When an Adaptation is Just an Adaption

“Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out” ― Martin Scorsese.png

I love comic books, movies, anime and manga but I am a writer first. And as a writer, I’m always curious about what says as sacred canon and what gets changed in the process of taking something from page to film or to stage. Let’s talk about adaptations: when a cut’s right and when it ruins the entire soup.

When I was a young lass in the early days of anime serialization and broadcasting, I picked up Fullmetal Alchemist as an anime. I immediately fell in love with the characters, music and animation and have called it one of my favorites of all time on more than one occasion.. So like the good girl I was, I picked up the manga. Now, many of you may know that the anime and the manga split off dramatically from Funimation’s cut of the anime due to a rush to finish the anime and well, money. The anime broke off from the manga around volume 7. I continued with the anime and fell off with the manga because buying manga was out of the question and anime was (mostly) free and I could catch up weekly on Adult Swim. The anime’s narrative of two brothers determined to fix a mortal wrong and its relative low amount of romance and high amount of drama and science/magic was perfect for me. By the time I got the manga after the place it split: I was crestfallen. The manga more heavily focused on building up relationships and took the focus away from Edward and Alphonse and made it about literally everyone else and thus the anime adaption of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood also followed the manga’s journey to the letter. But, from fans, I get a lot of criticism for saying I prefer Funimation’s run of the original anime more than the one done by the creator of the work.

Let’s take an opposite approach to this but we’ll switch it up with comic books. Captain America: Civil War was a very popular Marvel movie. It was also a mostly offensive fanfiction that absolutely neutered the ethos, paranoia and allegories to real social and sociopolitical events in the Civil War I and II. I loved the mystery, complex morals and ambiguous questions in the first Civil War comic series and I loathed the fact that the movie chose to make the central conflict two grown men fighting over the affection and attention of another grown man. But many saw the movie as a more than acceptable part of the MCU while more than one comic book fan found themselves disappointed and angered by the choices to take down one of the most powerful storylines in Marvel history.

But let’s be honest, plenty of things that happen in books, comics and manga just…cannot be brought to the big or little screen. Let’s take a hot button issue to task: whitewashing and when it’s not actually an issue of whitewashing. Dr. Strange is another comic book and now popular movie that was written…well, in a different time. The titular character actually morphed into an “Oriental” man in the earliest run of the comic. So when the movie came out, there was a lot of criticism over the changes made in adapting from a psychedelic orientalism-centric comic book to a modern cinematic creative venture. The biggest criticism in Dr.Strange was the casting of Tilda Swinton as “The Ancient One”. Now, for those of you who have not read a comic book, The Ancient One was…made in a different time. He’s a grand Tibetan magic man with a long stereotypical moustache and speaks in a way that is…well, offensive. So the casting of Swinton and adjusting her version of The Ancient One to a Celtic magic user or great power, it actually made more sense. It wasn’t an issue of whitewashing: if the original version of The Ancient One had run, good heavens, I think that would be even more offensive. Real whitewashing comes in the form of choosing to cast American actors when there are viable options for actors of a certain race are available. Take the movie Aloha. That movie is set in Hawaii, films in Hawaii and has many characters that are said to be half-Asian. There is not a single native Hawaiian, Asian or Asian-American actor or actress in the movie. The main character is said to be half-Asian, and I can assure you, she is not. I’ve been to Hawaii, and it does not look lily white like Aloha would like moviegoers to believe. An issue of whitewashing that also took the world by storm was Iron Fist. The comic book turned Netflix series received lots of backlash over being whitewashed but while being influenced by the magical Orientalism of the 60s, the main character (or at least the main continuity’s character) has been a white man since the comic’s inception.

