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Trigger Warnings, Big Data, and Building a Better Search Engine

There’s a lot of discussion these days about trigger warnings and how they should be handled. I don’t have any triggers, but I know some wonderful people who do. (Just like racism and homophobia, being a jerk can be cured by getting to know people.)

I have a thought. A theory. A proposal, if you will. It’s about using technology to make the world a better place. If you like anything you seen herein, say so. I’ll consult on any project to make this happen.

Because there is a need, and people are in pain.

Let’s go.

What are trigger warnings?

A trigger warning is a label on a piece of media that says ‘Here there be dragons’ only the dragons take the form of assault, abuse, death, racism, and other gory stuff. Stuff that even an untraumatized person might feel squicky around.

They are not what conservatives and the callous often make them out to be: for weak-willed individuals who are easily offended. We’re not talking about being offended. We’re talking about being triggered, which means:

A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.
trauma in the form of flashbacks or overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, or panic. The brain forms a connection between a trigger and the feelings with which it is associated, and some triggers are quite innocuous. For example, a person who smelled incense while being raped might have a panic attack when he or she smells incense in a store. Triggers are very personal, and generally people with severe PTSD or/and anxiety can be triggered by everyday things.

Thank you, Urban Dictionary.

You can find a list of example trigger warnings at the Privilege 101 Tumblr. (And yes, not having any triggers is a privilege.)

Who needs them?

Trigger warnings are for people who feel emotionally ‘triggered’ when they run into certain content. This usually stems from some trauma in their past. A victim of sexual assault may not want to read about a character being assaulted. Someone who has lost a child may feel blindsided when a child is killed in fiction.

The important part of this is ‘blindsided.’ Because, in the right frame of mind, the assault victim may feel able to read a scene with coercive sex. She may even find it therapeutic. But she needs to know what she’s getting into before she gets there. Then she can make an informed choice about what media she consumes and when.

What can we do about it?

Well, we can make big, splashy labels that we slap on media that scream “OMFG SHIT GOES DOWN HERE”, which will drive away a lot of people. People who feel like the work has been spoiled for them (just give away the most shocking part, why don’t you?), people who think the warning means things must be absolutely horrific to warrant such a label, people who are put off by being ‘told what to do’, and even people who just think that sticker is ugly.

Hint: That’s not the way to help anyone.

Here’s how we do it.

We include trigger warnings in meta data.

What’s meta data? It’s the information associated with a file that you, the average user, don’t see or don’t pay much attention to. For instance, a book’s meta data might include:

  • Author
  • Date published
  • Publisher
  • Cover Artist
  • Genre(s)/Marketing Categories
  • Subject Matter (locations, people, time, etc.)

When you look for books about WWI, you can find accurate results because someone tagged those books appropriately. This isn’t new to the digital era, it’s how card catalogs have been working for centuries.

Yes, I’m old enough to have used an actual card catalog (in elementary school). Bite me.

How would it work?

From a technological stand-point, it’s not hard to create another meta data option. We’ll call this one “Triggers”. The GUI consists of a bunch of checkboxes for various broad categories of triggers (ie., not necessarily as specific as the example list above).

When a new book is entered into the system the appropriate boxes get checked, alongside all that other information that goes in. Voila! You have data.

On the public side of things, a user decides they just can’t handle a battle scene today, so they find the related checkbox for violence/war, and their results exclude any books that are labeled with that trigger.

When assessing an individual book, Trigger data can be listed prominently or not, depending on the database and its users. A site dedicated to providing services for triggered individuals may make all trigger warnings big and bold. A mass market like Amazon may include it at the bottom among the other meta data like publishing info.

What would it take to make this happen?

  1. A commitment from publishers to start labeling the new works and back catalogs with these warnings.
  2. Additions to book search engines to include this data.
  3. A universally agreed upon description of what constitutes a trigger, what the labels will be, and how the data will get from publishers to markets. (I’d like to see the medical profession weigh-in a bit here.)

That’s a pretty hefty list of requirements. But it can be done.

It should be done.

It HAS been done.

Examples in the wild

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system for movies. Shown consistently to be helpful and informative for parents in guiding what their kids watch.

The TV Parental Guidelines rating system for television shows. By the way, dozens of countries do this.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating system for video games.

Grocery store websites where I used to turn on the option to have gluten, egg, and other allergens highlighted for me to avoid.

Real live grocery stores that highlight things like Kosher! and Organic! and Sugar Free! on their shelves.

We have the ability to store, and then cut and slice data any way we want to. All the above examples have made it possible to filter and make informed decisions without losing their souls. You can still have an extremely violent video game, but now you have to warn people that that’s what they’re getting. Artsy movies are still made, and it’s money, not their ratings, that hold them back.

What are the benefits?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think ‘fewer traumatized people’ is a good start. I think it’s a good end, too.

Some of you need more convincing. So hit me up in the comments. Tell me your concerns so I can try to refine this mad scheme of mine.

And share this post. Widely. Change happens when people take notice.

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Princess Time 

The above screenshot is from the January 2017 issue of National Geographic, which focused on gender. The page pictured asks,

Is dressing up as princesses ‘a normal girlie-girl phase’ or does it encourage girls to define themselves based on appearance and passivity?

I don’t know about other little girls, but the appeal of ‘Princess’, for me, included power.

How quickly we forget that as heirs to a throne, princesses have power!

When I was small, maybe 4 or 5, I boldly told my mother that I wanted to be a queen. Why? It seemed a natural assumption if you want to be in charge of your own life. Queens get to control things. They get to do things. And their daughters are just one step away.

I resent the assumption that princesses are powerless. That their worth is based on appearance and they exist as passive objects, not actors with agency. I feel this is more a matter of society projecting its mistaken ideas about girls in general. Society, in the form of Disney, told us Snow White was weak and prone to fainting. Nothing in the original fairy tale told us she was. The men of 1937 did that.

As a preschooler I knew that queens, and by extension princesses, had power.

Maybe this is why I’ve always been drawn to historical fiction like that of Philippa Gregory. She writes about aristocratic ladies who learn to wield power.

I don’t mean to pretend that women have ever been handed power on a silver platter. No, they have had to earn it and seize it. But hierarchy asserts that some women had more power than others, even if their sphere was only that of a single household. And women used that power.

Women still use the meager power granted to them, and they use it to secure more power. As a young child I knew the difference between a peasant and royalty. The latter got to make choices.

I think we need to draw a distinction between princesses in princess culture. There are the 1937 models, who fritter and sway, based in the imaginations of misogynists. There are princesses like Queen Elizabeth II, herself an 11 year old princess in 1937, who is still an indomitable force at 90. There are the  historical queens like Catherine the Great who built an empire. There are also princesses like Merida and Mulan and Tiana who bravely, skillfully, fight for what they want. So long as your daughter is emulating the right sort of princess, I don’t see a problem.

Princess doesn’t have to be a derogatory word. Treating it as one denies a rare class of women the power they held. And do hold. It erases their contributions.

I knew ‘princess’ meant power. And I guarantee that many other little girls also sense the authority in the term. They don’t go into it wanting just to be pretty, or to sit around being pampered. They want agency. They want control.

They want the promise that who you’re born as can be an asset, not a hindrance. So much of being female ties your hands before you even realize you have fingers. It’s nice to have one thing, just one role, where the opposite is true.

It's a flying Trowa!

Gundam Wing Rewatch: Episodes 13-15

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Gundam Wing Rewatch

Episode 13: Catherine’s Tears

Zechs is conducting a test run of Tallgeese by having his men fire anti-aircraft missiles at him. He shoots them right out of the air. Tallgeese is fast and deadly.

Elsewhere, possibly Somalia, a battle is taking place, led by two OZ officers known as Alex and Meuller. The former Alliance base they’re attacking surrenders, but they keep going. “This is an execution!” Anyone who clings to the ways of the Alliance is suspect and must be “disciplined.” With death. They’re super nice guys.

We are wild and crazy guys!

We are wild and crazy guys! (No rly)

They have another target to go after and they head to Lake Victoria for backup, but there are no battle-tested soldiers there. It’s not that kind of base anymore, thanks to Noin’s orders. They are deeply offended, as Noin was their teacher. They are certain Zechs must have twisted her arm or something. (Why can’t she have autonomy? Huh? Jerks.)

There is ONE soldier on base who’s ready to fight… Zechs and his Tallgeese. They approach him and he agrees to go. As their subordinate.

They go to attack the base. Zechs was intended as a decoy but he damages the base so badly that they surrender. Alex and Meuller show up and keep wiping people out anyway. Another execution! Discipline! Zechs warns that this is not what His Excellency wants. His refusal to fight leads to an OZ soldier’s death, and Alex and Meuller turn their weapons on him. He takes out Meuller and then literally rips Alex’s suit in two, shouting, “FOOOOOOOOOLS!”

FOOOOOOOOOLS!

FOOOOOOOOOLS!

Zechs returns to Lake Victoria and turns in his report on the battle and Alex and Meuller. He suggests they give Noin a message about how it’s “a mistake to teach just tactics.”

On a different OZ base, the circus is performing. Trowa has confirmed that they have a lot of supplies he wants to take out. The curtain goes up on… Gundam Heavyarms. Everyone thinks this is a neat trick til he starts shooting. Trowa takes out carriers and buildings while everyone else flees.

Catherine is one of them until she realizes what he’s doing. He’s ready to die in this battle. She runs toward the gundam and calls out to him to stop. A Leo fires on her and Trowa makes that suit JUMP AND FLIP so he can block the shot.

Flip, flip, BOOM

Flip, flip, BOOM

Trowa takes out the offending Leo and Catherine’s still shouting at him. He opens the cockpit door and she climbs up to continue yelling at him.

Starting with punching him in the face.

POW.

POW.

Crying angry tears, she yells at him for not thinking about all the people who would be hurt if he killed himself. Her tears move him, and he decides not to self-detonate.

The next day, Trowa and Heero set out on their own. Before they go, Catherine rather testily accuses Heero of being, “the one that brainwashed my Trowa with your strange ideas.”

Trowa says to Heero that he, Heero, wouldn’t have stopped for anything. So he’s stronger. Heero replies that “the only way to live a good life is to live by your emotions.”

Reaction

A lot can be explained by this ‘live by your emotions’ crap, mainly that they’re all crazy.

Catherine gets mega-points here for gutsiness. Who else would charge up to a gundam and cold-cock the pilot? Now, this is, of course, cited as evidence of True Love, but I think it fits better into the Sibling theory. Punching your brother is kind of par for the course.

Alex and Meuller (yes, that’s how the subtitles spell it) are really messed up, creepy guys. Worse, they think they’re carrying out Treize’s ideals. It’s hard to be sure at this point, what ARE Treize’s ideals? Peace through war? Oppress all dissenters?

As for Zechs, he basically calls Noin out long-distance. He didn’t like the way she taught before and now he sees proof in the massacring pudding. (Tomorrow’s dessert, Massacre Pudding with whipped cream…) One has to wonder if the reason he avoids Noin is because he doesn’t think their ideologies mesh. That makes me sad.

No Relena tally.

Episode 14: The Order To Destroy 01

Heero and Trowa have gone to a library (!) to do some hacking. Heero drops the (floppy) disk he’s trying to put in the (ancient) computer. His arm still hasn’t finished healing. Trowa gets it for him and the bring up a profile of Sylvia Noventa, granddaughter of the pacifistic Marshall Noventa Heero killed at New Edwards.

These computers are the future, you guys.

These computers are the future, you guys.

“Outside Bremen” the Romefeller Foundation is having a meeting. They’re a group comprised of former European royalty, who use their money and influence to have a hand in international affairs. Their money backs OZ, which makes Treize beholden to them.

Relena, dressed as a formal representative of the Sanq Kingdom, and escorted by Noin who’s also in Sanq dress, sail in to attend this meeting. Relena is highly irritated that the place is guarded by a dozen mobile suits.

Relena: Why was Romefeller so set on using mobile suits?

Noin: Because people have a tendency to fear large machinery, but at the same time they have a strong admiration for it. And, mobile suits walk on two feet. The Foundation must’ve preferred a human battle rather than one played out with buttons and switches.

Relena: There’s no formality when it comes to killing men. If there were, it’d be in the form of a game in which people’s lives were toyed with. In war, a frenzied death is the most honest way.

Noin pats Relena down before they go in. Just in case.

They arrive in time to hear Duke Dermail, Romefeller’s leader, going on about how dangerous and wrong-headed things like equality have been for humanity. He introduces Treize, who agrees with him, and also throws in this bit about how God grants humanity free will, but humanity needs to be ruled–thus it needs a force superior to God’s.

Relena is not impressed by either speech and sneaks away from Noin to grab the mic and inform them of how wrong they are. The gundams will come for them! Noin ushers her off stage where they run into Treize. He recognizes the spirit in Relena’s eyes as being similar to Heero’s.

Everyone wants to be compared to a guy who blew himself up.

Everyone wants to be compared to a guy who blew himself up.

