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Struck A Nerve Magic Kingdom Edition: Why the princess love trope sucks

My essay from Struck A Nerve, March 16, 2015. The Magic Kingdom Edition and, in my opinion, the best show at SAN yet! (Probably because in an earlier sketch I got to play Ariel. We didn’t need to wear a costume. But you tell me to be Ariel and I say, “How high?”)

dustin and ariel

SAN Disney

Let me preface this essay by saying I think Disney is so cool.

I’m actually going to Disney World in a few weeks with my mom and all you Capitalism haters can suck it!

Disney is awesome. Its legacy inspired legions of great artists and shaped the mediums of illustration, movies, theater and songwriting.

The uh… sexism, racism and stereotyping, I think, can be forgiven at least in some part because of social mores at the time, even though, yes, the social mores can’t be forgiven.

Don’t throw the innovatively hand-drawn baby out with the magic bath water!

That being said, I’d like to talk about the trope of the princess love story and why it really just sucks so hard.

1) The princess trope assumes mostly just white people and heterosexuals deserve a love story.

- Let’s just get that one out of the way. Only in fan fiction does Ariel finally get to have that so-obviously-desired hate sex with Ursula.

2) None of the princes are really that awesome.

- Here’s why there’s no Sleeping Beauty Part 2. Because a few months deep into marriage with her prince, Aurora realized the total snooze fest was, in fact, married life. She ran off a few years later with the court jester.

Rarely did the princes have to prove their worth. Their excellence was just assumed. The Beast was perhaps the most dynamic emotionally — flawed and forgiven. But how lame was Belle?! No one is that perfect. Girl had to have been torturing the loser candles and time pieces in the palace dungeon or something. That sick bitch is really why Chip is so broken, they just don’t talk about it.

The stories of the Disney princesses were most exciting when they were having their own adventures. I always hated that it seemed like they were settling when their someday prince had finally come.

It’s always the princess that has to give up something — living near her family, dwarf friends, fins — to be with her soulmate. Rarely was it the other way around. And for what? Some hot dude with dominion over peasants and a raging daddy complex? Gross.

3) You have to listen to the hot girls talk about how they deserve to be treated like a princess.

- Y’all know exactly who I’m talking about… the girls who society most treats like princesses because they fit the accepted beauty mold, are always the ones saying they should be treated thusly.

Listen, ladies, don’t you think we should be more concerned with the fact that we have to use an archaic term to indicate that we deserve to be showered with love and affection?

Also, do you even know what real princesses were subjected to? You want to be treated like a princess? Actually, if you’re the type of woman who says, “I need him to treat me like a princess,” your father should select your mate based on who will best fulfill the destiny of his kingdom of used car lots.

4) Princess is a very loaded term.

- OK, so one time at band camp. No really. I was a sophomore in high school and it was that time in fashion history when statement tees in bubble letters were way cool. I was, literally, at band camp and I was wearing a t-shirt that said in silver “Princess.” Now, a follower of directions I have never really been and I was notoriously “excitable” and rebellious during band, mostly because I was second-tier cool everywhere else but in band I was a badass, so this band mom’s following statement to me wasn’t completely unwarranted.

She looked at me hanging out with my friends, looked at my shirt and then said very snarkily, “Yeah, I heard you were a princess.”

I laughed out loud and walked away, which was really the most appropriate response. If you’re a grown adult whose to do list only consists of leading the band boosters, hanging out at a high school band camp and talking down to a 10th grader, fuck you, but I remember thinking “Wait. When did this become a bad word?”

Princess, a role little girls are taught to admire, imposter and desire, quickly becomes a negative slur the moment you become sexually competitive or assert any real sense of independence. You’re a princess until you’re a “fucking princess.” It’s more confusing than the time get-a-job Simba saw grown-up Nala for the first time at ye ol’ watering hole.

5) The princess trope creates an unattainable standard for dudes, too.

- Unless you are the prince, you are a loser. Or you are a friend of another species, thus signifying and justifying your automatic friend-zoning. Or you are a sexually ambiguous sage. Or you are a creepy bad guy.

The whole meme of being a princess is that you are somehow special despite how pervasively average you may be. And somehow every little girl is allowed to live in this fantasy, at least for a time. Now, that is incredibly harmful I think because it subconsciously says little girls are the only ones in need coddling, but it has to also be harmful on the other end of things, right?

For one, this just creates a relationship ideal that is doomed for failure. Men are not made up fantasy princes. They are human beings with flaws and emotions and, sometimes, undefined jaws. The princess trope sets up girls to look for the perfect Prince Eric and totally miss the awesome Flounder right next door.

Second, the men in these movies who are not the princes are routinely emasculated or stereotyped in their own right. Ariel’s dad turns into a tiny penis-like worm, Belle’s dad being kidnapped and unable to save himself is the whole point of her story beginning, and the men in Mulan other than her love interest are just hyper-masculine dolts.

