Teen Movie Times: Saved!

Hey there, Internets! Time for the next in the series of Teen Comedy Movie Thinky Thoughts.

So far:
Bring It On

This one got super long. My fingers are neglecting to fing. Also, my friend Roz Kaveney kindly gave me a copy of her very good book Teen Dreams: From ‘Heathers’ to ‘Veronica Mars’, which is full of awesome analysis, much of which I shall be using for this series.

Teen Comedy With A Serious Message Number Two: Saved!

Saved movie poster

What Happens?

Born-again Christian Mary’s life was going pretty great – she’s a member of the Christian Jewels (“A girl gang for Jesus”), she has a great Christian boyfriend, and she’s about to be a senior at a good Christian school, for which she’s just helped paint a giant Jesus billboard.

Then her boyfriend reveals that he thinks he’s gay in the swimming pool. Mary hits her head, and, while being rescued from drowning by the handyman, receives a vision of Jesus: “Dean needs you now. You must do all you can to help him,” he says.

Mary interprets this as helping Dean embrace heterosexuality by make outs, boob-fondling, and, eventually, having made a deal with Jesus to restore her spiritual and physical virginity, sexual intercourse. Dean’s parents find evidence of their son’s sexuality and send him to gay rehab, and Mary discovers she’s pregnant. When Mary refuses to join a prayer circle praying for Dean to be redeemed from “faggotry”, she is ostracised by her best friend, Christian Jewel leader and Mean Girl Hillary Faye, but earns the admiration of the new boy, hot skateboarder Patrick.

Wild child Cassandra (“the only Jewish to ever attend American Eagle”) and Hillary Faye’s brother Roland support Mary through the secret pregnancy, and Hillary Faye starts trying to get both girls expelled. The situation escalates through the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy, the expulsion of Mary and Cassandra, and culminates in a prom showdown, where Hillary Faye’s machinations are revealed, Dean and his friends from Mercy House crash the party, and Mary goes into labour.

The movie ends with Mary surrounded by family and friends, who love her – once again, her life is going pretty great.

Also it is a movie with a lot of Diet Coke product placement, which I find comforting. *slurp*

The Message?

The tyrannous myth of perfection is incredibly bad for you.

Well, actually, the overt message is that faith is fine, but prejudice is horrible. Love Jesus, but also love your family and friends and fellow humans. However, the root of this prejudice is cultural fear and exclusion of anyone who fails to be “right with Christ”, perfect in body and soul, despite the fact that perfection is an unattainable standard for anybody, and particularly difficult by the standards of this born-again Christian community.

In the climax, Mary delineates the problem:

Mary: “So everything that doesn’t fit into some stupid idea of what you think God wants you just try to hide or fix or get rid of? It’s just all too much to live up to. No one fits in one hundred percent of the time. Not even you.”
Pastor Skip: “I know that, Mary.”
Dean: “I know in my heart that Jesus still loves me.”
Mary: “Why would God make us all so different if he wanted us to be the same?”

But at the start of the movie, kids who are not perfect are sent away to Mercy House, to “fix” problems like drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and homosexuality. (Oh wait. One of these things is not like the others!) Even the good kids at American Eagle are invited to come down and rededicate themselves to God at the start of the school year – they may have “backslid” over summer, so they must be perfected now.

Perfection, in this community, is white*, straight, able-bodied, “Jesuscentric”, conventionally attractive, and, preferably, blonde. In fact, would-be Christian Jewel Tia dyes her “bad hair” later as an effort to come closer to this ideal, which is most obviously embodied in Hillary Faye.

Tia, Hillary Faye, and Veronica, with angel's wings

Hillary Faye is genuinely talented – she is a skilled vocalist, and an excellent organiser, who can put together a billboard for the school, plan the school prom, and even get an admired Christian band to play at it – but this clearly wasn’t enough for her parents, who “didn’t want to have two handicapped kids.” Hillary Faye was the “easy fix” – with fat camp, antibiotics, and some kind of torturous orthodontic device visible in photos of her former physicality.

Matching her performative physical perfection is her constant striving to be the most performatively Christian girl in school – not in loving her neighbours and turning the other cheek, but in being the most condemnatory of sin. It is not enough for Hillary Faye to love Jesus – she has to be seen loving him and obeying his will, and doing so better than anyone else. Expelling Mary from her group isn’t a result of Mary’s pregnancy, of which Hillary Faye knows nothing, but because Mary refuses to fall in line and condemn Dean’s homosexuality, the way Hillary Faye’s conception of a perfect Christian would.

Later, naively encouraged by Pastor Skip to be a “warrior for Christ”, Hillary Faye attempts an exorcism. When Mary stomps away, Hillary instructs her to “turn away from Satan! Jesus, he loves you.” Mary responds by saying that Hillary Faye doesn’t “know the first thing about love,” which strikes at the heart of her insecurities. Hurling her Bible at the back of Mary’s head, she howls, “I am FILLED with Christ’s love! You are just jealous of my success in the Lord.” Mary hand back the Bible, snapping, “This is not a weapon, you idiot.”

