Ladies, Go See Ghostbusters and Take Your Daughters

Ghostbusters

I live in a house full of nerdy men which means over the years I’ve had quite the education in all things superhero, science fiction, and fantasy. It wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up since my mum thought science fiction was stupid – I think that’s a direct quote – and my dad never seemed to watch anything but news, boxing, and Police Academy movies.

As I’ve raised my boys I have begun to realize that maybe there was a nerd inside me all along just waiting to get out. Wonder Woman? LOVED HER!! We would run around the school yard mimicking Linda Carter’s moves with her magic bracelets and lasso. Star Trek? Who didn’t grow up watching it in reruns every single day and crushing a bit on Captain Kirk?

Then, in my teens, there was Ghostbusters. I didn’t really think of it as a nerd movie at the time. It was a huge summer blockbuster and everybody went to see it. There were special effects and familiar actors and a funny premise. And truthfully, I had no idea that it had become an iconic nerd film where people went to conventions dressed up and made their own proton packs.

My kids saw the original Ghostbusters about 4 years ago and Monkey went on a big kick with it, even insisting on a homemade costume for Halloween a few years ago. I’m not really sure I saw the appeal of the movie… until now. Because when you replace the snarky, chain-smoking balding guys with strong, funny, competent women, magic happens.

I was fully expecting to be mildly disappointed by the movie. Remakes are always sketchy and the reviews had been so mixed. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it excited and eagerly anticipating a sequel but that’s exactly what happened, and here’s why:

Ghostbusters licking gunGhostbusters gives us the imperfect female superheroes so many of us have been craving. They’re tall and short and thin and curvy, they wear glasses, and don’t fit in. They have unique ideas and interests that are frowned upon by those around them but they persevere. Their uniform is a baggy jumpsuit, not skin hugging spandex. They are genius level smart and bitingly funny and a bit crazy. They are tough, determined, and loyal to each other. They take on evil and absolutely kick its ass. What on earth is there not to love?

They are the kind of female superheroes that I wish I could have grown up with. The kind of female superheroes I wish my boys could grow up with. Instead, I grew up with spandex and low-cut tops, big boobs and high-heeled boots and secondary characters. Guess what? Not much has changed.

Nerd culture is still a man’s domain, although that is slowly changing. The nerds in my life are feminists, because I would have nothing to do with them if they weren’t, but there’s still a lot of misogyny out there in nerd land. And if you have any doubts, the Washington Post just published a break-down of the reviews for Ghostbusters.

 

“A closer look revealed men rated the film, on average, a 3.6 out of 10. Women, on the other hand, rated it 7.7 out of 10. Additionally, nearly five times as many men had rated the movie — 7,547 men as opposed to 1,564 women.”

Those numbers are enough to piss me off. What is it that men aren’t liking about the movie? Are they so completely unused to seeing female heroes unless they look like Katniss or Black Widow that they just can’t wrap their heads around realistic looking women getting the job done? And what a sad reflection is that on how our society views women?

So ladies, go see Ghostbusters. Do it for the little girl in you who never got a chance to see a hero on the screen who looked like you or liked science like you did or wasn’t afraid of goo and dirt. And take the girls in your life so they can experience it too.

 

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The Nerdiest Time of the Year

Fan Expo has once again come to Toronto. If you wander around downtown near the convention centre, you are going to see scads of people dressed as super heroes, science fiction characters, and Doctor Who (because he deserves a category all on his own.). Muppet and Monkey went off this morning with a skip in their step. Mini Me, true introvert that he is, didn’t want to face the crowds. That may change when he earns more appreciation for the girls in skin-tight Harley Quinn outfits. But, I digress.

In our house, we lovingly embrace the words nerd and geek. Muppet is a geek of long-standing – a true blooded Dungeons and Dragons playing, science fiction reading nerd who somehow convinced me to hang a mounted movie poster of the Matrix above our living room couch in our first apartment. It has now been relegated to the basement man cave along with the video games and Nightmare Before Christmas collectibles.

How did I, a woman who always swore she couldn’t stand science fiction, get tangled up in this geeky web? Turns out I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

I grew up on the original Star Trek series and I loved it. I think I had a little girl crush on Captain Kirk. When Muppet and I were first dating, we watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer together and I was hooked. The pretty girl chasing the monsters for a change? Sign me up! Then came Doctor Who and Christopher Eccleston and Rose and… Well, that was that. I earned my nerd membership later in life than many, but the Dalek sitting on my desk as i write this speaks volumes.

The kids were exposed to all things nerdy pretty much from the womb. Muppet read Lord of the Rings to Mini Me while he kicked away happily inside me. His first toys were Star Wars action figures. Monkey’s favourite stuffed animal as a baby was a promo toy from a video game.