Sometimes even the princes must be saved by their princesses—a theme you see more in the movies from the ‘90s and ‘00s—a nice attempt at rectifying the damsel in distressing, but one that seemed to point to love happening as a result of saviordom, just in a role reversal from Disney movies past.

The newer movies just totally 180-ed themselves gender-wise. Now the guys, like the free-spirited prince in The Princess and the Frog, are the one-dimensional, du-dum-dum people in need of saving by the strong, beautiful, ambitious woman. Men, they seem to say, we don’t need you, but you totally need us to save your stupid asses.

6) Hello unattainable and unfair body standards.

And, again, I’m not just talking about for women, although the most recent scandal regarding the live action Cinderella’s impossibly small waist just proves that this is still, in fact, a problem (are only those pretty skinny girls the ones whose love story deserves to be told?), these movies are unfair to guys outside a certain body type too.

It’s no coincidence that Jasmine and Belle’s fathers both were squat little doughy guys whose shape was a metaphor for their inability to get anything right done. On the other end of that, check out the guys who are bad. Except for Hercules, because duh he’s Hercules, the dumb guys are always muscle bound bro types (like Gaston or the taking-orders version of genie that’s a mindless slave to Jafar) and the bad guys are usually skinny and dark (ie. Scar, Cruella DeVille and Maleficent).

I understand using a shape or style as a visual story telling cue, but at what point do you have a social responsibility to thoughtfully mixing up the stereotype? I think definitely at the point that you influence generations of children and use their interest to make billions off of your stories.

And, finally, number (7) on a similar note. No one, I repeat, no one looks good in layers of tulle. No one except a five-year-old. And me. At Disney World. Next weekend.

Tramps like us

OK. Without thinking too hard about it. What’s your favorite love song?

Perhaps a little Ray LaMontagne. Or a James Taylor classic. Taylor Swift?

My parents’ love song of choice is decidedly too cool for parents.

It’s “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and The Shondells. My dad is a dairy farmer, and they had two stuffed cows that sat in their bedroom when I was a kid. One was named Crimson. One was named Clover. Crimson the cow had auburn hair, like my mother.

Perhaps my affinity for strange love songs is hereditary then.

I think the best love song ever written is “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen.

Your lover calling you a tramp is perhaps not the most romantic Hallmark card in the aisle, but that song is perfectly about complex love.

It’s pulsing, exciting, dangerous.

I like that Bruce questions, in this love song to his girl, if love is even real.

I like that it’s pure poetry set to guitar strings aching. He wants to “run till we crawl.” I can’t think of a better way to say “I want to grow old with you.”

I like that it’s sexy. “Strap your hands cross my engines.” Come on!

And I like that they’re both admittedly fools running from things that do not suit them, even if they are safe and comfortable there.

I too feel like a tramp born to run. And I have for a while. It’s a fact about myself I learned thanks to another group of love song crooners—The Backstreet Boys.

During the time between my being a fifth grader and sixth grader, my uncle got a blood clot in his leg. He was hospitalized and down for the count for six or seven months, meaning he couldn’t work on the farm he owned with my dad.

In true 19th century peasantry style, the many children were thusly recruited as farmhands.

My three siblings and I and our two cousins were added to the milking schedule after school or on the weekends.

It seemed terrible at the time! My first clue that I was totally spoiled as a kid. I loved the farm before this—building forts in the hay mow, discovering kittens in the empty calf pen, holding the totally freaked out bunnies until they, well, totally freaked out and scratched the shit out of our arms and jumped away.

Now it was work, and it was work that I was really not good at as it required a tough stomach and a level of monotony my 12-year-old dreamer self had trouble mustering.

That same year I was starting to become more aware of culture. And by culture I mean Seven Minutes in Heaven, The Titanic, shaving cream and razors and, of course, the Backstreet Boys.

My friends and I were obsessed with these little blonde haired babes, who in hindsight were grown men singing about sex to 12 year olds, which is weird…

Regardless, a friend of mine got tickets to a BSB concert in Columbus and invited me. I don’t think I’ve ever been as thrilled about something before or since.

In preparation, we wrote letters to each boy of the backstreet. Included in our envelopes were love notes on wide ruled notebook paper. (We weren’t even used college ruled yet.) AND, hair clips.

Yes, remember those little snappy hair clips? They were huge in 1998 and were to a sixth grade girl on the playground what cigarettes were to prisoners in the yard.

But we gave them away, carefully curating who got which ones. Nick Carter got the best ones because we were asshole sixth grade girls and he was the hottest.

Their attractiveness and the illusion that they might love me was the sole reason I was a fan, if I’m being honest.

I didn’t get my own CD player until two years later in eighth grade and this was before the internet, so my fandom revolved around whenever I was lucky enough for one of their hits to come on the radio while riding to school with my mom or from the one issue of Tiger Beat my friend had loaned me in which they were the cover story.

