Taste

Taste is a funny old thing, isn’t it?  Hands up if you’ve had the following conversation:

“Oh, I loved <insert random movie, book, song… anything title here>”

“Ugh, REALLY?”

Right?  You’ve either been one person or the other, at least once.  I’ve been noticing this a lot lately, because I have been spending copious amounts of time perusing the IMDb message boards.  Now, I think it’s safe to say that most people are aware of the IMDb message boards.  They’re a place to go to discuss movies, tv shows and actors.  They can be quite… Intense.  If you disagree with the general consensus, you can get shot down pretty quickly.  I’ve been risking it lately though; given that my taste in TV is pretty different from most of my “real-life” acquaintances, it’s the best place to go to analyse a particularly convoluted episode of Pretty Little Liars, or an especially disappointing American Horror Story.

I spent most of my teen years trying to find people who agreed with me.  Liked the same things I liked.  I was picked on and made fun of for not having the same taste in music or movies or whatever.  And you know, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that this isn’t normal!

We’re supposed to have different taste in things.  If we all agreed on everything, conversations would consist of:

“You know that part?”

“I loved that part!”

“Me too!”

“OMG!”

Essentially, it’s like a conversation between my ex-boyfriend and his university roommates.  They all grew up together, and they all knew everything that each other knew.  Man, sitting in on one of their conversations was painful.  I mean, just imagine…  But I digress.

I adored the Maze Runner film.  According to IMDb, lots of people hated it.  In the past, that would have bothered me.  I was insecure, and I would have questioned WHY I liked it.  Was I wrong?  But I guess I’ve finally gained that little bit of security.  My opinions are my own, and I’m going to stick with them.

So my point is, if you’re at all bothered about liking different things than your friends do, like I used to, don’t let it get to you.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to not to let it bother you, then keep an eye on yourself – make sure you’re not putting other people in that position.  We all have different tastes.  Life would be incredibly boring if we didn’t.

Zoellagate

Okay, so I have no idea if that’s what people are calling it, but I rather enjoy when there’s a bit of controversy around a topic, and people start adding “gate” to the end.  Gamergate, Skeletongate, we had Sconegate here in the office one day…  So I am terming this “scandal” as Zoellagate, in my own head at least.

Zoella (Zoe Sugg) is a very successful British YouTuber.  She recently released a novel that’s loosely based on her life, which broke all sorts of release day sales records.  However, it has since been “discovered” or “admitted” that the novel was ghost-written.  Well.  Did the internet freak out, or did the internet freak out.  According to several articles, thousands (millions?) of Zoella’s fans are devastated, heart-broken, weeping into their copies of the book and throwing them at their computer screens.  Wildly exaggerated, one imagines.  One hopes, at least.  Zoella herself, I believe, hasn’t commented on the “scandal”, rather, she’s taken a break from the internet to decompress.

To be honest, I think the whole thing is a darned shame.  I’ve always liked Zoella.  Her videos make for great entertainment.  When she started talking about writing a book, I thought, “Oh well, I’ll probably never read it, but good for her for grabbing the opportunity whilst she could”.  According to her loyal fans, she’s always been up front and honest about people “helping” her write the book, or “working with her”, so therefore it shouldn’t be the scandal that it’s blown up into.  So yes.  Looking at it from that perspective, the poor girl deserves a bit of a break.

On the other hand… Hers is the only name on the front cover.  If it was really written in collaboration with someone else, then oughtn’t it to be “Written by Zoella and Joe Bloggs”?  I guess we’ll never know how much of the actual writing Zoe did herself.  And at the end of the day, do we really need to know?  Again, I haven’t read it, it’s not my kind of book, but if you enjoy it, does it really matter to you who wrote it?

