Team Valkyrie FTW

Critically thinking about geek culture and sometimes other places. Questions will be answered. Hate mail will be graded.

Legend of Korra Premieres Early Online (Legally) and It Is The Greatest Thing

SPOILER ALERT: This whole post is filled with spoilers on The Legend of Korra, so if you don’t want anything ruined you best go on and get.

This past weekend the people at Korra Nation gave us the first two episodes of The Legend of Korra television series (which are sadly now gone since they were only up for the weekend only). This is the follow-up series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, a brilliant show on Nickelodeon for both kids and adults. Well I watched Korra and well…

Oh my god, this was such a good way to bring us in. The show had us get Korra’s personality the moment we saw her burst through a wall bending Earth, Water, and Fire saying "I’m the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!" You know this is a young woman who does not take crap from anybody.

Korra is a strong, stubborn, powerful person and she knows it. She is a 17-year-old who wants to experience the world but has so many responsibilities she feels tied down. She knows she has power but also is terrible at the spiritual aspects of her role in the world. She fights with her teacher but will go out and protect shopkeepers. Korra questions and defies authority but does try to follow the rules as best she can so she’s a great role model as much as she is fun to watch.

Every introduction of a character gives us plentiful information about them. Seeing Tenzin and family fly in (on a Sky Bison!) and we already receive a plethora of information.

Tenzin is a somewhat patient if tired man who has a handful for a family. His wife Pema is exhausted trying to raise three airbenders, with another child (possibly a bender as well) on the way. Jinora is the quiet eldest daughter who is smart enough to know when her father pleas for her to not be as difficult a teen as Korra, that she makes no promises. Ikki is the middle child and chatty as can be with an inquisitive nature to match. Finally there’s Meelo and… that boy aint right, and I love him for it, the kid is nuts. This is all stuff we get in the first few minutes of meeting them. That is some swift storytelling there, folks. Kitara shows up to tease long-time fans about Zuko’s mother, that is such a sick burn to the audience.

We get a new animal best friend to love in the Polar-Bear-Dog, Nana, this is a toy that will sell like mad since who wouldn’t want a bear-dog hybrid that you could ride around on? The music for this show is amazing as it was described as “if China had developed jazz music”. The animation is top notch with crazy amounts of detail given to the setting of Republic City and the fights, both bending and mundane.

Oh my sweet mercy, the fighting in this show. In the original show we had 4 martial arts represent the 4 kinds of bending, now that pro-bending (a competitive sport version of bending) is being introduced we are being shown a Mixed-Martial-Arts evolution to bending styles that give the world more depth and logic. It’s also a fictional sport I found myself actually interested in.

We also get two characters from this end with the brothers Mako, the moody loner firebender and Bo Lin, the wise cracking ladies man earthbender. There is trouble a brewing in Republic City with the Equalists forming with an Anti-Bender movement on the rise and with bending organized crime, it’s not too hard to see their points.

Okay, so now I’ve talked about what the show is but let me get to why this show is awesome. This was a long shot, pretty much everyone was expecting this to not live up to the monumentally high expectations. Yet it did, these characters we meet feel like real people. You have probably met Tenzin and his family (I’m pretty sure I was Meelo at that age), Korra is someone you’ve probably argued with and still wished to be friends with, Bo Lin has probably hit on you or a friend of yours. These characters are new yet instantly recognizable and lovable. You want to watch these people develop and carry on in this world, you want to watch them succeed and feel bad when they fail.

The world we once knew is altogether different in Republic City but it still feels familiar to us, we really have just moved forward in time. You want to explore the city, try the food, dance to the music, and buy stuff from the shops. YOU WANT TO WATCH AND PLAY PRO-BENDING AND THEN GET SAD THAT THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. The game looks so cool and I can’t believe they made a fictional sport enjoyable and still make sense.

The show has a great lead who happens to be female, a cast of characters that are a variety of ethnic (fictional with factual basis) backgrounds, and a strong sense of characters and story.

The Legend of Korra was wonderful and I cannot wait for more episodes to come our way. The show premieres April 14th on Nickelodeon.

Dear Tara Tiger Brown and Forbes: Go Away

Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away.” Tara Tiger Brown, you should go away, for writing something like this, and Forbes, for you should go away, for hosting something like this.

The problem here isn’t that there are people who self-identify as geek but aren’t “real geeks.” The problem is this phenomenon of judging who is and isn’t a “real geek.” This snide derision is not helping anybody, especially women in geekery.

