The Muse! On fandom.

This past weekend, I went to Disney World. My annual passes are almost up, and given my plans for the future, it may well be years before I get back to the happiest place on Earth. (Which, given that I still have not made it on the Snow White train thing during daylight hours, might be a good thing.) It was a miserable weekend, full of rain and sauna-like conditions that left me–despite my every effort–dehydrated and blistered. On the plus side, I did manage to keep from getting sunburned. So, at least I did something right. But being there, especially at Hollywood Studios (aka Star Wars plus some other stuff Studios), reminded me of something:

Star Wars fans are literally the worst.

They have driven the actresses who play Rey and Rose off the internet. They attacked the idea of a black storm trooper. Recently, they decided that Laura Dern’s purple hair and dress were just too damn ridiculous to be worn by an Admiral even though General Leia also wore dresses and had nice hair. (These same people, it should be noted, think Admiral Akbar should’ve been the one to suicide mission the ship. I’m beginning to think Star Wars fans aren’t that aware of the world, either. A guy named Akbar suicide mission-ing anything is probably not the sort of optics Disney wants, regardless of character history.) Earlier in the franchise’s history, they almost drove the guy who played Jar-Jar to suicide and mistreated the kid who played Anakin so badly, he basically had a breakdown. (Note: this is not to say that his mental health issues were caused by the abuse. But they certainly were exacerbated by them.)

These are people who are convinced that their elaborate fantasies deserve validation and they’ll be damned if they let anything else happen. After The Last Jedi came out, there was a surge of (mostly) dudes deciding that, you know what, they’ve liked the prequels this entire time, they were just afraid of saying so. So the prequels are good but the sequels are bad because…?

These people have decided that the fans own the franchise. That their perspectives are the only valid perspectives. That their fandom is the only legitimate fandom and heaven forbid you can’t name every book in the now-not-canon EU. They talk about how Luke isn’t their Luke, whatever the fuck that means, like the character we saw in TLJ isn’t completely realistic. Think about it: the last time we saw Luke, he’d just brought down the emperor and saved his father. We’re meant to believe the empire will crumble, despite having no evidence to suggest this because, this just in, killing the emperor doesn’t dismantle the system! Anyway, it’s been almost forty years since those events happened. The emperor Luke fought so hard to stop has basically returned. And Luke, in his own mind, gave the First Order its very own Darth Vader. He drove, through his moment of doubt (which we’ve seen Luke have before, canonically), his own nephew to the dark side and to  the enemy. And not only that, but his single moment of doubt (driving that home–a SINGLE MOMENT OF DOUBT) ended up getting a whole new generation of potential Jedi killed. He let down his sister and his best friend, arguably drove them apart, and helped reignite the very entity he’d dedicated his youth to stopping. Whether or not he can be blamed for any of this–Ben Solo made his own choices, in the end, and the empire wasn’t going to just go away because the Emperor was dead–is up for debate, but the fact that he blames himself for it and goes into hiding is very much in character. Not only for Luke, but for the Jedi. And it’s not like Luke hasn’t been a melodramatic bitch from the beginning, guys.

But I take a huge digression. The point isn’t to argue that Star Wars ‘fans’ are wrong about Luke Skywalker (though they obviously are–and, though I haven’t read the ((again)) non-canonical EU books or played any of the games or anything, I have seen the movies many times and that’s enough to judge on); the point is to talk about fandom.

The fans do not own the thing they love. And, even more importantly, the thing they love does not owe them because they love it. JK Rowling didn’t owe fans a Hermione/Harry pairing (and the fans who hounded her into doubting herself and her authorial choices should be ashamed of themselves). Marvel doesn’t owe Loki fans another chance or a “more fitting” death. Star Wars doesn’t owe fans the Luke from the EU (which, for the third time, is not canon anymore). The fantasies fans create for their fan-fictions, no matter how well-thought-out or written or developed or whatever, are not canon and they do not automatically deserve recognition. In fact, fan-fiction writers should just be happy they’re allowed to write stories using someone else’s intellectual property at all.