Censorship is another common influence when it comes to losing something in an adaptation. Gravitation is probably one of my favorite manga. It has an anime. An anime fangirls don’t like to talk about because of terrible 90s American dubbing, weird animation and clothing including shoulder pads oh and the fact that the anime completely makes a straw man out of the main issues of the manga. The themes of sexual abuse, trauma, time, mortality and mental illness are downplayed because frankly, it’s difficult to read sometimes. The panels of Yuki Eiri saying he wanted nothing more than to be as dead as his sensei are painful but when you remove all the trauma and hurt and darkness: you’re left with a saccharine sweet series that was never meant to be. It also turns complex characters into hollow shells: Yuki’s just a jerk when you don’t know all of the past events that made him the man he was. Ryuichi is just an odd fellow when you write out that he battles with mental illness and is strictly under Tohma’s control. It doesn’t rationalize or take away how awful these characters can be but it certainly helps frame the series a little better. You don’t forgive Yuki for being emotionally abusive but you can at least get what made this man the way he is.

Speaking of censorship. Should we adapt scenes that make us uncomfortable? Watchmen is a brilliantly nuanced graphic novel about what it means to be human, free will and what it really means to be a hero. The movie of the same title directed by someone I don’t want to give much credit to deals with a few of the same themes…just differently. But Watchmen has more than one uncomfortable scene that’s lifted from the pages of the graphic novel. Out of all the things that were cut because reasons: why keep the ultra-violence or almost rape scene? Why keep all of that in? I think the vitriol around those scenes was that it didn’t add anything to the narrative of the movie. It added a lot to the graphic novel and built tension, characters and helped cement storylines. While on the other hand Teen Titans: Judas Contract’s animated movie to a rather uncomfortable scene from the comics, updated it and through its clever adaptation added something that satisfied comic book fans who were aware of the scene in question while simultaneously not totally unnerving the lay comic book fan who has seen lots of comic book movies without touching a lot of actual comic books.

So when is an adaptation just an adaptation? There are plenty of movies I can say are good fun even if they violently ignore the original source material. The Spirit is a fantastically fun movie even if it looks and sounds nothing like the original comics. Grendel is one of my favorite novels (probably says a lot about me) and it couldn’t give two hoots about its original source material. Sweeney Todd was fantastically reimagined by Tim Burton and it actually made the source material dare I say, better. I think the issue is when something is lost in adapting from page to film. When Civil War was neutered for the sake of shoehorning in a subplot about how Tony Stark is secretly jealous that Steve Rogers is spending more time with his lifelong best friend. When the ethos of the source material is cut because movie directors and studios assume it won’t make money, that’s when adaptation is sick and terrible and makes me so so very angry.

So what’s your favorite adaptation? Did I leave anything out? Comment below!

A Song of Sorrow and Sadness

-I never thoughtI'd Die AloneI laughed the loudestWho'd've known.png

This post is going to be difficult. This one’s going to be personal. It’ll be a bit controversial and it’s going to get into territory that no one likes talking about. I apologize in advance for offending anyone and that is never my goal and I’ll link some proper resources below on how to better deal with some of the topics brought up in this post.

So let’s get down to it. Let’s talk about mental illness, emo music and when a song is more than just an anthem.

It actually started innocently enough, I was listening to Camisado by Panic! At the Disco more recently than a young professional should be and I was very struck by the point and premise of the song:

Can’t take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid.

What a horrifying image of parents removing the will and spirit of their ‘spirited’ child through the use of power medications and repressive therapies. But there’s some context to this narrative the song is trying to lay out. By the time a person is sent to a medical treatment facility for mental illness, the individual is already a danger to themselves or to others. And while there are likely parents who are absolutely exasperated by their unruly teenagers, there is no sane parent out there who views medication and medical treatment facilities as a means to simply control their children. Not to say it never happens, but it is far from the status quo.

There’s an interesting concept that being young means being fraught with anxiety, depression and mental illness. There’s an idea that high school is somewhat synonymous with depression and concerns about boys, girls, image and status.

But is that really the case? Now, there’s plenty of research on the fact that SSRIs (the standard for anti-depressants) aren’t always great for teens and that oftentimes the best way to help a teen who deals with anxiety, depression and dark thoughts is to just listen to them. But in lieu of being listened to, Brendon Urie is sympathetic enough in a pinch. But really, therapy and strong friend bonds and a nurturing home life are the best medicines but those aren’t always guaranteed in a home. And truthfully not enough parents and guardians are attentive to the needs of their moody teens. I know many times I found more comfort from Brendon Urie than I never did from my aunts. And while it felt good in the moment to commiserate with Tom Delonge and Gerard Way they don’t replace counseling, meditation, prayer and oftentimes: medication to help ease the burden of depressive symptoms.

