These are Not the Heroes You’re Looking For

You know that feeling when you’ve been putting something off for a long time, partly because you don’t want to deal with it and partly because you don’t know how to deal with it?

Insert heavy sigh here.

I read today the blog post from Joss Whedon’s ex-wife Kai Cole here – Joss Whedon Is a ‘Hypocrite Preaching Feminist Ideals,’ Ex-Wife Kai Cole Says where she explains how the Joss Whedon so many have worshipped and idolized as being a feminist is anything but. She’s confirmed for many what a lot of people have suspected for a while now, mainly that the person that fans have idolized and held up as some paragon of virtue and the person he is in his day to day life don’t add up.

It’s never easy as a fan to have to reconcile this. I don’t need to explain this to anyone who’s watched and enjoyed Firefly, Buffy, Angel, or any of the Avengers that Whedon has been central in bringing to life. Speaking for myself, its painful having enjoyed those shows & movies and having myself held up Whedon as that rare male writer of “strong female characters” to have to square these new facts about him.

It overshadows the work, taints it. Poisons it. Forces people to view it through a news lens, which can be a good thing. However, this brings me to the real reason I sat down to write this post. It’s not just Joss Whedon and his creations, that I am having a hard time reconciling my feelings about. There’s another pop culture figure that I have been guilty of fawning over in the past – namely Johnny Depp.

You can read my unabashed love letter to the actor  from January 2013 here – Welcome to a Year of Living Depp-erously where I laid out my ambitious plan to commemorate his 50th birthday and 30th year of acting in film by reviewing all of his movies. It sounded like a fun idea at the time. I managed to review only about 26 of his films (over a 3 year period) before I lost steam, distracted by life and my own creative pursuits.

I kept meaning to go back to it. To start it up again. To build this tribute to the actor I admired, but along the way something happened. Johnny Depp stopped being a fantastic chameleon of an actor that I admired and became a real person with some serious issues. Accusations of violence and domestic abuse related to him and his relationship with Amber Heard were all over the press as their relationship ended in divorce.

Part of me wanted to pull the plug on my tribute. Wipe the entries from the web. Distance myself from this version of a person I couldn’t reconcile with the person I was raving about on the screen. But as I said about Joss Whedon and his creations, there suddenly becomes something else about them know that you have this knowledge of the person and what they believe in. How they treat other people. You can’t disassociate that knowledge from their work. I can’t. I am sure some people can and do. It’s probably the only reason people like Depp and Woody Allen have careers still.

So in the case of my online tribute, I ignored it. It seemed simpler to wait and decide what to do with it. I was sure I was done reviewing any more of his films and blogging about it. But do I tear down the posts I have made? Try to erase it? It’s not as if I was trying to pretend they didn’t exist. I am sure anyone in this day and age that knows their way around Google and TheWayBackMachine could scrape up copies of them without any effort. I simply avoided doing anything about to avoid having to make up my mind about how I felt about Johnny Depp as a person.

Kai Cole’s post today about her relationship with Joss Whedon was the tipping point for me. I realized that I had been avoiding reconciling my previous worship of Depp as an actor ever since the news of his violence and abuse surfaced.

For the time being I am choosing to leave my earlier reviews of Depp’s movies up. I won’t be reviewing any more of his films in the context of this Tribute. I can’t fault myself for enjoying his work when I was oblivious to who he is as a person. Now that I’ve seen who he is and how he treats people, I can’t continue to blindly laud him.

I am certain that my opinion on this matters little to either Joss Whedon or Johnny Depp’s bottom line or whether or not they can sleep at night, but that’s not the point. The point is that we, the public need to stop elevating celebrities to such heights and realize that they are human. We also need to believe victims of abuse and violence when they tell us what is going on. We need to stop defending these people just because we don’t want to reconcile our love of their work, with the flawed and messed up people they may be in real life.

Thanks for listening to that rant. I return you to your previously scheduled ramblings from this website.


