Two Sides of the Same Coin: Ramsay, Randall, Claire and Sansa.

** This post will contain spoilers about Episode 16 of OUTLANDER  and Episode 6 of GAME OF THRONES, as well as discussion of rape and graphic violence.**

As both an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, I pay close attention to the works of fiction I read and watch, hoping to glean some knowledge, some nuggets of storytelling gold. I make it a point to consider the motive behind not only a character’s actions, but the motive behind the writer or filmmaker responsible for the story. In other words, I rarely just watch or read anything anymore.

sansa

As seen on HBO

Watching the now widely discussed episode of Game of Thrones, Unbowed Unbent, Unbroken, I turned to my husband and said, “He’s going to rape her,” before Ramsay even, horribly awkwardly, kissed Sansa beneath the Gods Wood. It was absolutely in Ramsay Bolton’s nature to take Sansa — his new bride — into their wedding chamber and violently force himself on her. It was even completely logical for Ramsay Bolton to do this in front of Theon Greyjoy to further humiliate and demean a character he had already broken beyond repair. If you were expecting him to treat Sansa any differently, you were not paying attention to a few key things: who Ramsay is as a character and what kind of show these filmmakers are committed to create.

I think it’s important to tell you now, Game of Thrones is quite possibly my favorite current television show. You can judge me for that, as a female and a writer, even just on the basis of taste, but there it is. I love it hard, like a bad habit, I just can’t quit it.

The creators of Thrones have delivered, consistently, on the promise of showing us every dark and twisted part of human nature. So consistently that their thesis statement could very well be found in the line delivered by Cersei Lannister (my guilty pleasure favorite), “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

In other words, if they can show you a rape scene, they will show you a rape scene because they don’t do middle ground. And on that basis what happened to Sansa fit within their premise. I want to be clear, at no point in this statement am I agreeing with their decision for her character or the way they executed it.

I was shaken by the experience, but I wasn’t surprised, nor was I surprised by the Internet’s response. Still, it annoyed me that so many expected a show that has featured brutal violence and sex from season one — beginning on episode one — would make a different choice.

Then came Outlander’s season one finale. An episode, as a reader, I had been dreading and waiting for since I finished the book. After watching, hunkered into myself, hands covering my eyes, fingers spread just enough so I could see, I walked away with a startling realization.

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As seen on Starz

Outlander captured what Game of Thrones missed. Not missed, like didn’t show me properly, because the sadism of Ramsay Bolton and Black Jack Randall are similar in execution. But where we watch Ramsay and feel rage, with Randall we feel a loss of humanity. We see not only the surface motive this character might deal with, but the very core of his soul. At times, Ramsay comes off like Sid, Andy’s toy torturing neighbor in Toy Story, not because the actor isn’t fantastic, not because the writing isn’t there, but in a show like Game of Thrones, this evil does not stand out as extraordinary.

On To Ransom a Man’s Soul, Randall became the embodiment of this concept, a living, breathing witness to how this affliction poisons the mind of one living with it. The character of Black Jack Randall is a microscope into humanity’s evil, as much as Jamie and Claire have been an examination of real love. And this, in no small way, is a testament to author Diana Gabaldon, as much as to the show runners.

It wasn’t that the Outlander scenes were more graphic — we have seen this kind of violence on Thrones — or that I felt more for Jamie than Sansa. It was the precision of filming, the focus with which the scenes were handled, and the fact that this whole season we have been building to that moment. We have watched Black Jack blossom into that man, we remember the moment Claire realized this was no ordinary villain, we experienced his deliberate pursuit, and then finally we saw him violently rape Jamie in a prison cell only steps away from a rotting corpse.

In this way, Outlander succeeds where Game of Thrones fails, not because the filmmakers aren’t capable, but because the nature of their beast makes that impossible. Thrones has too many players, too many plotlines and POVs, to ever dedicate the screen time necessary to thoroughly examine the black center of Ramsay Bolton. And so, the rape of Sansa Stark feels mishandled. Unnecessary. More of the same and not different enough to really hit us properly.

