Hey Heather, I LOVE your writings and I was wondering if you can write a review/ your thoughts on the film Blue Is The Warmest Color? I love the film and I just want to know your idea/feelings on it. Thanks!! From Taya.
Hey, Taya! I will absolutely do that. My Tumblr has cobwebs all over it, but I promise to rectify that later this week. It has been a crazy couple of months. Be patient with me and I’ll be back to full-speed super-soon. :)
You don’t know this thing about me because I don’t like to talk about it very much because I would much rather spend my time swooning over stories with you, but I have struggled mightily with depression over the last year. My doctor can’t seem to decide if it’s seasonal or situational or a byproduct of my super duper ADHD (probably it’s a combination of all of those things), but it’s been dragging me down down down into the dark for a while now. One of the worst parts about it is that it extinguishes my creative energy like buckets of sand on a barely breathing fire. Some days if I can write one sentence that feels energetic or turn out one phrase I think might make people smile, I feel like I’ve achieved marathon-levels of greatness.
Many of my friends and family have been encouraging me to step away from writing as a career because it takes so much time and so much emotional investment to create stuff I care about, and really, it’s fully a labor of love for story and fandom and this wonderful, beautiful, glorious queer community we’ve created on the webtubes. I don’t write because I want to be famous. I’m way too shy and introverted to ever want someone to shine a spotlight on me. I definitely don’t write for money. You’ve got to be able to survive on peanut butter if you want to be a writer. I write because I’ve been given a gift of loving words and having a platform and I want to make the world better and brighter and funner. And you know what else? I just care about you guys so very much.
Not very long ago I said out loud, “I just need a win, you know? Like one win, that’s all. A solid sign from the universe that it’s worth it to keep doing what I’m doing.”
When a friend of mine tipped me off about Zeebox and told me they were holding a competition where people could win $1,000 a day for talking about TV and one lucky person could win a grand prize of $10,000, I thought, “That’s pretty cool for someone.” And then Dana Piccoli grabbed me by my shirt (via text message) and shook me really hard (via text message) and said, “That someone should be you!” I hemmed and hawed, all, “Naw, not me.” And Dana shook me some more (in a loving way) and so I decided yes, I would go for it. But I’m not very good at going for things like that and I’m not very good at asking people for help, so Valerie Anne and Elaine Atwell and Lucy Hallowell and Dana (some more) and Dorothy Snarker built up a whole campaign to encourage people to join that Zeebox room of mine. They offered songs and fanfic and social media outreach and constant behind-the-scenes ideas and encouragement.
And you guys joined and added so much fun stuff. Questions and polls and graphics and links and videos and who even knows what all. It became one of the funnest internet things I have ever done. Just hanging out in that room talking about TV with you guys was like these dreams I have sometimes where I just get to swim in a fountain of fandom. You guys made it awesome and you made me laugh and you tweeted out support and Facebook-ed support and told Zeebox you thought I should win $10,000. Over and over and over you said it. Even the people who won — Brooker and Sandy and Lucy and Stefanie and Jenna — kept participating and encouraging people to participate. (And I’m pretty sure Kyle Bown tipped us over the edge into victory when he stopped by on the last night of the competition to do a PLL Q&A.)
And you guys, I totally won that $10,000.
Zeebox chose my room as the Get A Room grand champion!
$10,000, y’all! For talking about television!
I can’t really even tell you how it feels because I’m still in a state of shock. For one thing, 10,000 bucks of regular money is like ten billion bucks of freelance writer money. And for another thing, I have been waffling for months about whether or not I should keep doing what I’m doing or go back to accounting because my depression has caused me to question a bazillion things, including my contribution to the fun-ness of the big gay internet. I’ve been beaten down kind of a lot and I just wasn’t sure a win was in the cards for me any time soon.
I don’t have good enough words to express my gratitude to you for everything you did to make that room a success, but I want you to know I won’t ever forget it and I will redouble my efforts to give that joy back to you in recaps and infographics and interviews and other fandom delights.
You gave me a win I didn’t deserve and never would ever have expected.