All this being said, that doesn’t mean fandom should be without critique. There are valid critiques to be made of The Last Jedi. I don’t believe the casino scene was useless, but I do believe it was too long and messed with the pacing of the movie. Sometimes plans don’t work. Sometimes they end up not even being necessary. If the characters learn something from a plot arc, even if the plot arc (like, say, the plan to disable the tracker and whatnot) doesn’t work out, it is not a useless arc. Finn, Poe, and Rose all learned something. Finn became dedicated to the cause in a way he hadn’t been at the beginning of the movie. Poe stopped being the hotshot pilot that believed he knew best and thought fighting back was always the right move. Rose, who’d already lost enough, decided not to lose anymore. She also learned to stop worshiping people as heroes and see them as people, and maybe people she can fight among. (For the record, Finn would never have disabled that cannon. His death would have solved nothing and left the Resistance with even fewer numbers, plus taken away their man with, oh I don’t know, knowledge of how the First Order does things.) Criticize the movie all you want, but please check and see if those criticisms are born of genuine critique or whether or not a movie/book/whatever in your fandom is doing what you want.

Nothing you love is required to do what you want. It doesn’t have to follow your expectations or live up to the version you’ve created in your head. It isn’t bad because you didn’t like it, and maybe fans who find themselves complaining about SJWs or anything of the sort (like driving the sunshine from Instagram. Seriously, people. Kelly Marie Tran was human sunshine. WTF is wrong with you?!) should take a long, hard look at whether or not they’re actually a fan in the first place. Because when fans decide that they own the thing they love, they’ve become really damn toxic.

All this being said, the people at Disney loved all things Star Wars. Yes, even Solo. One of the most popular things there was a replica leather jacket worn by Han in the movie. (It was like butter, people. Butter.)

OK. I did the thing. I mused. If you’re one of those not my Luke people, just click out of the window and go about your business. We don’t want your negativity here.

C

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The Muse: Writing is Healing

Hello, and welcome to the newly rebranded Muse. Hopefully, you tuned in to C’s last update, because things, they are a-changin’. Essentially, responsibilities, adulthood, and the pursuit of free time have put an end to our rigid posting schedule and we’ll be focusing on delivering high-quality content on more of a monthly timeline.

So, yes, the Muse will no longer appear strictly on Mondays, but I think this will result in more inspired posts as opposed to the “oh-shit-it’s-Monday-what-can-I-write-about” pieces of the past.

With that in mind, I present to you, Cacti community, my first new Muse.

It’s Tuesday. Two days ago, my family made the difficult decision to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Fritz. He was almost 14 and debilitating arthritis was getting the better of him. The vet said he was suffering. He said it was time.

This weekend easily ranks as one of the worst in my life. Fritz was a sweet, loyal, neurotic wookie-like bear and it pains me that I couldn’t say goodbye in person. I spoke with him via a video chat with my dad the evening before, wishing I could reach out and scratch his ears. He was pretty alert, though he couldn’t do more than lie there. He knew it was me and listened to my words: the hollow “good boys” and choked up “the pain will all go aways.”

I made my parents promise to stay with him until the end. They kept their word, braving those final moments and making sure Fritz was surrounded by people he loved.

This was of significant importance to me, because one of my greatest regrets is that I wasn’t there when our cat was put to sleep. Granted, I was in high school at the time, but I was a snivelling coward and I left a scared animal that I cared deeply for to face the unknown without a loving friend nearby.

It doesn’t make things any easier and it certainly doesn’t make up for my past mistakes, but knowing that Fritz was accompanied by family and that he went peacefully provides a kind of closure I never got the last time I lost a pet. Fritz knew he was loved and cherished. That’s all anyone could want in their final moments.

Now, obviously, this hasn’t exactly been a Muse, but I feel that writing and sharing my grief is an important part of the healing process. Putting my thoughts down and taking a moment to reflect is my next step forward. Keeping my thoughts locked in while crying in the fetal position probably isn’t healthy after a certain point. So, let the healing begin.

A

Monday Muse: Let’s Get Real For A Minute

Heyo! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse.

I’m going to break the rule about politics today. Fair warning. If that’s not why you’re here, don’t read today’s post.

A and I live in Florida. We’re far enough from Orlando that neither of us was in danger, but we’re close enough that we have friends in the area. Friends who very well MIGHT have been in danger. Friends whose funerals we are very, very fortunate not to be making plans to attend in the next few days.

Our friends are alive. But, for fifty people now and perhaps more in the next few days, that is no longer the case.

They are gone. They are gone and they are never coming back.

And it’s because they were at a gay club.

