Jenn Gott

Word Wrangler and Professional Daydreamer

Category: Personal

Wonder Woman of My Heart

Turns out that I was not, in fact, prepared to watch a solid, female-led superhero movie as a woman.

When I was growing up, I didn’t give much (if any) thought to sexism.

This was my privilege, as a child of the 1980s. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the women who came before, all of the battles appeared to already be fought. Look: there was nothing, as a child, that my brother could do that I couldn’t. Look: my parents were both dual computer science/math majors in college. (Look: both of my parents had gone to college.) Look: I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and none of the answers felt like they were off-limits to me. Look: I played with both Legos and Barbies, and so did my brother. Look: I was not raised to feel like I had to be a baby-maker when I grew up.

What was this “sexism”, I wondered, from my idyllic life? What were people complaining about? Surely that was a thing of the past.

When I was growing up, I didn’t notice the lack of female representation in popular media.

Was it just the books and movies that I consumed as a child? I still haven’t figured it entirely out. I hear other women my age complaining about it bitterly, the deep lack of admirable women and girls in the media of our youth. They aren’t wrong, but this is only something that I notice in hindsight. At the time, I was too busy inventing my own girl characters, and putting them in my head-canons without stopping to think about why.

As a woman, and a nerd, I’m acclimated to movies where my gender is reduced. Though I notice it now, though it bothers me now, I still can’t let it bother me too much, if I have any hope of enjoying the kind of movies that I enjoy. I give rave reviews to blockbusters that have one female character, and her primary role is to inspire the male heroes. I deconstruct them later, I discuss their problems later, but I put all of that aside while I am watching it. I get swept up in the powerful storylines, the epic music, the explosive fight scenes. I leave the theater feeling pumped.

You have to. You don’t even think about it.

Enter Rey from Star Wars. Enter the female Ghostbusters. Enter Supergirl on the CW.

And I thought, okay, so I am finally getting some representation, and it’s (mostly) awesome. I’m used to this, by now, this is a good trend. My life is still privileged enough that everyday sexism doesn’t really do more than brush the edges. I was fully prepared to love a summer blockbuster about a female superhero, directed by a woman.

I did not know that I needed it.

And then I saw Wonder Woman.

And then I was sitting in the theater, and a young Diana was running through the sunny haven of Paradise Island, watching the grown-up Amazonians. And then I realized that this whole movie was made for me, that this larger-than-life hero was made for me, that I was not going to be asked to take a backseat in my enjoyment, and that’s when I started crying.

I cried my way through every important scene, and grinned through the rest. And when the movie was over and I stepped from the darkened theater into the bright light of day, I did not have the same giddy euphoria that superheroes usually give me. I was not pounding my fist in the air and skipping across the parking lot. I got into my car, and I fought not to cry some more.

I’m still crying, when I think about it too much.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave the name of my books to a man I know at work. The Private Life of Jane Maxwell, he read. He knew my newest was about superheroes. “So it’s about a woman?” “Yes.”

All of my books are about women. I’ve never considered anything else.

This is why.

I’m still too raw from the movie to fully process what I’ve watched. I do know that I love it beyond words, though I also know that I cannot, in good conscience, rave about it without also leveling one major criticism. Can we set aside the joy for just one moment, to discuss the horrible implications of having someone with a physical disfigurement represent all that is bad and unworthy about humanity? It’s a problematic theme throughout the whole movie, and it comes to a head in the climax with a truly unforgivable moment. I am not going to spoil it, but I will say this: Patty Jenkins, you made a better movie than this. Such a message has no place inside of an otherwise exceptional blockbuster. Especially for the story of a character like Wonder Woman, who is supposed to be about love and a better way of living.

I’m lucky, that I am able-bodied and have the privilege of setting that aside to enjoy the rest of the movie. Because I can only imagine a disabled woman, crying at the sight of young Diana on Paradise Island, only to be slapped in the face a handful of scenes later.

You can do better. We can do better.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta, would want us to do better.

Dear March 2017, Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

So here’s the thing: March was a disaster of a month for me. Between a family member being in the hospital and the crappiest weather possible and car repairs and a thousand little headaches, these past 31 days have taken 31 years. Which sucks even more than it should have, because JUST before this all hit the fan, I had an unexpected three-day writing binge and finished the manuscript of a new book.

I know! I hadn’t planned to finish this book for MONTHS, I’ll be honest. So the enthusiasm that I carried with me into the beginning of March was unbelievable. I was pumped up, I was in “the zone”, and I was tentatively hopeful that I could get the vast bulk of the editing done by the time April rolled around.