To the Romefeller guests he apologizes–the sister of a friend. Nothing to worry about. Dermail also has a note for him, he thinks Treize is giving Zechs too much leeway. Is it true Zechs is reconstructing a gundam? It should be destroyed!

Back at Lake Victoria, Zechs is indeed doing just that. Noin calls him to let him know that Treize agreed to have the gundam destroyed. Zechs makes plans to do so.

In Bremen, Relena watches the mobile suits outside her rooms and considers burning everything to the ground. But God would never forgive her for that. Meanwhile, at the party still, Treize wonders if he’ll be punished for his little God spiel, but figures God’s not real so whatevs. He’s also drinking what appears to be a pomtini.

Manliest of all cocktails.

Manliest of all cocktails.

Trowa and Heero travel to Marseilles, where Sylvia Noventa lives. The city houses yet another holdout Alliance base, which is now a target for OZ. Sylvia’s people are trying to get her out of the city ASAP but she’s clinging to her grief over her grandfather’s death.

Trowa knocks out a downed Aries pilot and he and Heero listen in on the guy’s comm. Their goal is to go unnoticed–they don’t want OZ to know they have a gundam here. So, Trowa will hide in the city’s tunnels and Heero will go find Sylvia.

He finds her alright. Just as she’s exiting her house, a Leo falls on a building, and Heero comes screaming through in his truck and almost runs her down.

That moment when you realize you're about to screw up again.

That moment when you realize you’re about to screw up again.

Heero wrenches the truck so hard to the left it rolls 360° and end up back on its wheels. He survives, naturally. Oh, and so does she.

Deep in the tunnels under the city, Trowa takes out a bunch of OZ suits. The Alliance base isn’t sure what happened, but they’re grateful for it.

Heero and Sylvia go to Marshall Noventa’s gravesite, and Heero lays down flowers. Then he offers Sylvia his gun. He’s offering her the chance to kill him, in retribution for the death of her grandfather. She grabs the gun and certainly looks like she wants to do it, but she calls him a coward. “You coward! It’s obvious you just want to take the easy way out of this!”

No, I will kill YOU

No, I will kill YOU

To which Heero says, “It’s [war is] the only way I know how to live.”

Heero waits a bit, giving her one last opportunity, and then leaves to seek out the next family member and the next. Trowa’s supporting him through this, but clearly he finds it at least a little questionable.

At Lake Victoria, Zechs and his men destroy what’s left of Wing while an OZ investigator watches. This guy doesn’t trust Zechs, and wants to collect the last of the debris himself. His instincts are good. The real Wing is on the bottom of the lake, nearly complete.

This is becoming a habit.

This is becoming a habit.

Reaction

Relena begins her work as a Peacecraft with very un-Peacecraft-y beliefs. They advocated pacifism; Relena’s talking about arson. She has a long way to go.

Heero’s plan to give each of Noventa’s family members a chance to kill him is noble, if misguided. He can’t bear that he screwed up, and he feels a need to be punished for it. No one else is doing it, so he’s presenting himself to people who would have good reason to want him dead.

In other news, Treize is arrogant as all get-out, and Noin is the one who needs a blessing since she’s now babysitting Relena. Godspeed, Noin.

Good Things Relena Does: Instincts on point, Romefeller sucks.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Instincts a little scary… no arson, ‘Lena. Also, the mic incident.

Good: 14, Dumb: 22

Episode 15: To The Battleground, Antarctica

Recap

Yes, Antarctica. We use exotic locations in Gundamland.

Speaking of, Heero and Trowa are wrapping up the list of Noventa family members in Italy. A black car follows them. Heero is still injured, so Trowa offers to take care of things. He gets all James Bond about it, too. Motorcycle, car chase, runs both off the road, and he does a backflip onto a laundry line.

It's a flying Trowa!

It’s a flying Trowa!

Because he’s badass like that.

While the two boys are trying to work out their next move they are approached by Noin. She’s there on behalf of Zechs, inviting them to come with her. Zechs wants a chance to fight Heero again. Heero agrees.

Now it’s time for an inexplicable infodump. Relena has been left in the care of Pagan, the butler. Apparently he followed Mr. Dorlain out of Sanq, because he tells Relena about the Peacecrafts and an incident from Zechs’ youth. Pagan employs some magical hacking skills to a) track Zechs now, b) find out he ordered a crapton of gundanium, enough for two suits, c) that Mrs. Noventa is looking for Heero Yuy and d) she doesn’t want OZ to know about it BUT PAGAN DOES. How the butler manages all this, I do not know.

Yeah, Relena, you give that man side-eye.

Yeah, Relena, you give that man side-eye.

Pagan also says that Zechs “was a hero in the eyes of the Peacecrafts” which is kind of bizarre because he was six when the Sanq kingdom fell.

Anyway, Relena tells Pagan to reach out to Mrs. Noventa ASAP. Moving on.

Next comes a giant WTF moment. Treize is walking along by the lake, musing to himself. A woman and her toddler are on the dock. The woman gets distracted and her baby follows a moth to the end of the dock where he’s surely about to fall into the water. The woman moves for him but Treize stops her.

FOR THE LOVE OF GUNDAM, WOMAN, GET YOUR CHILD

FOR THE LOVE OF GUNDAM, WOMAN, GET YOUR CHILD

 

She is horrified but hangs back. Treize watches calmly as the kid is rerouted on his own and comes back to them, unharmed. Treize takes this as a sign that, yes, he should let Zechs continue to act on his own with little supervision. Because other people’s children are his personal Magic 8-Balls.

 

Noin puts Heero, Trowa and Heavyarms on a carrier to take them to Ant-freaking-arctica. The boys spend time getting Heero familiar with Heavyarms, which he’s battling with because of his injured arm. Heero apologizes to Trowa–normally they wouldn’t want someone else touching their suits. Trowa shrugs it off. Noin remarks that they’re just like any young pilots. Her underling proposes killing them now, because Zechs can be put in danger. “You still don’t understand him,” she says, “Zechs would never forgive us for doing such a thing.”

Mrs. Noventa forwards a letter to Relena to pass on to Heero. Naturally, Relena opens it and reads it herself. The letter absolves Heero for what he did, as it was a mistake in the heat of battle. Marshall Noventa worked toward a better world, and she wants Heero to continue to do so as well. Relena is relieved that Heero is alive, and makes plans to visit Mrs. Noventa at once.

Noin and crew are now over the southern continent. The Romefeller Inspector has caught up to them, wanting to expose Zechs’ lie about destroying the gundam. Noin will do anything to protect Zechs. She orders their two suits, a Leo and an Aries, out of the carrier so it can get to the base faster. She and one other will face three carriers each with a bunch of enemy suits on board. It doesn’t take long for them to be cornered and surrender.

The guy in charge of Noin’s carrier insists they go back. Trowa calls him weak for not following orders. Nevertheless, he takes Heavyarms and destroys the inspector’s forces. Only the Inspector is left. But Trowa’s orders were, those who see a gundam shall not live to tell about it. He goes to town on the guy. Way more than is necessary.

Spin, Trowa, spin!

Trowa has to peel his hand off the controls. He went into this battle all business, but now he’s wondering how long he’ll have to keep fighting “like this.” Noin asks if he’s okay and he tells her to reload the gundam, for Heero Yuy.

Reaction

So, the Relena parts of this episode make no sense. Somehow her butler has amazing hacking skills. If he has those why has he been content as a butler all this time? Maybe he’s been taking night classes since the kingdom fell? There is no reason for Relena to open Heero’s letter, except to be nosy. And, Mrs. Noventa sent it to Relena so she could give it to Heero. Relena’s reaction is, Let’s go to Noventa so she can tell me where Heero is! If Mrs. Noventa knew where Heero is, do you think she would’ve forwarded the damn letter to random rich girl taking too much interest in him? Hmm?

Literally everything about Relena’s scenes is meant to be convenient for the writers. They want an update on various things, so Pagan has magic access to it all. They want Mrs. Noventa’s letter read, so Relena gets that job. They need Relena flying again so they send her on an irrational errand. It isn’t fair to Relena to be used this way.

Treize’s actions show a really, really messed up psyche. (Hint: It is that.) It also shows just how much loyalty he engenders in his followers–that’s the only reason I can think of for that mother not showing him in the water to get to her son. If it were me, and the President were holding me back, I’d do whatever I had to to save my baby. Get with the program, lady!

Then there’s Trowa suddenly regretting the brutality of the way he fights. It’s an interesting turn of events. Why now? What about this fight set him off?

Good Things Relena Does: Point to balance out all the stupid crap the bad writers made her do.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Do we have to count these? Reads Heero’s mail. Flies off to Sicily when the letter was meant to go the other way etc.

Good: 15, Dumb: 24

Next week, Heero and Zechs face off again.

Bad. Ass.

Gundam Wing Rewatch: Episodes 10-12

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Gundam Wing Rewatch

 

Episode 10: Heero, Distracted by Defeat

Recap

With a title like that, you’d think the episode would be more… explodey.

Treize and his people gather to debrief. Une does not like Zechs or Noin. She doesn’t like sharing Treize’s good opinion. She sees no reason for Treize to have to thank his own soldiers and that they are shameless in accepting that thanks.

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Look, a murder of bad guys!

Treize and Zechs take a private moment to speak of Milliardo Peacecraft, Zechs’ true name. He doesn’t want to use it, but Treize looks forward to the day he takes off his mask.

Une gives a briefing to the assembles OZ soldiers. Turns out their next plan is to move the new Taurus suits to a new secure location because of the “lack of security” at the Victoria base, a direct slight against Noin.

Zechs opines that the gundams won’t be able to come into OZ territory to attack this convoy but Une wants them to. In fact,  she believes she knows how to defeat them based on the latest data. She outlines what they know about each gundam.

She then assigns Zechs to battle 01 alone. Noin immediately volunteers to back him up, but Une dismisses her. She’s assigned to HQ with Une. Assisting. Any problems with that? Noin does have a problem but of course can’t say anything. If Zechs fails this will be all his fault. Zechs saves Noin’s feelings by saying he’ll need her at HQ to give him good intel.

Heero is hacking away when a video comm appears on his screen. Dr. J. Turns out the new Tauruses are capable of analyzing battle data and moving on their own, overriding the pilot. Eliminate them!

Professor Creepy over here does nothing to help the perception of the disabled community.

Professor Creepy over here does nothing to help the perception of the disabled community.

Duo gets the same mission. OZ is planning to send a decoy as well as the real convoy, one by land and one by air. Duo suggests they split up and have a strategy, they’ll need one.

Trowa figures the air convoy must be the real one. Quatre decides that he and the Maguanacs will attack the land convoy so they can quickly inform the others which is real. Wufei stands before his suit and says, “I’m sorry. I am no longer fit to pilot. Denounce me, Nataku.”

Noin joins Une in central command. Noin wants to know which convoy is the real one, and Une says both are important.

The gundams move in and battle commences. Zechs flies in to engage Heero, one-on-one with their not-light-sabers.

Things are looking bad, so Noin suggests back up. Then Une makes a play. She orders all missiles stored in space to be aimed at the colonies. Any of them, all of them. To the gundam pilots she makes the threat: surrender or the colonies will be destroyed.

Zechs dislikes this. “Helluva time for tasteless tactics. You guys can fight. Well, can’t you!?” he tries to engage with Wing again, but all the gundams have stopped.

Une orders for a missile to be fired, she doesn’t care where. Zechs calls in.

Zechs: That is not what His Excellency [Treize] wants.

Une: I am doing nothing more than fulfilling His Excellency’s ideals.

Zechs: You clearly don’t understand His Excellency.

Yes, with OZ taking over Treize has become His Excellency. Deal.

Une cuts off Zechs’ call and then Noin steps in to try to stop Une. Une slaps her. (Bitch!) Une has no respect for the colonies and she wants to wipe out the rebel scum.

Dr. J patches a comm link into their HQ. He never thought OZ would be so stupid. He says that this fight is his personal battle. He surrenders. But he will not surrender the gundams.

Heero accepts the mission: destroy his gundam. He self-detonates, knocking himself unconscious. (Hey, he finally did it!)

Go boom.

Go boom.

Trowa scoops up Heero’s lifeless body and Zechs promises not to fire on him while he escapes. The others pull back as well.

The parting shot? Noin’s got a call from His Excellency on the line. No, no, he doesn’t want to speak TO Une, he just has a message for her. “Be more graceful.”

Bitch.

Bitch.

Reaction

I love how everyone immediately adopts calling Treize “His Excellency.” Because he’s excellent. Of course.

Une is a serious loose canon. She doesn’t just want to take out the gundams she wants to annihilate them and everything around them–literally. Her methods are insane.

And how dare she slap Noin! I love Noin! And I love that Noin gets to verbally slap her back.

Heero has finally gone and done it–destroyed his gundam, and maybe himself. He’s damn lucky Trowa is on site and compassionate enough to take care of him, or he’d be in enemy hands again.

Good Things Relena Does: Stays out of the way again.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Nothing, she pretty much stays out of the way.

