Posts Tagged ‘passion’

As someone who always identified with fire on a symbolic level, I’m proud to promote the latest anthology from Beyond editor Taneka Stotts, ELEMENTS: Fire. Not only is it an all-ages book featuring a plethora of artists and writers (the full list can be found here), but the choice to utilize the work of only creators of color inserts ELEMENTS: Fire into the greater conversation surrounding comic books and the lack of exposure given and value placed on creators of color and characters of color in a thriving and lucrative industry.

Artists: Kiku Hughes, Michelle Ngyuen, Sara DuVall, and Der-shing Helmer

Artists: Kiku Hughes, Michelle Ngyuen, Sara DuVall, and Der-shing Helmer

 

The thesis of the book is simple yet powerful:

 

Elements looks to add to the current conversation happening in the book industry: yes #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but #WeNeedDiverseCreators too. We are no longer just the sidekicks or token characters, we’re creators with our own stories to tell. In Elements we’re the main characters, dismantling tropes with our own stories that see people like us saving the day. Be it quelling a volcano, learning to fight with our brand of love, or breaking cyberspace, we want to let these stories and characters take center stage.

 

The purpose of the Kickstarter is primarily a means of paying the the contributors, another of many conversations happening around pay-for-work vs. exposure. As a writer, I can sympathize. Do you invest your time and energy in something that offers no money but promises “exposure,” which is already a vague concept to begin with, or do you put that focus on a project that will at least provide a monetary incentive however small the platform or the sum? Where do you draw the line and what do you sacrifice in the process? Obviously, Fire wants the artists and writers to receive compensation, not just for contributing but also as a visible means of creating value for their work. The comic book industry is still difficult to break into and it’s even harder for writers and artists of color, especially where mainstream comics are concerned, so every bit helps in terms of payment and exposure. Through the anthology and the Kickstarter, the visibility of the creators and the value of their work increases significantly.

 

Top: Marisa Han, Mildred Louis | Bottom: Melanie Ujimori & Chan Chau, Kou Chen

Top: Marisa Han, Mildred Louis | Bottom: Melanie Ujimori & Chan Chau, Kou Chen

 

One of the creators, it turns out, is past guest of That Girl with the Curls podcast Christina “Steenz” Stewart (Archival Quality) and I reached out to Steenz via email to ask her about her contribution to the book:

 

My story is called The Update. Its a sci-fi dystopia where the entire city is run by an operation system called PIOS: Pyre Intelligence Operation System. Transportation, where people eat, crime regulation… everything runs on PIOS. It’s just… better. But every once in a while the system shuts down and everything must be updated. And that includes the people.
It’s written and illustrated all by me!

 

And wouldn’t you know it, editor of ELEMENTS: Fire Taneka Stotts is also a past guest of That Girl with the Curls! Her episode includes some talk about Fire, but I reached out to Taneka via email with a few questions:

What’s been the most exciting aspect of putting the anthology together? What’s been the most terrifying?

The most exciting aspect is finding all the new voices, mixing them with voices that are already around, and maybe reacquainting myself with voices I haven’t heard from in some time. It is a variety that I seek when putting together any project and one that I find I benefit from greatly. I would say the most terrifying moment is usually sending out any sort of invitation to someone you respect and super admire and hoping you’re not interrupting their day while you wait for them to get back to you. Also, realizing if they accept your invite, then you have to be the one to edit their work.

Isuri Merenchi Hewage, Rashad Doucet

Isuri Merenchi Hewage, Rashad Doucet

What made you choose Fire as the inaugural element? What does Fire mean to you?

I wanted to show that I was serious and I wanted to make an impact. Fire represents serious business to me and I just wanted to spread it around. For some it’s a symbol of life, death, and rebirth, so why not make it the theme of my first project? For me, fire takes on many forms, from passion to inspiration.

What do you feel is the ultimate goal of this anthology? What would you like people to walk away with should they support the campaign? 

The ultimate goal is to have the printed book in all the contributors hands, to have it in the hands of the backers, to have it on library shelves and in shelters. It’s to be tucked under pillows, used to stop doors, and ultimately an emergency paper weight for those who have already enjoyed it a few times over. I guess what I’m trying to say is just for it to exist and for those who were part of it to be recognized even more as a result. I hope that anyone who backs this book realizes they are making something great happen and they are putting themselves into a position of power that tells other markets that watch us that they are tired of disingenuous representation.

Do you think crowd-source funding is a better means of exposure for upcoming comic book creators?

Yes and no. People die of exposure… from the sun. So you know, exposure is great but in moderation. I hope it’s something these creators can use to show why they deserve a place in the mainstream and why they should no longer be ignored but instead are a force to be reckoned with.

Why are you so awesome?!

WHY ARE YOU SO AWESOME?? That is the true question! I just wanna make books, write books, work on books and have fun. It’s important for me to at least have fun.