I also take great issue with that era of emo punk’s glorification of self-harm and suicide. It was a topic that made so many parents and psychologists uncomfortable that for a time, I wasn’t even allowed to listen to that. It didn’t stop me. I still absorbed a great deal of that culture but always felt conflicted about anything that made suicide sound like a noble effort.

Being raised Catholic, suicide was the worst possible thing. If you take your own life, some Catholic cemeteries will not even let your body rest on their grounds for fear of tainting the rest of those asleep with Christ who died due to other reasons. But the idea of the suffering artist didn’t start in the mid 2000s. People have long since assumed that to be creative, you must be ill and many artists (too many) will go off medication to finish a novel or start abusing illicit substances to complete an album. And we tend to collectively glorify the artists who died young and by their own hands. My own blog header is based on a Sylvia Plath poem and she famously committed suicide after struggling with bipolar disorder for most of her life. And many have began to question if we remember her because she was genuinely a great writer or because of her well-documented descent and struggle with mental illness. I choose to see her as a great artist and I do my best to balance that she was also a sick woman. I lament that she didn’t live longer and regret that we didn’t get to see more from her. And as a young teen, while listening to Simple Plan, I also thought heavily on Ophelia: every angsty teen girl’s idol. Ophelia killed herself in Hamlet because she couldn’t have the man she wanted or the life she wanted. And while fueled by Helena and strawberry pocky, the idea that simply languishing in sadness didn’t seem so bad as an emotional teen.

And what’s strange is that it really seems to be just this era of emo punk. I can’t say that these songs were any more or less emotional than let’s say Haru no Katami or even BlueSo what was lost in translation between In the End and SakurabitoAnd even more modern hits from these bands are still just as emotional without the glorification of self-harm and death. Panic!At the Disco is an amazing example of watching a band grow from the halcyon days of I Write Sins Not Tragedies to more mature swoon-like swing of Death of a Bachelor without losing any of the emotion, sentiment or catharsis that comes from song.

And despite the melodramatic leanings of my youth: there is one thing that I know now for sure. There is nothing glamorous in suicide. There is no beauty in a life ended too soon. There is nothing glorious about choosing to end life. I have lost people to suicide in my life and I can confidently say the only product of suicide is grief, misery, regret and the immense loss of potential and promise. The specter of Death and Grief haunt families and those who have suffered a loss at the very hand of those they interred are doubly then haunted by that same Revenant.

There is nothing spectacular about ignoring medication for creative endeavors. There is nothing artistic about choosing to suffer. I cannot tell you how many of my friends and those closest to me used these anthems instead of therapy. Used them to rationalize anxiety and make light of depression. Used them to make seductive talk of ending life and just how wonderful it would be if we could all just disappear. We were foolish kids who were looking for an escape. And many of us that continued on into adulthood did grow up to be more well-adjusted or at least to find better coping mechanisms for serious emotional concerns.

And if I could go back, I’d at very least tell a younger version of myself all of those things. I would never tell teenage Amanda to stop listening to songs like Promise and Violence. But I would tell her to frame those emotions better. I would tell her that she really wasn’t alone. That her emotions were valid. That her feelings were important. I would let her take solace in the comfort of musicians but also encourage her and her friends to seek actual and real help. I would ask her to keep on writing and working on costumes and do things that actually, physically helped her feel more secure in her insecure world. But I could never take back the feeling of someone understanding me, even if it was a celebrity who shared that emotional blankness like a cheap call girl. I would never want to take back the fact that I felt accepted and understood. I would never say to stop punking or to give up. I’d say to hold on and to let the music flow: just with a little more maturity and emotional temperance.

Resources:

There are plenty of valid and legitimate resources for those struggling with mental illness and depression. Here are just a few of them on top of the countless hotlines and call services you can use to get real help.

Depression.

Bipolar Disorder.

Anxiety.

Support for teens.

Support for adults.