Episode 11: The Whereabouts of Happiness

Recap

Duo and Quatre have retreated to a desert in the Middle East. Quatre offers Duo help, a chance to shelter with the Maguanac Corp’s home base. It’s an underground base attached to a city, somewhere in their undisclosed homeland. The locals welcome the Corp and the gundams as heroes. Duo and Quatre formally introduce themselves to each other.

At the site of the last battle, Noin and Zechs are overseeing the retrieval of the pieces of Wing. It’s ruined and the pilot is presumed dead. But Zechs believes he may yet be alive, somehow. “As a fellow mobile suit pilot, he is someone that I was destined to do battle with.”

Lady Une apologizes to Treize for involving the colonies without consulting him. “Well, that’s all water under the bridge now,” Treize says magnanimously. Une accepts all his orders with, “Yes, I’ll eliminate them at once!”

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omg he’s holding my hand!!!

He takes her hand in an intimate gesture. She’s taken aback. Treize continues by telling her she can “do away with some of your formalities.” Next stop: Moscow.

Relena arrives in, we presume, Moscow. Alone. She sees Une giving a press conference on TV, now with a rose pinned to her lapel. Relena decides the rose doesn’t suit her at all and turns it off. That night there is a big fancy party, which Relena attends though she doesn’t have an invitation. She’s rescued at the door by a man named Marquis Weridge, who bluffs that she’s his granddaughter to get her inside.

Interestingly, when Weridge first sees her, he mistakes her for a woman named Katrina. Katrina Peacecraft was her grandmother.

Weridge is just starting to tell Relena what he knows about the Peacecrafts when Une enters, complete with rose. Weridge comments to Relena that flowers don’t belong on military uniforms. But Relena has plans of her own. When Une gets close, Relena pulls a gun from her sash, shouts “Here’s for my dad!” and shoots the rose off Une’s lapel.

Bad. Ass.

Bad. Ass.

It’s unclear if she was aiming for the rose or Une, but the result is very cool. Relena flees the party before the OZies can catch her.

In a desert far, far away, Duo and Quatre are comparing notes. Their missions are the same. Alas, OZ pays the village a visit and plants timed bombs all around town. The Maguanacs get their civilians out and prepare to counter-attacked when the bombs go off. Their mission is to fend off OZ long enough for the gundams to escape. Duo and Quatre both feel pretty terrible about this. They vow to do better, win, etc. As they make their escape, Duo fires down onto the battlefield and helps clean up.

Relena is running for her life, in party shoes. She’s cornered by a couple of mobile suits and more OZ soldiers. They get the gun away from her and are about to haul her off when Noin shows up. “I’ll be taking care of her from now on.” She shoots the hat off a soldier’s head.

What, your bullets don't come with glowing yellow light?

What, your bullets don’t come with glowing yellow light?

Her orders come from Treize, overriding Une’s. The soldiers back off. Relena wants to know why an OZ officer is ‘rescuing’ her. Noin shoots the gold logo off the soldier’s downed hat.

“I have come to help you, Miss Relena Peacecraft.”

Reaction

I love Noin, she’s such a badass (when not mooning over Zechs). And now she’s on a special mission.

There’s some very fancy shooting in this episode. Noin’s is definitely deliberate, even if Relena’s isn’t. I do think Relena meant to kill Une and only Une moving back saved her.

I’m starting to wonder if Treize isn’t also a little high when he does things, because he is just so chill. Une has screwed up twice now and he’s like, “Meh. Whatevs. Where’s the wine?” On the whole I do think he’s sober and a deep thinker, but wow. (Next in fanfiction: Treize stoner fics!)

The Maguanac city bit is a bit strange. It alludes to this whole history Quatre has with them without actually telling you anything about that history. (You can find it in the manga Episode: Zero.) It also shows that stereotypes are really freaking pervasive–the village includes half nekkid dancing girls. All the other stock characters there are male or faceless.

Good Things Relena Does: BE A BADASS (shoots Une).

Dumb Things Relena Does: Go to Moscow alone for unknown purposes. Try to get into a party with no invitation. Carries a gun into said party.

Crap. Even when she’s being awesome she’s still being stupid. Damn it, Relena! Good: 13, Dumb: 20.

Episode 12: Bewildered Warriors

Recap

Open on a wounded and bandaged Heero, asleep in a bed. Someone’s been looking after him. He wakes to the sound of the TV giving us a little recap, and sees a woman by his bed. “Relena?”

Surprise!

Surprise!

Nope! It’s Cathy! I’m actually not sure why there isn’t more Heero/Catherine fanfiction… Because there certainly is a lot of Heero/Trowa fanfiction based on these two looks.

Trowa informs Heero that he’s been unconscious for a month, and in that time Trowa’s not received any more missions. OZ believes Heero is dead. It’s not so simple for Trowa.

Heero: In that case I’ve got one warning for you. It hurts like hell.

Trowa: Hahahahahaha!

Heero made a funny!

Heero made a funny!

Okay, so maybe it’s that, Trowa’s full-throated laugh, that really gets the 1×3 fangirls going. They also agree that it’s best to “follow your emotions.”

The main plot for this episode takes place in the former China, which has remained an independent nation despite OZ’s taking over everything else. Former Major Sally Po has roots in this region, and so when the Alliance falls she heads back home. She falls in with the rebels who reject Bundt, the militaristic guy who is controlling the nation.

Bundt’s forces attack the rebels near where Wufei has stashed his gundam. Wufei doesn’t feel he has a right to fight, but he does protect the “weak” rebels. He can’t understand why they would fight when they are so weak. Sally asks him to join them, to rest. He does, and the next day the two of them go into a town for supplies. There they find Bundt’s soldiers harassing a shop keeper. Sally tells the soldiers to step off and gets her butt kicked. Wufei moves in and takes the guy out. By then the whole town has come together to beat off these soldiers, and the men flee.

Wufei then goes off by himself. As Sally tries to go after him, he explains that he is too weak to pilot his gundam. Weak and a coward. Sally calls after him that people join the rebels because they’re weak.

At the HQ, Bundt and his men are discussing their next step. They want to wipe out the rebels, but the majors don’t want to ask OZ for help. Bundt agrees.

Bundt’s people attack the rebel camp, killing many of them. Wufei reaches them in time to see men he was getting to know die in his arms. Sally walks right toward an armed mobile suit. She wants Wufei to fight. And inspiring him is more important than her own life right now. Damn her, she’s right. Wufei gets in his gundam to fight.

Sally Po, not afraid to die

Sally Po, not afraid to die

Also, number of times someone shouts “IT’S A GUNDAAAAAM!”: 4, total.

Bundt has a surprise for his majors. He’s made a deal with OZ. They will set him up as the local despot if he cooperates with them. Which means his dissenting majors need to be taken out. He’ll tell everyone they joined the rebels. Bye bye. They take out the majors.

But they weren’t anticipating a gundam being there. Wufei takes out the OZ forces, saving what’s left of the rebels. The next morning Sally tells him she’s going to continue fighting for the nation’s independence, and she hopes he’ll join them again. Wufei wonders, though she’s so weak she’s still going to fight? Yes, she replies, “The most important thing is that my heart is in it.” Wufei smiles.

Jump back to the circus, where the Ringmaster announces that they’ve got a gig on an OZ base. He wants to put on a special show for the occasion, something big. Trowa volunteers to be in charge of this special show. “I promise, it will be a real blast. … It’ll be my last grandstand show.”

Reaction

Wufei’s logic is a mess. If you’re weak, you don’t deserve to fight. But if you’re strong, you should only fight people stronger than yourself, otherwise you are a coward. How do you get from weak to strong, though? Who decides who is weak and who is strong? Right now he’s the sole arbiter of this as far as I can see. Judgey!

The Heero and Trowa scenes are cute. It’s nice to see Heero show some feeling, even if it’s just, “Owwie.” In their case, “follow your emotions” seems like dangerous advice. What if they get it wrong and, I don’t know, kill the wrong people? But I suppose it’s also good advice, in that they have to follow their guts about who to trust.

No Relena tally for this episode, obviously.

Tha fuq you talkin' about?

Gundam Wing Rewatch: Episodes 7-9

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Gundam Wing Rewatch

And now time for another gundam story hour (and a half)!

Episode 7: Scenario for Bloodshed

Recap

I told you this was getting darker. This episode can be summed up as, “Heero screws up MAJORLY.”

Treize has managed to spread a rumor all across the Earth Sphere that there’s going to be a big meeting of OZ officials. All those warmongers in one place. If the gundams could take them out, they’d end the war.

Quatre sets out alone (no Maguanac Corp) for this very important and dangerous mission. Remember that Quatre was raised in the lap of luxury… he calls the “San Francisco Starlight Hotel” to ask for a room. ONLY Quatre would do this for such a mission. My god, Quatre. Why are you so adorable? I’m going to chalk this up to his total lack of training and the fact that he’s not a hacker. Heero, Duo, Trowa, you’re good. Quatre or Wufei? Bollocks.

Anyway, Quatre runs into Trowa preparing to go to the exact same place! Coincidence! Quatre thinks this is marvelous, let’s team up. Trowa insists that he is working alone. Quatre’s all, “Alone together?” Why is he SO ADORABLE?

While the two of them have legitimately hired transport, Heero sets about stealing a carrier. Duo joins him. Duo also thinks this is awesome. They can clean this up together and then he can go back to space.

Heero gives him this look:

Tha fuq you talkin' about?

Tha fuq you talkin’ ’bout?

This is Heero’s “WTF is wrong with you?” face. It is my new favorite screen cap. I’m not sure why Duo wanting to return to space is what makes Heero so suspicious, so it’s worth thinking about.

The big fancy meeting is called but it’s not full of OZies, it’s all Alliance guys, and they happen to be the more peaceful members of the Alliance. In fact, they’re talking about pulling back troops and opening dialogue with the colonies. In Treize’s view, this is “the wrong direction.”

The gundams attack the base where the meeting is happening. Heero and Duo get there first, and then Trowa and Quatre. They don’t know who’s a friend and who’s an enemy, because the geniuses behind Operation: Meteor never thought to coordinate. Quatre, naturally, is the one who insists they should be allies.

All around the world, OZ soldiers start rebelling against their Alliance masters. This is Operation: Daybreak, a coup d’etat. Treize’s men taking over.

Meanwhile, Treize “helps” the Alliance bigshots evacuate, putting them all on one plane with OZ insignia. Heero spots it taking off and goes for it.

Oopsies.

Oopsies.

Wufei is the one who shows up to tell them all that they’re massive idiots who have just destroyed their only possible allies. Cue shock and horror. Heero knows he’s utterly wrecked things.

Oh, and Lady Une shoots a guy in the head from a moving plane while he’s falling. Don’t piss off Une.

Reaction

First off, Treize is an absolute master of disinformation. He’s kept this coup under wraps, a global conspiracy, and he spreads a global rumor specifically for his enemies to fall for and do his dirty work for him. The man’s brilliant.

It’s also a pretty nifty way of bringing a lot of our plot threads together. Suddenly everyone’s all in one place. And things definitely just got worse.

Also, the target has changed. The Alliance has fallen, replaced by OZ, which is 100% under Treize’s control. He’s effectively the ruler of Earth now, but has to pay homage to the Romefeller Foundation, who we’ll learn about later.

So, good job everybody, blowing up the pacifists. Go team!

Good Things Relena Does: Stays out of everyone’s way.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Nothing! Ha ha! We’re not counting knocking over a vase, that’s just rubbing it in.

Good: 12, Dumb: 15.

Episode 8: The Treize Assassination

We pick up immediately following the previous episode at the New Edwards base. More mobile suits emerge to battle the gundams. Trowa and Wufei blow that popsicle stand to follow Treize, who’s getting away by plane and then by boat. They steal some aircraft carriers and pursue.

Duo and Quatre are ready to GTFO, too, but Heero… Heero’s just standing there, letting himself be shot at. He royally messed things up. He’s lost the will to live (again). Duo and Quatre can shield him but only for a little while.

Treize gives Une orders to finish them off. The orders she passes on to her men? Blow up the entire military base using the missiles stored there. They have ten minutes before everything in a 300km (186mi) radius goes kablooey. That would easily take out Los Angeles. Want to nix a few gundams? Blow up a chunk of southern California.

Major Sally Po is flying in their direction when she gets word that the base is being set to self-destruct. She’s already inside the impact zone so she lands and tries to stop them, but they hit the big red button anyway. Ten minutes, starting now.

Sally decides to run a hail mary. She gets on the PA system and makes a plea directly to Heero, the one kid she knows can deactivate this detonation. Somehow, her words get through. Heero wakes up from his stupor. He has a mission again. Off he flies. A race against time.

He finds the deactivation point and succeeds.

Intel Outside. This screen cap kills me.

Intel Outside. This screen cap kills me every time.

When he emerges from the missile silo, he shouts into the night. “I screwed up. I totally screwed up!” He’s succeeded in saving millions of people… but he screwed up the main mission and that’s going to haunt him for a long while.

