In Which I Talk About Princesses

There are going to be quite a few new babies in my life in the next couple of months, and since at least one of them is probably going to be a girl, I’ve been spending more time than usual lately obsessing about princesses.

I’m more than a little disturbed by the current trend of trying to raise girls without princesses. Several of my siblings’ friends are taking this tack. For about ten seconds, I was kind of okay with it, and then I realized that it also excludes Princess Leia Organa, possibly the greatest princess, and example of what makes a good princess, ever written. Furthermore, it suggests that princesses have no inherent value, save as commodities in love and marriage, and that’s just the result of too-casual interpretation of their stories.

Okay, okay: it’s also the result of Disney marketing, which is kind of awful a lot of the time. But in the past few years, even Disney has become much more self-aware (not always in terms of merchandise. That remains depressing. And also not a little bit racist. But in terms of the story), and shutting down their contributions to the genre isn’t fair either.

Take Mulan, for example, who isn’t really a princess, but qualifies for marketing reasons. She is seriously awesome, and puts herself in significant risk for her family (not some dude. Well, a dude. But the dude is her father). She works her butt off, uses her brain, refuses to stop even when her death (by her comrades, not the bad guys) seems imminent, and then she saves the world with cross-dressing (like, they actually say the word). TWICE. That’s exactly the kind of princess who SHOULD be a role model.

At the other end of the spectrum we have Charlotte, one of two princesses in THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. Charlotte is rich, entitled, more than a little thoughtless, and occasionally a bit dim, but she is BEST FRIEND ever to come out of the Disney canon. She does so much for Tiana, without ever thinking that Tiana owes her anything. This includes respecting Tiana’s love of work (though she does not understand it), giving Tiana what she’ll accept (which is not always a lot), and, most awesomely, KISSING THE DAMN FROG on the off chance that she can save her friend, and make her happy*.

The most interesting Disney Princess, to me, is Mia Thermopolis of THE PRINCESS DIARIES, because Mia is a modern princess, in every way the others can’t be. And, more importantly, what finally, finally, gets her to decide to BE a princess is not pink dresses or frilly tea parties or the ridiculous castle she is going to live in: it is her sense of responsibility. That sense of responsibility, and the idea that she can Do Good, prompts her to give up everything she knows, leave her friends and her mother, and travel to a country she’s never seen. Eventually, that same sense of responsibility leads her to consider an arranged marriage, not because she wants to, but because it is the best thing she can do for her people**. It’s kind of amazing.

To deny the Princess story is to deny the amazing political power that these girls and women hold. There is a book called A GOLD STAR FOR ZOG that my sister was very excited about (it was just published in North America, though it has been in Australia and New Zealand for a while). In the book, a dragon named Zog is in training to be the best dragon he can be, and is aided at various times in his studies by a local princess, to the point where she allows him to kidnap her. She becomes a healer, and patches up the other dragons when they get injured during their training. When a knight shows up to rescue her, she convinces him to follow his own heart, at which point he decides to also be a healer, and becomes her apprentice, and the pair of them fly off with Zog as their transport. At first glance, I should have loved this book.

But.

But what happens to her kingdom? If she was the heir, they’re screwed. Her parents would have invested time in her education and training to rule the kingdom. If she was supposed to marry for dynastic purposes, there could be civil war, and possibly even war with another country. Being a doctor is all well and noble, but I can’t help thinking that her kingdom would have been about a million times better off had she done her duty, become Queen, and founded a medical school.

At one point, the princess even says that she doesn’t want to be a princess, because princesses are useless. And that? That means she never knew how to be a princess in the first place. And by telling children that story, we are ruining the potential for them to realize how, sometimes, what you are is more important than what you want, but that it can be a good and rewarding thing anyway.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is not just something to be said to Spiderman. It applies to princesses too, and to the girls who want to be like them. It’s what made BRAVE so fantastic. As we speak, it is being fantastically chronicled in the Teen section of your local bookstore.