And I would argue, that they don’t really need to. We’ve gotten that from Outlander. We’ve seen shades of it with Joffrey. To me, the more interesting choice now is to focus the lens on Sansa. Here is a young woman who, until now, had managed to hold onto a piece of herself, to have kept her body and her sexuality within her power, her control, and now that, too, has been taken away. Don’t be outraged for Sansa the victim. Be looking for Sansa the hero.

In Claire Fraser, we saw a true female hero emerge. A true antithesis to Black Jack Randall, Claire is a caregiver, a nurse, and a woman capable of great love. Love that ultimately is the key to Jamie’s survival.

As the writers of Game of Thrones diverge further from the book’s plot lines, I hope to see more from Sansa than we have come to expect. I, for one, refuse to give up hoping. Thrones can’t give us elation in big doses until our villain and our hero emerges, until they narrow the playing field that much more.

A Fangirl’s Quest for a Cohost

I don’t usually share my YouTube videos on this blog, but this one is a commentary on the fandom struggle and a bit of sketch comedy combined.

Check it out! And if you like it, please subscribe to our channel!

Books, Booze & Bitches

This week Stephanie is out of town, so I venture into the world in search of a cohost. The results are hilarious, and I get to share the screen with some wonderful guest stars.

Check it out!

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HBO Access Writing Fellowship: Why it Wasn’t a Total Disaster

While working through the deluge of ideas floating around in my head this afternoon, and trying to ignore my overwhelming urge to eat a cookie, I did what any good writer would: I googled things to distract myself and came up with this article —

Diverse Writers Break the Internet: Ask HBO How Many

It’s short. Go ahead and read it if you want. I plan to quote from it if not.

So you understand more fully why an article about the HBO Access Diversity Writing Fellowship is of interest to me, some backstory. On March 4th — the day in question — I logged into Without A Box at 11am central time and then spent the next two hours fighting a crashing website for a sliver of a chance that I might qualify for this fellowship.

After a lot of prayers and bargains and refreshing the (multiple) windows I had open, I finally got a confirmation page that my application had gone through.

When I went to Twitter, riding the high of actually making it under the wire, and searched the hashtag #hboaccess, I noticed something pretty unsurprising, but a little disappointing. There were 1000 applicants accepted, and for every one of them there were ten people flipping off HBO and cursing the entire program because they didn’t make it.

There were a lot of questions about how this could have been avoided. Why this happened. What it meant. But there were also a lot of (understandably) angry writers who felt like they had lost out on a major opportunity.

I am not the most diverse woman. I am white. I am straight. I am middle class. Some might say I should have left this for the more diverse, and those people have a right to that opinion. But that opinion is based on prejudice. Because whether I should get to or not, I qualified.

And I would do it again in a heartbeat, because of statements like this one:

…the limited bandwidth of Without A Box serves as a metaphor for the career trajectory of many diverse writers in America: There is only so much room for people like you here. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say diverse writers are explicitly told this again and again. By fellowships like these, yes, but also by literary magazines and publishing houses and art galleries and academia and so on and so forth. It’s real.

Even white, straight woman like me are discriminated against in the film industry and publishing world. We are taken less seriously or made to feel shitty about our writing. And what’s worse, the window is narrowing, and soon, there may not be enough room for us to fight for the right to Write. The playing field is a swarm of talented people banging on the door until their knuckles are bloody. Banging, and being ignored.

Hollywood continues to finance reboots because they are a sure thing.

Publishers continue to buy shit because it sells.

Original content rarely makes it through the door.

Readers and viewers complain about the crap they are given. Readers and viewers, nevertheless, consume it.

I am diverse because I am still the minority in the Film Industry. I am deserving of a chance to place my name at the top of the stack. I’ve been working a long time to get published. I’ve been writing screenplays since I was a child. I am dedicated and I am sick of the bullshit.

More and more creatives are turning to self-publishing, to YouTube, to indie pub or indie films, to teaching, or to crying into a bowl of ice cream and lamenting the life and death of their dreams.

Fighting back starts with believing you deserve to win.