Trowa and Wufei catch up to the OZ ships. They crash their carriers into them and proceed to battle in their gundams, which magically survive the crashes (gundanium ftw). But Wufei’s not satisfied with the ships. He wants the big kahuna: Treize.

You know, if he’d pulled this off, the whole thing would grind to a halt. Kind of like the last episode. The Powers That Be are messing with us, aren’t they? “There are no easy ways out. You will see this to the end.” I can dig that.

While Wufei is fighting his way toward Treize’s ship (which is a freaking cruise liner with a pool, not a battle ship).

Treize's idea of a getaway vehicle.

Treize’s idea of a getaway vehicle.

Zechs is taking over the last Alliance holdout. He sneaks past security to get to the guy in charge.

Why? Because he has a vendetta to avenge.

It goes back to that “Peacecraft” thing. They were the rulers of a nation, Sanq, that objected to the Alliance’s military goals. They advocated total pacifism. And so this guy, the one Zechs is preparing to shoot, wiped out the royal family and pretty much the whole nation. Guess who was the son and heir to that family?

Same guy? Same guy!

Same guy? Same guy!

ZECHS. (Zechs not being his real name, you see.) This is why he wears the mask, so no one will recognize him as a prince who should be long dead. INTRIGUE.

Zechs shoots the guy who destroyed his life, and then says, “Rest in Peace, Milliardo Peacecraft.” ie, himself. Zechs has identity issues, but we can deal with those later.

Back at sea, Une takes the fight to Wufei, her last-ditch attempt to stop him from getting to Treize. But, Treize signals to them. He wants to face the pilot himself. Wufei is only too happy to do so. Treize makes it clear that he would like to duel as gentlemen, with swords, natch, and Wufei obliges.

Let's be 18th century gentlemen about this.

Let’s be 18th century gentlemen about this.

So, Wufei takes out his sword (which looks like a katana, but that makes no sense because he’s of Chinese descent) and they fight. It’s close, they’re both wicked good. But, Treize is faster. He gets his sabre to Wufei’s throat.

Wufei tells Treize to kill him. Treize counters with a compliment. Wufei swears that unless Treize kills him he will continue to come after him until he can defeat Treize. Treize’s response? “That sounds interesting. I hope we can battle again.”

Wufei is supremely frustrated, his pride wounded. He gets back in Shenlong and lets himself sink to the bottom of the ocean because he’s a pissy-pants.

Reaction

First off, Heero’s never going to kick this death wish habit, is he? I mean, yeah, he made an epic mistake. But most people wouldn’t react with, “I now deserve to die.”

Why does he respond when Sally reaches out to him? They have no special relationship. He wasn’t even awake most of the time she was his doctor. So what gives? Maybe he doesn’t only respond to Relena, maybe it’s any female.

My theory is that Sally gives him purpose, a new mission, something he can do right to atone for his crime. It gets him through the next ten minutes. Then he’s back to self-blame. This incident is going to come back again and again.

Also, we’re slowly revealing the legend of the Peacecrafts. We now know how they lived and how they died. We know who the remaining members of the family are. So, what are they going to do about it?

Also, Wufei is true to his word, he’s going to keep coming for Treize. Treize is his symbol for everything that’s gone wrong. Treize, meanwhile, is his engimatic self. You see, he respects this pilot now. He looks forward to dueling with him again. Treize might be a little off his rocker.

Good Things Relena Does: Really stays out of everyone’s way.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Yay, being cut out of the story!

Episode 9: Portrait of a Ruined Country

Noin and Zechs are preparing to take out the Alliance base in the remains of what used to be the Sanq kingdom. Zechs’ Tallgeese mobile suit is finally ready for use, but it’s incredibly powerful. So much so that the test pilot, Otto, has a bunch of broken ribs and internal injuries. But, Zechs is going to use it, because he’s that eager to take on the gundams with it. His theory is that the Tallgeese, being one of the first mobile suits ever made, is the basis for the gundams. Master the Tallgeese and he can take on a gundam.

In an undisclosed location, Heero and Duo have enrolled themselves in another school. (As Duo says, it’s  a good disguise.) They’re playing basketball in PE. Heero makes a slam dunk. Because of course he does, he’s Heero effing Yuy, excellent at everything except interpersonal relationships. But he’s not enjoying things like Duo is. No, Heero’s got his eye on a battleship in the harbor. Duo makes a wager with him. Whoever takes the ship out first wins.

And then, Relena shows up.

In the pink limo.

In the pink limo.

Where did she come from? How did she find them? They, who are two of the most skilled agents in the world? HOW? NOBODY KNOWS. All she has to say for herself is, “Heero, I wanted to see you.”

Things just got worse for Heero, because now Duo sees that Miss Pink Limo is more than just the average girl with more than a casual interest in Heero. And Heero? He looks away.

Yes, back toward the battleship, will you let me have my romance?

Yes, back toward the battleship, will you let me have my romance?

Back in Sanq, the OZ forces are winning until the Alliance pulls out a bunch of laser canons. Retreat! But Zechs knows his Tallgeese can survive them. If he just pushes it hard enough… Harder… This suit is going to kill him. But Zechs sees his failure to “master” the suit as  cowardice. The suit is literally killing him with its g-forces (or something) and he has to pull out of his attack at the last moment.

Time to check in with other characters again! Treize and Une are flying somewhere. Une asks what their next target is.

Treize: Let’s just continue fighting and winning.

Une: Shall I interpret that as meaning we should conquer the Earth Sphere?

Treize: That would be plenty. OZ would then be hated. It’d become the target for the entire world.

Une: What are you saying?

Treize: Those that are hated must remain strong. It’d be the perfect motivation, for OZ.

Une isn’t sure what to make of that. I’ll tell you what. THAT’S YOUR FIRST RED FLAG, UNE! Ahem.

The Maguanacs are yelling at Quatre for abandoning them to go on a mission by himself. Their commander, Rashid, is also not happy. Quatre apologizes, but at least he has a report to give. “They’re violent and dangerous, but they’re all really nice guys,” he says of the other pilots. How does he knows this? The soul of outer space told him. …yeah, there’s this weird little subplot where Quatre’s an empath. It doesn’t mean very much so feel free to ignore it and just accept that Quatre is good at reading and sensing emotions.

Oh, and Wufei and Trowa are brooding together over a pot of coffee. Or sulking, whatever.

Quiet people attract quiet friends.

Quiet people attract quiet friends.

Over in Sanq, Zechs is laid out on a hospital bed. That suit gave him a heart attack, and he’s lucky to be alive. He acknowledges this and yet he wants to go back out. Noin has to talk him down. He concedes to going out tomorrow instead of right now.

But, his buddy Otto is listening in on how this suit is “for suicide missions.” Hm. He takes Tallgeese himself. Zechs is alerted and calls in to try to stop him, but Otto declares that he’s doing this for Zechs, not for OZ. “Long live King Zechs!” He also knows the Peacecraft secret, apparently. And then he dies, destroying the Alliance base and winning the day.

Back at Unnamed School #1, Relena is talking to a photograph of her father.

Relena: I’ve come all the way here, just to chase after a guy. Are you surprised, Father? But I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to see him so badly. Can you understand how I feel, Father? Heero’s the support I need to have around until I can get over my sadness over you. But he keeps running away from me.

Relena. Heero is a TERRIBLE SUPPORT SYSTEM.

Then the battleship in the harbor blows up, knocking Relena out of her chair.

Duo got to the ship first, but Heero arrives soon after. Heero destroys the boat, and he’s smiling as he says “Mission: Complete.”

The next morning, Zechs walks the old Peacecraft palace. It’s a burned out husk, but the painting of the old king still hangs on the wall. It’s his turn to talk to his father now.

King Peacecraft had a wicked hipster beard.

King Peacecraft had a wicked hipster beard.

Zechs apologizes that he hasn’t lived his life by the ideals of pacifism, and his hands are now too covered in blood to do so. But, he thinks Relena can. Yes. Relena.

Relena, who watches Heero go into school that day and hopes to stay by him for just a little bit longer.

Reaction

First off, I still can’t get over Relena calling Heero her support. Are you insane!? Heero can’t even keep his own shit together!

Second, how does Relena find Heero and Duo!? This blows my mind. They are, individually, masters of deception. As a team they’re unbeatable. So how does some random girl just find them? It has to be the money. Maybe someone in her dad’s office helped. Even still, this isn’t just finding them, this is finding them after they’ve hidden themselves with the best encryption. HOW, RELENA? HOW?!

And third on the Relena front, there’s Zechs’ confidence that she’ll be a better ruler than he would. He knows nothing about her. He barely acknowledged her existence a week ago. So I guess this is based on bloodline? Crazy runs in the family?

I told you they were all nuts.

Anyway, the Tallgeese stuff is very interesting. It’s the first mobile suit ever, and as Zechs says, its weakness is that the pilot is human. The suit is too strong for us meat puppets. And yet he blames himself for not being able to keep up with it. That’s the first sign of Zechs’ inferiority complex.

When he speaks to Daddy Peacecraft’s portrait,  Zechs makes it clear that he believes himself unfit to lead. This is an interesting point. He was clearly old enough at the time the Sanq kingdom fell  (AC182, Milliardo was born in 176, so he would’ve been 6) to grasp some of his parents’ beliefs. Certainly to understand that they were killed because of those beliefs. And yet he went directly against their wishes by enlisting. Interesting, isn’t it? More to come.

Also, Une needs to pay attention when Treize said weird stuff like that. It’s going to be important.

Good Things Relena Does: Um?

Dumb Things Relena Does: Follows Heero to godonlyknowswhere. Thinks Heero has the wherewithal to be anyone’s support.

Good: 12, Dumb 17.

One'a these days...

Gundam Wing Rewatch: Episodes 4-6

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Gundam Wing Rewatch

Still in fun intro times here. Let’s jump right in.

Episode 4: The Victoria Nightmare

Recap

Lake Victoria is an Alliance training academy, as well as a mobile suit manufacturing base. Two hot targets in one. Wufei (05) heads straight for it. Zechs is tracking him, and makes plans to be there as well, though his new suit won’t be ready for a few months. In comes a call from Lt. Lucrezia Noin.

Her body language and tone of voice say it all. She has a huuuuuge thing for Zechs.

Why don't you come to the equator and see me sometime?

Why don’t you come down to the equator and see me sometime?

She has such a raging crush on this guy she keeps track of the hours since she last saw him. Noin is usually considered to be a reasonable person, but her thing for Zechs is highly unreasonable. Even he knows that when they were at the Academy together, same year, “She was always trying to be number two” to make him look good. At first, from the feminist perspective, this is infuriating. But later Noin refers to him as “Peacecraft,” hinting at a secret we don’t yet know.

So, to recap, Noin wants to bang Zechs, and he knows it but won’t act on it. We don’t know why. (13×6 fangirls have a theory!)

Anyway. Noin is a trainer as well as one of the highest ranking officers at the base. She’s currently preparing a class for graduation into the Specials, the Alliance’s elite troops. Their first mission is to get off base with their shiny new Taurus suits before the gundam arrives to kill him.

Zechs arrives and there’s more flirting. Noin takes Zechs to what is essentially a nightclub on base for the trainees, and she taps her sword against his in a suggestive manner. He just stands there. (I mean, he’s on the phone with his mechanic, woman.)

Noin: My place or yours? Zechs: Hn.

Noin: My place or yours?
Zechs: Hn.

Oh, they also argue a little about the purpose of battle. Noin hates wars, but she loves space. She believes she’s trained her soldiers so well they won’t be killed in battle. She thinks that “battles that risk men’s lives are miscalculations.”

That night, Wufei attacks the base. He wires the trainee barracks with explosives and takes out the entire graduating class. This is, indeed, a nightmare, and probably one of the worst acts of war in the series. Noin is furious, and suits up to take him on herself. Wufei is using a motorcycle to get from the base back to his gundam, and Noin manages to slow him down. She accuses him of weakness for attacking the trainees. She realizes that he’s just a kid, and he realizes that she’s a woman. He uses her hesitation to blind her and escapes to his suit, Shenlong. When Noin’s men show up with a special laser canon, she tells them not to use it… and Wufei cuts them down, knocks her aside, and uses the canon himself to take out a carrier full of Tauruses (which Zechs told them not to launch, but did they listen to him? Noooooo…).

Soldiers: Target in sight: fire!

Noin: Don’t shoot!

Soldiers: Lt. Noin, why not?

Wufei: ‘Cause she’s a woman. *smug, destroys everything she holds dear*

Wufei tells the downed Noin that he doesn’t “kill bleeding hearts or women.” Basically, anyone too weak for him. Noin’s suit is disabled and she’s so angry she can’t stand it. More of her men bring her back to base where she has to face Zechs. He helps her out of her suit (!!!) and reminds her that she’s one of the best. She asks to fight with him, she doesn’t want to be a trainer anymore. She wants to get this guy.

On the other side of the planet, Duo and Heero are still on that ship fixing up their suits. Wing is in worse shape than Deathscythe. Duo complains that Heero “won’t even acknowledge our help … he’s antisocial, thinks he’s Eval Knieval and hardly speaks!” Best lines of the episode definitely go to Duo. Heero just tells him to shut up and stop touching his suit.