 

Just remember, no matter who you are, that you are never alone. Music can help heal some wounds and community almost always eases the pain. You aren’t alone. I’m here for you.

 

 

 

 

Why I Still Love “Rent”

I can't control my destinyI trust my soul, my only goalIs just to be.pngI have a complicated love affair with the musical Rent. It’s one part a wonderful romp through complex social and political issues with fantastic uses of music, rhyme, rhythm and harmony. On the other hand, it’s also a shallow and socially insensitive stage show using outdated terms and phrasing to illustrate the complicated AIDS crisis with the minimal amount of effort and using horribly unrelatable characters to float such a powerful message by. As an LGBT-affiliated creative and mostly just musical angsty teenage: Rent was perfect for me during my rebellious teen years. It brought together artists, creatives, people who were on the fringes of society and made their lives and struggles not just relatable but also glorified them. Never in more recent memory has a woman addicted to crack been so deified as a saintly woman under the thumb of vile cruel addiction. The musical was a little before my time, but the movie, oh the movie; that was part of my consciousness as a teen and I loved it. My friends loved it. We did line readings and performances in school and we had nearly the entire discography memorized from Seasons of Love to La Vie Boheme. Now, the movie has problems, but so does the musical and I’m not here to defend either one. What I am here to do is talk about why even though the musical is divisive I choose to still love Rent.

Amber and I recently saw Rent live at the Majestic: a 20th anniversary show bringing together as many of the original cast members as possible. It was the closest we’d ever come to seeing the show on opening night. I came into the performance with mixed feelings. A few videos online brought up some serious issues with the musical and movie and their valid points began to shade some of the nostalgia I had for the musical. One commented on how little the characters in the musical/movie actually do to help any of their respective conditions or situations and the other takes serious issue with the editing, framing and how writing and camera work make some characters look like saints while others sinners despite what the script and logic dictate. They made points I couldn’t argue against and seeing the show live actually only deepened some of those feelings of indignation from the standpoint of the audience. I’ve lost family members to the AIDS crisis and being creative, LGBT leaning and of color only made my blood pressure rise when it came to the serious failings in the telling of actual compelling stories in place of pop culture references that were dated even for opening night 20 years ago and characters with motivations are paper thin as a play bill.

The musical makes even more of the storytelling issues in Rent forward. Mimi has almost no agency and it at the hands of an evil and shadowy omnipresent drug dealer. Roger’s emotional and moody and seems to have no validation for his feelings and no one seems to realize that he has very valid feelings and is often the most right in situations. Angel is the purest martyr form of the word. And Mark, oh sweet Mark, has almost no issues of his own but continues to revel in misery and commiseration with all of those around him with real and actual problems. Maureen continues to perpetuate stereotypes about bisexuality that still haunt the LGBT community and Mimi is less a young lady with addiction problems as she is a saintly woman who no agency and is just a product of her difficult life and circumstances. No one tries to better themselves. No one tries to get out of their situations. And the ones that do are vilified for not living in the moment.

And while we’re on the topic of “not living in the moment”: let’s talk about No Day But Today. This is an example cited in both videos as an utter failure of visual storytelling and it’s no different in the musical. Roger, who does not want to go out with Mimi, is framed via lighting and refrain as the dark one in the scene. He’s the miserly bad guy who is trying to put out Mimi’s damn candle. Mimi is a known drug user and stripper who engages in risky behavior to say the least. This risky behavior took the life of Roger’s girlfriend ,April, and is the reason that he is now living with AIDS. But Mimi; she’s framed as fun, light and bright. She just wants him to live for today. She wants him to do drugs with her in an alley and engage in risky behaviors that I won’t list because I think my family still reads this humble little blog. And to her side come the rest of the cast and try to coax Roger from his ivory tower of self-isolation. When did he become the bad guy? When did wanting to stay inside and stay sober and not sleep with a stripper become criteria for villainy? Because if that’s the case, then I might as well be a Dick Dasterdly-level bad guy. 

By now, you may be asking where the defending part’s gonna come in. We’re getting there and I haven’t even covered the wax philosophic of the social “commentary” on the nature of the struggling artist and capitalizing on poverty while simultaneously capitalizing on poverty.

