I’m pretty liberal, and I consider myself at least an ally to most of the so-called Glittery Hooha SJW crowd. I’ve followed #Gamergate and the Sad puppies with horror, subscribe to We Hunted The Mammoth and follow @Scalzi and @JimCHines.
But I don’t talk about it too often. Even though it informs the decisions I’v made on my WIPs, I don’t feel comfortable taking up a microphone and mansplaining those decisions, or why I feel they’re important. The conversation interests me and concerns me, but I am not a part of the conversation.
But in the last two weeks, I’ve seen two things That have changed my mind, and I’ve decided to speak out.
The first was Tempest Bradford’s challenge to NOT read any CIS White Males for a year, and the reactions from the usual suspects.
What’s in Your Wallet?
OK. So, I’m an ally right? I can be expected to have diverse reading habits and many female authors and authors of color on my shelves, right?
To my left I have a little wire rack of Paperbacks. On that, from top to bottom, I have Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Jack Kerouac, Strunk and White, Joel Osteen, Charles Stross, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett ( And Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett), Roger Zelazny, Arthur C. Clarke, James Rollins, Edward Lee, Brian Jacques, Jim Thompson, Joe Lansdale, Charles Grant, Robert McCammon, Brandon Sanderson, Alan Dean Foster and Ray Bradbury. I have Clive Barker, not Straight. And I have a single Nora Roberts thriller. Jane Austen is represented by the Seth Graham-Smith parodies.
To my right, I have a case of random Hardbacks, with many of the same writers represented. I have Patricia Highsmith, represented in the Library of America Crime novel anthology, and the same publishers HP edited by Joyce Carol Oates.
On My collectible shelf, I have Andrew Vachss, Joe Lansdale, Mick Garris, Ray Bradbury, Christopher Golden, Dan Simmons, and Neal Stephenson.
In my writing books I have Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat”, Bradbury and King again, as well as Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg and Vicki King’s “How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days.”
My Kindle is better. Besides the free-seeking books, I have “Ancillary Justice” and Cherie Priest’s “Maplecroft” among my most recent purchases ( Along with King’s “Revival”).
So What Happened?
Now, I can make excuses. Looking at that list, you can tell I enjoy a lot of 80s horror and thriller. And I have read Melanie Tem and Kathy Koja and Kaitlin Keirnan. I’ve read Andre Norton and Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany. I just don’t keep those books. The books on my shelves are favorites I buy instead of borrow, and keep instead of donate.
Like a lot of the critics of Bradford’s piece, I read those stories that catch my eye without worrying about who wrote them. And because of this, I read the same old same old that is pushed at me. I don’t take a look at the food on the end of the fork, as William Burroughs would say. I consume without thinking of it.
And that’s the problem with not being mindful of the entertainment we consume. For falling into the same old ruts. For not challenging ourselves in any way, and not expecting more from ourselves.
So we get to TV. “Last man on Earth” is a heavily promoted post-apocalypse comedy that recently premiered. the ads showed Weill Forte acting out everyone’s favorite destructive end-o-the-world fantasies, and I was intrigued enough to watch it. the writer part of me wanted to know if it was just going to be a series of sketches, or if there was going to be a story there. I wanted to see how they took this slight premise and turn it into a series.
SO I tune in. In the first part of the two part premier, we see Will going through a classic five stages of grief: Denial: traveling around the country, collecting treasures and searching for other survivors. No dice, he returns home. Anger: The destructive vandalism from the previews. Bargaining with God. Depression as he gets drunk and trashes his mansion. Finally acceptance as he plans to end his life.
But wait! there’s smoke in the sky! He’s not alone! He hurries over to see a bra drying on a line! A woman! After a quick fantasy involving a supermodel, it’s Kristen Schaal!
There was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Sure enough, there’s a reason It’s called “Last Man on Earth” and not “Last People on Earth”, “Last Couple on Earth” or, heaven Forbid, “Last Woman on Earth.” It’s because Kristen Schaal doesn’t play a character. She plays a plot device.
She Nags. She’s concerned with Rules. See cleans. Things have to be just right. Will has to bend to her demands.
It’s annoying and sexist.
And people love it. It won it’s time slot. The Hashtag is full of bros high fiving the way Will puts the “fugly” Carol in her place. Ha! Isn’t it Funny? The #LastManOnEarth needs to deal with a nagging Woman. Hilarious!
And it’s critically acclaimed. People love it. Sure, there’s some critics noting that Kristen Schaal’s character is a one-note sitcom trope. But most give it a thumbs up for being unusual and different. So long as you don’t think about it, it’s an enjoyable ride.
So long as you don’t think about. So long as you don’t challenge yourself. So long as you don’t look at the end of the fork, at what they’re serving you.
Just sit back and enjoy, and don’t think about it. I only consume entertainment that interests me. I don’t like to challenge myself. I’m just interested in the story., not any Social Justice Activism that might possibly change anything.