Now that Mini Me is 13, he joins his dad and all of his friends for their Nerd Nights – role playing games that are taken very seriously and played while consuming Twizzlers and Cream Soda (blech!). It gives them something to bond over and all of Muppet’s friends welcomed into their fold with patience and love. Monkey is not there yet, but as a kid with ADHD, the patience it takes for the games just escapes him by about 7pm. He will get there, though.

Being a nerd is different now than it was when I was younger. Nerds fully let their flags fly and the internet means you can always find somebody who shares your likes/obsessions/hobbies. You don’t have to feel alone. Better yet, there are more nerd girls than ever before. Nerd love is possible. I’ve seen it.

I may have been a late-comer to this whole nerdy geeky world, but I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it now. Nerds and geeks are some of the most kindhearted, accepting, open-minded people you could ever meet and there are much worse things that I would hope for my kids than to be a part of that world.

Ninja Bread and Gangham Overload (Or How I Spent My Christmas Vacation)

How on earth did we get this far into January already? Seriously. Happy New Year to all of you. Did you all get through the holidays with your sanity intact? I came out of it all relatively unscathed and with only a minor nervous twitch, so I consider that a success!

This was the first Christmas holiday in about 15 years that I have actually had to work not only on Christmas eve, but also on the days in between AND New Years eve day to boot, which was interesting to day the least. Even I was pretty proud of my powers of organization and concentration, although Muppet did have his moments of doubt (which he will now probably deny). I secretly think that he’s been spoiled by me having the time to plan ahead and shop during the day all these years, so he was in a bit of a panic that our shopping wasn’t all done by Dec. 1!!

Highlights of tNinja Bread!he season included some awesome cookie cutters that were a surprise gift from a dear friend. Ninja Bread!! These went to Mini Me’s Grade 5 Holiday Party and they were a big hit. I also sent some gingerbread cut out with the Star Wars cutters that Muppet got a while back and which we had never used until now. Let’s see how many of you pick up on what one particular cookie resembles (and how dirty your minds are!)046

I had suggested that perhaps some icing may improve the situation but Muppet, who is the icing master says that it would probably just have made matters worse. Anyhoo…         The real bummer this year was the lack of winter concert at the kids’ school. With the Ontario teachers job action, that meant no extra curriculars and so our two choirs were part of the fall-out. We have a junior and primary choir and they are both just fantastic. The primary one is compulsory for kids in grade 2 and 3, although the kids don’t have to perform, but the junior choir of grades 4-6 is voluntary. The kids all love their music teacher so much that most of them, including my non-joining little wallflower Mini Me still participate straight through to grade 6. It was sad not to see them all dressed in their little matching red sweater vests this year, singing their hearts out. What they did instead was hold a holiday assembly which has somehow made my little Monkey a school celebrity. Don’t ask me how or why because I still don’t know, but my kiddo was picked with 2 other boys to dance Gangham Style in front of the whole school. He had kind of mentioned this ahead of time, but since I couldn’t get a straight answer out of him and he didn’t seem to know any of the details himself, I just shrugged it off, thinking he was confusing the assembly for his class party. That’s what I get for questioning him after school while he’s watching SpongeBob. The morning of the assembly, Monkey informed us that he had to wear a Gangham Style outfit and we needed to help him find one – pronto! Here is what we came up with on 5 minutes notice…I thought we did a pretty good job: His dad’s vest, and some 3d sunglasses from the movie theatre seemed to meet his approval. Phew.022

Unfortunately, now that we realized something seemed to be going on for real, we both had to work so Mini Me agreed to take his Ipod and film the performance for us!  And yes, there was my kid, in front of about 400 of his peers and teachers, with not an ounce of nervousness, dancing Gangham Style for all to see. The 3 boys were doing the real choreography, working that song for all they were worth, and the crowd was loving it. When they came off-stage, they were mobbed by fans, giving them high fives and pats on the back. It was pretty amazing if I do say so myself.
And as for Monkey, he no longer has aspirations to be a rock star policeman. He is just going to be a rock star because being a police officer is hard work and being a rock star is easy. The scary thing is that for this kid of mine – it may just be true!!!
Oh, and because I am a great mom, I got him an upgrade to the Gangham Style outfit that actually fits him. We have been treated to many performances since that school assembly. I think Psy should be giving my kid a cut!
Gangham 2.0

Gangham 2.0

My Tragic E-Card Addiction

One of the things I learned at Blissdom this year is that you should never really do a social media post without some kind of picture attached to it. Anything with a picture gets, like, a bazillion more views and shares and likes (that is a rough estimate). Problem is, that pinning other people’s stuff or posting it to facebook or whatever helps your own business not at all and just helps to spread the love from the original source.

Well, it turns out that all of those e-cards with the Victorian pictures and snappy sayings that are all over the web? You can MAKE YOUR OWN! Who knew? Okay, I’m sure any of you under 30 with a pulse knew that, but for me, the thought that there was a website where you can make these things yourself and say anything you want on them is FREAKIN’ FANTASTIC. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go to www.someecards.com or even more fun, www.rottenecards.com. See how quickly you get hooked. It means I can make gems like this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

or this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what I mean? Awesome! And I get paid to  make these things. Okay, so in retrospect, maybe I need to get out more. Sigh.