The answer is yes.  It shouldn’t be, but it is.  Take Robert Galbraith.  His book was decent.  It had decent sales.  Decent reviews. Decent.  When it was “discovered” (there’s that word again – journalists sure are good at “discovering” stuff that’s been sent to them by publicists) that Robert Galbraith was none other than JK Rowling, the sales sky-rocketed, the reviews were suddenly gushing.  I picked up a copy.  I read it, I loved it (Cormoran Strike. Seriously. What a guy.)  Would I have picked up a book by some random guy?  Meh.  Who knows.  Would I have enjoyed it just as much if I had?  Probably.  It’s the same book after all.  But the point I’m making here is – the name, or the brand, is what’s making me pick the book up.  Zoella’s legions of fans made her book a best seller.  And presumably, they enjoyed it.  Although if I’m being honest, amidst the scandal, I haven’t actually seen a proper review.

As for who wrote it, who cares.  Does Jamie Oliver cook at all the restaurants with his name above the door?  Does any celebrity who endorses anything really get personally involved in all the stages of development?

Yes, the girl should have credited her ghost-writer.  Penguin (the publisher involved) ought to have been savvy enough to warn her that if a novel is ghost-written, the internet will find out.  The internet knows everything.  But she’s made a whole lot of her fans pretty happy.  Provided she’s learned her lesson about giving credit where credit’s due, let’s let the girl have her break.

And Geeks.

An interesting fact I’ve learned from this season of AHS:Freakshow is what the word “geek” used to mean. One of the freaks is known as the Geek, and he’s a little guy who likes biting the heads off living things. Charming, I know. But apparently this was the done thing, back in the day when freakshows were a thing. They would open the show for the freaks; a warm-up act, if you will.

What I find interesting though, is the negative connotations that have always surrounded this word. According to the mighty Wikipedia, those who performed in freakshows without geeks, felt superior to those who performed with them. Translation: Even the freaks didn’t like the geeks. Flash forward to present day. What is a geek? At base level, someone with a high level of intelligence. Most often, mocked and ridiculed for this. Recently, there’s been a flurry of t-shirts and sweaters being sold on the high street with the word “GEEK” emblazoned across the chest. These are being worn ironically by the cool kids.

This has been part of a recent effort to make the term “geek” cool. I’m not so sure it’s worked myself. It certainly carries more negative connotations than the word “nerd” in my opinion. A few months ago, the Harry Potter convention LeakyCon renamed itself to GeekyCon. The idea behind it being that Potter isn’t the main theme anymore. I get the intention to celebrate “geekdom” but to be honest, I get made fun of enough for going to conventions – you can’t imagine the comments about attending something called “GeekyCon”. Sure, we shouldn’t listen to people who mock us, but we do.

Anyway. Maybe I should be embracing this new culture, and be proud to call myself a geek. But flashbacks to being mocked at high school for this very thing makes it pretty difficult. I do wish though that I had known about the Geeks at the freakshow when I was younger. It would have been funny to correct people who used the word incorrectly. Then again, that in itself would probably have warranted a wedgie or two.

Freaks…

*Spoilers for AHS:Freakshow*

Okay, so, I have no idea what to make of this season of American Horror Story. For years, fans have been asking for a season based in a haunted carnival, or freakshow kind of location, and here we are. And yet, it’s not what I expected.

So far, this season has been the least supernatural out of all of the seasons. Murder House had ghosts coming out the wazoo, Asylum had the Devil and aliens, and of course, Coven was witch-tastic. So far though, Freakshow, with the exception of one rather awesome ghost in the Halloween episodes, could be any TV drama. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like “horror” ought to contain at least some aspect of the supernatural. Otherwise, isn’t it just a slasher film, or crime show?

That’s not to say it hasn’t been good. There are aspects of the show I’m really looking forward to watching pan out – Dandy-related, mainly (Seriously, how is his mother going to react when she finds the dead housekeeper? “Oh dear, Dandy, what a terrible mess…”) He’s no Oliver Thresden, but he’s shaping up to be a pretty good baddie. Elsa Mars’ backstory was pretty shocking, and I’m curious to see where her story goes next. The storyline with Denis O’Hare and Emma Roberts though. Pretty dull so far, and fairly predictable. Emma Roberts is clearly having regrets about sneaking into the freakshow under false pretences, and is harbouring feelings for real-life lover Evan Peters.