 

If Taneka’s fire and passion for this anthology doesn’t sell you on giving even a little bit, I don’t know what will. There’s only a little less than a month to go, so get on it!

 

You can find the Kickstarter here.

 

You can also visit the official website where creators are given their own spotlight and updates happen regularly.

 

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Last week we said goodbye to the citizens of Pawnee, Indiana as Parks and Recreation took its final bow with promises of an even greater future for Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and company in the fictional reality where we all want to live. Seriously, after seven seasons who wouldn’t want this glorious female warrior in charge of the country? 10940410_705055929591737_2688036775043691284_nAt the same time the first, but hopefully not last, season of Marvel’s Agent Carter ended with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), after saving New York City from another villainous attempt at bombing the Big Apple, reaffirming her stance as a woman who knows her value to the world even if it isn’t reciprocated. Though these two shows are dissimilar in regards to genre, setting, and time period, their commonality lies in the driven, passionate, and independent women at the helm.

When looking at Leslie Knope and Peggy Carter it’s easy to assume that gender is their one uniting factor. How else would a modern-day Mid-Western civil servant share any similarities with a British ex-pat intelligence agent in post-WWII New York? And that’s before you add in the science-fiction, superhero element that practically pushes Agent Carter as far from Parks and Rec, genre wise, as possible. But fear not, you beautiful tropical fish. Yes, gender is a factor in comparing Leslie and Peggy, but it’s really about how their respective worlds perceive women, their response as women, and the impact that has on the viewing audience that matters. Leslie may be navigating the modern world of middle-American politics but Peggy’s struggle for acceptance and acknowledgement is just as relatable. These are women who’ve dedicated their lives to serving their native/adopted country regardless of their rank within the system. Though they may desire more, it’s how they face their obstacles that earns them the respect, loyalty, and friendship of those around them and affects the most change.

137683_0115Though we’ve only had eight episodes of Agent Carter, Peggy’s importance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been apparent since a skinny kid from the Lower East Side took his first steps towards being Captain America. One of the premiere officers of Army intelligence during WWII, Peggy held her own in the boys club of the military, earning the respect of the men she worked with through her tenacity and resolve on the battlefield. In the trenches, she was more than just Cap’s sort-of girlfriend. The harsh reality of “civilian” life post-war, however, is that in the eyes of her colleagues in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) she’s only viewed as Cap’s girlfriend with many of her accomplishments in the field overlooked or just plain ignored. The frustration of watching Agent Carter is the accuracy of its blatant and subtle sexism and the knowledge that there really isn’t an end point. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel where we can definitively say women gained all the respect and equality. It’s not just the attitudes of post-war culture, it’s a parallel of the modern day struggles of women in the workforce. Think about it. Women are still fighting for equal wages.

Still. In 2015.

Even the basic assumptions made about women in the show are mirrors of current workplace and online cultures. 1382589830prejpg-daab11_624wConsider two of Peggy’s colleagues, Jack Thompson and Daniel Sousa. Like Peggy, they’re war veterans, but the two approach the SSR’s sole female agent in very different ways. Thompson is all bravado, a blatant chauvinist who can’t even bother to get Peggy’s name right so long as he gets his coffee and lunch order placed correctly. Sousa, on the other hand, is more sympathetic to Peggy since he’s also the target of Thompson’s jibes because of his injury during the war. And while Sousa attempts to be the good guy, telling Jack to back off and treat Peggy with more respect, Peggy calls him on his white-knighting. He may think he’s doing the right thing, being a better man than the others, but there’s a more subtle form of sexism occurring. Peggy doesn’t need Sousa to come to her aid, she’s perfectly capable of defending herself. Assuming she needs defending is just another way of reinforcing the gender stereotype that women are incapable of taking care of themselves. In fact, the underestimation of women plays throughout the entire series as virtually every female character uses their perceived weakness to their advantage against men. Dottie hides the cold, Russian assassin behind a helpless doe-eyed mid-Western persona, Angie starts spilling fake tears to distract Thompson and Sousa, and Peggy frequently makes use of her invisibility within the agency as she conducts her side investigation into clearing Howard Stark. Though she’s loathe to use her second-tier status, it’s a tool nonetheless. It’s actually an interesting look into the character’s psyche and makes for an interesting thought exercise as to the state of mind of other women at the time. Peggy clearly has some control over how she’s viewed at the SSR and her side investigation challenges that control. It forces her to examine her place within the agency, concluding that though she’s invisible to her colleagues, for the most part, she’d rather not be seen then looked at as helpless.

agent-carter-iron_ceiling_howling_commandosAt least with Thompson there’s something Peggy can fight against. He wears his prejudices on his sleeve, so changing his mind and proving her worth as an agent would of course mean showing competency during a field mission involving the Howling Commandos. And it really is the most effective turnaround because even though Peggy and Thompson do bond over being soldiers, Peggy ultimately relates to Thompson on a human level by showing sympathy and empathy when he comes clean about his experiences in the Pacific Theater. This isn’t the writers going “if woman, therefore motherly role” as a means of justifying their shared moment. This is about vulnerability. Peggy taking the lead after Thompson freezes in a firefight, and her giving him orders to snap him out of it, gives him, for the briefest of moments, some insight about the real Peggy Carter. The true strength of her character is her ability to have those feelings for someone who, for all intents and purposes, wouldn’t respond in kind. Peggy’s goal isn’t to belittle her colleagues or emasculate them for the sake of her own self-worth. As she says in the season finale, she knows her value, and it’s not about getting her name in the paper or recognition from a state congressman. For Peggy, it’s about getting the respect and trust of her colleagues; not as a woman but as an agent.