But Hillary Faye doesn’t get the message. She escalates her campaign against Cassandra and Mary, attempting to get Cassandra expelled by recording her using profanity in school. When Cassandra and Roland respond with showing her classmatesl the damning pictures of her formerly non-perfect physical form, Hillary Faye insists on Cassandra and Mary’s expulsion, claiming that “I’m trying to be a good Christian, and I’m trying to be a living example of Christ’s love” – a significant step down from her former certain declaration that she IS filled with Christ’s love. Hillary Faye is losing her grip on perfection.

Pastor Skip refuses to expel the pair, but that “those who did this will not escape the eyes of God” is not enough for Hillary Faye. As her physical appearance must reflect her inner purity, so must worldly punishment must echo divine justice.

The school vandalised

The next day, students arrive to discover hateful, blasphemous graffiti spraypainted all over the school. Legends reading “GOD = dog!”, “God sucks”, “God suck my ass”, “Only assholes pray” and an upside down crucifix are all apparent in the long scene that establishes not only the genuine shock of Cassandra, Mary and Roland, but of many speechless, horrified extras. Mary and Cassandra get the blame and are expelled, and Mary’s pregnancy is discovered at last. (There’s a very nice moment when the female teacher who finds the ultrasound in Mary’s locker attempts to conceal it from Pastor Skip – mercy in action.)

“You have so much, Hillary Faye,” Roland says, looking up at his sister, who is literally elevated in her triumph. “What are you afraid of?”

Hillary Faye triumphant

Hillary Faye is afraid that she won’t be, can’t be perfect, when her entire world has stressed that she must be in order to earn love – her parents’ love, her friends’ love, Jesus’ love. The graffiti on the walls isn’t just what she thinks anti-Christian vandals would write; it reveals her own rage at the system that keeps her trapped in this role of unattainable perfection. And the cracks in the facade of Hillary Faye’s spiritual perfection are reflected in her physicality – as she readies herself for prom, a pimple begins to sprout on her otherwise unblemished face.

When all is revealed at the prom, Hillary Faye shouts that she only “did this” – lied, vandalised, bore false witness – because Jesus told her to. (And, just like Mary, she’s not lying. Before Hillary Faye takes that drastic step, we see her frantically praying, in a series of overlapping cuts that indicate time is passing as she mumbles her pleas: “They need to know that what they did is wrong. Help me. Oh God please, just tell me what I need to do.”) And yet, Jesus has let her down.

It’s the last straw. “Save the heathens, Hillary Faye,” she mutters as she speeds her van towards th e Jesus billboard. “Be a warrior, Hillary Faye. Sacrifice everything, Hillary Faye! And here’s your BIG, FAT, STUPID REWARD!” She swerves at the last second, but she still hits the sign, and Jesus’ head falls off and stars at her through the windscreen.

When she stumbles out, Roland again provides the crucial question: this time, it’s, “Are you okay?” And for the first time, Hillary Faye admits that she isn’t perfect: “No, Roland. I crashed my van into Jesus! I have a pimple the size of Jupiter! I AM NOT OKAY. This is not how I wanted to remember my prom! This is not how I wanted to remember my life.”

The siblings apologise to each other for their various cruelties, and Hillary Faye finally asks a question of her own: “Do you think Jesus still loves me, Roland?” Is she worthy of Jesus’ love, now that her lack of perfection has been so totally revealed to her world? “Probably not,” Roland responds, with automatic sarcasm, and then, seeing his sister is in real pain, he says, “Yeah. Sure.” Cassandra helps her limp to medical help, and, as Roz Kaveney puts it in Teen Dreams: “our last sight of Hillary Faye is of someone who may have learned better, for whom there is hope past humiliation.”

Even the good guys in the movie – and there are a lot of them – are depicted as very far from perfect.

Mary is nicer than Hillary Faye, but she is still capable of exclusionary and discriminatory groupthink, happily picketing Planned Parenthood and cheering when the shouting scares a pregnant woman away. Her efforts to “fix” Dean come from a much kinder place than Hillary’s Faye’s prayer circle, but she still, like the other Jewels, assumes he’s “afflicted” until much later in the piece, when she’s finally able to accept and love him for who he is. Roland and Cassandra form a loving couple, but Cassandra is a genuinely troubled girl who is drunk and obnoxious in a mall food court, and her and Roland’s revenge on Hillary Faye is at least as cruel as any of Hillary Faye’s actions to that date. The self-tormenting Pastor Skip means well, but he cannot encompass more than a narrow vision of God, and is greatly pained by his own inability to be perfect.