But I don’t want to talk about the shooting itself or the latest scar on my heart. I can’t or I’ll start crying again. I don’t know if it’s because, for the first time, people I know and love could have been hurt, which hits my heart just that much harder, or because it literally happened so close to home. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been an LGBT ally for so long, it’s like people of my own community were attacked on what feels like my doorstep. I don’t know. But this one… this one hurts more than the others. I’m actually having a hard time doing my usual compartmentalizing thing, which is what I usually do to protect myself from overwhelming feelings. People always tell me I seem cold in these situations… but it’s only because all of my faculties are going to staving off the hurt.

It’s so I can function. Because I need to function. Not functioning isn’t an option.

No. I want to talk about the response. Which has infuriated me to no end. Both because it’s a battle over blame when we know who’s to blame, and because fighting over who to blame takes the focus off of what really matters: the victims, and the heroes who stepped up to do what they could, and more, in the aftermath. The people who stood for hours on line in Florida summers (it’s summer here, no matter what the calendar says) to donate blood, who came together to show the world that we will keep fighting against this hate, who helped save lives the night of, and, yes, the emergency services who just did their jobs.

But what, funnily enough, has really stuck with me in my weird cocoon of distance and intellectualism (the product of the aforementioned compartmentalizing thing) is the idea that this is EITHER a gun problem OR a terror one… as if the two are mutually exclusive. As if terrorists of all stripes can’t and don’t take advantage of our lax gun laws to procure their weapons of terror. As if, if we focus on those brown people, we’ll eliminate all the death in this country AND get to keep our egregious number of high-speed projectile machines. As if, so long as Islam is the problem (and, of course, there is only one kind of terrorism and it’s ALL THEIR FAULT), we can shift the blame from and absolve ourselves of our place in this.

This is a confluence of several things. The world is not either/or. We can’t look at this asshole and his asshole act of hate and terror and destruction and blame it all on one thing. We can’t say that the President talking about our gun problem is politicizing and shifting the blame when the “it’s all the Muslims’ fault!” crowd is at least AS guilty if not more so. That putrescent pile of maggots feeding on diarrhea should never have been able to get a gun. Period. His attempts to do so should have gotten him a good, hard look and a denial. That much is true. And, yes, he is a terrorist. I don’t think he did this at the behest of ISIS no matter that those melanomas on the Earth’s surface took credit, but I don’t deny he was influenced by them. But that’s NOT WHAT MATTERS. He is a terrorist because he committed an act of terror for what is undoubtedly a political reason. It just so happens that his reason was homophobia and not that perversion of Islam that is the so-called Islamic State. (And boy am I tempted to take advantage of this “breaking the rules” thing to talk about the double standard applied to Islam. When Muslims ignore the troubling aspects of their religious texts, they’re “not real Muslims”, but when Christians do the same damn thing, it’s because “that part of the text isn’t relevant anymore”. Which is… ugh.)

And don’t even get me STARTED on the onslaught of anti-LGBT speech, legislation, and feeling in this country? You spend so much time and effort dehumanizing, othering, and lessening your fellow human beings because they’re not “legitimate” in your eyes, and shit like this happens. But maybe that’s why it’s so important that the bogeyman is to blame. Why it’s Islam that’s the problem and not us and our laws and our misplaced priorities. Because we’re America. We can’t be wrong. We can’t be the problem. Our nation can’t have problems stemming from the fact that it was created by human beings with all the faults attendant on that humanity? No. It has to be someone else.

I guess the point of the matter is, can we stop treating these things like they’re black and white? People are complex and actions are always a result of context. Now, for the asswipe who murdered 50 people and injured as many more, it’s pretty black and white: the dude was a terrorist, a murderer, and a stain on the human race. But to bandy about “it’s guns” or “it’s Muslims” is to do a disrespect not only to the people who were affected by this horrible act of cowardice, but to the complexity of the world and its many problems.

Hate was the problem here. Hate, and the idea that we’re allowed to act on that hate. But it sure as shit wasn’t helped by our lax gun laws or the assholes across the ocean who decided that their way was the only way to live.

Problem is… there’s assholes like that here, too. And we’ve really got to do something about that. Or else we’re going to continue seeing death everywhere we look. And, eventually, no one is going to be able to say “my friends are OK”.