Now, despite all the issues that I listed and could probably go on about for more: I do still love the musical and movie Rent.

I still believe in the idea of what Rent is trying to say. That a year can be so much time and yet so little in the grand scheme of things. That friends can form into families and be more supportive than the guardians or parents we were sometimes born into. I believe in the idea that being an artist and creative is one of the best ways to help ease the pain of a difficult life. I still believe in the message that life itself is hard: everything is rent. I still admire the things Rent was trying to do. To try to bring to light how serious the AIDS crisis was and in places still is. That it tried to further the ties that bind: community, art, love and life.

And that’s the legacy of Rent. Community. I was able to see this musical with a friend and leave singing and dancing to the songs long after they had finished. My friends have read this piece forwards and backwards and if you started us off on Today 4 U, we’d certainly finish it. Will I became my rosary, my meditation and those serious questions about legacy, mortality and what people will think of my life and my choices helped me cope with the complicated emotions I had as a teen. Community brought us together and it was the power of community helped overcome some of the obstacles that perpetuated the AIDS crisis in America.

So while Rent has its problems, I can’t help but love the musical and the movie. The movie does give Mimi back some of her agency as opposed to the nearly magical drug dealer that seems to stalk her and it makes Angel an even more sympathetic and tragic character. Collins is great in any version (except for the part about stealing in some strange cyber-Robin Hood bit). Benny’s a more one-sided bad guy in the musical and in the movie he’s actually just sort of…right (he’s just a businessman who rather likes having a roof over his head and likes expensive food: there’s nothing wrong with that) so that makes him more relatable in the movie vs. the musical.  

So if you’ve never seen Rent, I can’t force it on you. It’s an acquired taste. It’s the musical theater fan’s musical. If you have seen it and think it’s the best depiction of anything ever then there’s lots of blog posts I have to point in your direction. If you think Rent like most things has a complicated legacy and did its best with what it had during the time since it first ran and is really when you think about it just a musical? Then you’re on the right track.

Always Self-Improve(Edit)

If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me. Dwight L. MoodyRead more at- https-%2F%2Fwww.brainyquote.com%2Fquotes%2Fkeywords%2Freputation.html.png

I like to think of myself as a liberal, outgoing extroverted person. And none of those things are false but in other aspects of my life I am a remarkable Southern Belle. I am concerned about my image, my reputation and what people see when they see, well, me. What started this line of inquiry? Actually, a video of Alyssa Edwards: a Southern drag queen after my own heart. She was on a panel with a fellow drag queen, Katya and they were of course having a grand kiki. And all throughout the panel Alyssa would said “Edit that out.” she said that multiple times to her assistant and even in her show Alyssa’s Secret she is constantly asking for unflattering things of her to be edited and removed from the show. Now, I never really cared for Alyssa Edwards and I realize now that maybe it’s because she’s a bit of a kindred spirit. So that being said, let’s discuss self-editing, censorship and what it means to put your best face forward.

For those of you who don’t know, on the weekends I’m a panelist, podcaster and writer. During the week, however, I’m a social media manager and copywriter in a rather sensitive and at times very conservative industry. And while seldom do my two selves meet, there are moments of brief intersection where my personal life and professional life clash. Because I’m a career-woman, of course, I am worried about what my co-workers, clients, potential clients and supervisors think of me. Being Southern means being aware of one’s status and standing and those things can make or break an individual. I’m quick to rather not have something online for fear of my boss or family see a joke and not understand the context. I avoid making grand political statements lest I cause a flame war in the comment section of my Facebook page. Additionally, I tend to avoid serious discussions about my personal life anywhere but, well, inside my personal life.

So while outwardly I appear outgoing and open, I in fact can be rather quiet and shut off. What causes this separation? To me, there’s always been a very fine line between you and what other people see as you. Think of it like the ego and the id. You want to show off the ego and the id remains quietly tucked in the back of your mind until you get home. I’m very calculating with my words, I always seem to know what to say. I’m empathetic and can read situations easily. Because of course, you’d measure your response against what everyone else around you is saying. To me that’s common sense. To others, that’s disingenuous of even phony (yes, those are things I’ve been called).