So, I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Zeebox, but it’s this super fun site where you can talk about the teeeveeee all day long. Well, I posed a challenge to my friend Heather Hogan - you know Heather Hogan, writer extrodinare, overall fantastic human being - if she could get 1000 members in her…
Hi, Heather Hogan. I am a straight guy who really loves your PLL recaps. But I believe we are going to have to engage in some combat over Mona Vanderwaal. You cannot have her. You and your lesbians cannot have her. You already got the best Little Liar. (Emily Fields.) You already got the best significant other. (Paige McCullers.) You got the best villain. (Jenna Marshall/Alison DiLaurentis.) You can't have the Messiah too. I'm sorry. LESBIANS CAN'T HAVE EVERY NICE THING, OK.
“And remember, also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”—Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
Yes there are a lot of perks of hanging with the likes of Heather Hogan and the gang in her Zeebox room. But Valerie and I have decided that we will take fic prompts and will each write one fic when the membership total reaches 700, 750, 800, 850, 900, 950, and 1000.
Hey Heather, I absolutely love your PLL recaps! Do you know when Paige will return for this season? I am starting to miss her and I hope not to have to wait until the finale to see her again! Greets!
I’m pretty sure she’s back next week. I know for sure she is in the Aug. 20th episode, “The Hoe is Going Down.” And she’s in the finale, which is rumored to contain seriously excellent Paily times. I miss her too! :)
“The spirituality of imperfection makes no claim to be ‘right.’ It is a spirituality more interested in questions than in answers, more a journey toward humility than a struggle for perfection.
The spirituality of imperfection begins with the recognition that trying to be perfect is the most tragic human mistake.
Spirituality begins with the acceptance that our fractured being, our imperfection, simply is: There is no one to ‘blame’ for our errors — neither ourselves nor anyone nor anything else. Spirituality helps us first to see, and then to understand, and eventually to accept the imperfection that lies at the very core of our human be-ing.”—The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning
“I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube…We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart? and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.”—From Snow and Dirty Rain by Richard Siken (h/t Jacob Clifton)
typeytypeytypey asked me to make that last post rebloggable, so here you go. :)
If I were going to give advice to myself in my 20s (via time travel in my TARDIS, of course), here’s what I’d say:
1) Every person you know (and many a person you don’t!) has a plan for your life. In fact, pretty much everyone has a plan for everyone else’s life, ‘cause that’s how human beings roll. But girl, you get one single chance on this earth to do life. Don’t waste your short time here — and oh, it’s so much shorter than you realize — trying to fold yourself into the shape other people think you should be. Mostly, if they want you to be a rectangle, it’s because they need you to be a rectangle. Or if they want you to be a triangle, it’s because they’re most comfortable with three-sided things. You choose your shape. You choose your plan. You be what you need you to be.
2) Pretty much nothing is binary. Not gender, not sexuality, not politics, not religion, nothing, nothing, nothing. People like black and white, good and evil, male and female, straight and gay, conservative and liberal because it’s easy to understand. We’re wired to label stuff as “like us” or “not like us” and that way we know where to safely shelve away all the things. But that’s cowardly and that’s lazy. Hold those spectacles you use to see the world up to the sunlight and you’ll realize what you really have there is a prism! You can live in the monochrome, if you want. But there’s a whole cacophony of color in the middle if you’re willing to step into it.
3) Read. Read, read, read, read, read, read, read. Let yourself be startled by stories and shaped by stories and stretched by stories. Stories don’t just change how you see the world; stories change the actual world. Open your brain and your heart wide wide wide and get in there. Prostrate yourself at the altar of telling tales.
4) Figure out what sustains your soul and do as much of it as you can. Not for applause. Not for money. Not for any other reason except that it nourishes your spirit. (Dude, your soul! Take care of it!)
5) Everyone you ever meet is going through a thing you don’t know about, and lots of people are just barely holding it together enough to make it through the day. Be good. Like really, openly, purposefully good to all the peoples you have the privilege of interacting with. There’s one kind of folks: Folks. You are them and they are you and you can change everything just by proactive goodness.
6) When you’re 28 and you’re backpacking around Europe and you meet some cool new friends in Munich that you want to impress, you’ll walk by a homeless lady sitting under an awning in the rain with her dog that looks just like your dog. You’ll want to help her because that’s what you do, but you’ll also want to ignore her so your new friends don’t think you’re weird. Don’t ignore her. You’ll never forgive yourself. You’ll never forget her face. That’s your one chance.