C

Monday Muse: Enough

Hello, readers, and welcome to the Monday Muse.
This past weekend has been difficult for many across the world. We are collectively angry, scared, and bewildered by the terrible attacks and sheer hate that a few horrible people unleashed upon unwitting innocents.
I’m sick of it. I’m sure you are too.
I’m sick of terrible people ruining my faith in humanity.
I’m sick of people STEALING the lives of others.
I’m sick of people doing absurdly disgusting things in the name of their religions despite EVERY major religion CLEARLY having a DON’T KILL PEOPLE clause.
IT’S REALLY SIMPLE. JUST DON’T DO IT.
RESPECT LIFE, YOU ANIMALS.
Look, I honestly wasn’t sure how to handle today’s muse. I still don’t know where I’m going with this. I’m angry. I’m defiant. I’m confused and worried and pretty much convinced that if there is intelligent life in the universe it’s not on this planet.
Originally I had hoped to write something deep or meaningful; to make some kind of difference? Honestly, what suggestion for a more peaceful world can I possibly make that hasn’t already been suggested? Why can’t we all just love one another? People always say smiling takes less effort than frowning and I believe love takes less effort than hate. Hate settles and seethes and brims over, drowning people in black, blinding rage. Love floats and breathes and warms us from the inside out.
So yeah, maybe this muse wasn’t as powerful or important as I wanted it to be, but PLEASE, I implore you, smile at someone today, give your best friend a hug, call your parents, and for the love of love itself don’t let those bastards win by giving into fear.
Enough.

A

Boozy…Oh, Heck…

Greetings, readers, and welcome back after our brief post-Stratford hiatus, which we used to once more adjust to the sweltering maw that is South Florida weather (and get over our vacation-is-over blues). Today was supposed to go back to normal. I even prepared a book (my go-to Young Adult staple, Sabriel). But when I sat down today to write up a review, I found I just couldn’t. I guess it was a mistake to go back and re-read our blogs from Stratford. I’m not sure whether it’s because they triggered the almost overwhelming urge to book a ticket and see Hamlet again or because my inner editor was screaming at me to go back and re-write them with something resembling coherence, but, either way, those posts left me with too many feels to delve back into our regularly scheduled programming, so…guess what?

Shakespeare-a-palooza is extended! If only for today (though, if I know A at all, she’ll be doing something similar tomorrow).

(The view from Tom Patterson Island. See…we weren’t lying about the swans.)

Guys…I miss Stratford. I miss walking everywhere (even if those hills killed me–I’m a Floridian, guys) and drinking tea at Balzacs out of their adorable little teapots. I miss the cute little shops and the delicious food (served in portion sizes that aren’t gargantuan and almost always locally sourced), and the fact that there are pianos set up all over the downtown area for anyone to play. I miss the grass, which isn’t the crab stuff we get here, and trees that aren’t palm, and the ridiculous gardens that I feel like are the pride of their owner. I miss the fact that everyone says hello, the swans on the Avon, and the weather. Oh, by all the gods, do I miss the weather. Imagine wearing a sweater in summer, guys. OK, so maybe some of you are from places where that happens…but I barely wear a sweater in the winter, so the thought of wearing one in the 100 degree (F) sauna I face each day is just…*dead*. Seriously, Florida is overrated. Stay away. Come here in the winter. It’ll still be warm enough for the beach, believe me.

(The back patio at Balzacs, aka the most perfect place to write ever.)

But I think what I miss the most is the feeling that the town itself was alive. Stratford has a character and is a character. Let me explain. Have any of you been to Disney World? They pride themselves on their ability to immerse their visitors into their world, so you almost forget that you’re actually not that far from a pretty major metropolitan area. Stratford does it almost effortlessly, and with an authenticity that the Mouse could never hope to match. Granted, it’s not nearly as close to Toronto as Disney is to Orlando, but leaving Stratford was like getting jolted awake after spending some time in Brigadoon. I felt some magic leave me as A and I drove out into the countryside on Sunday, and nothing since coming home has brought it back. Stratford knows itself. This is not to say that everyone there is as gung-ho about the festival as those who participate in it at any stage, but everyone is proud of the town, nonetheless. A lot of places would have given in to the kitsch and turned into a Shakespeare tourist trap, but not Stratford. They’re a town with a renowned theater festival, not a festival surrounded by a town. And I miss that. Especially since I live in a part of SoFla that is basically a beach with some houses attached.