What’s important to note about both Agent Carter and Parks and Recreation is that neither show treats its characters, male or female, like idiots. Peggy is exceptionally good at what she does but is still treated as a glorified secretary by her male peers. It’s not out of cruelty just misguided sentiments. Though she’s often frustrated by the men in the SSR or downright disgusted by any of Howard Stark’s shenanigans, Peggy never calls them incompetent. She, too, makes mistakes but we’re still rooting for her because we know what she’s capable of. And though we may desire comeuppance for some members of the SSR, the show is much wiser than that, presenting a snapshot of a bygone era that still holds relevance today.Parks & Recreation

Leslie Knope, however, could have easily become the female version of The Office‘s Michael Scott. Parks and Rec certainly owes its existence to The Office, but thankfully Leslie, as a character, was given much more substance than being a lovable goof. She is a lovable goof, by the way, but there’s no one on the show who ever questions her competence at her job or her intelligence because she’s a woman. If anything, Leslie’s hyper-competence and her extreme passion for governance often puts her at odds with the people of Pawnee and occasionally her friends and co-workers. At the same time, it’s Leslie’s passion for her work that leads her down the path to a ridiculously rewarding and awesome future.

The phrase “Be The Leslie Knope of Whatever You Do” is essential to what makes Parks and Rec and Leslie so special. From the beginning of the series, we know that Leslie is full of vim, vigor, and vitality for her work in the Parks Department. She shows excitement for a job that offers very little in the way of gratitude from the people she serves but Leslie isn’t necessarily looking for accolades. Her reward is helping people because she ultimately believes in the power of people coming together in order to accomplish a common goal. It’s why she loves working for the city. She gets to change people’s lives, whether they notice or not. What’s refreshing about Leslie’s consistent optimism is it’s never portrayed on the show as something we should pity her for. Leslie isn’t a character meant to be seen as pathetic because she doesn’t grasp the reality of her situation. The exact opposite is true. Leslie is very aware of how lb2-300x202she’s perceived by people, but it doesn’t deter her. If anything, she sees the complacency and apathy of those around her as a challenge, which she meets head on. She matches Ron Swanson’s anti-government paranoia and April Ludgate’s pessimism with openness and a helping hand and we cheer her on because, like Ron, April, or pretty much every person living in Pawnee, we see the greatness and the passion Leslie puts into everything she does and we want to apply that same passion to what we do in our own lives. We want to “be the Leslie Knope” of our own passions.

To me, Leslie is the embodiment of the modern feminist. Not only does she show an exhausting amount of joy, confidence, and passion for her job, but she also has the ideal balance of career and family. The road towards this ideal, however, was not an easy one. At the beginning of the series, Leslie’s career goals often took precedence over her personal life – except for Ann because nothing comes between Leslie and Ann! – but once she met Ben Wyatt the priorities began to shift. There’s this prevailing myth that women have to choose between having a family or having a career, which is complete bull. Women don’t have to choose one or the other. They can have both if they put in the time. It’s about balance and in Ben Leslie found her balance. Like her philosophy that teamwork and helping people are the ultimate goals of government, so too did Leslie apply the same mindset to her relationship with Ben. Once they decided they were a team, that they were in it for the long haul, every decision was made by the Knope-Wyatt household committee. Thankfully Ben shared Leslie’s passion for government and civil service but he also shared a Parks and Recreation - Season 5passion for helping Leslie fulfill her dreams. It’s still a rare thing for a male character to put a female character’s wants and needs over his own in any form of media. If we see Leslie through Ben’s eyes, however, we know that her drive will propel them forward no matter what. Ben is no more sacrificing his goals than Leslie would if the situation were reversed. But it isn’t really a sacrifice for them. Whether it’s a position on the city council, Congress, Governor of Indiana, or President of the United States, Leslie and Ben are a team and they both get to enjoy the ride together.

This, of course, only scratches the surface of Parks and Recreation‘s legacy on television. Hopefully it’s the beginning of greater things for Agent Carter. Either way, we’ve been fortunate enough to let women like Peggy Carter and Leslie Knope into our homes. Their mark on us is what counts and if I were to venture a guess, I’m pretty sure there are going to be more girls and boys striving to be like Leslie and Peggy in the future.