There needs to be an understanding passed to girls (and boys), that whether they are like Charlotte, Mulan or Mia, there is nothing wrong with princesses. Fairy-tales have always existed to provide morals, and if we’ve let those morals become outdated, we’ve failed our children and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The only problems with girls liking princesses are the problems we give them. If they understand – really understand – what comes with the tiara, we’ll all be better people for it.

Recommendations***

THE PRINCESS ACADEMY and PALACE OF STONE, by Shannon Hale. (6+)
HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, by Diana Wynne Jones (10+)
GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS and CROWN OF EMBERS, by Rae Carson (14+)
THE PRINCESS DIARIES, by Meg Cabot (book and movie, 12+)
STAR WARS (it is NEVER too early for Princess Leia. Also, include the prequels, especially THE PHANTOM MENACE because the Handmaidens are amazing)

 

 

 

*To be clear, Tiana is also an amazing princess based on her work ethic and self-awareness alone, but she falls into the Mulan category, and I was trying to spread around the credit for AWESOME as much as possible.
**It’s a  bit funny, though. Because, really, the only thing better than Captain Kirk by way of Thor and Emma Swan is Captain Kirk by way of Gimli. I will never understand how anyone could go for Chris Pine when Callum Blue was an option, but clearly I am much too shallow for this.
***It goes without saying that I can talk about this forever, right? I mean, I’ll keep it short, but if you are related to me (by which I mean “have attended a family wedding”) and want me to read things to your kids, I’m probably down with it.

Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel

I’ve decided to start blogging on Mondays. Fridays were fun, but with my new work schedules, I seem to have a lot of 12 hours days on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (and sometimes Saturday), and that’s really not conducive to blogging. So Mondays it is*!

Anyway, September is well upon us, and that means it’s almost time for regular season television to come back**. Don’t get me wrong, summer TV has really improved in the last few years, but I still get a thrill when all my favourite shows premiere in the last week of September/first week of October.

(I also think, by the way, that a large part of the reason I’ve had trouble coming up with ideas for blog posts is because there’s no new TV to watch. I don’t understand the people who say they turn their brains off when they watch TV. I turn mine up to hyper-drive. I don’t really watch TV to relax. I watch it to learn, to puzzle, to follow the story as closely as I can. That seems to lead to blogging, particularly when a show I like does something that gives me feeeeeelings.)

I haven’t always been a TV watcher. Until university, I could count the number of TV shows I watched on a regular basis on one hand (Road to Avonlea, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Alias, Star Trek Voyager and CSI), but when I went away to school, I suddenly had all this free time in the evenings*** and, more importantly, cable. Thus, I discovered TV. And I loved it.

(We’ve talked about this before, but I am nearly always a lover of things. If I don’t LOVE it, chances are pretty good I won’t WATCH it. I’m also notoriously forgiving and defensive of my shows. That said, if they push me far enough, I do leave them. I stopped watching Supernatural in the middle of an episode, abandoned Game of Thrones because it bothered me, and Doctor Who is on my last nerve.)

My TV watching habits have changed profoundly from my uni days. For starters, I rarely watch TV on TV at all. I don’t usually have one, and thanks to my work schedule, I’m usually in bed by 8PM. Thankfully between DVDs and livestreaming, I can watch whenever I want, as long as I don’t mind CTV showing me the same two commercials every ten minutes****. The other handy thing about this is that it means I get to watch TV alone. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking I prefer solitary viewing, because it means I can laugh and/or cry as hard as I want, and not have family members tell me that I’m sick, silly or lack basic comprehension skills inherent in other people*****.

Obviously, all bets are off when I watch things with Emma******. 😉

I still write down what day everything airs, even though my chances of actually watching on the day are slim. For posterity, here is my To Watch List for the fall/winter season of TV, 2012-13.

Sunday used to be the Dead Night of TV, but all of a sudden it got really good! This year, I have ONCE UPON A TIME, which I love because it is either silly or amazing, REVENGE, which I love because Emily Van Camp is awesome and Nolan is better, and HOMELAND, in which Damian Lewis and Claire Danes will do their best to make sure I never sleep again.

Monday night is CASTLE time. I started watching this show as my cotton candy recovery from the emotional trauma of Battlestar Galactica rebound, and it turned out to be SO MUCH FUN. And also: pretty. It’s also WAREHOUSE 13, which is already half over, but I’m still counting it. I love that show so much.