I believe it for myself, whether I am an abysmal failure or a soaring success. Maybe even more when I look around and realize none of these fuckers is buying what I’m selling. I don’t stop pushing it. I push harder.

What the HBO application process taught me was simple: I want it bad enough to act a fool to get it. I better keep acting a fool.  I better bloody up my knuckles pounding on that door, and then I better go back to the drawing board and up my game because if I don’t someone else will. And then who can I blame but myself?

There’s a GIF for That

Books, Booze & Bitches

Tuesdays are hard. They’re kind of like Mondays, but a day later and still really far away from Friday which is better because it’s basically the weekend.

To cope, here are some GIFs to get you through your week. 

1. You realize there are still seventeen minutes on the timer before you can get off the elliptical and have a tiny yogurt. 

via giphy via giphy

You cannot survive the Hunger Games without some serious stamina. Keep running, bitch. 

2. The only thing that gets you through Tuesday is a new episode of New Girl then you remember the season finale was last week.

First you’re like this:

via giphy via giphy

Don’t be sad Tobias crying in the shower. Be happy Sheldon. 

via giphy via giphy

Netflix has seasons of Parks and Rec, Gilmore Girls, Orange is the New Black, How I Met Your Mother, etc…go forth and binge. 

3. You make the mistake of reading anything from…

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Baby Steps

Work it out. Take it one step at a time. We don’t always get what we want, when we want it. Stop freaking out. Try again…

These are things I say to my five-year-old a lot. Like, multiple times a day, sometimes an hour. And often when I am huffing the words at him, I am huffing them at myself. I am acknowledging how hard it is to ever remember those immoveable truths.

Recently I started working out again. My relationship with exercise is comparable to non-exclusive dating. We see each other when we see each other. Maybe we text winky emojis or question marks when we’ve gone too long without physical contact. But we’re not possessive. We’re not committed. And a lot of it is my fault. I never want to bite the bullet. To hunker down and do the real work to get to know exercise. I like to keep my options open for laziness, or busyness, or “not feeling it today”.

A few weeks ago I was pretty low on myself. Grappling with my state of ALMOST in every area of my life, examining my complete and utter Coming Soon status. I am the summer feature that gets pushed to fall, to next spring, to limited release…I am waiting for my premier in an infinite loop.

So I decided to trick myself into motion. I decided I was tired of waiting on my moment, and realized my moment was now, and tomorrow, and always.

I started with baby steps.

I reintroduced myself to the elliptical machine. We moved slow in this period of rediscovery. Then — once we were both comfortable — we added time, we added resistance, increased our speed. The machine became a place to challenge myself, to focus some of my energy in a way that will make my heart healthy and my ass a little tighter, to process the swirl of ideas in my wild mind.

I stayed off the scale. I closed my eyes when the seconds on the timer seemed to slow, as if my machine had somehow slipped into an event horizon. I didn’t set a goal beyond doing it and not giving up.

And somehow, this trickery uncovered a truth I’d hidden deep inside. I wasn’t just tired of waiting. I was tired of being told how to wait. If making my own rules for working out kept me going back for more, would making my own rules for my creative life do the same?

And so I tried. Or, rather, I felt. I stuck my fingers in my imaginary clay and started to mold. I opened my heart up to new ideas, to old ideas, to ideas that scare and unsettle me. Instead of asking myself What should I be working on? I asked, What do I want to work on? I called my friend and spilled my fears and hopes at her feet and allowed her to help me clean it up and make it pretty.

I cut myself some slack even if it looked like a fail.

fist bump

Goal oriented people struggle. We expend a lot of energy on beating ourselves up when we miss, fall short, lose sight. We think a lot about the end and forget to enjoy the journey. We forget that all worthy tasks take time, build slowly, plateau, but rarely do they peak too soon. Rarely do you regret your part.

I am not going to build up my stamina, or shave a few pounds and a tiny marsupial pooch, without doing the work. Without committing to hours with my elliptical.

Be a today person. A there-is-not-one-moment-but-many type.

Take baby steps.

sailing