(Y’all thought I was lying about the pianos, didn’t you?)

It’s hard to put the feelings into words. They’re too strong, too pure to be crammed into a mere reflection. No matter how powerful the language I could use, I could not make you feel the way I felt while I was there. It’s something I’ve really only experienced while performing in an orchestra. It’s the beauty of the ephemeral moment; a Buddhist’s dream of complete presence and mindfulness, which can only be experienced as it’s happening. It lives and then it is no more, sublimity of an instant. No matter how much I write, I don’t think I can explain how it felt to be in a place where I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was surrounded by kindred spirits, people of, as the Reduced Shakespeare Company says, “above average cultural and literary awareness”. There was something so creatively invigorating; if I hadn’t been so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted each night, I feel like I could have churned out a novella. Of course, I haven’t written anything since getting home; the depression seems to have sucked all the words out of me, and I can’t get into a creative space. Talk about a downside.

(Play this. When you get to 12:50, listen carefully, because that part has the magic. That’s when I felt my body singing, even if the cello part isn’t terribly exciting.)

The one upside to coming home is that Shakespeare seems to have followed me. I am continually referencing the Bard. My tendency to speak in verse (or, at least, heightened language) has faded, much to the relief of my other half, but I’m sure it’ll come back because I am also reading/watching Shakespeare at ridiculous rates. I still find Shakespeare in Love a bit melodramatic, but I’m even considering watching it in preparation for next year (they’re staging a version of it). I’ve watched the BBC Taming of the Shrew at least three times this week in an attempt to overcome my disappointment in the Stratford director’s choices, which I cannot seem to shake. I learned that the cluttered and frenetic staging is rather a signature of this particular director, which has me fretting for As You Like It next year. It’s one of my favorites…and I worry. It’s not a play that can handle clutter very well. I also seem to be drinking tea a lot more. My coffee consumption is way down. I feel so English, guys.

Perhaps the most nostalgic I get is when I look at the clock and it’s either 2 or 8pm, and I find myself wondering which production is going on. I’ve stopped looking it up, but I still find myself longing to see Hamlet again. And I’m quite literally putting big X’s on a calendar until next year, when I am damn sure seeing Macbeth. I cannot wait. But I do have a new goal: to go up and down those hills without dying. So I suppose something good has come out of this. Also, another goal: get Mercutio published so I can see it in the Festival Shop. If a zombie version of The Sound of Music can be sold there, an awesome retelling of R&J surely belongs!

(God I miss this play. The DVD cannot come out fast enough. Please hurry, guys…)

OK, I suppose I’ve written enough. There’s only one thing left to say, and that’s about our host, Laura. Stratford would not have been the same without her warmth, humor, and wealth of knowledge. She grew up with the festival, and it felt like staying with the ultimate insider. Laura knows everyone and everything about Stratford, the Festival, and everything in between. And her food! I had a mini break down Monday morning because I was going to have to face the day without her granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit. And how does anyone get by without stories over breakfast?! Even without the plays, I’d go back next year just to hear the saga of Bill the Duck, which she has promised to tell us. Between her and the wonderful, wonderful people with whom we shared our B&B experience…I feel like I have a Canada family. In fact, I’ve already started calling Laura my Canada Grandma, and I don’t plan on stopping.

(Canada Grandma’s House)

That really is enough, I think. Any more and I’d be worried I wasn’t particularly healthy. I fear I’ve become obsessed. But I think that’s OK because I’m 100% convinced A feels exactly the same way, which makes it fine.

Until next time!

C

Monday Muse: Why I Love Shakespeare

Greetings, readers, and welcome to the first of this month’s special Shakespeare Muses! August is officially ‘We Love Shakespeare’ month here at Nerd Cactus in celebration of our Good Time Bestie Vacay to Stratford, Canada. (What? Where else would two denizens of the tropical south go? We’ve already got the beaches.)

Also, this is totally what popped into my head when I typed Good Time Bestie Vacay:

But onward.  The specials this month will include not Boozy Books, but Boozy Plays, specifically the three we’ll be seeing up at the Stratford Festival: Hamlet, Love’s Labours Lost, and The Taming of the Shrew. Also, Shakespeare Saturday will feature recommendations of some of our favorite performances of the Bard’s plays (filmed versions, obviously) or updated versions of those plays. Sunday will stay Silly, but that silliness will be channeled into giggle-inducing Shakespeare fun. And Monday, aka today, will include our thoughts on Shakespeare, his plays, and the world in which he worked. No worries that you’ll get a lengthy dissertation on Elizabethan England; I’ll keep my historian in check as much as possible. The week we’re in Canada will detail our adventures and our experiences seeing the Bard! Live! (I AM SO EXCITED. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT IN THIS ALL CAPS SENTENCE!)