The night of the concert, my friend and I climbed in to the back seat of her mom’s minivan and sang every song off “Backstreet’s Back” at the top of our lungs. Never having heard the non-hits before I totally faked the songs I didn’t know. <mumble mumble LOVE mumble mumble giggle>

I had never been to the BIG CITY before this point. Or at least not without my parents. Columbus might as well have been Paris, France.

I was hooked immediately, somewhere deeper than just my pre-teen excitement to see a band I loved. The nightlife, the people, the adrenaline, the action, the darkness. I was so enthralled by the tall buildings and the diversity of people. The possibility of love and a life beyond the teat!

The best part of the whole concert going experience is that my friend and I’s seats? Yeah, those were on the top level in the very back row. Nick Carter was like a whitehead on the face of the stage.

BUT WE SWORE THEY WERE WEARING OUR HAIR CLIPS. And I was certain Brian pointed at me, directly me, during his line in “Everybodaaaaay.”

We went home that night and sure enough the next morning, hungover on adrenaline, I had to milk cows.

I remember, as my mom dropped me off at the farm, being filled with rage and thinking to myself, “But I’m not a farm girl! I’m a Backstreet Boys girl!”

It’s quite humorous now, just how ridiculous that statement is. Some part of me knew even then not to say it out loud because it was so silly. But this was me feeling like a tramp born to run but with no other vocabulary for it than a tearful utterance that I did not belong here.

The Backstreet Boys set very unrealistic expectations of what love was but their music allowed me to be a dreamer. That’s what boy bands’ love songs are to little girls, healthy or not.

Throughout history the popular love song has been, well, popular. Even the Sumerians had love songs they would sing, although this was usually in regards to a human marrying a god, but romance tunes are nothing if not hopeful!

One of the first records of a love poems is from China circa 600 B.C. Its lyrics went like this:

“A very handsome gentleman/ waited for me in the lane/ I am sorry I did not go with him.”

You can only imagine the rousing bass line that had to have accompanied that little diddy!

I think love songs and reactions to it are the purest way to take the pulse of a society culturally.

For example, a during really repressive times for individuals, romantic love is demonized, like in Puritan America. Sermons were dedicated to warning of the love song and its carnal consequences.

You can also totally see the changing of gender roles or the way sexes interact by hit love songs or the purveyors of them. Think of the song by The Beatles “Run for Your Life” about how a girl better “run for her life” if she’s caught with another man even after they break up. I mean, even the most violent music today doesn’t even go that far under the guise of love. It’ll just pretty much state, “I am going to kill this bitch because she hurt my ego.”

Love songs, as unrealistic as they may be, are one of the only art forms that is crafted in very raw, real storytelling and not filtered through a fictional character.

Take that charming little love song “Rude” by the band called Magic. A young man asks his girlfriend’s dad if he can marry her. The dad says no, probably because the boyfriend is in a band called Magic. So, as the song continues, the boy asks the girl to marry him anyway.

Romantic? I mean, I guess. But I’m more intrigued by the fact that a cultural anthropologist looking at this centuries from now will point to this as an indicator of a slight social shift as far as marrying rituals go.

Popular love songs indicate how we see each other, sexuality, and the idea of love, for better or worse. Know a culture’s love songs, know its standards despite the hyperbole.

Take for example Ms. Taylor Swift’s most recent hit, “Blank Space,” and its line “Boys only like love if its torture.” What? Not true, of course, and a huge generalization, but I think that so clearly demonstrates that emotionally reactive stances are alive and well when love is involved and youth is still filled with delusion.

The lack of realism in love songs is to blame, I think, for why many adults just say fuck this and love lyric-free jazz.

Or it’s no surprise one of the top hits – and one of my personal favorites of last year— was a love song dedicated to oneself. Kendrick Lamar’s “I Love Myself” is such a fantastic song and a showcase of the changing ways not just individuals of a race sees themselves, but the way we as individuals speak to ourselves in this generation, or at least the way we are encouraged to.

The love songs we personally gravitate to, I’d argue, also say a lot about our personal lives, too. Look at the love songs you’ve loved throughout your life, how they’ve changed as your lovers have.

My love songs of choice have gotten more and more realistic. If my ex and I had gotten married, our first dance probably would have been to the Rocky theme song, and not just because we both liked the character. But because we both knew love and relationships is hard work.

Born to Run is now my favorite because it is honest about how soothing the idea of love can be when you find your ying to yo’ tramp self.

I only scoff at boy bands’ songs now that I used to love because they are so emotionally dumb—I’ve progressed so far past the Backstreet Boys. A lot of lovers do, in fact, really care who you are, where you’ve been, what you did, as long as you love me.

You’re not a farm girl, I would tell my younger self, but you’re not a Backstreet Boys girl either. But don’t worry you’ll figure out what you actually love and your love will be enough.

Also you’re really not at all nor will you ever be Leonardo DiCaprio’s type. Time to move on.

Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin! Because I shaved it.

My Grandma used to say

a face without freckles is like a sky

without stars.

What then, dear Grandma,

is a face without a chin hair?

Asking for a friend…

Shut up, chin hair!