To the people who have called me phony, they think I should say exactly what comes to mind all the time. I should be honest about how I feel about everything. But why would I? To me, that’s just reckless. If I’m in conversation with someone and I am distracted by their questionable choice to blend a paisley with a plaid I shouldn’t just blurt out “Wow, that outfit looks awful.” that isn’t disingenuous, it’s just polite. What sort of sophomoric id of a creature would I be if I just outwardly said everything that comes to mind. I should measure my responses. I should read a room. I should feel out a speaking partner. Those aren’t things to subjectively decide to do or not: those choices make and break careers, relationships and lives. If holding my tongue or giving a diplomatic answer keeps those around me happy and content then I think that’s a better solution than just blatantly saying every little thing that crosses my at times racing mind.

Let’s take on another example: social media. Now, I’m a social media manager by day and digital native and person with opinions by night. I’ve always proudly said that I don’t post anything on Facebook that I’m not ashamed of my family seeing. And that is for the most part true. I don’t share anything that my family, extended family, coworkers or close friends wouldn’t understand or approve of. And for a while, sure, that did mean a lot of self-editing. I kept away all of my emo song lyrics. Concerns about relationships and friendships were shelved and I kept talk of politics far far away. I hid those feelings on other websites and social networks and mostly kept a neat and clean social front door: I did want a job and to keep my Catholic family happy. To me that was never a negative. My Yankee family didn’t need to know that I was having problems with the 2nd or 3rd mostly nameless boyfriend. My aunts didn’t need to know that I was secretly way too early to class after falling face first in front of the bell tower at school. And as someone who does social media professionally, I am doubly aware of the importance of keeping the social media front door clean, tidy and free of suspicious posts.

Now, I’ve been able to relax a little. I’m lucky that conservative industry aside, I am still an advertising girl; that means I get to have a lot of personality and fun online. My aunts and the rest of my family understand that comic books, cosplay and music from Japan are just parts of my life and they only ask a few questions about why I named my sewing machine. But I still for the most part do my best to edit myself. Why do you guys think I didn’t start putting panel videos up until now? And I’ve left podcasts, quit shows and projects and everything because I am worried about my image. And when my friend whose podcast I left said “You’re too worried about your image!” I immediately responded: “Why aren’t you more worried about your image?” But that also means I’ve tabled projects because of what others have said. I tend to be a pretty good girl online but all it takes is one out of context soundbite from a friend and here I am guilty by association. And I respect my friends and their desire to not be censored. I’ll never hold back a friend from saying something: but that doesn’t mean I have to post it to all my social media channels.

There’s a certain Southern knack for self-editing and I think in moderation, it’s a needed part of social interaction. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t express myself. If any of you know me, I tend to be very candid about how I feel: just in other places or in person. I write as a wish, I blog, I do what I want and in moderation accept the slings and arrows of those who find my views controversial, strange or ridiculous. Let me know in the comments how you all feel about self-censorship and how far that power should extend to others.

Reach for the Troposphere

 

-Ambition is but avarice on stilts, and masked.-Walter Savage Landor.png

It all started with a Disney movie and a now infamous toast. During dinner with a friend at Red Lobster after a year particularly filled with death my friend and I were greeted by a far too eager waiter. He asked us what we were celebrating as I was already elbow-deep into a glass of Moscato and we simply raised our glasses as I proclaimed: “We’re the ones that lived.”. In that simple statement, we had achieved something other than just horrifying a Red Lobster waiter that so many in our lives didn’t: we survived. We had made it to another day and instead of buckling under the pressure and weight of grief and sadness, we stood there triumphant ready to gorge on cheddar bay biscuits and overpriced bottles of cheap white wine. So with that being said: let’s talk about feminism, ambition and what it means to succeed.

I grew up as a Disney kid and ergo had for the most part Disney morals. I looked up to Ariel, Jasmine and Esmeralda (for better or worse).  And to say that those films weren’t formative to me is a bit of an oversight. I absolutely remember them being important to me but not in a way that later on anime or comic books would be. But there’s a certain type of personality that Disney princesses/leading ladies have. They’re all ambitious, outgoing and want more than whatever it is that is their current world or life. Jasmine didn’t want to be a princess. Ariel wanted to have legs for some reason despite living in a bomb as hell undersea kingdom. And Pocahontas wanted someone who wasn’t so “serious”.