Wednesday is CRIMINAL MINDS. We’ve had our differences, but I keep coming back to this CBS procedural, because it’s just SO. DARN. AWESOME. It’s pretty much a masterclass in writing and character development (most of the time), and the continuity (and the credit they give to the audience) just owns my soul.

Thursday is THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, which was totally supposed to be one of those shows I watched twice and gave up on, and yet somehow became this BEAUTIFUL THING. I don’t even know. Also on Thursday is FLASHPOINT, my little Canadian show that could. It’s in its last season and if the premiere is anything to go by, it’s not planning to pull any punches.

Friday is FRINGE and HAVEN or, as I like to think of it, Awesome Blonde Women Take Names And Kick Ass. Because, seriously. Between them, there’s not a lot Olivia Dunham and Audrey Parker can’t do. It’s FRINGE’s last season, which makes me sad, but at least they’ve planned it, so it should end well.

Saturday is DOCTOR WHO, which I may or may not give up on. And then at some point LEVERAGE comes back, along with MY LITTLE PONY, just to make the weekends more interesting.

I don’t really have anything NEW in my line-up this year, which is unusual for me. I haven’t found anything particularly inspiring. Also, I do love reading and writing (and, you know, SLEEPING), so I don’t want to fall in love with too many things. That said, if there’s a new show you think I should watch, I’d love to hear about it in comments.

 

 

 

*I may continue New Book Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesdays, just to really weight the beginning of the week. We’ll see how ambitious/tired I get. Also, in case it wasn’t apparent, the title of this blog post is because I’m talking about TV. I am, in fact, no longer blogging at the same time, bat or otherwise.
** I really hope you weren’t expecting something more profound.
***You know, except for classes. And homework.
****It’s worth it. Even during the Olympics when I saw that stupid McDonald’s commercial 250 times a day.
*****Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. But it’s largely thanks to them that I prefer to do things alone. Being told your emotional reactions are wrong will do that to a girl.
******One of the reasons I like Mark Watches (and Mark Reads) so much is that he has such BIG reactions. And often his reactions are the same as mine, which is always nice.

Short Story: Catching Rain

(So today was supposed to be about deadlines and goals. But I forgot. And it wasn’t at all because I’m spending all my free time re-watching My Little Pony. Not even a little bit.)

Catching Rain

We spent that whole summer waiting for the rain.

Some idiot kid in the village had nabbed a fairy back in April and wished for a sunny summer.  We didn’t know for sure that it was a village kid, except that all the farmers’ kids were too smart to wish for anything that stupid, and at first it wasn’t so bad.  As each sunny day dawned, new and bright and clear, it became apparent that we had a problem.

The council met at the beginning of July.  They waited exactly ten days from the solstice before they started to panic, but the actual transition from spring to summer had been spectacular enough to merit it.  It’d been raining, pouring actually, great huge drops of water falling from the sky in sheets.  Then, on the turn of the Wheel, right at the cusp of summer, it had stopped and the sky cleared.  I think it took them ten days to check the tables, make really sure that the rain had stopped at the exact moment of the solstice, and not on some fluke change.  They liked to be sure of things, the council did.

Jessup and I were not invited to the council meeting, which rankled.  Technically we weren’t old enough to attend, but everyone knew that if fairies were concerned, we were the two to involve as soon as possible.  The panic that bubbled in the council was simmering in the village too, though, and I suspected they wanted to keep a lid on any suspected fairy-related problems for as long as possible.  This was nearly as stupid as wishing on a fairy in the first place.  They only got more vindictive as time passed.

What had really happened was that the kid, the wisher, had come forward.  This was largely thanks to ten days of extremely benevolent pressure, not to mention the promise of complete amnesty.  Of course, forgiveness from the council, and even most of the adults in the town was easily given, assuming the wish wasn’t too foreboding.  The real trick would be protecting the wisher from the other kids.  Grown-ups could leave well enough alone.  Children, feeding on the fear that filtered down from their parents, could be almost as cruel as fairies when it came to creative reprisals.

