Thursday, May 27, 2010

Everything you write is a choice

Sorry for the lack of posts! I have been crazy busy with writing, and my zillion odd jobs. I was actually working for the 2010 Census until last Saturday, and my stress nightmares have more or less subsided since I quit...yay! Send in your forms, people! Or at least be home when the poor aspiring writers knock on your door. It was actually pretty funny...as training went on, I slowly found out that every Census worker in my district was a struggling Hollywood artist of some kind.

I have been spending a lot of time writing for some new websites. Check 'em out:
Vivastic (health & wellness)
PostScholastica (education & career)
AdventureWorthy (travel)
PhysiqueSpeak (fitness)

I've also been working on rewriting the romcom I started back in Dec '08 (feature writers, prepare yourselves for the long haul!) and reworking one of my hourlong pilots as a half-hour. Additionally, I'm about 50 pages into my new comedy feature. I have this sinking feeling that people are going to read it and say "...Eh," but I'm trying to do that "shitty first drafts" thing and just get some words onto paper so I have something to work with. I do think that with each script you write, you master - or at least improve at - something different. Last time, I think I really got my head around emotional tracking and character arcs. This time I'm hoping to include some more subtlety and nuance. Crap, I shouldn't have come right out and said that.

Now that season finale season is here, I guess I'll be spending less time working through the to-do list that is my DVR. Are any of you watching VAMPIRE DIARIES? The finale was incredible. As soon as the crazy twist came out, I thought to myself, I MUST OWN THIS ON DVD. I think that's a sign of a good show, no?

So, as for the title of this post...I was talking with someone about the new pilots (which I desperately need to catch up on). He works at a studio, where all the assistants are asked to watch screenings of the pilots and rate them. A few of the women felt that one pilot was sexist because a male character swooped in at the end and saved the women (and the day). My studio friend dismissed this, saying that it was not sexism..it was "just the kind of character he is."

Now, I haven't seen whatever pilot he was talking about, so I certainly can't say if it was sexist or not...but that reasoning is a total cop-out to me. Even if saving the day was part of the character's makeup, someone CHOSE to make the character that way. All people can be weak. They can fail. They can cry. I think that showing many sides to a character is real and human and compelling. But choosing to show women being saved by men is exactly that, a choice, and we should own up to it. It's unrealistic (and unsatisfying) to write women beating up bad guys all the time, which is one of the reasons I think Tami Taylor on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is one of the best examples of a strong female character on TV. Strength can come from all kinds of things. Is sexism in the eye of the offended? I don't know...but failing to see that sexism can exist in the choices we make is disturbing to me. I think we all have to challenge ourselves to expand our view of people and characters, and realize that sexism, racism and all other kinds of -isms can seep into our writing.


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8 comments:

Marquis de Gstaad said...

Amanda,

Since you managed to do so, how about some tips on getting a manager?

Thanks,

Marquis

Ross Davidson Burlingame said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bitter Script Reader said...

Hey, welcome back! You should use Twitter to alert all of your followers when a new one of your articles goes up. I'm lazy, so I only tend to remember to check your side links once every couple of weeks.

I'm with you on VAMPIRE DIARIES. At first I only started watching because a friend worked on the show. I don't know exactly how it happened, but I got legitimately sucked in and that "HOLY SHIT" finale ensures that I'll be back next season.

I'm not sure if I've got enough information to make the call as to if it's sexist or not. Is it sexist when Stefan swoops in to save Elena - as he did many times this season - or is that balanced out by the times Elena later put her neck on the line to save him? Maybe if you just picked on one specific incident where Elena was a damsel in distress then it might appear sexist, but the larger context would probably put the lie to that.

But bear in mind you're talking to someone who sees a whole lot of sexism and misogyny in the scripts he reads, so it might not be that hard to sway me to your side if I saw the scene in question.

I agree with your larger point, though, which is that writers need to be watchful of the -isms we unintentionally allow into our work.

Good luck on the rom-com. That's the one genre that totally kicked my ass when I went to write it. I had a pretty good concept, but I was working on it with a co-writer (probably my first mistake) and every problem we solved seemed to open the door to two more.

david n said...

Hi Amanda

There's a great site for aspiring writers where you can get your work uploaded for free. It's called Lebrary.com. Worth taking a look. http://lebrary.com

Dan Williams said...

Yes, welcome back, you must have been very busy.

Yes, everything a writer rights is a choice, and it all relates to and flows from the THEME. Some genres celebrate "Male Strength" like the Bond movies. So if Bond saves the woman along with the world, it isn't sexist, I don't think. It's the genre.

Melanie Griffiths saves the guy in "Pacific Heights" but the story didn't work for me. It just wasn't how the genre works.

Women should have genres and stories that celebrate their powers and abilities: being a mom, being a goddess, being a great and loyal wife, being a great CEO, being a great superhero like Wonder Woman, being a great date and a great romantic partner, being a great wizard!

And if the guy still jumps in "to save" the woman, well, it sort of comes with the territory, it's sort of just programmmed in, and it's not meant as a slight!

Sarah Mathews said...

My goodness, you have been busy--I just scanned through the 4 links and that's a LOT of articles you've written! :-)

Do you know that I have 8 eps of Vampire Diaries in my DVR--I'm really behind. I've heard the finale is fantastic, though, so I really have to get caught up!

Sarah Mathews

purnomosidhi said...

Good sharing amanda

Jen C said...

Hi Amanda,

I was wondering if you might share how you managed to get work writing for those other sites. I'm an aspiring TV writer myself, but at the moment, I'm just trying to build any sort of writing portfolio just for the experience, and it would be great to write articles or opinion pieces for sites like those. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Jen