Ladies, we’re not in competition with one another. Don’t hate. Support. If you see a woman who is new to geekery and self-identifies as geek, don’t turn her away. Welcome her. Show her the depths of nerddom. Hand her a d20. Lend her your beloved copy of Transmet vol 1. Show her some anime. Hand her some Asimov.

If she’s authentic in her passion, but just new to this whole deal, don’t shun her. Don’t accuse her of needing attention, or having such an empty life that she just wants to feel something, anything. If she’s not passionate about it, she’ll likely just walk away eventually. No need to rail against these supposed faux-geeks (have you ever met one? I haven’t) and risk scaring off the newer nerds. Unless, of course, like the bullies we’ve called out as a community, you’re just being cruel to boost your self-esteem.

And you know what else, Brown? You title that opinion piece by targeting women, but the things you accuse them of in the article are things anyone can be guilty of, male or female. So why limit it to women? Is it because it’s easy? Is it because this is how you show the “real” (read: male) geeks that you’re totes legit?

This is a harmful game that women are taught to play: compete with one another for male attention, because male approval is what’s worth striving for. Why? Why is geekery a competition? Why isn’t female approval worth striving for? (And as an aside, why is it that beautiful women who are openly sexual are typically the ones who get the most flack for being faux-geek?)

You know what the result of this kind of logic is? It’s women feeling driven out of cool things because they are unwilling to put up with this frat boy ideal of what it means to be a “real geek.” Yes, frat boy. It’s the same logic that drives brogrammers, that mentality of not being a “real developer” unless you’re up until four in the morning chugging Red Bull and sleeping underneath your desk. If you’re not full-throttle to a self-destructive level, if you’re not so passionate about your geek thing that your life is out of balance, then you’re not a “real geek.”

A main argument I hear for why this enrages a certain type of geek woman so much is that these faux-geeks make men more likely to challenge her “geek cred,” to make her prove herself. To these women, I suggest that instead of getting mad at the kind of women who don’t have the same level of “geek cred” as you do, get mad at the people who challenge your “geek cred” in the first place. That’s the real problem.

And honestly, what’s wrong with being a light geek? What’s wrong with being someone who enjoys the mainstreem geek things and perhaps also watches sports or listens to top 40 or likes fashion and cars? What’s wrong with simply enjoying something for what it is, rather than diving in and knowing it obsessively? What’s wrong with information being readily available to everyone? Why does Brown hate these things so much that it required a two-page article on Forbes to get it out of her system?

I’m not sure what Brown is doing to help make women feel more welcome in geekery, but this sure as hell ain’t it. Good day, madam.

Racist Hunger Games Fans Outraged That Black Character is Black

So on Monday, the Jezebel pointed out the Hunger Games Tweets tumblr which is a sad display of humanity and may make you feel new levels of rage. See the “problem” these fans tweet about in regards to the Hunger Games is that Rue is played by a black girl in the movie. Now for those of you who haven’t read the books, Rue is a young black girl as described by Suzanne Collins.

The problem here isn’t really the reading comprehension of a pile of racists (Racists don’t pay attention? WHO KNEW?) it’s that these racists lose empathy for the death of a character because they learned she was black. There are people who will openly and publicly admit that they don’t care as much about a black character. This is disgusting.

I want to thank Hunger Games Tweets for letting everyone get a look at the horrible people out there. Many of these racists have shut down their accounts or gone to private. This is one of those times I wish the internet had struck back and made a mess of things for these people. Shame isn’t enough.

Things like this Tom, The Dancing Bug comic show where we are in modern racism. We’re not anywhere near done with racism, you know who says racism is over? Racists. We have all sorts of horrible race related issues going on and people still find ways of adding them into forms of entertainment. This is where we are with racism, have a surplus that we can add it to anything.

So for all of you out there who can feel sad when a child dies, whether fictional or real, regardless of color or nationality, congratulations you have passed at least one test of proving you aren’t a racist. Fun Fact: While watching the Hunger Games film, I realized the teen audience IS the Capitol and they will likely never realize it, and that was the saddest moment of all.

DC What Are You Doing with These Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn Retcons?

DC Women Kicking Ass has an article that discuss the changes in Wonder Woman’s portrayal of the Amazons. This also reminds me that DC has a new origin story for Harley Quinn that came out on the 14th.