Mary and Patrick

The movie’s best example of a true good guy is his son, Christian skateboarder Patrick, who insists that, rather than his father’s “black and white” view of Christianity, “It’s all a grey area”. “I want you to know that I don’t think Dean’s sick or anything,” he tells Mary, and later, “God gave us all free will, and that day at Hillary Faye’s prayer circle, you weren’t afraid to use it. You inspired me. You’re amazing, Mary.” It is significant, I think, that Patrick is present in the scene where the pictures humiliate Hillary Faye, but off to one side, clearly disapproving. He is, if anything, too tolerant of intolerance, but it’s clear that he loves his imperfect, stumbling father, his pregnant girlfriend, and his God.

Interestingly enough, though the characters constantly refer to God and Jesus, and assert the will of Christ, they do absolutely no Biblical exegesis. When Pastor Skip says that he’s been studying, he doesn’t mention what readings have informed that study. When he sternly tells miscreants that, “What you and your friends have done is not cool in the eyes of God,” he doesn’t say why, and when he tells his son “The Bible is black and white!” he doesn’t quote chapter and verse.

There is a lot made of Jesus’ love, but not much at all about Jesus’ words or actions. This is a man who made a direct analogue between loving one’s neighbour and loving one’s God, and instructed that only those without sin may cast stones at sinners, and yet, it’s not until the very last lines of the movie that Mary, holding her new daughter in her hospital room, asks that guiding Christian question: “I mean, when you think about it, what would Jesus do? I don’t know. But in the meantime, we’ll be trying to figure it out. Together.”

This “together” doesn’t include Hillary Faye – and neither does it include Pastor Skip, who is seen walking back in forth in the parking lot with a bouquet of flowers, arguing with himself. Instead, Mary and her newborn are surrounded by her mother, her friends, her boyfriend, her ex-boyfriend, and his boyfriend. Nobody in that room is perfect, and they’re fine with that.

Roland, Cassandra and Mary

Other Things:

– Macaulay Culkin does wonderful work with this portrayal of a wheelchair user who doesn’t want to be an angelic victim of terrible circumstance. Instead, he’s a sly, sardonic non-believer, with a hotass girlfriend who doesn’t give a shit that he can’t walk. But Hollywood, for God’s sake, actors with disabilities actually do exist, you know?

– Veronica is the only non-white main character, and this is pointed up by the fact that her parents “saved her” from the “savage, godless nation” of Vietnam, while they were on mission. Her parents are a (non-speaking) African American couple – this may have been a way of trying to avoiding the issue of white parents “saving” babies of colour. Given how thoroughly whitebread the rest of the cast are and the rest of the ground the movie tackles, I think this is a misstep.

– The movie really walks the line of equating ugly with morally inferior, and crosses it when Roland says “Once her outside matched her inside” of his sister. Not cool, movie. Not cool.

– Constant use of “retarded” as an insult bugs me, even when it’s from people depicted as unpleasant.

What have I missed, Internets? What have I got wrong? Let’s talk teen movies!

* During the painting of the Jesus billboard:

Roland: I still don’t think he’s supposed to be white. I was watching this thing on television…
Hillary: Of COURSE he’s white. God, sometimes I think my brother’s retarded.

Teen Movie Times: Bring It On

Kia ora, Internets! I was going to do a post on Teen Comedy Movies with Serious Messages, but it, uh, it kinda grew! So now it’s a series.

On the list so far:
Bend It Like Beckham
Bring It On
But I’m A Cheerleader!
Easy A
Empire Records
Mean Girls
Stick It

Recommendations are very welcome.

I can’t guarantee I’ll even get to all of the ones on my list (some of the messages are pretty nebulous, but either beloved or interesting enough that I kinda want to talk about them anyway) but heck. Why not?

On with the show!

Teen Comedy With A Serious Message Number One: Bring It On.

Bring It On poster image

Oh, Internets. You know my feelings about cheerleading. Of course this is the first movie I’m going to tackle.

What happens?

Here’s the deal, Missy. We’re the shit, the best. We work hard, have fun, and win national championships. I’m offering you a chance to be a part of that.

Torrance Shipman has just been elected the successor to the scary Big Red, captain of the Rancho Carne Toros, six time national cheerleading champs. When disaster strikes, and they need a new cheerleader, she champions bad seed Missy, who’s just moved in. (“I moved here from Los Angeles/This school has no gymnastics team/This is a last resort!”)

Torrance and Missy

Because this isn’t a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy, Torrance overrules the others and invites Missy to join. In turn, Missy alerts Torrance to the fact that Big Red has been stealing routines from another squad, and after some initial fumbling, the Toros put together a new and genuinely original routine for nationals. They come second, which, because they did the right thing – eventually – “feels like first.” As a bonus, Torrance breaks up with her shitty boyfriend Aaron and hooks up with Missy’s cute brother, Cliff. (“You believed in me! That’s important to me! You believed in me!”)

The Message?

Racist appropriation of someone else’s creative work is disgusting, and way too easy to get away with.