“Look on the bright side,” Jessup said, as we waited in the brightly lit square for the meeting to end.  He managed not to wince at his own pun. “At least the fairy saw fit to let it get un-sunny at night.”

“Thank goodness for small mercies,” I said, shading my eyes against the glare.  A councilor appeared on the front stairs of the village hall and waved us inside.

+++

The fields did all right, at first.  We’d had a wet spring, which, talk in the pub suggested, was probably what had led to the wish in the first place.  The stream flowed sluggishly, slumping over the rocks in a depressed sort of way where it had burbled and jumped in previous years.  There was enough rain upriver that it hadn’t dried out completely.

It wasn’t even the worst wish we’d even lived through.  Whether by luck or genuine forethought, the kid had set a timer on our rainlessness.  We had only to get through the summer and things would return to normal.  So the council announced, anyway, after they talked with Jessup and me on that first day of July.  For the whole month, that’s what everyone pretended they believed.

Life went on.  Rain fell.  Not in the village or on any land nearby, but in the world at large.  The children reported that it wasn’t raining in any of their favourite hideouts or play places either.  The wisher had been pleasantly specific for a change, requesting sunshine for any place where a child might while away the summer hours.

The villagers spent their summer living as though everything was normal.  Crops were planted and no one remarked that they grew up stunted.  Bakers saved more grain from milling than usual, and turned out bread in smaller loaves.  Their customers cut thinner slices to make them last, and took open-faced sandwiches with them to the fields beneath the sun.  The kids played in the streets, on the hills and dells around the village, and never guessed which of them was responsible for our predicament.

The only unusual thing on the surface of that summer was the way the eyes of the council members would tighten whenever they saw Jessup or me in the square, or on the road out of town.  They could tell everyone else it was going to be okay, but they couldn’t help reveal in a thousand small ways that it wasn’t exactly business as usual.

+++

After the meeting we weren’t allowed to attend, there was an even more private one.  This meeting, no one knew anything about at all.  The council wanted us in the woods that summer, under the guise of hunting.

It was both the perfect cover and a story that was laughably flawed.  Jessup and I did spend most of our time in the woods anyway, and were known as good shots.  But no one really believed that was the reason we took to the woods, even if the game we brought back from our less than clandestine excursions would be greatly appreciated if the winter were as lean as it was promising to be.

We weren’t going into the woods to shoot, and everyone knew it.  We did hunt, of course, to pass the time and to maintain the fiction as the council dictated, but it wasn’t our primary objective.  Our main charge was a live-catch.  We baited traps and set snares and spent hours lying in wait, as patient hunters do.  That, after all, is how you catch a fairy.

+++

My father first took me into the forest when it became apparent that I would not be content with neatly hemmed garden pathways and lush green lawns.  I didn’t do well amongst the furrows either.  So it was the woods, and I took to them well and quickly.  By the time Jessup was old enough to join us, we had a regular family operation.

I saw a fairy once, just after Jessup came into the forest with us.  Father was with him on one of the trap lines, showing him the lay of the land.  I was glad that to be trusted enough to mind my line myself.  My head was down, like you do in the trees, eyes on the ground looking for tracks, when I heard the laughter above my ears.

I looked up before I thought the better of it, and there it was, hovering in the air just out of reach.  If you can avoid looking at them, you’ll be fine.  Once you’ve made eye contact though, you can’t look away or it will only make them angry, and I cursed my mistake as soon as I realized I’d made it.  It wanted to be caught, I know now, wanted to make me wish for something it could twist.

“What do you wish for, human child?” it asked.  Its voice wasn’t as high as I had expected a fairy voice to be.

“No, thank you,” I said.  It growled, but flew away in defeat.

You have to watch each word with a fairy, even if it means bordering on rudeness.  It would never do, for example, to tell one that you wished for nothing.

+++

“Do you think,” Jessup said one sunny day in August, “that they’ll catch on to what we’re doing?”

“No,” I replied. “And even if they suspect, there’s no way to prove it, unless father tells them, and he won’t.”

“What if it doesn’t rain in September?” he asked.

“Then we stop playing fairy catchers and move.”