Let’s play a game shall we? Do you think either of these new stories are really all that positive of a change? If you answered with “No,” “Of course not,” or “It’s DC” then I’m sad to say you’re right!

The Amazons now trick men into sleeping with them so they can get pregnant, and afterwards they kill the men. Effectively, they’re human praying mantises. That’s not all though. They then trade away any male-born children for weapons from Hephaestus.

As DCWKA points out, while this may have connections to some historical groups (not necessarily the Amazons), it doesn’t mean that the magic-as-hell DC version of the Amazons need to be sexist cliches. I generally like what the new Wonder Woman comic is doing, but this was a misstep in in its re-imagining of the world of Wonder Woman. We have a generally great comic, but then we get this, and I’m just reminded that I can’t escape some of the crap in comics.

And Harley. Oh, Harley…

I have actively been avoiding the mess that is the new Harley Quinn since I saw her new outfit, which looked like a reject back up dancer. The new character has lost all the charm of what made Harley fun and replaced it with Sex (the capital s is important due to it being her defining mark. See the “clown car” example. … Actually, don’t do that. Ever). This is similar to how Starfire has been ramped up in the idea that Sex is her defining characteristic. You know, cause they’re women.

Originally, Harley was the Joker’s psychiatrist, and while talking with him she started to fall for him. As she continued to fall for the man, she herself began to take on her own madness. She would go on to join the Joker as both lover and partner in crime. Harley and Joker were constantly on-again-off-again in their very messed-up relationship.

Now, Harley’s dumped into the same chemical that made the Joker, by the Joker, and against her will.

So instead of the tragic story of a person who fell for the wrong guy and made all the wrong choices, we get someone who is forced into a life of crime by someone else. One of the reasons Harley was so fun is because she made her own decisions. She might be nuts, but she owns it. She is madness; hear her roar. Now we just have another villain made by another villain. This story has been done before, usually for short-lived villains who exist as just another victim. Harley isn’t a mad fool in love anymore, now she’s just a copy and paste of the Joker.

DC, I gotta ask: why change these things? Were people clamoring for new Amazon or Harley origins? Were the previous stories really that displeasing to the fans? I don’t think we had a problem before, but now we do. This is just more evidence for the “DC is in a race with Arizona for misogyny capital of the world” argument. DC has made me, a straight 26 year-old male (their supposed target demographic), turn away from one of his favorite characters. I have been avoiding Harley since they rebooted her. All news just gets shoved away, since it’s never good. The Amazon thing just seems like a need to make things gritty in a series that has been otherwise stellar.

Knock it off, DC. You just make me want to leave this behind, when your brilliant new look involves turning characters I like into cheap eye candy with even worse dialogue. Seriously, a clown car? Ugh.

On Writing “On Writing Women”

I see a lot of advice about writing women. Some of it is out-and-out sexist, basically saying women are solely comprised of tears and feelings which you have to slough through in order to get to the bit you want to fuck (usually written by men). Some of it is right on the money, or damn near it (usually written by women). But the bulk of what I see lands in some in-between area, where it’s clear the author means well, on some level, but is simply clueless (usually written by men). I’m going to talk about that third category.

The anatomy of these posts tends to be quite similar. They expound upon how women are under-represented in fiction. They might do things like quote the Smurfette principle, or the Madonna/whore complex, or something else they saw on TVTropes. They will state that women are people too, because we need reminding. Often there will be a list of statements which are “true” about female characters. “This is how you write REAL women” they tell you, nodding sagely.

And all the while, they speak of women as one monolithic group, with which they have had naught but fleeting contact.

Here’s the thing: If you have to break from your typical mold for creating characters to create a character who is also a woman, you’re probably not off to the greatest of starts. If you need advice about writing women, and you’re reading posts about how dudes write women, you’re not helping the situation.

I wish that every time one of these people is tempted to write about how they write a certain demographic to which they do not belong, they instead refer to the work of people who are in that demographic. I would never write an essay on how to write persons of color, or disabled people, gay people, or trans people, because I am not of those demographics, and I would rather hear their better-educated opinions on the matter.

But as a woman, I might have something worthwhile to say on the matter of writing women. So here goes. You want to know how you learn to write women? How to learn about writing female characters, and have women in your stories, both as secondary and as primary characters? To write authentically, to capture a real, honest experience of a woman’s life in your fiction? All it takes is two simple things:

One: Read stories about women, by women; both fiction and non-fiction.