Tried to steal our bit/But you look like shit/But we’re the ones who were down with it.

You see, Big Red hasn’t been stealing from just any squad. She’s been ripping off the East Compton Clovers, an “inner-city” Los Angeles school that’s never been able to make it to Nationals – and thus is unlikely to ever prove her crimes. “Inner-city”, by the way, is movie code for “Black”.

Missy is disgusted when she sees the “new” Toros routine she’s supposed to learn. She takes Torrance to an East Compton game, where she can see the evidence with her own eyes. A teary Torrance clearly recognises the routine, and as the two girls leave, the Clovers, led by their captain Isis, come out in force.

Clovers Captain Isis

They immediately make it clear, to both Torrance and the audience, that what the Toros have done is not simply a matter of stealing a routine, but an act of racist appropriation. The Toros are a team that is almost entirely white (and economically privileged – the houses we see are spacious and expensively decorated, and those are not the homes of the squad’s “rich girl”, who can come up with $500 at will). And they have been taking the credit for the creative work of underprivileged people of colour.

The Clovers react angrily to Missy and Torrance coming to view the “ethnic festivities” at their school, feeling, that like ‘Raggedy Ann’, they are there to steal.

Torrance: ‘Raggedy Ann’?
Isis: Ugly redhead with a video camera permanently attached to her hand. Y’all been coming up here for years trying to steal our routines.
Lafred: And we just love seeing them on ESPN.
Torrance: What are you talking about?
Isis: ‘Brr, it’s cold in here, there must be some Toros in the atmosphere’? I know you don’t think a white girl made that shit up. Our free cheer service is over as of this moment.
Jenelope: Over!
Lafred: Finito!
Isis: Every time we get some, here y’all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different. We’ve had the best squad around for years, but no one’s been able to see what we can do. But you better believe, all that’s gonna change this year. I’m captain, and I guarantee you we’ll make it to Nationals. So just hand over the tape you made tonight, we’ll call it even for now.

And, while Torrance and the rest of the squad were genuinely ignorant of what Big Red had done, ignorance is not really an excuse. The damage has been done, and the Toros have already profited from that malfeasance. As Torrance indignantly told Missy before witnessing the damning routine, “Our routines are 100% original! Count the trophies!”

“I swear I didn’t know.” “Well, now you do.”

Even worse, however, Torrance reluctantly agrees to carry on with the routine anyway, because, as antagonist Courtney puts it: “We learned that routine fair and square. We logged the man-hours. Don’t punish the squad for Big Red’s mistake. This isn’t about cheating. This is about winning.”

The problem is, of course, that they didn’t learn it fair and square, and the situation is about cheating – and about using their privilege to get away with it.

It takes the Clovers actually showing up at a football game and doing the same routine in the stands before Torrance will do more than wring her hands about doing the right thing. And even then she tries to take shortcuts, before she puts her big girl’s spankies on and does the work herself.

The Clovers do it better

Then it looks like the Clovers won’t be able to go after all – they just can’t get the funds. Most of the Toros celebrate, but Torrance insists that her father’s business pay their way – partly out of guilt, and partly because she wants her squad to be genuinely the best. Which means beating the best. And she recognises the Clovers as the best.

But Isis rejects the cheque. Instead of relying on this contribution, the Clovers appeal to an icon from their own neighbourhood, TV personality Pauletta, who comes through in her show’s wish-granting hour. Neither Torrance’s money nor Torrance’s guilt are welcome to the Clovers – but her competitive spirit is.

Isis: You wanna make it right? Then when you go to Nationals… bring it. Don’t slack off because you feel sorry for us. That way, when we beat you, we’ll know it’s because we’re better.
Torrance: Oh, I’ll bring it. Don’t worry.
Isis*: I never do.

Anyway, the Clovers go to Nationals, the Toros bring it, and the Clovers win national acclaim and ten thousand dollars with their own spectacular routine. And Isis and Torrance have reached detente – certainly not a friendship, but a wary respect for each other. (It does strike me as unrealistic that self-reliant and goals-focused Isis would bother thinking too much about Torrance’s feelings and “rewarding” her for doing something that’s absolutely baseline good human behaviour, but hey, Hollywood happy ending)

Isis: I just want to say, captain to captain, I respect what you guys did out there. You guys were good.
Torrance: Thanks. You were better.
Isis: We were, yeah.


Other Things?

– Torrance’s gay cheer friend Les is awesome – about the only one on the squad, other than Missy, who resists carrying on with the stolen routine. And while he doesn’t get a relationship of his own, he does get a genuinely cute moment of nervously introducing himself to a guy he likes, and getting the “I’ll see you around” meet-cute response.