2016 Reading List Roundup

Traditionally, most people write up their year end reading summaries at – well – year end. That would be the logical time to do them, if you were motivated and say – organized. Both things I sometimes struggle with when it comes to writing for my website.

I do have a decent record of what books I read last year thanks to Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge. What I wanted to do this year as part of my review was compile a bit of a scorecard/snapshot of my reading habits, more for my own sake than any sort of public deceleration of “Oooh look at my reading list!” But since this is where I keep my personal record of these things, I am going to make it public.

Here’s a collage of the 24 book covers that I read, pretty much in order that I read them.

When I say read, I often mean listened to on audiobook. Since 2015 I have been listening to audiobooks on my daily commute which amounts to about 45-60 minutes a day. If a book is really good, I will listen to it around the house as well when doing chores or walking the dog, but I usually reserve that time for catching up on podcasts.

So I took a look at the 24 books above and started to compile some numbers around them and was a bit surprised by what I found versus what I thought the numbers would say.

Obviously the numbers that didn’t surprise me were the total number of books I read or that the majority were audiobooks.

I was a bit surprised by the 54% of the authors being female. I did make a conscious decision to try to include more women authors in my reading this year, but wasn’t keeping track as I did it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to hit a 50/50 split, but was pleasantly surprised when the numbers showed up just over half were women authors.

Again although I didn’t set out to read new authors exclusively, I did challenge myself to try new authors instead of reaching for the comfort of familiar voices. There is so much new books being published it wasn’t hard to find titles that I wanted to check out by authors that were new to me. I thought maybe I would achieve 50-60% new authors, but when I looked at the end, it was nearly 80% new authors. Only, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood, Chuck Wendig, and Terry Pratchett were authors I had read before. All the rest were first time authors for me. Granted, many of the authors I read I was aware of for a while, but had just not gotten around to reading anything by them – Neal Stephenson and Kameron Hurley for example.

Genre breakdown is a bit subjective since a lot of things straddle the line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I went based on both my gut feel for the book as well as when in doubt I looked up to see how the majority of people on Goodreads had shelved a book. In broad terms I read almost half (11 books) in Science Fiction, 8 books or 33% in Fantasy, and the remaining 5 were non-fiction. In the non-fiction side of things 2 of the 5 titles were books about writing (Take Off Your Pants, and Rock Your Plot), 1 was a biography (Elon Musk), and 2 were essay/critical non-fiction (Geek Feminist Revolution, and Time Travel: A History). Not a bad spread.

There’s an ongoing criticism that literature in general is biased toward DWG (Dead White Guys) usually European males and I thought I would take a look at my own reading in SF&F. As it turns out 1/6th of my reading, Pratchett, Dick, Vonnegut, and Pohl, all fell into the category of DWG.

One number that I was a bit surprised about was the number of books I read this year that were somehow part of a series.More than half of the books (13 out of 24) were connected to a series. I didn’t tend to think I read a lot of series, but this year seemed to prove me wrong.

Also surprising to me was that more than 60% of the books I read/listened to this year were published in the last 2 years (2015-2016) and 79% were published since 2012. Only 5 were from pre-2000 and then they were spread out from 1969 through to 1993.

I also started introducing my kids to some of the audio books I was listening to. It started innocently enough when my son and I started listening to Frederik Pohl’s Gateway on our way to his practices. After that I decided to introduce both my son and daughter to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series via Mort. In 2016 it was only 2 books that I shared with them on audio, but I suspect that number to more than double for 2017.

Finally I took a look at the number of author’s that were POC. Again, I didn’t go out of my way to pick a novel based on this, but I was trying to read stories with different perspectives, so I hoped my year end totals would reflect this. For 2016 only 1/8th of the books I read were by people of colour.

So all in all I think it was very successful year for me on the reading front. This didn’t include the comics I read through out the year. I generally only count them if they are part of a graphic novel (Angel Catbird by Atwood for example) and not single issues.

I already set my goal for 2017 higher at 30 books up 6 from 2016’s 24 and as of this month, I am well on my way to meeting that target. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any trends from year to year for me.