+++

You have to watch the words you tell people too.  They get all caught up in stories and legends, and forget to be patient, to wait and see what will happen next.  I knew that, and so did Jessup, because our father had taught us.  The council didn’t know, because they didn’t think.  They saw a wish and clear blue sky and thought that the way to fix it was to wish it away.  They’d spent weeks now hammering out the exact words Jessup and I were to use when we caught the fairy.  They thought the rain would fall from the sky for the asking, if only they could ask correctly.

So Jessup and I spent day after day in the forest, winnowing through the squirrel and rabbit population, and pretending that we were hunting fairies.  And every day, the sun shone down and the children played and barley wilted just a little bit more in the fields.  People are hardier than you think, than the council thought for certain, and we made do.

On the twenty-second day of September, the sky closed up and it rained.

+++

Don’t forget that you can buy THE CURIOSITIES by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton in store on August 1!

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is an idea borrowed from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Since I have kind of forgotten about Waiting on Wednesday these past couple weeks, I thought I would do a bonus TWO FOR ONE.

So recently I started working at Chapters again, and one of the cool things about that job is that they want you to read books. I mean, they encourage it. One of the ways they do this is by distributing ARCs to their staff, even at smaller stores like the one I work at. That is how last week I got my hands on an ARC of SCARLET, and this week I got an ARC of THE RAVEN BOYS. Obviously, ARCs don’t have great covers, but fortunately both of those books DO have great covers, and here they are:

I knew by the end of the prologue that waiting for all four books in this series is going to be hard. But, oh, so worth it!

 

This book, on the other hand, was everything I never knew I wanted. I had no idea what to expect (like with CINDER, actually), and OMG, AMAZING.

THE RAVEN BOYS comes out on September 18,  2012.

SCARLET comes out on February 5, 2013.

A Lapse in Scheduling

On Wednesday, I finished my manuscript and ate a smore pie*.

On Thursday, I worked 5-9:30, edited a book I am REALLY EXCITED ABOUT**, and worked from 3:30-9:30.

Today I work from 5-9:30, and then 10-5***, so in lieu of a post, here are my thoughts about Pixar’s BRAVE.

SPOILERS BELOW. (But, seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie, you really, really should.)

 

 

BRAVE did two really cool things. First, it gave away almost none of the story in the trailer. I can’t remember the last time a movie did this for me. It was SO REFRESHING. Second, not only did that story focus on two amazing, nuanced and flawed female characters, THERE WAS NO ROMANCE. You have no idea how happy this makes me****.

When BRAVE was first announced, it was called THE BEAR AND THE BOW, and it starred Reese Weatherspoon. Obviously, they Scottished it up, and thank goodness, but I’m very glad they went with such an obtuse title (even though I also adore THE BEAR AND THE BOW), because it added to the mystery of the film.

AND WHAT A FILM. It was absolutely gorgeous, to start with, and the music was AMAZING. And the plot was absolutely heartbreaking, real, terrifying, magical, hilarious and beautiful in equal parts.

I loved how much the Bear acted like Emma Thompson. I loved the expression on Merida’s face when she realized what she’d done. I loved “I’m a wi–ttler.” I loved how every role that could be a woman was a woman.

AND, OMG, I LOVED THE ENDING.

(I also thought the triplets were in it the perfect amount. And plot appropriate to boot!)

Here is a very articulate, very well written response to the movie, and defense, for when people start with the inevitable “The ending was odd!” and “She was an honorary boy!” or “But all of the guys were one dimensional”.

“The males in Brave were all plot devices!” GEE. THAT MUST REALLY SUCK TO HAVE YOUR GENDER MARGINALIZED IN A MOVIE. CAN’T IMAGINE.

Basically, my feelings.

You guys, I am really tired. I apologize for the weirdest blog post ever.