She doesn’t need to know you’re real.

Enough people can see you already.

Seriously.

You’re terrible. And long.

How do you keep getting longer every time you grow back in?!

It’s like watching the child I didn’t want

grow up into a Republican.

Just kidding.

Children are fine.

And Democrats suck too, just not as bad.

They’d be, like, more transparent and not as harsh if they were a chin hair.

Why is it just you on the tip of my chin?!

I know why. Because

all your other chin hair friends moved

to my upper lip to get away

from you.

I dream of all the wonderful ways

to rid my aging porcelain skin of your

curly intrusion.

Because as much as I believe

in loving yourself no matter what,

I also believe I can do things better in the real world

if I love my appearance, too.

And I

don’t

love

you!

I’mma razor the crap out of you!

I’mma run that water so hot so you scald

as you scurry from sharpened blade

to your death down the drain!

I’mma not tweeze because I’m a baby!

The other day, perhaps in a stupor of exhaustion,

I imagined a lover kissing the soft skin that you call home

and you, in your ever increasing strength,

got stuck in between a crevice of his teeth

rotting his gum with your wickedness.

I’d laugh out loud at our shenanigans!

I wouldn’t even tell him that you, my chin hair, was in his teeth!

We’d just laugh together, you and I, until he went home and flossed you out!

I assume all my lovers floss.

But now the razor is hot and you are too long and I miss you already.

See you next month.

 

Winter. An occasional-introvert’s most wonderful time of the year.

Winter makes me feel so alone. This is wonderful.

I like aloneness. I like not feeling guilty about it. I like feeling cocooned inside, stuck under my apartment’s warm sheets with only books and Netflix and the infrequent text for company.

It’s exciting when the outside world feels so dangerous and I am safely sitting on an armchair, slipping my finger between the dusty blinds, peeking at the slippery chaos.

Winter is the time for projects and dreams and catching up with yourself. To Cabin Fever I am forever immune.

No FOMO, because everyone else is trapped inside too. I have an excuse for doing nothing at night and eating chips from the bag and writing writing writing instead of dancing dancing dancing.

I love spring, of course. But I will savor every winter moment of loving, lingering lonesome until the last snowflake has melted into the budding dirt.

Walking winter alone. <3

Walking winter alone. <3

Bad Bitch vs. Basic Bitch: A New Kind of Mommy Wars for Millenials

If you’ve never heard the term Basic Bitch, watch this:

Basic Bitches, as the pop cultural consensus goes, like Ugg boots and inspirational quote tattoos and lady dates and Pinterest.

A Basic Bitch had time to make this.

A Basic Bitch had time to make this.

Bad Bitches are young girls who probably smoke weed or at least think it’s fine if you do, sleep around and generally live life pretending like they don’t give a fuck what you think. They’re most commonly the ones making fun of and spotting Basic Bitches, more than happy to differentiate themselves from the predictable pack of giggling, boring, presumably popular girls.

I'm a Bad Bitch. I'm special. Please believe me. Please.

I’m a Bad Bitch. I’m special. Please believe me. Please.

At least those are the general indicators of whether you are a Basic or a Baddie. (And note, differentiating oneself as one or the other seems to be a very heterosexual girl thing.)

But when this woman on woman name-calling happens — because it’s only ever women who I hear calling themselves or each other Basic Bitches or Bad Bitches — I have noticed one very subtle distinction between the two classifications, and it has nothing to do with Ugg boots, hideous may they be.

And that is this: A Basic Bitch is defined by someone else — Britney’s bestie, Steve’s girl, Angela’s sorority sister. A Bad Bitch is defined by her own self, actions or identity.

But what happens as these Millenials, the people using this term, get older and the packs start having kids? I mean, I don’t think anyone has studied the numbers on this, but I’d put my money on the hypothesis that the Basics get married young and have babies and the Baddies do other stuff.

As a grown woman, it’s a little more subtle. Basic Bitches are the ones passive aggressively calling out Bad Bitches for taking too many selfies. Meanwhile, their social media pages are nothing but photos of their babies.

Listen, if the Bad Bitches can handle your overexposure of Baby photos, Basics, you can do the same of their overexposure of feeling like a Babe.

Because in a way, Bad Bitches’ photos of themselves are their photos of babies. They themselves are what they have been working hard to create — their body, their life, their money, their weed dealer or whatever.

And this self-separation from the Basics comes from a very genuine place of annoyance, I think. More at society that actual other women.

At my recent high school reunion, a former classmate who has a toddler told me she looked at my life on Facebook and always thought that’s what her life would have been like if she hadn’t had a kid.

I know she meant this as a compliment and I absolutely took it as such. But here’s the rub. A statement like that kind of dismisses everything it took to get to where I am, including some really difficult growing and employment experiences. It’s not like I didn’t have a child and suddenly I’m living this free wheeling, grand life in the city.

A friend of mine has referenced similar situations, having friends with children who never come visit her or tell her she just doesn’t understand what it’s like to have a kid.