Two: When women say something, listen to them.

And while I’m not about to go off about how to write other demographics of which I am not a member, I suspect you can replace “women” with any other group of people you do not identify as, and these two steps should carry you pretty far.

And in the process, you can elevate the people whose work you are reading, by sharing their writings, and encouraging others to buy their work. Because just as we need more diversity in the stories we are reading, we need more in the writers we are reading.

Basically, I’m tired of “How to Write Women” posts written by dudes who are looking for their feminist cookie. No. You don’t get a fucking cookie. You’re not helping. In fact, you’re making it worse. So knock it off.

Daily Otter

And for those of you who missed the meme, or just want to see it again… Otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch. via.

Sqoot Knows Squat About Apologies

Sqoot was a company I’d never heard of until their recent, massive, epic flub. It all started with this stupid ad for the Boston API Jam:

Can’t imagine why that might cause a problem.

A lot of people got mad. Rightly so. Advertisers pulled their dollars. And Sqoot was caught in a shitstorm of its own creation. So they did what any company whose PR department consists of one flakey intern: they fauxpologised.

While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended. That was not our intention and thus we changed it.

Translation: “Look, guys, we still think this is funny, but apparently you all got your panties in a knot or something, so whatever, we’re changing it. Now let’s all go to Hooters.”

I looked for the sauce gdoc on that one, but I can’t find it. Maybe it’s been pulled? I don’t know. Possibly, because when people found this non-apology insufficient, they issued a second semi-fauxpology.

Recently, we decided to host a hack-a-thon in Boston. Our goal: to bring developers together with the community and new technologies to build amazing things. Like any good party, we wanted great music, great people, and great food. We wanted to do better than pizza and soft drinks, and truly wanted everyone involved to benefit in a big way. We didn’t want developers to leave in the same cliques they came with because of a lack of cross-pollination nor did we want sponsors to spend thousands of dollars yet still miss connecting with ideal users. We really wanted to do better.

Unfortunately, we did worse. When we put together the original event page, we used language that we now realize was reckless and hurt efforts to diversify gender in tech. We immediately and deservedly received an enormous backlash. While we aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive, the gravity of our wording was just the opposite. Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we’re trying to have a positive impact on.

We apologize unequivocally to our sponsors, customers, friends and family, and community. We’d like to thank everyone for being so outspoken. As a young startup, we learned a lot today and are better people and a better company for it.

As we decide whether to continue with the event, or reschedule for another time, we will focus efforts on making sure that our event marketing is inclusive to all. We will do better.

If you have any questions, or want to chat, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Now you might be thinking, well, that ain’t so bad. They “unequivocally apologize” so that’s pretty good, right? Well, first of all, this is a second apology, not an initial apology, so it’s only here because someone, somewhere, finally got the hint that to properly apologize, you have to sound like you’re actually sorry. And second of all, look at that shit I done bolded.

"Humor that intended to be inclusive." Really? I mean, really? In what world does singling women out as service-givers, as something to come give you beer, as entities that don’t participate in the coding part, they’re just there to look cute, folks, while the men do the real work, count as inclusive? In what world does pandering exclusively to the most base heterosexual males count as inclusive?

This tells me one of two things is true, with regards to Sqoot. One, they actually don’t get it. Sqoot does not actually understand what “inclusive” means. They don’t get what they did wrong, despite being yelled at by tonnes of tweeters, bloggers, and advertisers. They honestly just don’t understand. Or two, they totally get it, but they just ran out of fucks to give. Sqoot really wishes they could have just gotten away with an event where chicks hand them beer while they coded, and don’t get what all these whiny bitches be whining about, but they lost money, so they guess they should apologize or something.

So which is it, Sqoot: Idiots, or assholes?

But there’s something awesome that came out of this: women were stupidly objectified and treated as non-participants in the programming community, and the community flipped. And not just flipped like a few blogs got angry about it. People pulled participation, they pulled dollars. A company wasn’t just given a wag of the finger, they were financially punished for their behaviour.

This makes me really happy. It’s hard to remember sometimes, as a lady engineer dealing with my own ish here at my job, that there are really decent people out there. And they’re not small in number. It’s really comforting that there are people who will stand up and say “this is not acceptable, we do not talk about people this way, and we do not treat people this way.” So, you know what, Sqoot? Thanks for that.