Twisty the Clown though. The show writers hyped this season up as having the scariest clown imaginable. Twisty is not scary. The people in this show are scarily dumb. Take the girl who is on a romantic picnic with her boyfriend. Twisty turns up, utterly filthy, with what could be the world’s creepiest mask over half his face. The girl is only slightly hesitant, before deciding with a thrill that this clown was hired by her boyfriend to be the picnic’s entertainment. For a town that despises the freaks so much, based solely on their appearances, no one seems to notice that this clown is a bit of a state. Dandy’s mother also has this reaction – sees a dishevelled, somewhat dodgy looking clown walking the side of the road, and decides to pick him up and take him home. I mean, come on people.

That being said, his backstory was pretty tragic, and in all honestly, almost makes you want to sympathise with the psycho clown. When re-watching, the backstory sticks in your mind, and makes any fear of Twisty crumble into sympathy for him. It’s interesting, because in Asylum, I had thought that once the Bloodyface identity had been revealed, re-watching the show would be impossible. But Zachary Quinto, and the writing of the character, makes one forget that we know he’s actually a homicidal maniac for the first few episodes. Freakshow isn’t quite there yet.

But back to the “scariest clown” point. A theory from the wonderful Chloe today – Twisty is not the clown that has been hyped up. Our dear new friend Dandy is. Dandy has chosen to become a killer, whereas Twisty was, in his own way, innocent. I mean, clearly, Dandy has his own issues. But I think he could be shaping up to be a pretty serious contender for Worst Villain of the show. Time will tell.

Renée Zellweger, Feminism, and Me

So. She’s been all over the internet the last few days. Renée Zellweger (hereafter, RZ, to save my poor fingers) disappeared from the public eye for a month and reappeared a different woman.  You’ve seen it. Every single news site in the world has covered it. (What about Ebola?! I hear people cry. Who cares about Ebola, there are celebrities CHANGING!)

The internet was shocked when RZ reappeared after her absence, because her face had changed dramatically.  And the reaction to that shock? The war cries. SEXISM!  AGEISM!  EVERYTHINGISM!  The internet was full of terrible people who expected RZ to look exactly the same until the day she died, and the fact that she had “aged” was sickening to the world.  For shame, internet, for shame!

Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it is. Because that’s not the reason people were shocked. No one is saying “Wow she’s gotten old”, or “Wow she looks awful” or “Wow she’s definitely not Bridget Jones anymore”.

They’re saying “Who’s that?”

She doesn’t look like someone who has aged badly. She doesn’t look like someone who used to be youthful and has hit life hard and it doesn’t agree with her face. She looks like a completely different person. The number of times I had to be told that it was RZ and not a mistake… This isn’t sexism, this isn’t ageism, this isn’t someone who ought to be a feminist but isn’t.  This is actual, legitimate shock.  It’s not an attack against feminism, it’s confusion. Women age.  This should be no surprise to anyone. But women do not, in the space of four weeks, transform into a completely different person. No, she does not look worse, she does not look older, and I’m definitely not being deliberately sexist or ageist or anything – but she definitely looks like a different person.

It’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s not being insulting, it’s not being rude, it’s not being offensive.  It’s having eyeballs. If no one had noticed, it would have been insane.  The paparazzi at the red carpet event probably had to ask who she was. She looks like a completely different person. And the automatic leap to “sexist”, “ageist” and the rest is pathetic.  There’s so much of this going around right now. Feminists who think they have to prove that they’re superior to men.  Newsflash, ladies – the idea is equality. Not superiority.  Stop taking offence at every little thing.