They’re right. People without children don’t know what it’s like to not have them. But people without children are still busy and have things that are just as important to them and require care, attention and time.

And it is, I’ll admit, annoying when other women just create an entire identity for themselves because they had a child — and get a lot of societal respect for doing so. Meanwhile, developing a life, career and personality without having a child is not, generally, considered complete, even though it takes just as much — if not more — self-reliance and work.

So calling someone a Basic Bitch becomes this way of making a Bad Bitch feel better about herself until society catches up and gives equal fucks about our accomplishments. Men don’t need to make this distinction because they are respected as just a whole person straight out the gate.

But…

I have decided that seriously calling yourself a Bad Bitch, or even generally caring about which you are perceived as, is actually kind of Basic.

And, really, we all have a little Basic and Bad in us.

By differentiating ourselves as one or the other, we’re continuing a very long, misogynistic legacy of women as Good v. Bad, Madonna v. Whore, Working Mom v. Stay at Home Mom v. “She’ll Figure Out She Wants One Someday” Non-Mom. All of which have very negative consequences in regards to both sexes seeing women as whole people, whatever our interests.

Let’s just be Badasses instead.

Because every bitch loves a quiz. Design by Lisa Ragland, a badass.

Because every bitch loves a quiz. Design by Lisa Ragland, a badass.

Struck A Nerve Rom Com Edition: Facebook Killed the Rom Com Star

san

The Romantic Comedy as we know it is dead.

This beloved genre’s demise is not just because TV is getting better or because Tom Hanks and Freddie Prinze Jr. are getting old.

Nay, the culprit is coming from inside your pocket.

Social Media has murdered the rom com.

Yes, the time suck that is Facebook, Tinder, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, ChatChat, TapDat, AssHat…

has irrevocably changed how we interact with, write and consume the time-honored first-world tradition of romantic comedy.

First, let us consider the plotline problem.

The lost-then-found lover is a motif as important to the rom com as spritely mischief is to Shakespeare.

These tales of old-flame-returns-for-high-school-reunion or mysterious-man’s-child-keeps-calling-me-from-Seattle seem quaint in the era of social media.

They seem *so* not plausible today that if you tried to make a movie with these storylines, you’d lose viewers. Instead of getting lost in the story, they’d be thinking about how this just wouldn’t happen. Why wouldn’t she just look him up on LinkedIn?

The last thing you, as a writer, want your audience to do is to start asking questions about plausibility. We all know love isn’t real.

Here’s a specific example of rom com plotline extinction.

Do you guys remember the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights? It’s a movie with Josh Harnett and the hot girl from Wristcutters (that’s the better movie to watch if we’re doling out Netflix suggestions here).

Anyway, Josh’s character swears off sex for 40 days and 40 nights, but, alas, during this time he meets the would-be love of his life, hot girl from Wristcutters! So he hides from her what he’s doing, she thinks he isn’t that into her, cupid’s arrow is nearly for naught. (The moral of the story, to 17-year-old boys, here is to always have sex asap.)

Social media’s role in our modern lives would not allow for any of this story to unfold the way it does. First, the couple meets in a Laundromat and connects over how hot girl from Wristcutters circles words she doesn’t know in the book she’s reading so she can go look them up in the dictionary.

HA! She’s reading a real book!

If this were happening in 2015 and not 2002, she’d be all up on her phone either googling the words she doesn’t know as soon as she finds them or, let’s be honest, digging into her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s step sister’s Instagram photos from a beach vacay to the Dominican Republic.

“Her baby is super ugly.”

So not only would this couple likely not meet, if they did, the dude character would have a hard time hiding his abstinence mission and thus, hot girl from Wristcutters would never go experience the folly of misunderstanding her potential lover’s intentions.

After all, in 2015 he will have taken this opportunity to start a blog and podcast series following his sex-free adventures so he could share them on his Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages and hopefully get a book deal.

Because rom coms, the gluttonous slinger of gender stereotypes that they are, teach us that all guys are all about the Benjamins until he finds love he didn’t know he wanted… and they need you to stop fucking playing Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” on repeat already.

HASHTAG YOU’RENOTJESSICAALBA

Furthermore, catching a cheater is no longer visually interesting, which is kind of a key element of a film.

And cheating, or at least thinking someone is cheating, is a blockbuster plot device. But today, this is what it looks like:

1) Receive text from friend about potential cheating.

2) Turn red, hyperventilate, furiously text lover.

3) Cry quietly as you scroll through now-ex’s Facebook feed looking for any shred of evidence.

4) Chug whiskey alone.

Not exactly the most sexy, riveting stuff. And because things can happen so quickly, romance is kind of a lost art. On Tinder, you can literally scroll through hundreds of potential lovers while doing nothing but eating cheese and crackers off your belly.

This is not the type of scenario for which God made men as gorgeous as Ryan Gosling.

We’ve become desensitized to romance. After all, your girl can just get on Pinterest and post quotes full of loving sentiment you could never come up with. Oh, and your guy can just go read your Pins to figure out what is required for you in particular to woo.