– There’s a totally unnecessary bit where it’s implied a male cheerleader digitally penetrates a female one while he’s holding her. She giggles, but she looks surprised – she clearly wasn’t expecting it. So: 1) Dude, how hard is it to ask first? Yes means yes! 2) Come on, in the middle of a routine your hands should be making sure she doesn’t smash her skull, have some professionalism.

– There’s some major girl-on-girl hate, but also a lot of girl-on-girl love. Missy and Torrance sro it up, and Isis and her immediate friends are a strong, cohesive group.

*Can I just point out that Isis is an amazing character, given incredible presence and depth in her few lines by the sterling acting chops of Gabrielle Union? Gabrielle Union should be a star on the level of Kirsten Dunst, and should most certainly have more work than Eliza Dushku, but she’s not, and she doesn’t, because – surprise! – racism.

I still hear things like, “Gabrielle, you gave the best read! If we decide to go black, you’re at the top of the list”. I’ve actually been told, “Gabrielle, you’re absolutely perfect for the role, but the role is a girl who’s most popular in school”. I’ve been to the point where I brought in my yearbook. “See how popular I was? It really can happen”.

Gabrielle Union – source.

Daniel Vettori is a Vampire

This is Daniel Vettori.

Daniel Vettori

He plays cricket* for New Zealand. He is also a vampire.

Daniel Vettori exposes his fangs

Karen, you say, this is a startling claim! However did you arrive at this conclusion?

Internets, I say, allow me to make my case.

Exhibit A: Modern vampires are hot.

Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries

Laurent from Twilight

Louis de Pointe du Lac from Interview With A Vampire

Daniel Vettori** is hot:

Those are some serious come hither eyes y'all

Exhibit B: Vampires don’t age, and neither does Daniel Vettori.

Daniel Vettori Practice Session

Daniel Vettori has been a member of the New Zealand team since he was supposedly 18 years old BUT PROBABLY REALLY 97 or something. He looks 18 now, only to fool people that he is 32, the age he claims, he will sometimes grow a beard or sketch wrinkles around his eyes with an eyebrow pencil.

Exhibit C: Daniel Vettori plays a national sport.

Vampires do not usually play sport, but of those we know definitely do, the sport of choice is baseball.

Carlisle Cullen from Twilight holds a baseball bat

The vampires who play baseball declare it is because it is, “the national game [of the USA].”

Rugby is actually the New Zealand game, but a vampire playing rugby would be discovered almost immediately because in rugby people tend to bleed. I suspect even the All Blacks would be discomforted by a fellow player who ate the opposition. Vettori has obviously chosen cricket as the next most popular New Zealand game.

Cricket is also fairly similar to baseball! There’s a ball and a bat and some boundaries. The coincidences just keep PILING UP! Are they coincidences AT ALL?

Now, I know what you may be thinking: But Karen, you are thinking, cricket is played in the daytime. Outside. In sunlight.

Daniel Vettori taking a catch in full daylight

Internets, don’t fret yourselves! The modern vampire regards sunlight as a trifling inconvenience. Slap on some makeup to hide the sparkling or slip on some bewitched jewellery to counter the curse, and your modern vampire is no more a pile of dust and ashes than he looks like old school vampires Dracula and Nosferatu.

Which is just as well, I think we can all agree. Would you want to watch this?

Nosferatu, all fangs and corpse-like pallor

Or this?

Daniel Vettori, all smiles and victory

Next week: How Beatrice Faumuina is secretly half-mermaid.

*Cricket is a game where you whack a ball with a piece of wood and run between some other pieces of wood. You get a point for each run. If you whack the ball hard enough so that it rolls over a white line at the edge of the sports field, you automatically get four runs. If you whack the ball hard enough that it flies over the same white lines, you get six runs.

You can get out by someone catching the ball in the air after you whack it, by someone throwing the ball and hitting the pieces of wood behind you as you run, by someone throwing the ball at you and hitting the pieces of wood behind you as you attempt to whack it, and by someone throwing the ball and they would have hit the pieces of wood behind you as you attempted to whack it, but they hit your leg instead.

There is a lot of other stuff, with overs and deep field and rubbing the ball on your crotch, but those are the basics.

**Incidentally, when I did a google image search for “Daniel Vettori shirtless”, for, you know, research purposes, a picture of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan locking in a sparkly embrace came up in the first row of results. Another coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Three Things For A Post

Three things, internets!

1: When We Wake First pass pages: SUCCESS

When We Wake first pass pages

[Transcript: A pile of printer paper bound with heavy duty rubber bands, many post-it flags indicating changes in the top left corner. The top page reads WHEN WE WAKE in a delightfully futuristic typeface]

Typically nervewracking work, because what if you don’t like the book anymore? Turns out I do, excellent, send it off on Monday.

2: First ever creme brulee: MOSTLY SUCCESS.

Creme Brulee

[Transcript: A creme brulee in a grey terracotta soup bowl, looking mighty fine if I do say so myself.]