 

 

*I really recommend this, by the way. Both finishing a manuscript and eating a smore pie.
**And, you know, can’t talk about.
***Then I plan to pass out before working at 8 on Saturday  morning.
****Well, you won’t if you’re new. In which case, HI! My name is KATE and I WRITE BOOKS that you can BUY in 2014.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is an idea borrow from Jill at Breaking the Spine

Once upon a time, three authors got together for an experiment. They would write short fiction, sometimes based on a common prompt, and see what happened. In a nutshell, it worked. Great stories were written, and much fun was had by all (by which I mean both them and their readers). But, alas, all things must end, and so too are the Merry Fates. But they’re going out with a BANG. They have published an annotated collection of their favourite short stories, along with doodles, notes, diagrams and comments.

The CURIOSITIES is a collection of the weird and the wonderful, the beautiful and the bold, the glamorous and the gross. The stories range in length, style, topic and theme, but are linked by the fact that all three of Maggie, Tessa and Brenna have such wonderful insights and ways with their words.

THE CURIOSITIES comes out on August 1. It is available for pre-order right now. And also I am running a contest to give away an ARC.

CONTEST!!!

To win an ARC of THE CURIOSITIES, comment on this post by asking a question. It can be about books, television, politics, cake decorating, or even me (Hello! I’m soon to be a published author! If by “soon” you mean “in 2014”!). Pretty much whatever tickles your fancy and I will do my best to answer it*. On JUNE 20, I will pick a name out of a hat, and that person will win the ARC. A North American mailing address is a must.

 

 

*For a certain value of “answer”. Sometimes I am silly.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is an idea borrowed from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

We’re back to fairy tales this week, with one of the best writers who is currently retelling them: Jackson Pearce.

I really, really love that cover. I also love that Jackson is tackling The Little Mermaid this time, following Red Riding Hood (as sisters), and Hansel and Gretal in her first two books. I am very curious as to what she will do!

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant — until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn’t know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea — a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid — all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she”s becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she”s tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude”s affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.

Sounds pretty straightforward? But if we’ve learned anything from SWEETLY (and SISTERS RED, for that matter) it probably isn’t. In any case, I have no doubt that Jackson Pearce will deliver another winner, and I am very much looking forward to it.

FATHOMLESS comes out on September 4, 2012.

Finales

Well, it’s May. And for the past few years of my life, May has primarily meant three things: 1. Good movies, 2. My birthday and 3. Finale season on TV.

I’m not going to talk about 1 and 2, because my brain is still going OMG!AVENGERS! and because I’m not really concerned with my birthday, but I am going to talk about finale season.

I talk about how TV has shaped my creative life. Watching shows like Alias, CSI and Angel taught me how to pace a story, both in terms of a single episode (CSI), a plot arc (Angel) and an entire series (Alias*). For most of the time I was in university, television was this amazing thing that delivered stories I loved on a regular schedule (except during the World Series, over Christmas and during March Madness), and if I ever got bored, I could rent back seasons from Rogers or get caught up on the Space Channel.

So what is it about finales that gets me all worked up? Well, for starters they’re usually really good. Show runners arrange their budgets so that they can get all their regulars and guest stars in place, things explode, the music is typically good, mysteries are solved, mysteries are STARTED, and then the screen fades to black and when your heart returns to its normal rate, you’re all “CRAP, SEPTEMBER???”

Let’s look at some of the greats.

1. Veronica Mars, Leave it to Beaver: What made this finale magnificent is that both of the season-long mysteries are solved, and the cliff-hanger is RIDICULOUS. I watched the whole season after season two had started (you would not BELIEVE the lengths I went to not to get spoiled for this show!), and so I didn’t even really have to wait that long, but ARGH. Brilliance.

2. Star Trek TNG, The Best of Both Worlds: “Mr. Worf, Fire!” SERIOUSLY! Again, I had to wait about ten seconds between episodes, AND I already knew that [spoilers], because it was nearly a decade later, and STILL.

3. Graduation Day, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The cool thing about this finale is that it is entirely tied off. There’s no last minute mystery or disaster. Everything explodes and then it’s over. And it’s still absolutely amazing.

4. What Kind of Day Has it Been and Two Cathedrals, The West Wing: Yeah, these two should probably be entered separately, but it’s my list so it’s my rule. 😉 Both of these are terrific cliff hangers, and both of them are very different. The first is the “explosion” model of finale and the second is just one of the most amazing musical montages in the HISTORY OF TIME, and then a question that gets answered via flashback. GENIUS. (Also, Jed yells at God in Latin, and I LOVE THAT FOREVER).