Then an alert comes in over Wing’s comm. There’s an Alliance ship carrying gundanium. Heero says he’ll get to it in the morning and Duo reminds him that his suit is broken. No way he can fix it in one night, especially without parts. Heero says, “It’d take a miracle for you, maybe, but I can handle it.” He’s not arrogant at all.

Quick cut to Relena, standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

Number of times Relena screams, “HEEEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOO!”: 2
Bonus points: Asks him to kill her.

Ok, so what she’s really doing here is trying to bait him into coming back. She doesn’t really want him to kill her–she doesn’t really believe he would. But she’s worried about him, so she tries.

Cut to her father in a meeting with a bunch of Alliance generals arguing over how to use their forces. They want to control the colonies even more tightly, which Vice Foreign Minister Dorlian (Relena’s dad) objects to. They accuse him of being a spy for the colonies. All of this is in the name of peace and he wants to know when they’ll realize that they are the greatest threat to peace.

Now here’s one of my favorite parts. Pop to a flower-surrounded Greek pavilion at sunset. Treize is taking a bubble bath.

Yaaaaaaaasssss

Yaaaaaaaasssss

While taking this bath, he gives orders to his assistant, Colonel Une. She dislikes the praise he gives to Zechs. And she will have rose oil ready for his next bath. This pleases him.

Is there someone under the water with him??

Is there someone under the water with him??

Returning to a major plot thread, Heero has fixed Wing overnight and takes off to complete his mission. Duo is amazed and admiring. How’d he do it? Why, he stole parts from Deathscythe, that’s how.

Number of times Duo screams “NOOOOOO! TRAITOR!”: 1

The boys are off to a great start.

Our other favorite pair of boys, Trowa and Quatre, have the cutest little interlude where Quatre is playing the violin and Trowa joins him on the flute. It’s adorable, you guys. It gives me warm fuzzies. And if you’re a 3×4 shipper, you love this scene like nobody’s business. You make faces like Treize in his bath.

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Where did Trowa learn to play?

We end with Wufei yelling at a pack of hyenas that wanted to eat him. Yes, he yells and they go away. Because he’s strong, you see. “Fighting a weak enemy leaves me feeling so empty afterwards…”

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I think I covered the lunacy that is Noin’s hard-on for Zechs. Her motivation for letting him win all the time will become clear later.

Wufei is an angry young man, and he makes a lot of viewers angry,  too. There are supplemental materials that make his worldview come clear, and actually can give one sympathy for him. In the manga Episode Zero, which is all about the pilots’ lives pre-series, we learn that Wufei came from a gentry family in the colonies. They betrothed him young, at the age of 14, to a girl who insisted she was strong enough to be a great warrior. She was supposed to take the gundam, but she died from her wounds in battle. Wufei put aside his own beliefs and adopted hers in her honor. (Wait, this sounds crazy, too, doesn’t it? Oops.) So, he’s obsessed with weakness and strength. He hates fighting anyone weaker than himself, so he’s always looking for someone stronger. Stay tuned. (I’m not entirely sure how admiring the strength of this one girl turned into ‘all women are weak’ but maybe it’ll come clear on this rewatch.)

He does a legitimately awful thing in this episode, waiting until night to take out the weakest soldiers while they sleep. It’s not hard to hate Wufei at this point.

You could also hate Heero for screwing Duo over. Or think he’s utterly crazy when he takes out the new target and laughs. Yes, Heero has a creepy laugh. But you know what? This is him establishing himself in the living world again. He had one mission that he borked and has spent the last week trying to wipe it and himself off the map. Now he has a new mission, he carries it out successfully… he’s alive and he can still be productive. He IS a good soldier. BWAHAHAHAHA. I know, I know, it’s strange. You need to understand something about his background, too. He has spent as much as the last 7ish years in training. He has been molded into this by his trainer. There is no other way to be. And if he’s not this… who is he? More on that later.

Good Things Relena Does: Um.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Yell into the void for Heero to come kill her.

I’m sorry, guys. I’m rooting for her but it’s looking bad right now. Good: 6, Dumb: 8.

Episode 5: Relena’s Secret

Recap

Relena accompanies her father into space again. This time Treize’s second, Colonel/Lady Une joins them. Her purpose is to find out if these colonial rebellion rumors are true… and something else. She has a special makeup compact that she plants outside the door of a meeting Dorlain is in. When Relena knocks on the door to let her father know she’s going out, she sees the compact and recognizes it as belonging to Une, so she takes it back to her. Une hurls the compact through the window of the meeting room where it explodes, killing everyone but Relena’s dad. Relena makes it upstairs in time for colonial rebels to remove her and her father while the Alliance tries to shoot them down. Lucky save for Relena.

The rebels can’t take Dorlain to a hospital, they’re all watched by Alliance forces. But they have doctors in their “organization.” Dorlain is lucid enough to tell Relena a great secret. He’s not her biological dad, she’s the daughter of the Peacecraft (!) family, which once fought so hard for peace. The family were the rulers of a nation (Sanq) that the Alliance wiped out in their play for total control. Dorlain was a senator in that nation, and when he fled he took Relena with him to hide her. Relena’s too overwhelmed by her father’s impending death to take any of this in. The rebels drug her so she passes out.

Back in the desert, Trowa leaves Quatre’s base. Quatre is sad. His second in command, Rashid, asks, “What if he attacks?” Quatre says, “I almost wish he would. Then at least I’d be able to see him again.” (THEY’RE SO CUTE, OMG. Screw neutrality, I’m in the Quatre/Trowa camp.)

Zechs and Noin see Une on the news talking about the attack. Zechs just says, “Poor girl.” Remember that they’re both really Peacecrafts. Noin wishes he would open up.

Relena wakes up to find that her father has just died. The rebels are very sorry they couldn’t do more. The TV shows Une speaking to reporters about them as “evil terrorists” who kidnapped Dorlain and his daughter. Relena isn’t sure who to trust, so she grabs one of the rebels’ guns and demands to know who’s responsible for her father’s death. OZ, right? Then someone new enters. Dr. J.

The hand goes 'click click click'

The hand goes ‘click click click’

Dr. J explains to Relena that he knows Heero because he trained him to be a professional assassin. “How’s that rascal doing? What a kid. Hee hee hee hee hee.” J argues that Heero is only assigned to kill bad people, and thus helps the cause of peace. Relena doesn’t buy that–how can killing someone ever lead to peace? J then disproves his theory by giving a history lesson.

Twenty years ago, there was a man named Heero Yuy (!) who ruled all the colonies with a pacifist hand. OZ wanted war, so they assassinated him. That’s where they got 01’s code name. (Relena: Code name? sad she didn’t get his real name or something) If left unchecked, OZ will take over the Alliance and everything will be guided by military interests. Relena asks why Heero (01) has to take on this huge responsibility. Dr. J says Heero understands the pains of the colonies. “But still!” says Relena.

Meanwhile, Heero is taking out another target when Duo shows up. Looks like they’re after the same thing. They’ll have to fight for it.

Dr. J drops Relena off somewhere that can get her back home safely. Relena asks why he saved her. Is it because she’s Dorlain’s daughter? No. It’s because she had the same look as Heero. He’s really a kind-hearted boy, you see. They’re probably the only two people who believe this.

Heero takes aim–and takes down an Aries that was about to get Duo from behind. “I’ve returned the favor. HAHAHAHAHAHA.” And he takes off back to his safe house.

The final scene is Relena flying home to Earth and remembering her father–the man who will always be father to her.

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This is an exposition-heavy episode but it doesn’t really feel like it. Everything changes because of these revelations, although the audience won’t necessarily see that on first viewing. Relena’s hidden identity is a major plot point.

Dr. J is an interesting figure. As Heero’s trainer and the builder of Wing, he holds a lot of secrets. He’s obviously seen a lot of life himself. Who is he really?

And how was he able to train Heero so harshly when he knows that he’s really a “kind-hearted boy”? It must kill the kid to do these things. Heero is an onion, man. Many, many layers.

Good Things Relena Does: Kindly returns a lost item. Listens to Dr. J (I can’t believe this is on the good list). Believes that Heero is really a kind-hearted boy.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Accidentally leads to her fathers demise anyway. Pulls a gun on her rescuers. Believes that Heero is really a kind-hearted boy.

Good: 9, Dumb: 11.

Episode 6: Party Night

Relena returns home. The paparazzi are all over her but she ignores them. (Did I mention she has a pink limo? She does.) She goes to her mother, who is just happy Relena’s okay. Relena remembers what her father said about being a Peacecraft and throws her arms around her mom. “You’re my mother. You’ll always be my real mother.”

Treize and Une confer. Treize says Dorlain is the sort of sacrifice needed for “the new era.” Then he releases a pair of budgies from their cage.

I... don't know what the symbolism of this is.

I… don’t know what the symbolism of this is.

Everyone take a shot, because this is the first episode where a red shirt exclaims, “It’s a GUNDAM!” before being annihilated. Wufei has the first honors.

Relena’s school is putting on a big party, but Heero’s upstairs hacking his school records to remove himself from the database. He looks down at the party and says to himself with a smile, “I’m not involved.”

Relena does come to the party even though she’s in mourning. She hears that Heero’s leaving and immediately seeks him out. He pulls a gun on her but she points out that if he killed her now it would draw too much attention. So instead she invites him to come dance. And for some reason, he says yes.

Jump to Trowa, who’s late for his circus gig. Catherine Bloom, the knife thrower, is supposed to hurl knives at Trowa for their act. He is unflinching. In fact, Catherine realizes he’s practically begging for his death. This rattles her and her last knife causes a small cut on his cheek. When she goes to apologize to him she says he’s wild, like the lion. She also tells him to smile more. It’s a little flirty. (There are people who swear Trowa and Catherine are meant to be, but general consensus is that their relationship is more like siblings. We’ll see.)

Treize sends Une on a new mission, and his budgies come back. I still don’t get what the budgies mean.

Wufei is blowing things up and calling them weak, per usual. Quatre, meanwhile, is doing his research and realizing there are four other pilots. He wishes he could meet them. Back on the boat, Duo is watching the moon while his engineer buddies get high as balls on a “cup a joe” though Howard is clearly holding a wine bottle… Whatever, Duo’s wondering about “that guy” and what he’s up to. (Cue 1×2 fangirl squeals.)

What’s Heero up to? Dancing with Relena.

He's clearly questioning how his life decisions have got him to this point

He’s clearly questioning how his life decisions have got him to this point

Relena: Heero. I know too much about you. Are you still gonna kill me?

Heero: Yeah.

The man is so eloquent.

Then Une shows up. She’s here to take out Dorlain’s daughter. Heero thinks that OZ has found his hideout. So he runs back to Wing and starts fighting. Une was not anticipating any kind of defensive action and so her small unit is wiped out.

In the heat of battle, Heero gets one perfect moment. Relena’s standing all alone, everyone else has fled. She’s completely vulnerable. If he killed her now, it would be chalked up to the battle, no one the wiser. Then a part of the building comes crashing down toward her.

That's Wing shielding Relena

That’s Wing shielding Relena

And he saves her. He moves out of instinct and shields her from the falling brick. He’s absolutely stunned and doesn’t move for several minutes while they just stare at each other. The enemy is confused. Then, hulk SMASH. Heero whips around and destroys the last mobile suit. “What’s wrong with me?!”

What. Is. Wrong. With Me!?

What. Is. Wrong. With Me!?

By this point, Une is ready to kill Relena herself but she gets a call from Treize. She’s to turn back and let Relena live. Why? Noin has put in a request on Zechs’ behalf. That Peacecraft thing? Zechs is one, too. Which makes Relena his only living relative. Treize can certainly do a favor for his oldest friend. (A note for Treize fans: he did not know Relena was more than a rumor. I was under the impression he knew everything, but leave it to Zechs to be close-lipped.)

After clearing out the enemy, he goes back to Relena, who’s still standing there and he tries again. He thrusts that arm right at her.

Little to the right, big guy

Little to the right, big guy

And he misses.

What IS wrong with him? Why can’t he kill her? He knows intellectually that it would be better if she died. He has an obligation to the mission to kill her. And yet.

So he up and leaves, because it’s easier than dealing with what just happened. Relena calls after him to not run away from her. She is a sad, concerned girl. And he is… stony.

La la la not gonna think about it

La la la not gonna think about it

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This may be my favorite episode. The emotions just run so high between Relena and Heero. A lot of fanworks depict Heero as completely cold and unfeeling, but it’s clear here that he does feel things. Things he isn’t comfortable with.

It’s like watching him hit puberty in real time. It’s awesome.

On her end, Relena is actively challenging him to feel. She has this innate sense that he is a good person, a compassionate person, and she wants to bring that out of him. That that would be cruel in the middle of a war doesn’t seem to matter to her. The boy still has a job to do. He can go all to pieces later.