Oh, my naive younger self! I weep for your optimism.

But! My time under the pipe feels as if it’s waning, finally. And although I had to struggle and scrape for every last word, my book is still taking shape. And guys, it is… it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written. I’ll be making it’s own proper announcement post soon, full of excitement and cover reveals and details. For now, I’m just going to say that it’s a new work for me, a (temporary!) creative break from The Beacon Campaigns, and that it’s about superheroes. And comics. And superheroes about comics, and—

And, okay, fine. Here’s a small teaser:

Jane approached the window with caution. Night had blanketed the city. A thousand lights winked through a shifting haze of smog, muddying the familiar landscape, but it was still enough. The park, City Hall, the skyline that she’d committed to both memory and paper so many times over.

Except for one piece: a gap, like a missing tooth, in the heart of downtown. Several key buildings were just gone, leaving nothing but twisted, blackened metal that rose like skeletal trees after a wildfire. Jane touched the window, the glass chilled beneath her fingers, as she traced their lines.

“What happened?”

“Doctor Demolition happened,” Cal said. He’d come to stand just behind her, his reflection hovering beyond her shoulder. “I don’t know how to tell you this, Jane, but… you’re on a parallel world. Six months ago, Doctor Demolition developed a deadly weapon, one with the power to destroy a whole city block. We tried to stop him. We finally discovered where he was keeping it, but when we got there—”

“He’d already moved it,” Jane said. She was still staring out at the cityscape, her eyes instinctively seeking out the major landmarks. Along the edge of the gap, she spotted it. She pointed, her finger pressed against the glass. “To there: the top of Mercury Tower.”

It wasn’t much of a tower anymore—half melted, nothing but a handful of twisted girders.

Jane sought out Cal’s eyes in the reflection. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

Cal nodded. Shock was written plain on his face. “You’re right. How did you—?”

“Because I wrote it.”

Author Check-in, January 2017

I need to acknowledge, both publicly and to myself, that I really am not good at blogging.

I know: obvious statement of the year, right? I should know this by now. I have, after all, been maintaining on-and-off web presences in various forms and on various places around the internet since the dinosaur era, when blogs were called “online journals,” and we uploaded individual entries through FTP and linked together each page by hand. Never have I been good at it.

And yet, every time I try again, I swear that I will completely revamp all of my habits, that this time I will maintain a steady schedule, that this will be the moment that I finally step into my own. Only to fail and fail again, like New-Year’s dieters who try to change their entire eating and exercise habits all at once. Instead of being reasonable with myself, and acknowledging that the only way that I have ever managed to build or change habits long-term is by taking the tiniest, most gradual steps in the right direction. Eat fewer pizza rolls in a sitting, not none. Exercise for ten minutes, not an hour. We are, by nature, fundamentally lazy creatures who do not like change—so why is it, really, that we insist that the only meaningful changes we will accept are the ones that happen overnight?

With that in mind, I am going to try to publish one blog post a month, although I will happily accept it if I manage to make one every other month. There—surely that is not so lofty a goal that I will crash into the bar I have set for myself, right? And I know that I have a history of having publicly-stated goals backfire on me, so I know that I am taking a bit of a chance here, but I also know that I hate being one of those authors that just goes completely silent on all forms of social media for months and months and months on end with no discernible reason to explain it. This post, then, is for the readers like me: I am here. I am always still here, I am always still working, even when I am neurotic and shy and my introverted need for solitude and silence stifles my public responsibility to keep my own readers informed. Also, I’m sorry about that, I know how it sucks.

So. It’s a fresh year, a fresh start. Or so they say—I approach 2017 relieved to have the past behind me, but wary for the future. Both the fourth book of the Beacon Campaigns and the promised YA-standalone are still in active production, although (I’ll be honest), calling them “active” has been a bit of a stretch lately. I’ve been struggling to be creative at all ever since the election, something that I hesitate to admit here because, as a general rule, I try to keep politics out of this space. But the impact that this has had, even just on a personal level, is very real and it’s been very difficult to work forward from there. Not to mention that my part-time job swallowed me whole throughout the holiday season, and this year I was glad to let it. I’ve wrapped myself in a protective layer just to get through the last two months, but now I am standing on the edge of a brand new year—a terrifying, sprawling, twelve-month sea of uncertainty churning before me—and I know that I need to get back to work, but I am not sure how.

I will figure it out. Eventually. But for now… I don’t know. Just keep trying, I suppose, until something works, or until the sheer amount of effort creates its own kind of momentum. In the meantime, like I said, I’m still here. And onward we go, I suppose.

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