But for today…a brief explanation of why I like the Bard so much.

See…I was not born to love Shakespeare. My mother, the Brit-Lit-major-turned-English-teacher actually doesn’t like him that much. She is very much a Chaucerian and loves the etymological challenge of translating the older English into something modern. Also, while she learned English as a child, it is not her first language: Turkish is. And this means that the cadence of English, though she is absolutely fluent in it (and better than pretty much all of us), is slightly foreign to her; she has a horrible time understanding English spoken in another accent. Combine this with the linguistic challenge that is Shakespeare’s language and my mom is left without the joy of seeing the Bard come to life.

Also…did I mention she’s an English teacher? I can only assume nothing would make a person hate something like having to teach it over and over to Middle Schoolers. Because Middle Schoolers are awful. There’s no escaping it, folks; when you were twelve, you were an awful human being. And people like my mom were forced to teach you Shakespeare. So, really, I can’t fault her for not liking him much. Without the ability to enjoy Shakespeare’s plays the way they’re meant to be enjoyed–live, and electric with the shared energy of the performance–my mother was left with nothing but awful. So was I never brought up to like Shakespeare.

But I did. I loved the power of his words, even if I couldn’t understand them half the time. (I was young; cut me some slack.) I loved the way they sounded when I heard them spoken, even if I didn’t realize what exactly I was hearing. My parents made sure I was exposed to him, after all, even if we were a Chaucer household. (We were also, for the record, definitely an Austen household; I credit my love of Jane wholly and completely to my mother.) As I began writing–my earliest memory of completing something of my own was when I was eight, but that’s just writing it down–I found the sound of Shakespeare beguiling. I wanted to write words that sounded good when they were read aloud, even if what I was writing would most likely be read silently. I wanted my stories to be musical.

It was never the fact that Hamlet manages to capture grief so perfectly, or Macbeth the pathos of ambition and guilt; I, to this day, cannot stand Romeo and Juliet as characters (or the fact that people think that play is romantic), but damned if “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,” doesn’t sound beautiful and feel wonderful on the tongue. Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar inspired a love of the historical Marc Antony that continues to this day and, yes, I am aware the real Antony probably wasn’t that adroit. He rather bungled that whole Second Triumvirate/ruler of Eastern Rome thing, didn’t he? I can’t even blame Cleopatra…as much as I want to. (Another great play, by the way…and one that doesn’t involve ANY vomit.)

I know a lot of people like the themes, or the ridiculous number of sex jokes. So do I. Nothing made me feel like I’d entered the hallowed halls of adulthood like finally realizing just how pervy Shakespeare really was. It was like being allowed to join a secret insiders’ club of real Shakespeare fans who winked at one another whenever sweetmeats or dying (in a certain context, of course…I seriously doubt Juliet was talking about orgasm as she stabbed herself with Romeo’s…oh, you know what? Dammit, Shakespeare, even their suicide was filthy!) came up. Wink wink…oh yeah, Shakespeare’s only for elitists…we’re all so high falutin’ and fancy. “By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her great P’s,” is totally just about how Maria writes her letters. Yup. Oh, Willy Shakes and your toilet humor.

I love all of this. But the reason I love Shakespeare is because he’s such a damn good writer. He knew how to put words together that sounded beautiful and painted vivid images. They played witty (and sometimes somewhat juvenile) games, and invented insults that would still win a ‘yo momma’ street battle today (he also invented the ‘yo momma’ joke). And they told stories that have lasted centuries without losing any of their relevance. Human stories for a very human audience; an audience that never really changes, even if the trappings never stay the same.

And I’m a writer. How can I not not love the Grand Poobah of beautiful words? (Note: Grand Poobah is not Shakespeare; it’s Gilbert and Sullivan. The Mikado, to be precise.)

Thus ends our first Monday Muse Super Shakespeare Spectacular! Tune in on Friday when I’ll pair Hamlet with some booze. No worries, no poison involved.