Are we starting to see how the hints of romance keep piling up? Duo literally moons over Heero. Noin wants to do the horizontal tango with Zechs. Treize and his rose-scented bath tub. And none of it ever comes to fruition! It’s maddening! So draw your own conclusions about all these hints because we never find out in the series if any of it is true or not.

If you want to accept the new novel Frozen Teardrop as canon–and many of us don’t–there are a few things about the future we do know. But, that’s an even more messed up book than this show, so I’m going to ignore pretty much all the post-series parts and just listen to pre-series history. Which is also really, really messed up.

Good Things Relena Does: Vows allegiance to her adoptive parents. Gets strategic RE: can’t shoot me now.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Challenges Heero to go ahead and shoot her. Asks the boy with the gun to dance with her. Asks again if he’s going to kill her. Stays still so he has two opportunities to kill her.

SIGH. Good: 11, Dumb: 15.

Next week, things get darker.

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Gundam Wing Rewatch: Episodes 1-3

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Gundam Wing Rewatch

Let us commence with the rewatch!

Episode 1: The Shooting Star She Saw

Recap

Five gundams descend to Earth. All land safely except for 01 (Heero) which is intercepted by OZ’s Lieutenant Zechs. The suit falls into the ocean and the pilot is presumed dead. Elsewhere, Relena and her father are returning from a trip to space, during which they did not get to spend much time together. An Alliance officer offers to take Relena’s father to his next meeting instead of home; Relena would rather walk than take a military car. On her way, she spots a figure washed up on the beach and discovers that this soldier is still alive.

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Well of course she takes off his helmet before calling for help, wouldn’t you?

She calls an ambulance, but just as it arrives the boy, Heero, wakes up. He immediately thinks to abort the mission and hits his self destruct button. It fails, so he steals the ambulance and drives away. Relena is shocked and curious. Meanwhile, the other four gundams are doing their thing and making the Alliance nervous. A lot of destruction in a small amount of time. Zechs and Treize are pretty chill about the whole thing, though. Relena returns to school, where other girls inform us she’s the richest girl in school and super popular. She doesn’t seem that interested until a new kid shows up in her class–Heero.

I'm sorry, but he makes that stupid uniform look good.

I’m sorry, but he makes that stupid uniform look good.

How? Why? And why is he pretending not to know her? Naturally, the thing to do is offer him an invitation to her birthday party, in front of everyone.

*RIIIIIIP*

*RIIIIIIP*

*GASP*

*GASP*

Yeah, that doesn’t go so well. Relena is shocked, and asks, “Why?” As he leaves, Heero pauses to say softly, “I’ll kill you.”

THE END.

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So, this does a decent job of setting up the world and everything. We understand who the bad guys are. The world sort of makes sense.

But really, really, the first few episodes are all about Heero and Relena. A lot of people think she’s crazy from the get-go. I mean, she does show poor judgment, but she is fifteen. (or 14.9999.) So, I think maybe we should keep a tally of Things Relena Does…

Good Things Relena Does: Not let military goons boss her around. Care about a dead/injured person.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Inspects the body before calling 911. Thinks the obviously covert operative wants to go to her birthday party. Shocked, just shocked when he promises to kill her.

So, not a great score for this episode. Good 2: Bad: 3. We’ll keep an eye on that.

But really, this sets the tone for their relationship for a long while. Heero runs, and Relena follows. Heero is 100% mission-oriented. He will die for his mission (somehow this never happens, he’s indestructible). His first priority is to keep his mission a secret, which means that the girl who saw his face has to die. We know Heero has no problem killing, because his first shot on Earth took out two mobile suits at once and he laughed. He laughed.

One argument I make for this show is that they’re all a little crazy.

Episode 2: The Gundam Deathscythe

Recap

It start at Relena’s school, where some dude goes up to Heero and is all, “Hey, why were you mean to her? I don’t take kindly to that.” And Heero whips out these badass fencing skills from nowhere and drives the broken end of his epee into the guy’s helmet, inches shy of killing him. (Seriously, how was Heero trained? My headcanon says he was taught to be like James Bond when necessary.) This impresses everyone. Then, one girl sees Heero practicing riding a horse. Only he’s making it jump really high.

Yipiee-ki-yay motherf---!

Yipiee-ki-yay motherf—!

He’s just showing off now… or is he? It’s implied that he uses the horse to launch himself to a third story window, where he does some hacking. His mission has become “destroy the gundam before OZ gets it” and he makes plans to get some super strong torpedoes that he will launch at his own suit.

In the land of OZ (hah), Zechs is playing politics to ensure he gets to the suit first. His men find it, but suddenly all the mobile suits in the water start disappearing from radar. They’re being destroyed. BY A GUNDAM.

tumblr_o1fem8R09u1um1lkmo1_500[1]

This one*

*I know that’s a later iteration of Deathscythe, shush. I’m going for drama.

So, Duo, 02, in Gundam Deathscythe, takes out all the suits. He also finds Heero’s gundam, Wing (HAAAAH the NAME of the SERIES, YOU GUYS!), and he figures he’ll use it for spare parts. Nice. He brings it to the surface.

At the same time, Trowa (03) is joining the circus. He impresses them by befriending a lion. It’s chill, ‘kay? And apparently these circus people are desperate for good animal trainers because they let this new kid haul around a giant truck with his gundam stashed on it. Just saying. Somewhere in the desert, Quatre (04–are you seeing how these numbers work?) is admiring the beauty of the Earth. He wonders if the people he’s fighting realize how beautiful it is.

tumblr_n3y7wo9xMX1rpk8d0o1_400

It’s so beautiful, you guys.

And Wufei (05) is buying a crap ton of explosives in cash. Because that’s how he rolls.

Relena’s birthday party starts but she’s distracted. She’s JUST realized that Heero wants to kill her because she knows his secret (facepalm). When she hears from someone that they saw him heading for the military base she abandons her own party to chase him down. He’s just getting ready to blow up his own gundam when she shows up demanding to know what he’s planning to do.

Stupid line of the episode goes to Relena: “Those are torpedoes, aren’t they? I can tell!”

Here’s where it gets interesting. Heero does his best to ignore her at first. Then, when he finally looks at her, it’s with this incredibly vulnerable, sad expression.

Relena?

Relena?

And then he’s all like this:

Nope, gonna kill you.

Nope, gonna kill you.

Relena is unphased. Just as Heero’s about to pull the trigger, a bullet hits him from the side. Duo returns! With a snappy line about Heero obviously being the bad guy in this situation… only for Relena to go and bandage Heero’s wounds with fabric from her party dress. How did Duo end up the bad guy here? But Heero’s not down, yet, he still has a mission! At that moment Deathscythe and Wing rise from the water and Heero fires the torpedoes right at them.

Number of times Duo screams “NOOOOOO!”: 1

Duo realizes Heero must be the other pilot. Relena finally asks the excellent questions, “What’s happening? Who are these guys?” And Zechs says something about a “jinx”–those who see a gundam shall not live to tell the tale. How this jinx has come to be in 24 hours, I don’t know. The final image is Heero face-down in the water where he flung himself, relieved that his mission is now complete.

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Duo is the best. Duo is still one of my favorite characters. In all honesty, I’ve learned to love nearly every character, but Duo was my first love. He’s smart, he’s witty, he’s deadly, and you have to admire a guy who isn’t afraid to wear his hair in a long braid.

Every time I watch I try to remain open-minded when it comes to relationships. I have a bunch of favorite pairings, and some of them even conflict. There are people who swear Heero and Duo are meant for each other, and I can see them growing to like one another… eventually. Their relationship does start on a very bad foot.

On the other hand, there’s Heero and Relena. He tries to ignore her. He doesn’t want to hurt her, but the mission comes first. Maybe it’s because she’s one of the first people to show him kindness in a very long time. Maybe his training just didn’t involve girls. Whatever it is, she’s gotten under his skin. She cares about what happens to him.

Then he throws himself into the water to drown, mission complete. Idiot.

From a storytelling POV, this is one of the better episodes. It neatly weaves together the three main plots (OZ’s search, Duo’s business, and Heero/Relena) while also keeping an eye on what the other guys are doing.

Just in case you get the impression that I’m not having fun, I am. I’m having tremendous fun screaming at my TV and quoting lines. I’m probably insufferable right now. You’re welcome.

Good Things Relena Does: Figuring out why Heero wants to kill her. Defending and bandaging Heero.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Figuring out why Heero wants to kill her after way too much time has passed. Chasing down Heero. The torpedo line.

That’s another 2:3 for totals of Good: 4, Dumb: 6.

Episode 3: Five Gundams Confirmed

Open on Treize at a shooting range, being his elegant self. He’s talking over vidphone with Zechs (they don’t have cell phones but they all use video phones) about the recent gundam problem. Zechs is persistent, and Treize asks, “Do you want to go? It’s written all over your face.” (HAH, he’s not even looking at his face and Zechs wears a mask and HAH.) Then Treize shoots a bird instead of a target. The implication is clear. He wants Zechs to “Shoot ’em down for me.”

We then cut to a very weird hospital room with a surveillance window. Heero’s strapped to a… conveniently timed Christ allusion.

For he shall rise again, etc.

For he shall rise again, etc.

He’s being overseen by Major Sally Po, one of those women who is important to the plot. Sally is shown to be a compassionate doctor–they’ve strapped him down because they aren’t sure of him, but she also objects to the use of a truth serum. (Also, they haven’t bandaged him. wtf?) Heero appears to be asleep still, but he wakes without causing any of the monitors to fluctuate. Somehow he knows exactly which floor of which building he’s on. He also can’t free himself from the straps. But that’s okay, because Duo is coming to rescue him! Yay!

Over in Asia, Wufei is blowing up a base. He feels insulted that they aren’t putting up more of a fight. See, he thinks not fighting is weakness. Get ready to hear a lot about that later.

Relena goes to the hospital to pay Heero a visit and Sally asks her probing questions. Who is this kid? Relena wants to know, too–so he’s not an Alliance soldier? They’re on their way out when there’s an explosion. Duo busts Heero out of the hospital by blowing out a window and jumping. He has a nifty helicopter-type tool (which we sadly never see again) and he’s given Heero the parachute backpack. Only Heero doesn’t open it. His mission’s over, remember? The last thing he wanted was to be captured by the enemy. Death will remove that from happening again. He’s plummeting head-first toward the rocky beach when Relena makes it to the open window.

Number of times Relena screams, “HEEEEEEEEEEEEROOOOOO!”: 1

That "oh shit" moment when you're plunging to your death

That “oh shit” moment when you’re plunging to your death

BAM, his eyes open and so does the chute. It’s too late for an easy landing but he lives. He hates that he lives, but he lives. Duo is not at all amused, but continues to help him to safety.

Meanwhile, Gundam Heavyarms (03, Trowa) attacks a base. He’s doing just fine clearing it out on his own until he runs out of ammo. (His one weakness!) He’s about to get the smackdown when–Quatre and the Maguanacs appear to save the day! They finish off the Alliance goons and then face off. Are they enemies? Are they allies? They start to fight, then Quatre realizes, no, they should be friends. (AWWWW.) He steps out of his suit in a gesture of peace, and Trowa follows suit. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship, for real.

While they’re making friends, Zechs is making off with an old model mobile suit, the Tallgeese, which is believed to be comparable to a gundam.

It’s happyhappy time everywhere, with Duo and Heero safely aboard a ship where they can get their suits fixed up. Duo’s pulling them up from the ocean, and then realizes Heero is setting his own broken leg.

One'a these days...

One’a these days… Yeesh.

 

But, there is hope. It ends with Heero looking at Wing with something like affection. Maybe we can move on from “the mission is obliterate everything.”

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Ok, this episode has some cute moments. Trowa and Quatre’s friendship is amazing, whether or not you believe that it escalates to Lourve(tm). This is where it all begins, with Quatre’s compassion and idealism winning the day.

1×2 shippers (that’s Heero and Duo) like to cite this episode as proof, PROOF that there’s something in there. I can kind see it. Either way, it’s the beginning of a rough partnership. Duo gives and gives and Heero… well, you’ll see in the next episode.

And let us not forget that, once again, Heero was moved by Relena. This time she saved his life. He hates that, and he’s going to keep denying that he’s anything more than a perfect soldier.

There are also inklings here of a Treize/Zechs connection that could be stronger than ‘we grew up and trained together and know each other’s dark deep secrets–why would you think there’s anything more to that?’

As you can see, a lot of this commentary revolves around the nonexistent romance. It’s just too fascinating to ignore. Who would be interested in who? What’s the evidence? Why don’t they act on it? Don’t they want to act on it?

Don’t worry, in latter episodes we’ll get more interested in things like peace vs war and man’s role in battle and what it means to be a soldier. It’s not all fodder for teen fangirls.

Good Things Relena Does: Get Heero to the hospital (off screen). SAVE HEERO’S FRIKKIN’S LIFE.

Dumb Things Relena Does: Clumsily counter-interrogate Sally, tipping her own hand.