7) Everything is your one chance. You can rewind live TV in the future, but you can’t rewind your life. Be kind. Be brave. You’re worth 12 of Malfoy.
“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.”—Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz)
“To grow up steeped in these tellings was to learn two unforgettable lessons: first, that stories were not true (there were no “real” genies in bottles or flying carpets or wonderful lamps), but by being untrue they could make him feel and know truths that the truth could not tell him, and second, that they all belonged to him, just as they belonged to his father, Anis, and to everyone else, they were all his, as they were his father’s, bright stories and dark stories, sacred stories and profane, his to alter and renew and discard and pick up again as and when he pleased, his to laugh at and rejoice in and live in and with and by, to give the stories life by loving them and to be given life in return. Man was the storytelling animal, the only creature on earth that told itself stories to understand what kind of creature it was. The story was his birthright, and nobody could take it away.”—Salman Rushdie (Joseph Anton: A Memoir)
“We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.”—Annie Dillard
"The world is dark, and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I am telling you a story." ― Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
I have been writing about queer female visibility in pop culture for AfterEllen for five years, during which time, I am told, I have developed a reputation for being “infuriatingly level-headed.” More often than not, the angry messages I receive from readers aren’t about what I’ve said; they’re about what I haven’t said. Because the way it works these days is that readers expect you to hate what they hate as much as they expect you to love what they love. And it’s especially infuriating to our readers when they feel like I’m not angry enough or frustrated enough with certain things because AfterEllen is the largest, loudest, most influential website about gay entertainment on the entire Internet. Being the senior editor means I have a platform and a voice that wields a pretty enormous amount of power in facilitating conversations between queer fans and the folks who make TV, and in shaping ideas and dialogue about shows with gay characters.
I’m not saying that with any hubris in my heart. It is a reality I accept with a great sense of responsibility.
I want to be an ambassador from lesbian fandom to the mythical land where TV gets made. And I want to do lesbian fandom proud. I want to ask the questions you want answers to when I do interviews and I want to dig deep and write with my heart wide open about things you care about and I want to learn and learn and learn and learn and bring all of my knowledge to bear when I write about stories so we can elevate the conversation to fresh and illuminating places. But I also want to be a voice of calmness and healing and I want to flip the prism on its head sometimes and ask you to look at things from different angles, different perspectives. Because I think it’s so very important not to fall victim to this pro-/anti- black-and-white mentality that is so prevalent in our society today.
I’m not easily angered. I’m not easily offended. I am quick as lightning when I forgive and as thorough as a hard summer’s rain when I forget. If my reputation really is “infuriatingly level-headed,” I’m actually quite proud of that. And anyway, I’d rather write a million words about something I love than 100 words about something that doesn’t move me.
I mention all that because I’m going to talk about Skins Fire and I want you to know from the outset that I’m not given to fits of temper or binary good-and-evil thinking. So, I’ll go into this thing saying I don’t think Skins Fire was wrong, in the sense that I don’t think it was morally dubious to tell a story in which a beloved lesbian character dies of cancer. I don’t think it was evil.
But I do think is that Skins Fire was cruel. In fact, in all my years of consuming and writing about queer pop culture, I have never seen a storytelling decision that lacked empathy the way Skins Fire did.
Naomi and Emily’s story in Skins series three and four was remarkable in a way that few TV stories are these days. Emily says it herself in series four: “We were special.” And, again, in Skins Fire: “We’re Naomi and Emily.” Their story transcended its genre, its country of origin, its age demographic, and even its on-air shelf-life. Theirs was a coming of age story about two young queer women who found the courage in themselves and in each other to claw their way to personal authenticity and deep, abiding love. They came out, they came together, they fought themselves and each other and the whole world, and in the end, they were victorious. They beat the odds. They won. They justified their happy ending.
There is something special about their story that is not quantifiable. The writing was part of it, the chemistry between the actors, the texture and rawness of every moment. But it was the culture it whispered itself into, also, that made it so magical. In the days after the passage of Prop. 8, during an absolute pandemic of gay youths committing suicide, Naomi and Emily were something better. They worked like a Patronus charm around the Dementors closing in on us in all directions. They buoyed us up. They made us brave. They gave us hope.