It’s why kids these days prefer their romance from the mouths of babes that turn into werewolves during the full moon.

Social media lets you be whoever you want to be, let’s you concoct or express a whole well-rounded personality and, on the positive side of that, helps eliminate stereotypes – you are not just the weird girl in art class with glasses, you are a complete person who has family photos and interesting things to say about world events and look at this whole album of selfies taken without your glasses on!!! Social media is a confidence booster. It reinforces the idea that you can be whatever you want!

But here’s one thing you can’t be anymore. And it’s a thing that is also incredibly important to the rom com cannon—a magazine reporter.

Some of my favorite romantic comedies revolve around the career field of magazine journalism. I think this is because it’s glamorous without being too POWER BABE (heaven forbid), plus most of these screenplay writers were probably once journalists so publishing is a world they understand.

How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Morning Glory are all great rom coms starring characters who work in journalism.

Here’s the thing though. Social media is also singlehandedly murdering print journalism. Today’s newsroom is anything but glamorous. The editorial meetings are no longer about which champagne to offer on the set of a fancy photo shoot but how to convince the unpaid intern who is five out of journalism school to stay on board – man, at least after sweeps!

Hardworking journalists are being replaced by hardworking bloggers and freelance content sharers. But finagling in your pajamas with your accountant on the phone about tax writeoffs isn’t nearly as sexy as a fun loving, wacky work crew that always seems to be there for you when your dream man is aloof.

Finally, because of the fast paced and argumentative nature of social media, some of our favorite rom coms wouldn’t even get made today.

Consider, Grease. If you do not know the plot of Grease and the melody of at least one of its songs, you clearly didn’t know a theater kid in high school.

Cover your ears if it is possible to spoil the ending of Grease for you, grandpa.

Olivia Newton John’s wholesome Sandy gets all slutifued by her pink ladies to impress the Danny Zucko.

Granted Danny also donned a letterman sweater at the school carnival to impress Sandy but that decision was quickly revoked when everyone just silently admitted that it’s way more fun to be a bad bitch than a basic one.

But you know who would’ve been all over that plot line of woman giving up it all for a love? jezebel.com.

And probably all the Christian organizations you can think of, for other reasons. But basically this movie would’ve been a flop before it went direct to DVD, jazz hands cart wheels and dancing hotdogs be damned.

Same goes for the abusive principal in The Breakfast Club. And the patriarchal town in Footloose would’ve had its own reality TV show before that movie could ever get made.

We are think piecing  ourselves out of a good old-fashioned, gender-roled love story, people.

So in conclusion social media has made us too savvy, too homogeneous and too stalker-prone to enjoy  romantic comedies. The stories seem as fake and contrived as Channing Tatum’s abs.

For the real funny drama we’ll just all turn to Facebook.

10 Questions for an Artist: Dancer Donald Isom

Donald Isom

Music helps Donald Isom remember — things he’s seen, who he is, and where he’s going.

“When I was in second grade and getting ready for a test, I started playing music to help myself study,” Isom recalled. “My mom thought I was being ignorant, but I was like no, this helps me think. My grades went up when I started listening to music. She said, yeah you an artist, you have your grandfather’s ways.”

His grandfather was a painter, know for his storytelling style. A visit to Georgia in 2009 to try out for “So You Think You Can Dance?” and a stop at that same grandfather’s house set in motion a whole career — no, career isn’t the right word — passion path for Isom (you’ll read how).

The 27-year-old Cleveland native founded I Am D.A.N.C.E. four years ago. The performance and visual art company’s name is an acronym for I Am Determined And Never Concealing Energy.

“That right there is a state of mind,” Isom said. “I got so much energy traveling the world, traveling state to state, trying to see where I need to be in life. It’s beautiful. We also try to help other individuals in the community. The members right now are really growing. The community is what made I Am D.A.N.C.E. strong and that connection is what we want all around the world.”

The group is now 52 members deep, despite a lengthy but important (you’ll read why) application process, in Philadelphia, Indiana, Chicago, Ohio and California.

The dance and visual arts collective performs at various dance events, offers classes, volunteers in the community with groups like Columbus Parks and Rec and presents b-boy and b-girl dance competitions.

Right now I Am D.A.N.C.E. is raising money to support Battlegroundz: Road to The Championship on Feb. 28. Battlegroundz will culminate with a championship, with internationally renowned entertainment, in the fall.

The money helps support a quality program and event, which, Isom said, “means you can bring in professional judges and we can educate a new generation. We want to be able to give quality knowledge about the street dance culture here.”

Since I Am D.A.N.C.E. started hosting this competition three years ago, attendance has gone form 100 to more than 1,000.

A lot of that has to do with the sheer talent present at these events. And it has a lot to do with Isom. He is dedicated and driven (you’ll read… well, you get the idea. Take notes. It’s so worth it.)

“I have so much more in me I have to give,” Isom said. “I’m just getting started.”