5. Why We Fight, Jericho: Well, it got them a season two, didn’t it? 🙂

6. Silence, Joan of Arcadia: OMG, THIS SHOW. AND THIS EPISODE! Joan of Arcadia dealt with religion with such an amazing amount of finesse and grace, and then THIS EPISODE HAPPENED, and you were all “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, SHOW?” It was beautiful and it HURT, and it was amazing.

7. The Hunger Artist, CSI: While holding the distinction of being the only CSI episode that uses the TMI Cam in ways gross enough to make me throw up THREE TIMES, The Hunger Artist is also insightful and compelling in a way that many episodes of the show were not. As we watch Sara dig through Ashley’s life and Grissom filter Cassie’s, we get a better picture of all four of them, and it’s just really COOL. It’s a quiet finale, but it’s a solid one. I just never need to see that rat again, okay?

8. The Telling, Alias: Okay, so this led to a bunch of stuff I didn’t like, but it did have the BEST. FIGHT. EVER. and then the end of the episode happened, and we were all “WHAT! WHAT! WHAT!!!” about it for THE WHOLE SUMMER.

9. Die Me, Dichotomy, Farscape: Can I get a “Hell, yeah”? OH MY HEART.

*looks at list*

I guess the purpose of a finale is no mystery: they want you back in September. What impresses me about the good ones, though, whether they are BIG AND EXPLODE-Y or small and thoughtful, is that they can STILL surprise me. Or at least be written in such a way that I get to figure it out with the characters. I am still entertained, and I’ve spent most of my life seeking out every story I could get my hands on.

I think it’s the same for books too. We hear it said a lot that there are no original stories, which I do believe, but there are are original WRITERS, and that’s what makes it worth the while**. Those people can take a fairy tale you know by heart and make it into something more amazing than you could have imagined. Those people can take a hero you’ve seen a million times and use him in an entirely new way. Those people can make a heroine from whispers and dreams, and have her be the strongest character you have ever come across.

That is why I get so annoyed when people talk about television as a non-engaging medium. You can engage as much as you want; screen, print or real life. What I choose to engage is the story, regardless of how it is delivered to me. I love a page-turning book as much as I love a movie I leave the theatre plotting my next viewing of, and certainly as much as the show that leaves me shrieking at the screen as it fades to black. It’s the story, and the community I have found around those stories, that keeps me coming back.

Well, that and the fact that there are a lot of very pretty people involved in the Vampire Diaries.

Do you have favourite finales? Finales you didn’t like at all? I’d love to hear about them.

 

 

 

*Not EXACTLY like Alias, thank goodness, but you get my point.
**I wanted to make a Fifty Shades of Grey joke just then. But I didn’t.

Finding Cinderella

I am so, so glad that people are writing so many fairy tales. If you go into a bookstore, you’ll find dozens interspersed on the shelves in the 9-12 and YA sections. Some are lovely and mystical, like Shannon Hale’s THE GOOSE GIRL. Some are about cyborgs, like Marissa Mayer’s CINDER. And some are completely inverted, like Diana Wynne Jones’ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE.

I have some friends who have had kids in the past few years, and several of them are determined that their girls will not grow up with fairy tales, princesses, fairy godmothers or anything of that sort. Leaving aside the part where this is nearly impossible (and also the part where, technically, it rules out Princess Leia Organa, arguably the GREATEST PRINCESS OF ALL TIME), I’m not sure I think it’s a particularly good idea. Should you teach your kids not to hang around all the time waiting for some dude to come and rescue them? Yes, yes you should. But more and more, that’s not what fairy tales are about.

Fairy Tales have ALWAYS been a shifting medium. Most of the stories we know are centuries old, drawn from multiple sources. In the Middle Ages, they were the product of the time: often presented as straight-up morality plays, where archetypes encountered each other archetypically, with archetypal results. Also, a lot of the time people are just stupid*. And, thanks to Disney, those were more or less the fairy tales I grew up with. Girls were Princesses who found True Love and Got Rescued and Lived Happily Ever After in a manner unspecified**.