I read, with interest, an article today about a woman who was outraged that men have the audacity to approach pretty women in coffee shops and disturb their “coffee time” by speaking to them.  Heaven forbid! The woman was outraged on behalf of feminists everywhere, thought this was disgraceful, and that men were awful people for doing this.  Umm… What? So, people aren’t allowed to communicate now, outside of formally arranged exchanges?  It’s ridiculous.

So please, feminists, return to the original point. It’s not offensive to notice that someone has drastically changed appearance in a short space of time.  It’s not sexist to start a conversation with a woman, unless you consider it to be unacceptable for a woman to start a conversation with a man (heaven forbid!).  Let’s try and aim for equality, please.  We won’t get anywhere until we realise equality is the way forward.

Maybe Next Time

So.  Scotland has been a busy place recently.  The eyes of the world were on us as we became what I understand to be the first country in history to refuse independence.  No, really.  I’m not kidding.

It’s hard to explain to those from other countries.  A good portion of the rest of the world had no idea Scotland even was its own country, thinking instead of a quaint village in the North of England with deep-fried Mars bars and tiny haggis creatures running around.  Oh, and Hogwarts.

This is something that’s been immensely and inexplicably frustrating to me throughout my life.  Telling someone you’re Scottish, and being asked which part of England that’s in.  Hearing English accents referred to as “British”, or even worse, Scottish accents as English. Just a note, people – there is no such thing as a British accent.  How can there be?  Four separate countries, each with hundreds of different accents within.  There’s no single, generic accent.  But anyway. Tangent.

I’m truly astonished by more than half of this country’s reluctance to accept the gift it was offered.  To be a country standing on our own two legs, to be in charge of our own future.  Instead, we will stay in the shadows.  I can only hope that the UK Government live up to its promises of giving Scotland more of its own powers, but I won’t hold my breath.

I’m disappointed in Scotland.  But I’m not angry.  So many people are so angry right now, expressing their feelings in ways ranging from online rants to actual fighting in the streets.  I’m torn between hoping it blows over soon, and these people can return to some state of peace, and hoping that it doesn’t.  That what we’ve been through leaves a lasting impression on everyone, and as time moves forward, people come to realise what an opportunity they’ve missed.  And hope that we’re given another chance at it someday.

What’s In A Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

Lolz. Don’t worry. I’m not getting all Shakespearian on you.  Could you imagine if I went from reviewing post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction to Shakespeare? Yikes.  Anyway.  Moving on. 

I’ve been thinking about names recently.  Character names are so important, in any piece of writing.  Sure, Romeo and Juliet would have the same plot, but would it have had the same impact if it had been about Steve and Jemima?  Who knows.  I’m currently reading City of Heavenly Fire, the last in the Mortal Instruments series (hah, Shakespeare.  You thought I had been reading Shakespeare.  Hilarious).  For all its flaws, the Mortal Instruments series houses my favourite character name ever – Sebastian Morgenstern.  Does that name scream “villain” to you, or what?  Don’t get me wrong, I have other fictional villains that are a thousand  times more terrifying, and I’d be much less happy to run into them in a dark alleyway, but gosh darn it, this one definitely has the best name. 

I think I pay particular attention to names because I hate my own.  “Clare” is an exceptionally dull name, and yet people are still unable to spell it correctly.  Although, apparently, my father was pretty keen on naming me “Gráinne”, Irish for Grace.  So I suppose I should count my blessings.  I tend to feel that, when it comes to fiction at least, character names shouldn’t be unpronounceable.  How can readers obsess and come up with fan theories if they can’t pronounce the character names?