And here’s where things get tricky, because a storyteller has the right to do whatever he or she wants with the characters and the worlds they’ve created. And so Skins’ creative team was, of course, at liberty to resurrect Naomi and Emily, to give them to us again for a moment, and to do with them whatever they pleased. People get cancer. People die. Love doesn’t really vanquish every fear and conquer every enemy. Life can be tragic and desperate and hopeless; it can end in the blink of an eye, and the pieces left behind can be shattered for the rest of time. More than one person from the Skins team has expressed frustration with me today because it seemed as if I was saying this story they told about Naomi and Emily wasn’t real or true or valid, frustration because I seemed to be projecting this idea that gay characters shouldn’t be allowed to experience struggles or death.
If you’ve been reading what I’ve been writing for any length of time at all, you know that’s not true. And if you don’t know, I invite you to check out what I’ve written recently about Kenya’s death on Defiance or Maya St. Germain’s death on Pretty Little Liars or Cat’s death on Lip Service, or any of the other zillion things I’ve written over the years that have caused me to butt heads with vocal and angry lesbian fans because I am an outspoken advocate for uncomfortable authenticity in portrayals of gay characters. Because I believe hard stories deserve to be told as much as the happily ever afters.
But the difference with Skins Fire is that after the writers put that story to bed in series four, it became its own entity, a cultural phenomenon. It was a warm hand reaching through the cat flap. It was precious light in a dark place. We relaxed into it, we cloaked ourselves in it, and we sought it out again and again to remind ourselves to be brave.
So while the creative team was well within their rights to pull that glowing orb of hope off the shelf and shatter it — because that’s what happens to hope sometimes, that’s real life — doing so was an act of unkindness that I can’t understand. Skins Fire didn’t just tell a tough-luck story of the world’s random cruelty; it tore down what had become a beacon of optimism and a conduit of faith for hundreds of thousands of gay people all over the world.
Stories live in our blood and in our bones. We arrive in this world needing them almost as much as we need food to stay alive. Stories can conquer fear. Stories can make our hearts larger. Stories can anchor us to what is good and vaccinate us against despair and act as a balm against the unspoken agonies of our souls. Not all stories can do that for us, but some of them can, and the very best ones of all can even transcend their narratives and become symbols of hope and triumph. That’s what Naomi and Emily’s story was. It was more.
Just because you have the power and the right to tell a story doesn’t mean you should do it. If it costs you nothing to leave a little precious light shining in a dark place, why on earth would you extinguish it?
“I mean the whole time — let me just break it down for you — the whole time you’re rooting for this Hemingway guy to survive the war and to be with the woman that he loves, Catherine Barkley, and he does. He does. He survives the war, after getting blown up he survives it, and he escapes to Switzerland with Catherine. But now Catherine’s pregnant. Isn’t that wonderful? She’s pregnant! And they escape up into the mountains and they’re gonna be happy, and they’re gonna be drinking wine and they dance, they both like to dance with each other. There’s scenes of them dancing, which was boring, but I liked it, because they were happy. You think he ends it there? No! He writes another ending. She dies, Dad! I mean, the world’s hard enough as it is, guys. It’s fucking hard enough as it is. Can’t somebody say, “Hey, let’s be positive? Let’s have a good ending to the story?”—Pat, The Silver Linings Playbook
Hey heather. I just want you to know I grew up in a very strict catholic house that taught me how wrong it is to be gay. I'm not gay but I started reading your PLL recaps because i'm an Ezria shipper and they changed everything I've ever thought about gay people. I have been taught so wrong - you and Paily helped me see that. Thank you for that and thank you to Marlene. I promise you i will be an ally for gay people for ever now.
If story gives the universe structure, music gives the universe soul. If story is the way we tie together unrelated points of light and call them constellations, music is the bruised night sky healing apricot in the sunrise — the cacophony of color that gives beauty to the form we’ve constructed from the nothingness. The meeting of story and song is the collision of our most ancient needs, the place where our imaginations and our heart’s affections unite. It’s an intersection Keats called holy.
That’s where Glee exists. Not always. Not often. But when Glee manages to stitch together honest narrative with authentic music, it reaches a place inside of us that most TV shows could never hope to touch. And what’s more, the way Glee reaches for us is unapologetically queer.
