The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, March 15, 2010

"2012" and social images

I drove out to Chatsworth yesterday to pick up the first pressing of the HERO'S JOURNEY program, and, I'm nervous. I've dreamed of this day for three years. Creating a framework for everything I've ever learned in life that others have considered valuable...that is an hellacious responsibility, and I pray I'm up to it. I know I did the very best I could to be honest, and straight-forward, and try to present everything in the very best sequence...but the only thing that matters is: will it help people? Will it change lives? Is being honest enough? I just don't know.


Did you hear about the seven year old boy who saved his family by dialing 911? Seems there was a home invasion here in So Cal, and burglars held his parents under gunpoint. Three burglars, I believe. The kid hid in a bathroom with his little sister, and called for help. "Bring lots of cops! And bring soldiers!" The burglars smashed the door in, but found out the kid had called the cops, and fled. Wow.

1) Teach your children how to dial 911.

2) Have them do it on a land line. Cell phones won't give the emergency operator an address half as quickly as a land line.

What a great kid!


Wrote twenty-five pages on the new project over the weekend. Jason spent much of Saturday and Sunday outside playing, so I could do that. Rough draft, and I'll go over it today. If it's as good as I hope, it will probably go off to my agent tomorrow. Yea!


It wouldn't have been possible to write that much if I gave a damn what the first draft looks like. Harlan Ellison publishes his first drafts. Anne Rice says she does the same thing. Good for them. I'm a mere mortal, and need to polish.


I had a kinda sad conversation with a guy with strong political beliefs recently. Because my problem was with his thinking, not his politics, I'm not going to specify his party or orientation. Let's just say that he had very strong opinions, that the "other party" is responsible for all that is wrong in America, that they are lying about their intents and motivations. That all politicians are not only liars but thieves, and that certain unnamed social institutions are totally corrupt and "everybody knows it." Multiple times, he said that there were certain premises upon which his opinions were based that were self-evident truths. The problem was that whenever I pressed him for the basis of his beliefs, it was clear that it was mostly faith. Mostly just...he believed it because it felt true. He was, when it came right down to it, a text-book example of my sense that the real core difference between Liberals and Conservatives is the Nurture-Nature split. Beliefs, deeply held, without a real way to resolve it. And the sad thing was that he thought his concepts were crystal-clear, black and white.

It really is sad. But I'd guess that a huge honking percentage of people strongly politicized along party, gender, or racial lines are exactly the same. I really am astonished that politicians, of whatever level of ethics, morals, skill, or intent, manage to get much of anything done when you look at how easy it is for people to mistake their beliefs for solid fact. Not that we don't have the right to believe what we want...but assuming that what we believe is self-evident truth leads to the sense that if someone disagrees with us, they MUST be either fools or knaves. The instant someone starts talking that way, whether they are Liberal or Conservative, male or female, black or white...part of my head automatically turns them off, and I assume they are just expressing their damage. By the way: that's not a fact, it's just a belief.


Re-watching "2012" and I have to admit it is the most fun I've had watching a disaster movie since "Independence Day." Maybe it's because there is a mix of spectacle with just enough human drama to make me think "Dear God!" instead of "Nice CGI." Maybe it's the humor. Or maybe its the multicultural aspect...the lack of which made movies like "When Worlds Collide" exercises in genocide. I don't know, but there were shots of destruction that Irwin Allen would have sold his testes for. Back when I was a kid, I loved SF so much, even though it was very clear it did not love me. And I had to bury my sense of exclusion, degradation or destruction, so that I could enjoy the spectacle, or get the sense of being the hero. Of course, in order to identify with the hero, I had to develop an odd kind of split-personality along racial lines. "Sacrificing my melanin on the altar of my testosterone" is the way I put it once.

I remember women complaining that in too many of these films, the female characters were just there to be rescued, or as sex objects. That was wrong. And when I saw "Silence of the Lambs" and "Aliens" the sense I had was that this problem was being rectified, and about time. I leaned over to Toni, my wife at the time, and told her that I was really, seriously happy for her, that the image systems were shifting in this regard. There is still a ways to go, of course--there will never be parity in terms of these action roles, because as feminists point out, women aren't as aggressive as males, meaning there won't be as much of a wish-fulfillment audience for aggressive roles. But I'm seriously glad that my daughter got to see Trinity kicking butt in "The Matrix." Can't help but feel that is a very healthy have the option to express a wide range of emotions and actions, from nurturance to violence, is to be fully human. To be confined to a role by others...not so much.

That was perhaps a flaw in both "ID4" and "2012"--a lack of dynamic roles for women. Except for Will Smith's girlfriend engineering her own survival and rescuing a few people, women were back in their more traditional roles as sex objects or people to be rescued.

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