The first time I was really aware of a shift in story-telling was when I saw EVER AFTER, starring Drew Barrymore and Angelica Houston***. I love that movie SO MUCH, for many, many reasons. For starters, there are almost equal numbers of male and female characters (depending on how you decide who is important). Furthermore, the relationship between Danielle and Henry is multi-faceted, and develops over the course of the movie. Also, Danielle has relationships with her step-mother and step-sisters, with the other maids, with Gustaff, with Leonardo da Vinci, and all of them are unique, well rounded, and clearly thought through.

What really sets EVER AFTER apart is the ending. First of all, Danielle rescues herself. Using her brain. And a sword. It’s kind of fabulous. Furthermore, in the final showdown with the step-mother, it’s Danielle, Marguerite and the Queen who do almost all of the talking. What makes it amazing, though, is the very last scene, where the now elderly Danielle is talking to the Brothers Grimm, she tells them that “The most important thing, was that they lived.” Not just happily ever after. Even though it happens off-screen and in a story we don’t see, they lived.

“The Modern Fairy Tale” isn’t some girl going to New York to become a fashion designer and marrying a rich dude. That’s just a fairy tale, set in New York. There’s nothing particularly modern about it. “The Modern Fairy Tale” happens when we go into those old stories and refuse to accept that everyone in them is a cardboard cut out. Remember, fairy tales are pretty much always in open season. You can do almost anything you want with them, and no one can get mad at you, because they’re all messes to begin with.

That leads us to one of my favourite trends in YA: fairy tales retold. These range from Sci-Fi (the aforementioned CINDER), to full blown fantasy (Malinda Lo’s ASH), to interpretations via non-Western cultures (Zoe Marriot’s SHADOWS ON THE MOON). And that’s before we even get away from Cinderella! There’s Little Red Riding Hood (Jackson Pearce), there’s Rumpelstiltskin (Elizabeth C. Bunce), and there are entirely new, but kind of recognizable princesses (Shannon Hale, Gail LeVine).

I picked Cinderella specifically though, for the following reason: I grew up in a sports household. A Cinderella Story is the story of an underdog team that beats Duke in the first round, and goes down in the Elite Eight to the University of Florida, having made it further than any team from their college has ever made it before. A Cinderella Story happens when someone who is poor, small, beaten down and overlooked gets lucky, gets help, gets to go to the big dance, and gets the trophy.

None of the Cinderella Stories I have mentioned so far do that. Instead, they are all about a girl in a less than pleasant situation using talents she didn’t know she had in order to survive, and finding her identity. And, yes, in some cases they still find true love, but like Danielle, they don’t just live happily ever after****. They live.

THAT is the modern fairy tale. Stories about girls who aren’t afraid of the dark. Stories about girls who make choices and live with the consequences. Stories about girls who find love, lose love, fight for love, and, sometimes, surrender to it. Stories about girls who know who they are and what they can do. And that? That is the kind of story I am more than happy to read to an up and coming princess. Fairy tales shift all the time. It’s only reasonable that the words inside them, and their meanings should shift too, to better become a product of our time.

Ursula Vernon’s hilariously annotated, relatively rare, fairy tales (Ursula usually has great links about the academics too, if you’re into that): http://ursulav.livejournal.com/tag/fairy%20tales

 

 

 

 

*Seriously. Point me to a fairy tale that doesn’t fall prey to one character being REALLY STUPID at least once, and I’ll…well, I don’t know, actually. But it would be funny!
**To be fair, Disney did manage to get both TANGLED and ENCHANTED done right. Rapunzel is AMAZING, and if you tried to play a drinking game for every time ENCHANTED subverted itself, you might die of alcohol poisoning. I am incredibly optimistic about BRAVE.
***Okay, so it totally SHOULD have been INTO THE WOODS, which I watched about a million times as a child. But I didn’t like Act II, so I never watched it (which means you miss the lesson), and I was too young to understand was subversive meant.
****OH, GOD, CAN WE HAVE THE SECOND BOOK OF CINDER NOW?