Me: Where are those ramekins you said you had?
Mum: Oh, hmmm, let’s see, how about these?
Me: Those aren’t ramekins.
Mum: They’ll be fine!
Me: They’re soup bowls, they’re too big. The custard won’t set.
Mum: How about these two mismatched containers that are different sizes and made out of different materials?
Me: I will take the soup bowls.

They didn’t set. But the resulting thick custard was very nice!

3: Would you like me to critique your short story or novel synopsis plus first chapter? You can have that happen! You just have to promise the most money in the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers auction.

It’s probably worth noting that, if we are not good buds – and even then I regularly have to prioritise other things – charity auction bids are pretty much the only way I critique others’ work, so this is a rare opportunity.

My item is here, but there is plenty of other super neat stuff up for grabs, and all the money goes to financially underprivileged young writers to assist with attending the workshop. A most worthy cause!

Sromancing the Stone

Bromances! We know them, right? Those boys who would do anything for each other, who would die or kill for each other, who, even in the depths of their hatred for each other, are linked by their broish passion.

Sometimes they involve men who are actually related:

Dean and Sam from Supernatural

Dean and Sam from Supernatural

Stefan and Damon from The Vampire Diaries

Stefan and Damon from The Vampire Diaries

Nick and Alan from the Demon's Lexicon

Nick and Alan from the Demon’s Lexicon

Sometimes they involve bros who are unrelated:

Jay and Silent Bob

Jay and Silent Bob

Shawn and Gus from Psych

Shawn and Gus from Psych

John Watson and Sherlock Holmes

John Watson and Sherlock Holmes

Troy and Abed from Community

Troy and Abed from Community

But the bromance goes beyond friendship or fraternal affection. Importantly, however, there is no canonical explicit sexual or romantic relationship in a bromance. That would be a romance. Fandom will often flock to bromances and create fan products presenting them as romances, and that is fine – more than fine! – but when I speak of the bromance, I speak of it in canonical terms.

The Vampire Diaries, in fact, has three canonical bromances – Damon and Stefan (actual brothers), Klaus and Stefan (unrelated and in the past) and Alaric and Damon (unrelated and having a few relationship issues on account of Damon got mad and killed Alaric [he came back!] but they are totally making up). But Stefan and Damon is the bromance to End Them All. It’s amazing.

Unfortunately, the lady equivalent is not there. In The Vampire Diaries, Bonnie, Caroline, and Elena are nearly as dedicated to each other, and in fact the show has made gestures towards that triad’s bond being almost as strong as Stefan and Damon’s a few times. The bit where Bonnie and Elena come around to comfort Caroline in her new vampiness was just ADORABLE and I totally cried. But it’s not enough! They don’t get to have the same kind of affirmations of love, or talk to each other as often or even always appear in the same episodes! Elena is in every one, but Bonnie and Caroline are frequently not.

Also, Bonnie was kinda ready to let Vamp!Caroline die. It’s not really a b/sromance until you’re ready to cut through an army of innocents to keep someone alive.

So the other day I was talking to Sarah Rees Brennan about the extremely excellent Parks and Recreation, a show I am pleased to say I made her watch.

“LESLIE AND ANN ARE THE BEST,” she proclaimed a few weeks later.

“Yes!” I said. “Basically they are a lady bromance. Hrm. Sismance? Soromance?”

“Sromance?” Sarah said.

“Yes! And that’s rare. There are not enough sromances!”

So, how come?

I think part of it is that there are so relatively few ladies in our media, and there are so relatively few ladies who talk to each other. That is why we have the Bechdel Test.

For a movie to pass the Bechdel Test, it must contain:

1) More than one woman, who
2) talk to each other,
3) about something other than men

This test is not a be-all-and-end-all foolproof test of a thing’s lady-awesome rating, but it is illustrative that it is sometimes very difficult to find things that pass it.

Also, often ladies are set up, in fiction and in real life, as in competition with each other. Competition for male attention, competition for jobs, competition for being the Most Attractive By Very Narrow Standards Of Beauty. Often ladies are portrayed as hating each other as a result of that competition.

It is impossible to have a sromance if there is only one lady in a thing. It is impossible to have a sromance if the ladies don’t talk to each other. And it is hard to have a sromance if the ladies are in competition with each other – not impossible, but difficult.

This must change! We, the people, demand more sromances, for they are awesome. But in the meantime, here are a few superb sromances to be getting on with:

Parks and Recreation

Leslie and Ann

Boo yah. I love these ladies. Leslie! A passionate government employee who is amazingly good at her job and kind of terrifying. Ann! A kind and beautiful nurse who is amazingly good at her job and much less terrifying.

Canonically, Leslie loves Pawnee, Parks, and then Ann. Here is a word cloud of Leslie’s email account:

Leslie's word cloud

See how much smaller the name Ben is? That’s Leslie’s boyfriend, whom she loves to distraction, to the point of risking her job AT the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department. But of all the people in the world, she talks about and to Ann most.