But what’s wrong with serious? The film Pocahontas features an entire song where the titular princess complains about how much she wants adventure and something new and rails against the absolute horrors of routine, stability and security. In any other world, this is a Malin Akerman’s Silk Spectre-level of First World Problems. What’s wrong with sturdy walls and sturdy houses? What’s wrong with staying close to home? What’s wrong with tradition? And what’s worse is that Pocahontas’ friend who rather likes her more serious suitor is somehow vilified and considered to be less than worthy of happiness because she is content with sturdy handsome walls and a sturdy handsome husband.

What’s important to remember about this was that it was Disney’s attempts to re-write some of the wrongs of past princesses. Many early Disney princesses like Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora got a lot of hate for being good for goodness sake and endlessly praised and rewarded for doing very little. The 90s era Disney princesses had to be go-getters. Mulan had to save all of China. Ariel had to rebel against her father. Jasmine had to flee to escape the horrors of being a princess. And to be fair, that’s great. That’s very motivating to some girls who want to save all of China and find out what’s around the river-bend. But what about the rest of us?

As a child who was raised by parents who worked hard but never achieved home ownership and struggled with issues of moving around, instability and insecurities about money; I rather like sturdy steady walls. I like routine. I like working. I look forward to one day settling down and being a pretty sturdy partner to an equally sturdy partner. I don’t see a woman who is married, chooses to be a stay-at-home mom or one that strives to find a relationship as any lesser of a woman for wanting those things. I am from the camp of feminism that states as long as it is her choice, it’s okay. If a woman wants to be married, then let her. She should never feel obligated to marry. That’s what feminism is. And to say that I am any less of a woman, a person or a feminist because I wouldn’t mind being married, I wouldn’t mind a home and I’m willing to accept stability and that I am somehow less ambitious for appreciating the little things is insulting and toxic.

Pocahontas, you get to run around and parkour off of waterfalls because of the men and women who strive to build sturdy houses and walls. Mulan, you can go off and save China because of the sacrifices made by your father and the rest of your family to ensure you had all the tools needed for you to succeed. Ariel is only allowed to sign evil contracts to gain legs for some reason because of the walls and empire built for her. Ambition like that is a luxury and one that many women still simply don’t have as an option for them. And even I am speaking from a place of privilege in that regard. Because of my father’s desire to build a stable home no matter how many apartments we lived in and my mom’s desire to keep a nuclear family, I am allowed to sit here and discuss with you all, my readers, the shades of ambition, success and what it means to be a good, well, anything.

There’s something to be said about accepting success in any form. As a writer, I have many other writer friends. Many of us are published in varying fashions but I never see myself as any lesser than them just because my writing doesn’t always include a by-line or because sometimes I’m more known for my poetry and blog posts than I am for novels, short stories or serious journalistic efforts. That suddenly doesn’t mean I didn’t work just as hard or that I am any less worthy of praise than they are for self-publishing or publishing under a book deal or even for blogging.

And even how we measure success is something highly subjective. I’ve gone on record a number of times saying that paneling is the most rewarding thing I have ever done and that’s true. That doesn’t overshadow my work and writing achievements; it’s just something I’m proud of. And to say that “oh, well it’s just an anime convention” as a means to diminish the power of being accepted as a panelist to a con is frankly rather childish. It’s something I enjoy and am proud of: isn’t that a measure enough of success? And that can also extend to finishing an anime, a book series, a video game, a costume or just a particularly difficult passage in a novel or story you’re working on. In addition, for those of us struggling with mental illness like depression and anxiety; measuring worth and success is a tricky metric. Sometimes, the best thing achieved in a day is getting out of bed: and there’s even bonus points for showering and getting dressed.

Be proud of attainable goals both big and small and never let a single person take that from you.

Follow your dreams and reach for the stars; and hey, if you don’t reach a star: that’s okay. Most stars are hollow bloated dying shells of their former selves anyways.