 

Invasion of the Junior Nerds

Funny looking dice

So, I may have mentioned in the past that my lovely partner Muppet is a big, giant Nerd. We use the word with love but it is what it is. When I met him, I knew he was an artist and extremely talented, with some pretty stong computer geek tendencies. Then, I found out about the Dungeons and Dragons thing. Sigh. Luckily, I was already hooked or that may have been a deal breaker right there.

Yes, he was one of those guys who spent his weekends in his friends’ living rooms or basements, rolling funny looking dice and plotting elaborate escapades that involved ogres and wizards. In fact, he had started up the first ever D&D club at his high school. I bet that really impressed the chicks.

But, here’s the thing. Those guys that he met in high school are still his best friends now, over 20 years later. They are loyal to each other, they love each other to bits, and they still get together to play whenever they can. Every one of them is married and several have kids. They are fantastic husbands and fathers. The creativity they put towards gaming when they were teenagers has translated into successful jobs as engineers, Gemini award-winning script writing (that’s the Canadian Emmys), high level marketing executives (for a gaming company, no less), and video game designers (that’s my Muppet).

And now Muppet has started a Junior Nerd campaign. Mini Me and a gaggle of his 10-year-old friends get together in my dining room about once a month and Muppet gets out his funny dice and elaborate spreadsheets and helps them to imagine being ogres and wizards and rogues. They love it, and to my surprise, the group has been growing. These kids who have been growing up on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter don’t thing it’s nerdy or geeky or uncool to spend an afternoon eating junk food and rolling dice. Anybody at school who finds about it wants to join in.

Mysterious spreadsheets of nerdiness

I have to go and start preparing the snacks in a couple of minutes and when they all get here, I will leave them to it. It’s not something that interests me, but I admit to sitting quietly in my adjoining living room and just watching them sometimes. I love to see the camaraderie and hear the laughter. I imagine them doing this in 5 or 6 years time when it will be at night with candles and creepy music to set the mood and pizza and wings will replace my carefully thought out healthy snacks. I hope that this creates a bond in these boys the way it did with Muppet and his friends.  It’s a rare thing to see a bunch of men who love each other and accept each other the way Muppet and his friends do. My boys have grown up around that and I wish the same for them.

Confessions of an Adult Gleek

Maybe it’s just the circles I run with, but I tend to get funny looks when I confess to loving the show Glee. Maybe they’re surprised because I am a 40-something woman and they see it as a young adult show, or maybe they just don’t know what a geek I truly am in real life, but I have watched it religiously since it aired.

I mean, come on. I was raised in a small city in Ontario. I always wanted to move away to the big city. I looooove Broadway musicals and show tunes. I adore pop music and dancing. I was even in a drum and bugle corps, which you’ll have to trust me, was about as understood and respected as being in a glee club. I had a close group of friends who were in drum corps with me and we felt like outsiders, which is why we are still friends today. If Glee had been around when I was 16, I would have been the biggest fangirl out there.

I am still a geek at heart. I still love pop music and dancing and show tunes. I find the endless covers of populard music, past and present, gives me such joy and never fails to bring a smile to my face. Cover version of Tom Jones? Bring it on! Paradise By the Dashboard Light? I was in heaven! Plus I hope I don’t sound like a dirty old lady but Darren Criss is pretty easy on the eyes.

My kids don’t watch much night-time television but Mini Me has sat down and watched at least parts of Glee with me a couple of times. I want him to get the message that good friends love you no matter what, that you can be who you really are and find acceptance, and that it is important to be there for your friends when they are going through hard times. I cried when Burt Hummel gave his son “The Talk” and if either of my boys comes to me and says they are gay, I will probably try to recite it verbatim to them. I love the show’s message of inclusion and acceptance.

So, if my friends want to give me funny looks I’m fine with that. I have the season premier marked on my calendar and I’m counting the days. I am a Gleek and proud.

It’s Not Old and Cranky. Commercials Really Are Louder

Imagine my relief when I tuned into the CBC website this morning to find this story…

http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/08/30/crtc-commercial-volume.html

In a nutshell, it’s telling us that we are not getting old and cranky, that the volume on commercials really is louder than that of our favourite television shows, and that the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for all you non-Canucks) has given networks a deadline to turn down the volume. That deadline is today. Hooray! Apparently there is also an expectation that American networks will follow suit by the end of the year.

I was considering going on a rampage about sexism in advertising right about now, but I realized that I am too tired to work up a good steam over the matter today. It’s the long weekend before the kids go back to school, there are a million things I need to do and I may have had one glass of wine too many last night. Hmmm. Maybe I am getting old after all…