Saying that however, I’ve just remembered how no one knew how to pronounce “Hermione” until the films started pre-production.  Even my high school English teacher got it wrong (a shock to my system at the time – teachers making mistakes?!).      But of course, come the early noughties (God, I hate that term), the popularity of the name Hermione skyrocketed

Would it have been as popular if Hermione had been named Megan?  Or Fiona?  Or God forbid, Clare?  I doubt it.  Would Sebastian Morgenstern have any appeal if his name was Bob Smith?  Who knows.  Names are pretty important, Shakespeare. Would your work be as acclaimed if your surname was… Poopface?  Okay, so I suck at making up names (see my Sims for details). Sue me.  Or don’t.  Whatever. 

Maybe I’ll change my name one day.  Hermione Morgenstern?  Perhaps, perhaps.

Little White Lies

Little white lies. You know, those innocent little remarks that people use to avoid a sticky situation. “Does my ass look big in this?” “Of course not!” “I’ve lost weight, can you tell?” “I was just thinking you looked really skinny!”

Why do these lies exist? Who, at what point in history, realised that it would be easier to just agree with a loved one (because certainly, these lies tend to be told in relationships) than to suffer the wrath of admitting that a corset could be doing with being pulled a good few notches tighter? It’s something that intrigues me. I’m honest. Painfully so. It’s landed me in trouble more times than I care to remember. So when I see people engaging in these innocent lies, I can’t help but watch for the consequences. Often, it’s just that – innocent. But sometimes, people get greedy. One person feigning awe at invisible weight loss isn’t enough. It has to come from everyone. But why?

More and more these days, people find their self-worth in what others think of them. We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. Buying a dress because a friend says it looks good. Having more than a few drinks at the end of the day because someone at work thinks you’re lousy at your job, regardless of what’s actually happened.
The point of this blog post? To tell you to knock it off. Your opinion is what matters. Buy the dress because you think it looks good. Do your best regardless of what someone else thinks you should be doing. And don’t constantly seek others’ approval. Your own approval is the only one you need.

Family

What is family?

When faced with a question, I did what everyone does these days. I Googled it. Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia had the usual definitions – any group of persons related by blood.  Urban Dictionary had, again as usual, slightly odder definitions, but still relatively accurate ones – a bunch of people who hate each other but eat dinner together, usually annoying and invasive around the holidays, a word used to force you to do things you don’t want to do.

They’re all fairly relevant, aren’t they? Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking on this lately. An event (hereafter referred to as The Incident) happened in my family last year that has had extremely serious repercussions.  I won’t go into it, but trusts were fractured into what must be at least a billion parts.  No apologies were made, and no attempts at reconciliation happened.   I think the person at the root of the problem might have convinced themselves that they did nothing wrong. Crimes were never proven, and time moved on.  Now that we’re over a year later, the person continues as always, and on the surface, everyone else has moved on.

But they haven’t moved on, and I was reminded of this today. It’s my father’s birthday in a couple of months; my incredibly strong and wise father.  He has been through so much in the last year, not least The Incident. Discussions regarding celebrations began tentatively, and were quashed extremely quickly when some family members stated they didn’t want to come – it was too awkward given the past.

It looks like we may have become one of those families that only ever get together now for funerals. Cheery, right? So, post Incident life seems to be plodding along on the surface, but underneath, the repercussions look to be permanent.  All I want is for my family to be whole again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

So what is a family? Is it merely the people who are related to you, regardless of their actions?  Or is it about the relationships that you make yourself – whether people are related or not – that are cultivated and grown to the point that you can’t imagine being without them?

Clichés

It all started with a man.

I’ve had this stuck in my head for a couple of weeks. I’m toying with the idea of a short story that begins with this line.  I won’t go into it; mostly because I haven’t thought it through at all yet. But I’m currently fixated on this line.  I really want to start the story with this, but isn’t it a massive cliché?  There’s nothing worse than opening a book, reading the first line, and thinking “Oh dear… Is it all going to be like this?”

I notice things like this. I know, I know – I’m obsessive over stupid little things like this. But I wondered, what do other people think? Am I obsessing over nothing, or is there a blacklist of opening lines for works of fiction?