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How’d you end up in Columbus?

I basically just jumped on a bus and took a leap of faith. Seeing my best friends starting to go to school down here. Cleveland at the time really felt like it was going through a great depression with jobs, especially for an artist. It was Oct. 30, 2008. That’s the day I threw my couch out the window and said, “Alright let’s go.”

At that time I tried some things in Cleveland. It wasn’t that Cleveland wasn’t good enough, but my grandfather told me sometimes you have to travel and go out and bring those resources to your city even if it takes you years and time. You have to go out and expand your mind. Because of that we do have a Cleveland chapter of I Am D.A.N.C.E.

Then what?

Then I took another leap of faith and tried out for “So You Think You Can Dance?” That was fall 2009.

When I performed at Fox theater, even though I didn’t make the show, I started to really realize what I wanted to do. And I wanted to have a dance company. I did not want to have a dance crew. I did not want to own a dance studio.

I had a weird state of mind. When I sat there in line at 5:00 in the morning and saw that there were 100,000 dancers standing in one line. I was like, you all do know we can come together and build something on our own? Why do we have to stand in this line to get on one show? Great network, but why can’t we all just build our own? I know you all have your own resources out there. So that’s when I was like yeah, I don’t want to do this show again.

You also got to say goodbye to your grandfather during that trip, right?

It was an incredible experience but it also gave me a chance to say goodbye to my grandfather who had passed away years ago. I had never been to Atlanta to say goodbye. So I got to have that experience. He was a painter.

It was really peaceful because he passed away when I was 14. Everyday of my life people were telling me I looked like my grandaddy. Everybody said I was a storyteller when I danced and his name was The Art of Storytelling. Going to his house in Atlanta where he had all his paintings and all our history was in there, I could sense my grandfather’s presence and felt all his energy he had in this room because his art was there. His life was in that art. To say goodbye, I felt more at peace… After that I was like, I have to build something that’s going to build on not just for dancers but the arts of the world.

That’s such a spiritual and artistic journey. What did you do when you got back?

When I came back I bought some notebooks at CVS over there on Ohio State University’s campus and I just started writing night and day. I did not know exactly what I was writing about but everything that was on my mind, I just kept writing it. I got hungry to travel. So I went to New York, to Philly, took some buses, and just started to build my knowledge about dancing, about the industry, about visual arts and I just kept going. I was like, just feed me more. Whatever you know, just tell me. Forget being specific, what do you know about the culture of hip-hop and dancing and music and the history of art. Then I started touching on politics, on education, all that stuff was helping me filter what I wanted to do.

What is some advice you received as an artist that really influenced you?

I had a dance teacher… who exposed me to the art of dance and my state of mind as an entrepreneur. She said, “Don’t be scared to think outside the box. When you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s when you’re starting to do something.” When she told me that, that reminded me of my grandfather. After that it was like, sky’s the limit. She said, just do what you want to do. Just do it. Stop thinking so much. It was like this fire, I just flew like a mustang, just started going.

What did you learn during those early travels?

The biggest thing I learned as far as culture when I went to New York: They don’t care. Bottom line they just, when it comes to trying to succeed and trying to achieve goals, they’re not going to let nobody get in their way. So if you’re over here making a million dollars, they’re trying to pass you. So while you’re throwing money in the air, they’re still working toward their goals as a journalist, as a fashion designer, as a singer. I learned from their culture not to be scared. And don’t put nobody above me. Everybody’s a human being just like you.  But the worst thing somebody can say to you is no.

Then I applied that to dancing. Don’t be scared to express what your body is really trying to tell you to do. Don’t try to stop it. Let it go. You don’t know what that move might do. That might be your million dollar move! I stopped trying to control all my movements. I started to study all the styles of dancing from the street dance culture to ballet to modern and African dance. When I started dancing more, my grooves and my rhythm started to change big time. So I went from this kid from Cleveland who had a couple dance moves in one or two styles to a young man who knew multiple styles. I understood the history and culture of them.

Was it difficult for you to let go like that? To not be scared?

Art is really mental to me. One thing I had to do was destroy my ego through this process of traveling and dancing and life. It’s really hard. That’s some nights, some days, took a couple tears. But it was this reality that if you want to go far, you’re going to have to destroy that ego or that ego will destroy you before you even see your own success. So when that happened I was opened to learning every single thing. I never held back. Someone want to teach me footwork? Yeah, show me! Traveling taught me about the culture of the individual. You have to understand the difference between a want and a need.

How do you think about I Am D.A.N.C.E. as a business?

I Am D.A.N.C.E. definitely is a kindergartener that is still trying to find its way. It started off as a baby. The more that we matured the more structure and responsibilities had to come. The older it gets the more accountability we have to take for what we do.