Good: 6, Dumb: 7

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Gundam Wing Rewatch: Prelude

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Gundam Wing Rewatch

I’ve been wanting to rewatch all of Gundam Wing, an anime first released in 1995, for quite a while now. This show had a big impact on me when it aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. In fact, I wrote copious amounts of fanfiction about it. Almost two decades have passed since I first saw it and my friends and I still talk about it. It’s my OTF: One True Fandom.

So, I’m going to watch a few episodes at a time and write up my thoughts on everything from production values to characters to the meaning of life. Strap in. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

heero takeoff

WTF is Gundam Wing?

It’s an anime (and manga, and a novelization…) series. It was made in Japan in 1995, part of the larger Gundam franchise. The multiple series are united by themes of war and peace, and giant robots. Robots you can ride in. They’re called mobile suits.

What makes Gundam Wing special?

Besides the fact that it aired at just the right time for me? I dunno, man. It was my intro to Gundam. I had never watched ‘boys’ shows’ before, so all that action in an appealing form was fascinating.

Also, it’s about five teenage boys fighting for survival. It’s a total chick magnet. No, really. It has a terrible reputation in part because the fangirls are so… so. I’ll be talking about GW fan culture a lot, too.

Ok, what do I need to know going into this? What’s the story?

It’s some point in the future, when humanity has a) built floating space colonies around the Earth, and b) formed one world government called the Alliance. The opening narration does a decent job explaining that the Alliance, which was supposed to only govern Earth, has extended its reach to the colonies by force. The colonies deeply resent this “tyranny” and a plan is made to overthrow the Alliance.

This plan is called “Operation Meteor.” The exact nature of the plan has changed along the way, as the creators were separated. Five individuals have each built a special mobile suit, a gundam (gundanium being a rare metal alloy that is very strong), with the intention of sending the suits to Earth to wreak havoc. Each gundam is piloted by fifteen year old boy, because why not? (Supplemental materials show that while each boy is highly talented, their training has differed vastly.)

The series opens with the five gundams coming to Earth, “disguised as shooting stars.” Naturally, the Alliance spots them right away.

Also important, OZ is a military faction within the Alliance, made up of its most elite fighters. They’re the ones sent after the gundams.

Who are the main characters?

Heero Yuy, code name Pilot 01 — An orphaned youth of Japanese descent, raised on Colony cluster L1. He’s… intense. He isn’t afraid to die for his mission, and almost welcomes it. He’s the one with the wild hair who’s always wearing a green tank top and spandex bike shorts. (The fandom makes fun of this a lot.) His gundam is red, white and blue.

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Hn.

Duo Maxwell, code name Pilot 02 — Also an orphan, but just labeled as an American mutt. Grew up on Colony L2, and made a deal with the devil (his Op:M handler) to become a pilot. He’s the most jocular of the pilots, but is by no means to be underestimated. Calls himself the God of Death (Shinigami). You will know him by his longass braid and all-black outfit. His gundam is also black, and has a wicked glowing green scythe.

Heero, you bastard!

Trowa Barton, code name Pilot 03 — Another orphan (How do you find pilots for suicide missions? Kids nobody’s gonna miss!), this time from L3. Trowa’s specialty is standing in one place and volleying a crap-ton of shots at the enemy. Oh, and he’s an acrobat who can make his gundam do neat tricks. Did I mention his cover is hiding out in a circus? He’s “the one with the hair” aka a really bad comb-over.  His gundam is orange.

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Hn.

 Quatre Winner, code name Pilot 04 — Quatre actually has a family. A LOT of family–40 sisters, thanks to the magic of test tubes. He’s the only son, and his father is a total pacifist who doesn’t approve of Quatre joining the fight. Quatre is the most compassionate pilot, but he is also the best strategist. He has the loyalty of the Maguanac Corp, who back him up in their own custom mobile suits (not gundams). Quatre is the blond in pink. You may want to pinch his cheeks. His gundam is purple and has two round blades.

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We shouldn’t be fighting at all!

Chang Wufei, code name Pilot 05 — Wufei also had a family, but, um, things didn’t go so well. He fights for his own reasons: honor, revenge, justice. He is of Chinese descent, from colony L5. His gundam is the one with the dragon head that shoots flames.

I have stupid opinions about women blah blah someone hug me.

I have stupid opinions about women blah blah someone hug me.

Zechs Merquise (aka 06) — Zechs is the blond wearing a mask. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but he’s the best pilot the Alliance has, and thus a bigshot in OZ. He’s besties with Treize, OZ’s commander. He’s the boss before the big boss. He pilots a variety of ‘standard issue’ model mobile suits until he finds things he likes better.

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Something something what is a good soldier something.

Treize Kushrenada (aka 13) — Treize is the commander of the OZ military unit, which makes him powerful enough to sass the other leaders and pretty much do what he wants. He is a magnificent bastard, who spends his downtime at he opera and tending to his roses. A gentleman’s gentleman. Aside from that wanting to crush the rebellion thing.

Treize: HELLO I AM CHARISMATIC! Zechs: Hn.

Treize: HELLO I AM CHARISMATIC!
Zechs: Hn.

Relena Dorlian — Relena is a civilian, also 15 years old, and she takes a great interest in the gundams. Much more than is wise. The fans either love, tolerate, or HATE HER WITH A FIERY PASSION (because she’s the only girl among the boys, duh). I happen to like her, so you won’t be subjected to any of that. Relena is a diplomat’s daughter, raised in the lap of luxury, but she’s lonely and wants more out of life. She has the most costume changes of any character.

Part of your woooooorld.

Part of your woooooorld.

ALSO, a bunch of women who are secondary but important but not important enough for the patriarchy. Boo, patriarchy. They include: Lady Une (Treize’s second in command, wear glasses and pigtail buns), and Lucrezia Noin (Zechs’ second). You’ll meet the rest as we go along.

Everyone else is pretty much a red shirt.

Anything else I should know?

Learn those code numbers. Everybody has a number and the fans use them as shorthand.

There is, officially, no romance in Gundam Wing. I believe this is what makes the fans absolutely insane. Despite there being no romance, there are a lot of hints at romance, or things that can be construed to be hints, and the fans go nuts trying to argue their favorite pairings. Is good times.

Let’s watch!

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Rewatching the Wizard of Oz

It seems like almost every book on writing craft makes at least one reference to The Wizard of Oz (the film, not the books), and it’s often a prominent example. I finally picked up Debra Dixon’s GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT, and she suggested a rewatch. This GMC is a concept I struggle with, I decided to take her up on it.

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I also figured I might as well live-tweet the experience, along with plenty of gifs. Below is the Storify of those tweets, and then I’ll talk about what I learned.

I haven’t watched this movie since I was a kid. Maybe ten years old at the most. I had the 50th anniversary VHS, which was quite pretty. I must have watched it quite a bit because I remembered lines, songs, imagery, lots of stuff. So a nice little bit of nostalgia there.

Culturally

As a piece of media, there’s plenty of examine. For instance, there’s Glinda’s assertion that “only bad witches are ugly.” Right off the bat we’re reinforcing awful tropes like Beauty Equals Goodness and Evil Makes You Ugly. Cuz those aren’t rooted in misogyny or anything. This is a story for children, so it relies on easy ideas, but these ones aren’t healthy.

And Glinda asks, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” which translates to, “Are you beautiful or ugly, I can’t tell?” THAT’S good for Dorothy’s self-image.

Then there’s the way Glinda handles, well, everything. I’ve decided that I do not like Glinda. She’s totally fine with everyone celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. All we know is that she’s “wicked”, not why or how. We have only Glinda’s word to go on. She’s quite happy to nod along and smile when the Munchkins are celebrating WWoE’s death. They sing lines like, ”

We thank you very sweetly
For doing it so neatly.

Yes, thanks, Dorothy, for not splattering witch guts everywhere. That’s a real downer.

So things are a little messed up in Oz. It continues in the Emerald City, when the gang is taken to a salon for buffing, washing, and curling. What does Dorothy want to know? Can they dye her eyes to match her blue dress. Let’s be clear, Judy Garland had beautiful eyes. And yet this young girl believes they’re not good enough. They have to be blue. I have blue eyes, I’ve spent my life hearing about my beautiful eyes, and even I find this disturbing. There is an eye color hierarchy and it’s messed up.

We won’t even touch the Munchkin issues, because I’m not well-versed enough to go there.

Historically

As a piece of film history, the movie stands up well. The film itself has been well-preserved and it looks pretty HD on my streaming service. I was able to see and appreciate the quality of the costumes, the make-up, the sets. A lot of care went into this film. I can only imagine what it would cost to remake it now.

But, I watched this for writing homework. So what did I learn about story, character, etc.?

Craft-wise

Foreshadowing is king

If you can foreshadow, do it. Every element of Dorothy’s mundane Kansas life is echoed in Oz. Even Aunt Em and Glinda could be seen as analogous. As a grown up and a writer I watched the sepia scenes and immediately recognized the latter elements as they were initially called up. Everything felt tight, pulled together, nothing wasted.

Framing devices are powerful

I’m not arguing for more “it was all a dream” stories. But having that construct undoubtedly helps to tell this story.

If you’re going to use the Rule of Three, use it well

The Rule of Three seems to be something baked into our subconscious. We like threes. So it makes sense for Dorothy to have three companions, each with his own problem to solve. Her initial encounters with each are great. We meet them, what they want, get to know them a little. The problem is later on, when the Witch kidnaps Dorothy and the guys have to rescue her. You see, the Scarecrow uses his brains to make a plan, and the Lion leads despite his fears, but what does the Tin Man do? He’s just kind of… there. And he certainly doesn’t do anything that would require great heart. Maybe that was cut from the script or is clearer in the books, but I found it to be a big, gaping hole. Through the whole second half the Tin Man is basically just a prop. Which is terrible, story-wise, and as a message. It’s really brains and courage that matter, heart doesn’t do much for you. Especially if it’s a man who’s supposed to embody all that emotion and whatnot.

Deus Ex Machina is frustrating

The TV Tropes page for the film points out that the Witch suddenly being vulnerable to water after absolutely not prelude as an example of this, but that didn’t bother me so much. Maybe because it’s just a Fact after all these years.

What does bother me? Glinda (farking Glinda again) appearing at the last moment to tell Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas. … She had to learn it for herself.” So basically, meddling “Good Witch” decided Dorothy needed to be taught a lesson and sent her on an arduous, dangerous journey ‘for her own good.’ Glind is a shitty guardian. (I can’t believe I can’t find a ‘bad guardian’ Trope. Dumbledore, people!) And Dorothy doesn’t solve her own problem anymore–she did as asked and killed the Witch for her broomstick but the Wizard abandoned her. So this is… a consolation prize?

Glinda plays DexM again earlier in the film, when she uses snow to neutralize the poppies. (How does snow stop opium again??) This robs Dorothy and crew of a chance to prove their mettle.

Consistency in characters is a big deal

We know a few things about the titular Wizard.

  1. He’s based off Professor Marvolo, who Dorothy meets in Kansas. Marvolo proves himself to be cheat, not a real fortune-teller.
  2. He’s originally from Omaha, thanks to his balloon which says “State Fair of Omaha.”
  3. He doesn’t know how to work the balloon. Hence how he wound up going over the rainbow and into Oz.
  4. He can’t give big gifts like brains, a heart, or courage, only crappy substitutes, like a degree, a watch, and a medal.
  5. In Oz, he has built a massive machine that projects a hologram and shoots fire and is genuinely very scary.
  6. He has doppelgangers all over the Emerald City.
  7. Everyone in Oz, and especially the Emerald City, adores him and believes him to be all-powerful.

So, even though he is, at heart, a charlatan and useless, he’s good at a few things: making people feel good and trust him, and massive acts of science in a fantasy world.

Pictured: That which should not be

I don’t know whether or not to be impressed. He’s basically a fraud except that he can put massive amounts of energy and work into making you believe he’s not. This feels really inconsistent to me. He can’t worth a balloon ride but he can built a hologram?

If he’s so freaking good at making things like this, why is he stuck in Oz? (Or is he just sticking around because he likes being worshipped?)

What about the shoes?

We don’t know very much about the ruby slippers except that they’re powerful and the Witch of the West wants them. Glinda denies her them purely out of what appears to be spite (since we have no examples of how the Witch is undeserving). No one ever says what these shoes can do until the very end when Glinda reveals that they’re a ticket home. They’re stuck on Dorothy’s feet until she dies. …but then she goes back to Kansas and they go… where? What happens to them? I don’t care that it’s just a dream, these shoes are one giant mystery! They’re a plot device with very little detail. That’s annoying.

Don’t forget to solve your bridge conflict!

Donald Maass uses the term ‘bridge conflict’ to refer to that initial conflict that gets the ball rolling but isn’t the main thrust of the story. In this case, it’s Mrs. Gulch wanting to put down Toto for harassing her cat. Toto escapes Gulch’s initial attempt to take him away, and then Dorothy comes up with her stunningly brilliant plan to run away, which winds up sending her to Oz. But when she wakes up surrounded by friends and Toto she’s so glad to be back home that she totally forgets that her neighbor Mrs. Gulch still wants to destroy her dog.