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena and Gabrielle

Do I even have to talk about this? Xena and Gabrielle are amazing sros. They love each other, fight for each other, raise a kid together, and kind of vaguely get together in the finale only they’re reincarnated and Xena’s spirit is in a male body so… while that episode is a romance and the series in general goes right up to the sromance/romance line and then dances the tango on it in an extremely sexy way, I am saying that for the MAJORITY of the series it is an epic sromance.

The Middleman

Lacey and Wendy

Lacey is a performance artist. Wendy is a painter and also a trainee secret agent type fighting weird things. They illegally sublet an apartment, make art, fight bad guys, watch terrible zombie movies, and be forever there for each other. Wendy and Lacey: sros for life.

Birds of Prey

Barbara and Dinah

She’s a hacker extraordinaire. She’s one of the best martial artists in the world. THEY FIGHT CRIME.

Barbara Gordon (Oracle) and Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary) are the ultimate sros of superhero comics. How many times have they saved each other’s lives? Oh only a ZILLION. Probably they would not cut through an army of innocents for each other, because superheroes, but they have contemplated killing bad guys to save the other, and that is a BIG DEAL.

The Bible

Ruth and Naomi

Ruth 1: 15-17: And [Naomi] said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

Some people read lesbians, the same way the historical bromance of Jonathan and David is read as gay, but I am going back to my core definition here. No canonical romance? Biblical sros.

Josie and the Pussycats

Okay, here is where I just talk and talk because NO ONE CAN MAKE ME SHUT UP ON MY OWN BLOG. This is often a comfort.

Josie and the Pussycats has brilliant commentary on branding and commercialism, tight writing, catchy tunes, hilarious dialogue and it’s criminally underrated. 5.1 on IMDB? What is wrong with people?

Not coincidental in my enjoyment is that this movie features my favourite movie sromance. The Pussycats, Josie, Val and Melody, are musicians with a dream. Sure, they’re currently playing in the gutters – literally, at the local bowling alley – but they have faith in their craft and each other.

Melody, Josie and Val

“Who’s a rock star?” Val asks a forlorn Josie, after some Mean Girls have been Mean. “Who’s a rock star?”

“I am,” Josie replies, smiling a big huge Rachel Leigh Cook smile and then Val hugs her and kisses her forehead while Melody beams.


Of course, there is about to be trouble in Poor But Honest paradise, and it comes in the form of evil producers who take the girls to number one, but are Secretly Brainwashing teenagers into buying stuff through subliminal messaging in their hit singles!

But that is not the main bad thing. The main bad thing is that they brainwash Josie into thinking she doesn’t love her friends! They brainwash her into thinking the sromance is gone! And it is overcoming that and loving her friends again that provides the emotional climax of the film.

Josie, having discovered the Evil Brainwashing, challenges the producers, refusing to play in their debut gig. But Val and Melody are held hostage against her good behaviour, and for love of them, Josie agrees to play.

Melody: “See, Val, she still likes us!”

Josie: “Of course I still like you! You guys are my best friends on the planet! Look, I know that friends don’t treat each other the way I treated you guys, but you’ve got to believe me, if I could just go back in time I’d take it all back.”

Mel: “That’d be cool. If I could go back in time, I’d wanna meet Snoopy.”

Josie: “Mel, I love that about you! I love that you think everything is possible and this world is such a great place, because you know what? It is. And I’m so sorry if for one second I made you think that it wasn’t. And Val! Val. You bought me my first guitar. And you know, we may have started this band together, but the only reason we’ve come this far is because of you. Now look, I don’t care if we’re Josie and the Pussycats, or Valerie and the Pussycats, or whoever and the Pussycats. It doesn’t matter, as long as we’re together. You’re my

, Val. I love you.”

Val: “I love you too, Jos.”

Mel: “And I love you, Val.”

Val: “And I love you, Mel.”

Mel: “And I love you, Josie!”


With the handy distraction of a badly injured boy band, the Pussycats get a chance to fight back. They triumph, naturally, and it turns out that Evil Fiona is only brainwashing people because… she wants sros of her own!

Then the Pussycats do the concert after all, with a message of being yourself and loving your sros and I grin for a solid week.

There is a romance, and it’s cute and all, but the boy in question is like Liv Tyler in That Thing You Do. He is the nice eye-candy extra to the story of a band Making It, Faking It and Breaking Up. But the Pussycats, unlike the Wonders, get back together after the Breaking Up, because they are total sros and they believe in sisterhood forever.

And Rosario Dawson clothelines Alan Cumming! It’s beautiful.

In conclusion, sromances are the best, I definitely have to write some, and I wanna see more on my TV and movies. If you have suggestions, I should love to hear them. Internets, bring me your finest sros!


Karen’s New Year Resolutions, All About Writing And Reading, Because She Is A Nerd:

1: Read all of Shakespeare’s plays that I haven’t read.