In this episode, alone, we saw two young gay soul mates being counseled by two elderly lesbian soul mates about the decision to get married. We saw a straight white guy trying to come to terms with the relationship he’d developed with a transgender black woman. We saw a bisexual teenager saying goodbye to a boyfriend and a girlfriend, both of whom she truly loved.
Glee hasn’t gotten any of those stories right all of the time. It hasn’t even gotten most of those stories right most of the time. But it has had its moments of white hot glory, of pure holiness. And this is one of those times.
Brittany sits alone and Santana walks to meet her. She pulls Brittany to her feet and embraces her. They join hands. They walk off the stage, silently, together.
Fandom conceived Brittana. Fandom nurtured Brittana. Fandom advocated for Brittana, and demanded for Brittana, and understood Brittana. In a lot of ways, Santana’s relationship with Brittany is an accidental allegory for fandom’s relationship with this couple. When the rest of the world wrote off Brittany as a moron, Santana looked right into her eyes and called her a genius. When the rest of the world scoffed at Brittany’s naivete, Santana explained that she was a unicorn. Santana saw in Brittany not the shell of an idea of the shadow of a person, but a woman who was intrinsically good and wholly beautiful and wonderfully complicated. She examined every one of Brittany’s layers lovingly, reverently. And the more she discovered, the deeper she loved.
And then Santana let Brittany unravel her. She let Brittany speak truths that cut through her hard, bitchy exterior. She let Brittany sing songs that acted as a balm to her tortured soul. They said it was just sex, but they knew it was more than sex. They said it was just Cheerios, but they knew it was more than Cheerios. It was more than friends. It was more than girlfriends. And in the end, they stopped saying anything at all, because they finally understood that their truth transcends words.
My friends and family always mock me for sticking with Glee, but this is the reason why I do. These rare and wonderful moments of holiness. There’s a beauty here and a truth here that I don’t experience anywhere else. I know that’s not a cool thing to say, apathy and snark being the order of the day and all that. And it’s especially weird with Glee because people expect you not only to love the exact things they love, but they also expect you to hate the exact things they hate. But I didn’t hate this. I didn’t hate it at all.
The only thing that expresses the inexpressible better than music is silence. Or as our buddy Keats would say: “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.”
“I definitely do NOT think it’s discomfort. I think it’s an unusual feeling for Myka, but she knows what it is, and isn’t afraid of it. I don’t think Myka would ever say never, and would concede that sometime down the road, who knows? Myka has learned that there are a lot of meanings to the term ‘Endless Wonder.’”—
Warehouse 13 showrunner Jack Kenny when I asked him if Myka has not explored things with HG because she’s uncomfortable with the idea of being bisexual or sexually fluid.
I’m working on a piece right now about how Myka and HG are the lady/lady Mulder and Scully, a new kind of queer female maintext. Jack has been super awesome in answering all of my zillion questions. I thought this answer was particularity interesting, especially in light of that recent interview where he said they won’t be walking off into the sunset holding hands. My guess is the last we see of HG and Myka will be a smirk and a metaphorical ellipses. They know they’re deep blue magic stuff. Jack knows too.
I actually get the impression that he’d love to tell this story in a series on its own. He said the Myka and HG (and Jo/Jaime) dynamic was a “delicious surprise.” It’s just that Warehouse 13 is about the Warehouse family. That’s the story he set out to tell and that’s the thing he has to wrap up in six episodes.
It’s nice to see him say HG is part of Myka’s “endless wonder,” right? Much better than “just friends.” :)
“The bottom line here — I mean, let’s not be too shy about it — is: the federal ban on recognizing same-sex marriages is dead. California’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages is dead. There are 12 states in the country where [same-sex marriage] is now legal, and the political winds are blowing so hard in one direction that the idea that we will go backwards is unimaginable in any state in the country … In every single state we’ve [researched] — we started with the As: Alaska, Arkansas, Alabama, everywhere, every single state in the country — there is a grassroots movement trying to overturn, politically, that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. And they will all now go … This is now decided, as a nation. The argument is won. Now, it’s a matter of where the pieces fall, and how long it takes them to fall.”—Rachel Maddow on SCOTUS’ DOMA and Prop. 8 decisions