So what happens next? After the twister does Mrs. Gulch come back over to take Toto away again? Or is the implication that she really is the Witch and she died in the twister? We never find out, because no one gives enough of a crap to inquire after the neighbor lady (who is, admittedly, not nice).

Verdict: Worth rewatching

I’m glad I took the time to watch this again. Parts of it were fun, and I had forgotten some things that watching the film brought right back. (I totally forgot that Dorothy slaps the Lion at one point, and that made me LOL. I’m a bad adult.) It was nice to think critically about something that I watched as a kid but am not still so nostalgic for that picking it apart is painful. (That would be The Little Mermaid for me.) Now I can get back to reading craft books and have a better sense of what exactly they’re talking about!

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Bridget Jones and Chick Lit

Or rather, an ode to Bridget.

BRIDGET JONES helped keep my sanity intact on a very long flight. (Johannesburg to JFK is about 17+ hours.) I had bought it and THE EDGE OF REASON at the airport and I’m so glad I did. Every minute accounting of fat cells lost and gained reflected the tedious hours in the air. I fell in love with this woman who was simultaneously determined to be strong and yet was utterly gormless. Later the movies delighted me, from the very first moments where Bridget lip synchs to All By Myself.

It’s such a perfect sequence. It’s every girl’s loneliest moments, then defiance, heartbreak, determination, resignation, everything. I love it.

I like to think that the launch of the big chick lit movement in the late 90s and early 00s, which is often credited to BRIDGET,  was a moment when publishers realized that women could be profitable and successful. Women characters, women’s lives, women’s struggles.

Yes, it was often couched in the ‘safety’ of humor. Look at those silly girls and their silly worries about men and weight and wine. How silly. How not-serious. No need to consider any of those books for serious reviews or acclaim, they’re just twaddle.

But the books got written, published, and read. Which by itself is a victory.

Now the chick lit genre is dying off, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because a stereotyped genre was unlikely to lead to serious acknowledgement. Bad because it strips women of another venue. I think a lot of chick lit gets shoved into romance now, which is disheartening. Must a woman’s story revolve around a romance in order to be readable? Chick lit often had romance but it didn’t have to.

I used to read a lot of chick lit. I liked that it was often lighter and funny. I liked that it was about women. Now I like that it focused on aspects of women’s lives that often get short shrift, like the difficulties of making a career in a male-dominated field.

Some of these issues have moved to New Adult, where chick lit’s ‘I’m just trying to find my place in the world’ angle went. But again, it’s limiting. To shunt it off on New Adult says that women in their 30s, 40s, or even later can’t have these worries about where they belong, what their purpose is, or who they want to be.

Maybe we’ll see a rise in women’s stories thanks to the upcoming Bridget Jones’ Baby, which is not based on a book but takes place in between books. (The third BJ book is… kind of a downer.) This movie is going to be about very women-specific topics, and hopefully it will do very well at the box office. The last year or so has had several movies with non-white-male-heroes and they’ve done well. Would be nice if Hollywood would get on board.

Anyway.

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buffy-the-vampire-slayer

Buffy the Patriarchy Slayer

My writing group has several Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, so for New Year’s we decided to marathon. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve continued watching. I’ve tried doing a full rewatch before and never got very far, but I think I’ll make it this time.

Buffy is a very special show for me. I was a tween when it came out. My mom loves vampires, and for whatever reason she asked if I wanted to watch with her.

Petite, unassuming former cheerleader is called as The Chosen One to rid the world of vampires. She is given super strength and the ability to heal quickly. She kicks butt, repeatedly. Her typically male adversaries constantly underestimate her. She kicks their butts. With a hefty dose of Real Life, and emotional turmoil–and did I mention the brooding guy lurking in the shadows? Oh, and it’s funny, too. I was instantly sold.

Why yes, that is a tiny girl slamming an army recruit into the mats. BECAUSE SHE CAN.

Joss Whedon, you master of storytelling, you.

Buffy’s smart and emotional and doesn’t try to please others. When she’s pissed off, you know it. She doesn’t apologize for her feelings.

She isn’t brute strength, either. It takes problem solving skills to realize you have to stab the demon in the heart, not the head.

And through all of this, Buffy is just Buffy. She’s a teenager growing up in Southern California with newly divorced parents, a bad school record (burning down the gym is frowned upon, even if it was full of demons), few friends, and a forbidden love. She’d be a fully realized character even without the vampire slaying.

To me, this was a show where the girl got to be the hero. It was something I shared with my mom. My best friend at the time also watched, and we played out our own alternate-universe Buffy games with our Barbies. (There were two of us, so we had twin slayers, Buffy and Bambi.)

Shows for kids don’t often grab your emotions and yank. Joss Whedon loves yanking emotions. So this was one of the first shows where I was totally invested and had my little heart kicked around for funsies. I still get all the feels when I hear Buffy and Angel’s love theme, “Close Your Eyes”.

That’s 2:43 of raw emotion told through music. I won’t spoil what-all happens to make this so poignant, I’ll just say it’s worth watching.

Now as I watch again, I have to hand it to Sarah Michelle Geller. She’s a hell of an actress. Nothing else I’ve seen her in has given her the range or depth of this role. Her Buffy is at once shy, uncertain, confident, and determined.

She’s a real human being.

If I can ever write a character as strong as Buffy, I’ll be happy.

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Representation

When I was a little girl, I looked for echoes of myself on television. I didn’t do this consciously, but looking back I can clearly identify what I was doing.

Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers? I liked Gadget. Tail Spin? Rebecca. Rugrats? Lil. Batman? Harley Quinn. Pick a show with a mixed-sex cast and I went straight for the girl character. And there was always just one girl character. Apparently boys will watch so long as the cast is majority male, but tip the females above 40% and CATASTROPHE. Ratings fail. Or so they presume.

I was looking for representations of myself.

At the time, that meant girl. Any girl. (Well, not quite any girl. I wouldn’t stoop to Angelica’s level.)

Angelica PIckles laughing evilly

“Soon, Cynthia. SOON.”

Girl equaled Me. I associated a lot of positive traits with Girl and Me, including smarts and common sense, which my very favoritest girl characters also had. Positive feedback loop. When new girls were introduced on shows, I got excited, because there was a chance this new girl could be even more like me. I really didn’t care if they were bears or elves or Smurfs.

It took me a long time to recognize this for what it was. I listened to people who are not like me–POC, LGBTQ, etc.–talk about representation in media, and how important it is to them, and to kids like them, to be seen. How it hurts to not be represented.

For a long time, I didn’t fully get it. Sure, intellectually, I understood. But emotionally?

I think I was rambling to myself about the gender ratio on kids’ shows when it finally clicked. So many superhero teams of five where only one character was a girl… why did that matter so much to me? Because I wanted to see myself. 

I’d been doing the same thing for years and years, only I was able to latch on to what was given me. And I grew up in a time of relative plenty, the Girl Power 1990s. First I got The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel, then Belle of Beauty and the Beast, effectively reassuring me from preschool that I could be a princess, sing, see the world, etc. I had Barbie. I had Alanna. I had Buffy the goddamn Vampire Slayer, which is like taking a needle full of confidencadrenaline and applying it directly to a tween’s jugular.

I saw myself all over the place. And I still didn’t feel it was enough. I saw Boys taking up more than their fair share.

So how awful must it be for people who find even less to hold onto?

This is why we need diverse books, people. Seeing yourself is a powerful thing. It’s reassuring. It makes you feel seen and worthy. It gives you confidence.

Everyone deserves to have their own Buffy.

Les portraits by telomi on Flickr Creative Commons.

happy

#PitchWars 2015 Mentee Bio

(Is my hair straight? Have I got anything in my teeth? Is this thing on? It’s on. Crap.)

Hello, Pitch Wars crew! All you amazing, lovely people making this contest possible. I’m a little terrified to be here but also ecstatic to try for a slot.

A Little About Me…

I am an introvert who forces herself to do extroverted things. I would love to stay home, read, bake, and nap, but life insists I do something to sustain myself, which requires interacting with other human beings. I run two writing groups, because writers make the best friends and I believe in giving back to the community.

I studied at Eugene Lang, the New School for Liberal Arts because they had a writing program and I just fell in love with the place. For my troubles I got a degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Creative Writing, specifically fiction. I also got to study religion and digital media, so that was cool. I decided not to pursue an MFA because it felt redundant. I needed to get out in the world for a while, live a little. Also, Great Recession.

I was basically raised on Monty Python, so silliness is in my blood. Hello, fellow Pythonites! Can I get you a herring? There are tennis-playing blancmanges over by the comfy chair.

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You sons of a silly person!

Random factoids:

  • I grew up in New Jersey but I was born in South Africa. I’m a naturalized citizen.
  • If I don’t sing on a regular basis, I get depressed.
  • Likewise if I don’t read.
  • In a few months I plan to adopt m’self some guinea pigs. Because GUINEA PIGS.

You rang?

  • I have celiac and I’m allergic to a bunch of foods, including eggs. I cook.
  • I make the most excellent marshmallow krispie treats out of Chex cereal.
  • I have much love for elephants, Alphonse Mucha, and shiny jewelry.
  • I am still waiting for Melanie Rawn to finish THE CAPTAL’S TOWER. It’s been 18 years. No one is allowed to complain about waiting for the next book in GoT, okay!?
  • Also, my day job’s editorial style guide has invaded my brain. (Every bullet item SHALL have a period at the end!)

What I Do

By day I’m a web and graphic designer, which means I get to make the pretties.

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Shiny…

What I Read & Write

I read a lot of YA, and I’m trying to get into NA. My preferences revolve around fantasy, historical, and strong women. I tend to write in the same genres.

Except for this, the novel I’m submitting, which has taken over my life. UNCHURCHED is contemporary YA, though still with a kickass antiheroine. I never thought I’d wind up writing contemporary, but here I am with a novel and a wider universe of ideas. (All these years I could’ve sworn I would follow in the steps of Tamora Pierce.)

This lady, right here. First book that I ever felt, "YES, THIS IS WHAT I WANTED!"

This lady, right here. First book that I ever felt, “YES, THIS IS WHAT I WANT!”

What I’d Like From Pitch Wars

I am SO READY to WORK on this book!! I’ve already put it through the wringer, but I know it needs that little something more to make it really shine. I miss weekly workshopping.

I’m hoping for a mentor who I can bounce ideas off of as I address their notes. Normally I am very timid about squeaking up, but this book means a lot to me and I want to get it right. I’ve already done what I call committing manuscript surgery several times, and I’m willing to do it all again to get to a better end product. I’ve never been much of a phone person (see: introvert) but I’ll suck it up. If you’re into email and text messaging we’ll get along fabulously. Most of all, I want open communication. I want to feel comfortable reaching out to ask a question. I won’t, like, text you at 3am, that would be rude. You would totally have permission to sic squeaking guinea pigs on me.

No, wait, that’s wrong. MOST of all, I want someone to thrash the crap out of my manuscript. Scrawl all over it in red pixels. Make it cry. Then remind me I am capable of fixing it.

No, Seriously

This contest is amazing. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to apply. It’s says so much about the writing community that those who have gone before are willing to volunteer so much of their time and talent.

And if nothing else, y’all got me to perfect my query letter, and that’s worth a whole bundle. So thank you.

Hey, other mentees!

It occurred to me that part of this process is us making connections with one another. I’m looking for critique partners. So I wrote a profile just for that. Swing by, and if you think we’d mesh, drop me an email!

And you can see a bunch of other mentee bios here.

On Jon Stewart’s Leaving

Last night, on my way to watch the GOP debate (I’m a political junkie), I caught a snippet of Rachel Maddow. She was doing a segment on Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, talking about how culturally significant they’ve been. She said she believes they made the country better, and the news media better.

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I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the significance. And that significance is being honored by the Newseum–they’re moving the set down to DC.

In an episode from earlier this summer, interviewing Seth McFarlane, Jon joked–but only half-joked–that it’s not love for people to demand he make more shows.

 

Audience Member: We love you!

Jon: Nah. That’s not love. Love, you bring a little soup. You okay? You sit down. Love is not, Do more shows. Entertain me.

That really stood out for me, because it’s so true.

For all that I adore Jon and have loved the show, I’ve never made a practice of watching it every night. I realized years ago, back during the Bush administration, that to watch is to expose myself to the most depressing news available. It’s a collection of the ridiculous, the insane, the infuriating. Laugh your ass off because if you don’t you’ll cry.

How can I blame Jon for wanting to walk away when I won’t expose myself to all of that, day in and day out? Worse, we only saw about 20 minutes worth of it. Jon and crew spent the entire day sifting through the garbage of our politics and media. “We are turd miners,” he said once. He was right.

So that’s why I say goodbye to him with love. He’s put his soul against the grindstone for us for 16 years. It can’t have been easy. He has done a marvelous service, helping viewers through some of the worst tragedies in our nation, and finding the few bright spots in otherwise devastating events. He deserves a break. More than a break, he deserves not to be chained to it anymore.

If you love something, set it free.