Even the really boring history plays that go on forever and everyone is named after their title not their name and it gets super confusing because later on there are different people with the same title and omg do we hate Gloucester or like him right now?

I want to do this because, what the hell, why not, I have read about half of them anyway in the course of my nerdy education/drama days. So fill out the course! Get my Shakespeare merit badge! Discourse knowledgeably on King John!

2: Read the Brontes.

Internets, I have tried to read Jane Eyre four times. The first three times I stalled out somewhere in the “being tormented by my cousins” chapters, and decided that I hated it. But I could not give up, because numerous people I respect have told me that honestly, Karen, honestly! It gets better! One day, you will be in the right head space for this book and you will love it.

This week, I have made it to Thornfield Hall.

Internets, I love Jane Eyre.

And I am assured that I will love Villette and Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and that I can get through Wuthering Heights by mocking the hell out of it. So okay! Yeah! Bronte merit badge, here we come.

3: Blog every day

Oh boy. Okay.

Internets, in 2011, also known as 20-don’t-let-the-door-hit-your-ass-on-the-way-out-11, my blogging fell by the wayside a bit. Not that I didn’t blog, but I didn’t blog often. I also feel I blogged a little less substantially than I have done in previous years. I have been blogging since 2000 – although obviously everything I wrote before 2005 was total shit which is why it will never see the light of day again – and I feel I have more or less got the hang of it.

SO I am going to try to say something every day that it is possible (ie, 24 hour plane trips obviously rule that out, also if I get the flu, also my day starts when I get up and ends when I go to bed, which does not mesh with the 24 hour “day” cycle very often). But under normal circumstances, I think that I have at least one thing a day that is worth saying.

And that is it!

Internets, I solemnly swear to you that I will keep to these resolutions unless I get super bored or don’t like doing them.

Did you make any resolutions, Internets?

And STAY out.

Good morning, Internets, and a very happy new year to you.

I had planned to go to Christchurch and join friends for New Year’s Eve, but the recent quake and heavy aftershocks prompted a schedule change. Instead, I brought in the season playing cards with my mother and youngest brother, who insisted, after a few false starts, that we hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

There are many worse ways to greet the New Year than safe, warm, well-fed and singing with one’s family. And there may not really be any bad way to bid goodbye to 2011, a year that sucked most heartily on a number of levels for a vast number of people.

There were certainly good things in my life: my oldest brother got married to a wonderful woman; my second book came out; I was able to attend ALA and the World Fantasy Convention; I spoke at Reading Matters and had a blast; I watched a lot of great TV and read a number of great books (some detailed in this guest post at The Book Smugglers”); and I had a wonderful time mentoring an exceptional young woman (hi, Laura!) through the Big Brother Big Sister program, which I am finally able to talk about.

But on the whole, 2011 was pretty damn awful, and I wanted to see it out with some grand gesture. Here, then, is the song that increasingly became my anthem as I clung to the certainty that this, too, would pass:

And this is the song I wish to be my anthem for 2012:

May you all have a fabulous year.

Best of 2011

My parents are on a trip this week, which is FABULOUS.

I mean. I love them. I love spending time with them.

But my Dad has spent his married life making the family meals, and he’s got the menu down to a fine art: Roast meat, steamed fish, or cold cuts, accompanied by boiled potatoes, steamed silverbeet and cauliflower, and occasionally carrots and peas. There might be a gravy. There might be a cheese sauce. There will be a green salad for the rabbit food eaters.

And this is a fine menu! But it becomes progressively less fine when one is served it every day.

Now that Dad is out of the kitchen, it is unquestionably mine. Dinner tonight was fajitas and potato salad, and coconut milk rice pudding for dessert. Tomorrow we’re barbecuing some venison, which I am currently marinating in garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and a lot of a really nice merlot. Not sure what I’m doing after that. Maybe I’ll make a curry! Maybe I’ll put together a risotto! The possibilities are endless, and carb-tastic.

In between establishing my dominion over the kitchen, I have been cruising through my journal and finding my favourite posts this year in order to make a Best Of list. Internets, several of them are about food! I know that you are shocked.

February 3rd: I DO Love A Good List.
February 24th: What To Do With Words.
Feb 26th: A Message From Christchurch.
March 4th: Smiling at Grief.
April 1st: NEW Shattering Cover!
April 18th: Karen’s Top Four Novels Guaranteed To Prompt a Massive Session In The Kitchen.
April 22nd: Teenagers, Sex, and Young Adult Fiction.
June 7th: How To Make A Birthday Cake.
August 23rd: Thursday watch the walls instead.
August 28th: Past and Present.
October 15th: Creepy Cake N Bake: Dark Chocolate Teacup Puddings.
November 9th: And All For One (incredible movie).
November 19th: Problems, Awesomeness, and Not Being Alone.
December 25th: Faith in foxholes.