See you then!

C

The Monday Muse: On Liking HOW You Like

I am a huge Batman fan.

Oh, right. Welcome to the Monday Muse, wherein we talk about stuff and muse together. I’m the one who usually writes about writing, because…apparently, I have no other interests, or something. But today, I’m writing about something else.

So, as I said earlier: I am a huge Batman fan.

I was five when the animated series came on TV for the first time. This was my first taste of the world of comic books and superheroes, and I loved it. I loved that Batman was putting himself between evil and the city of Gotham. I loved that he became kinder and more compassionate because of his loss. To me, Batman wasn’t the angry guy with the tech (and it upsets me that he’s been reduced to that in recent years); Batman was the guy who looked around him and saw his anger and pain and fear reflected in the people of his home. As a child, he experienced a moment of absolute helplessness–a moment where the evil and pain of the world left him feeling powerless and ineffective–and he became determined to turn that fear and helplessness upon the criminals who preyed upon Gotham. He was a man who was going to place himself between his city and those who wanted to hurt it; he was going to be a hero.

This is the Batman I love. The Batman who used his mind first and his tools second. The Batman who showed compassion for Harley Quinn because he knew she was just troubled and not really evil. The Batman who didn’t use guns and didn’t play judge, jury, and executioner. This was a hero that knew his strengths, his enemies’ weaknesses, and vice versa. He manipulated the playing field and used strategic attacks rather than brute force. What mattered was defeating the bad guy; not being the hero who brought the villain down. He was a world’s greatest detective who wasn’t afraid to fight hard if he needed to. And he has always been my favorite superhero.

There are people out there who tell me my Batman isn’t the “real” Batman. That I’m wrong and not a real Batman fan because I was introduced to him via a cartoon and not the comic media. Even though I’ve spent the last couple of decades reading Batman comics, watching movies with Batman in them, and even writing papers for Literature courses about the psychology of the Nolan Batman movies (well, the first one)…I am not a real Batman fan because, to me, he is a compassionate hero who is more than just anger and technology. To me, he’s closer to Captain America than Iron Man (yeah, I like Marvel, too…which ALSO makes me less of a fan); he’s just the dark side of that coin. I think of Frank Miller as an exploration of what would happen if Batman *lost* what made him Batman in the first place. If Batman didn’t keep control over his anger and let it overwhelm him.

I’ve written more about Batman than I intended. I meant it more as an example of people who have the gall to tell someone that there’s a certain way to like something. That being a fan has a set of rules, or a checklist that you have to pass. Fandom is not exclusive. In fact, it is the opposite; it is inclusive. We should all celebrate the fact that what we love is the same! Why are we trying to create a hierarchy out of loving something? And why does it seem to be so much worse when it comes to nerd culture? For so long, nerds have been excluded; we’ve been made fun of, maligned, laughed at, and made to feel separate from everyone else. So what do we do when we meet someone else who loves something that we love? We force them to somehow prove themselves, as if they’re perhaps interlopers just waiting for the right moment to pounce and tear us down. And, in the process, we alienate the very people with whom we should be celebrating that love.

Let’s not do that. Let’s just be happy to find people who are nerds just like us. Let’s not have DC vs Marvel showdowns where liking one makes you childish (Marvel) and the other makes you a “butthurt fanboy” (DC). Let’s not call someone an idiot because they enjoyed a movie we didn’t, or insult the movie itself. Entertainment is not a marker of intelligence any more than having a different opinion about something makes you less of a fan. Accept that we can all love something together and have different opinions at the same time. Fandom is not specific. There isn’t a single definition. There is no one way to like Batman.

Let’s stop tearing one another down. Batman would never do that shit and neither should we. I mean, he would totally have a file on everyone and preparations for the day you turned evil, but he wouldn’t assume you were evil. It’s more of a completely justifiable paranoia based on years of watching good people go bad and living in a James Cagney nightmare.

I think I lost the point there. Just be nice to one another and stop telling them how to like stuff, mmkay? It’s just not cool.

On Friday, there will be booze.

C

ps- I have massive appreciation for Frank Miller despite how it might seem. The Dark Knight Returns was an absolutely seminal moment for Batman. The last taste the average American had had of the Bat was Adam West. After Miller, Batman was a character to take seriously. Miller also affected the Animated Series. I just think we’ve swung too far into Miller’s court lately.