just presenting you with TWO different pieces of concrete evidence of the illegitimacy of both Prop 8 and DOMA, and how they back my belief in marriage equality.

Thats the technical aspect of it, the academic and evidence backed version of it.

But I also am very passionate about marriage equality.

Partly because, I am bisexual. And maybe you don’t like that, or maybe you think I’m making it up for attention (which, by the way, I’m not). And let me make this perfectly clear: My boyfriend Jon and I have been together for five years…and I’m 115% in love with him, and perfectly happy with him and one day, we’ll get married and have babies who love music like him and books like me. But I am attracted to girls, as much as I am attracted to boys and if for some crazy, impossible reason, it didn’t work out with Jon, I could see myself dating a girl. And the fact that my right to marry a girl is being denied…well it pisses me off.

And I have a ton of friends who are gay or lesbian, a TON of them…absolutely wonderful people. So many of them are in loving and healthy relationships, relationships just like you or me. And the fact that they can’t get married…yeah it pisses me off.

And, lets remember, this blog is about books and about my nerd things. I’m obsessed with my books, I’m obsessed with literature, especially of the young adult genre.

Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane from the Mortal Instruments.

Aline Penhallow and Helen Blackthorn from the Mortal Instruments

Will Grayson and Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Pippa Cross and Felicity Worthington from A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter.

Patrick and Brad from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson from Glee.

Santana Lopez and Britney Pierce from Glee.

Canton Everett Delaware III from Doctor Who, Series 6.

Honestly I could go on and on. There are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender characters everywhere. And they’ve all had to go through the difficulties of accepting who they are. Alec Lightwood can’t come to terms with the fact that he is gay, and it takes him three whole books to even admit that he has a relationship with Magnus. Aline is unsure of the way she feels, and kisses Jace to see if she’s attracted to boys. Will Grayson and Tiny Cooper both deal with coming out as gay, in two different ways. Pippa and Felicity, especially Felicity since Pippa is technically dead, have to deal with the fact that they are in love with each other, in a Victorian age when that was DEFINITELY not accepted. Patrick, in Perks, has to hide his relationship with Brad, because Brad is afraid to come out. Kurt, Blaine, Santana, and Britney all have a hard time dealing with their relationships in Glee. Even short time companion, Canton, in Doctor Who, deals with the fact that he isn’t allowed to be in the FBI and have a male companion.

Authors, especially young adult authors, are including LGBT characters in their novels because this is a very important issue of our generation. Marriage equality, equality no matter what sexual orientation you are…this is a huge matter of this age. And kids, teens, young adults…we’re not stupid, we are aware of this and many of us are fighting for this. And authors are creating characters that are like us, or like people we know, characters that we can relate to .

All of these characters, and more, have not only furthered my belief in the equality of all people, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, but has given me the courage to be who I AM. If my friends can be open and honest and proud of who they are, if my favorite characters (who are like my friends to me) can eventually be open and honest about who they are and people love and accept them, then so can I.

And sure, we’re never going to be able to change everyone’s minds. We just can’t. Its been nearly 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed and we still have racism. Of course we do. And its wrong, wrong, wrong but there’s that. People are allowed to have opinions even if its wrong. And people are always going to have their opinions on same-sex marriage. But it boils down to this.

It doesn’t matter your personal moral or religious beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you think same sex marriage is morally wrong or not. It doesn’t matter if same sex marriage is against your religion. Because religion doesn’t dictate law, not in this country, not ever. This is the very foundation of which this country was founded upon. There is a separation of church and state in the laws, and we have laws requiring us to extend the same rights to every single person, no matter what. And no, these laws won’t FORCE churches to marry same sex couples, and it won’t FORCE schools to teach of it school. That is ignorant babble from misinformed people who are bent on keeping same sex couples from marriage.

Equal rights for everyone. I believe it. Alec and Magnus, Santana and Brittany, Blaine and Kurt, Will and Tiny, Felicity and Pippa, Canton, Dumbledore, Aline and Helen, we all believe it.

The process may take time, especially when it comes to Prop 8, but I know I will be waiting anxiously and hopeful for the right decision to be made.

And like I said, I know this isn’t normally the kind of thing that I post. I normally keep my political and religious (or lack thereof, in my case) out of my posts but I feel like this has an importance, especially in my passion for books and my belief in its life saving qualities.

If there’s one thing that I can honestly say that I’ve learned from books (and there’s a whole novel larger than War and Peace that could describe what I’ve learned from books), is the idea of acceptance, tolerance and equality. I would say…I would go out on a limb and say 100% of the books that I have read have had some measure of preaching equality, some more than others. Harry Potter showed us it hugely, Mortal Instruments, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Jane Austen, Star Wars, and on and on.

And I have taken this to heart. These books have taught me so much about life: how to love, how to be a friend, how to trust, how to respect, how to be responsible, how to be a GOOD person, and how to accept everyone, even if you don’t particularly like them. Books have taught me that everyone deserves to be treated equally, and I have extended this into my life.

So…in conclusion to this super long blog post…WhatANerdGirlSays is about being a nerd…and a big chunk of my nerd life comes from books. Books are my life, my love, my passion and my dreams. And books have taught me the firm, firm belief I have in equality, in all things in life, and that makes WhatANerdGirlSays an equality zone. And we’ll be waiting, in anticipation and complete hope, for the right decision to be made.

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