When we first started we were getting involved with everybody we could. At the beginning, I ain’t gonna lie, I think some members didn’t even know what they were in they were just happy to be there. But as I Am D.A.N.C.E. grew older I started to work with great people to figure out what is I Am D.A.N.C.E., what is our mission, what is our purpose, what goals do we have in the next five or ten years. And why? And how is this going to benefit the rest of the members of I Am D.A.N.C.E. Is it a visual company, is it a dance company, is it a movement with a bunch of people just coming together?

And I had to be realistic about my answers. Now I Am D.A.N.C.E. is a brand that is really starting to get to the moment of a true state of mind of what is it like to be a member. A member is someone that is willing to make a difference in their community no matter what part of the world they’re in.

What is the most important aspect of maintaining and growing that business?

Connection. Even in business as a customer service rep [at a bank] I had to learn how to connect with the customers. I had to learn how to sell the product of the savings account, checking account. Then with connection you have to know your product. I had to know my product before I could connect with my customer. I had to know the A’s and B’s of the product. I had to learn how every product and service of the business worked.

And that’s eventually what happened with I Am D.A.N.C.E. I had to learn how to connect with the members and the community and people who just wanted to support us. I learned how to connect with customers, especially in, like, five minutes.

What are you most proud of accomplishing through I Am D.A.N.C.E.?

TedX Columbus 2012 and TedX Youth 2013. It gave us a chance to do a performance on stage without even talking. We performed Michael Jackson “Stranger in Moscow,” and the crowd was crying. We told a whole story about three strangers coming together. I think that represents I Am D.A.N.C.E. right there. People could tell from there that we have a story to tell. From that we did America’s Got Talent in 2013.

Storytelling is important to me because you see a lot of dancers who get on stage and, you know, they’ll do a piece and then they get off stage. But when you go to a show where you see a professional artists, get on stage and perform you can see that that story that they’re doing is powerful because you can see the character, the creativity, the extra hits to the body, whatever style it is.

How do you think about dance now?

In New York they didn’t want you to just do the choreography. They wanted you to feel the choreography, put your life into the choreography. That’s what they wanted. Instead of short term dancing you were going to get that long term artist. So now when I teach I will make you run a move over hundreds of times until you make it yours. When you make it yours you are starting to write you story. You’re starting to write the beginning and the end of your style.

When members bring choreography into I Am D.A.N.C.E. I try to knit pick. “Hey make sure you get the crowd right there. That’s where you need to get the crowd at.” I’ve been like a creative director. You have to make sure that moment is part of your connection. That’s your chance right there. If you lose that chance, they’re not going to get you.

You want to become that Michael Jackson of dance, that James Brown, you want people to feel you. That’s why people love these artists. Michael Jackson was an entertainer but he made you feel Dirty Diana. And you be like, yeah, Dirty Diana!

When you see somebody move and they feel it, you are like, yes, I’m there with you. I don’t know your dance style, but I know the story you are telling.

Donald Isom City

Do you dance alone?

Oh yeah. I try to take all the time I can get. Whether it’s five minutes or 30 seconds. If I’m in the kitchen, if I could just get 30 seconds to work on a move. Music is like my truest therapy. I come from a family that loves music. I study music very tough because I’m breaking the sounds down and finding where the singer is really in their emotion. … It’s important to me to continue to dance because that’s how I express myself. That and my involvement within the community.

Who are your favorite musicians?

I love Maxwell. Kem Kemistry, he’s a jazz artist. Boney James. My R&B artists Musiq Soulchild, old Usher. I like these artists because I can feel their story. Neo-soul artists, I love almost every neo-soul artist I have ever heard — D’Angelo, India Arie. Hip-Hop is Nas, Jay-Z, J. Cole because there’s a lot of storytelling through their music. Everything I have been through in my life I can connect through a lot of my music.

What’s inspiring your work now?

People being more on their phones than they are on life. I’m inspired by people starting to get a little lazy. It’s kind of weird to say that. I was down in South Carolina not too long ago to see a good friend of mine graduate from the Marine Corps. And when I was watching him graduate, I was about to record him. I put the phone down and thought there’s some things you just can’t record. … So much terrible social media right now, I think people forget about how beautiful this world is. There are a lot of issues in this world that we need to pay attention to. So there’s a lot of pros and cons to social media. Life is making me motivated to continue on making I Am D.A.N.C.E. a bigger international company. Life brings stories and stories connect to people.

How do you find stories?

Just talking to people. Nobody just asks anymore, “Who are you?” I don’t do that on an everyday basis but if I’m out and you and I laugh at the same thing, I’ll start a conversation with you. I was in Starbucks once tying my shoes and I had an I Am D.A.N.C.E. shirt on and this guy came up to me and said, “My son is the guy who records all of J. Cole’s videos.” I was like where do you live? He goes, oh I live here in Columbus. Give me a call, man.

That’s why life right now is my motivation, because of how organic things are and the connections you can make. Some people forget to talk face to face now. Even friend to friend — they’re now arguing on Facebook. This is a part of life, having a face to face conversation about an issue or what’s going on. Social media has done great things to help people connect faster, but there are some organic things that social media just can’t replace. It can’t replace somebody’s passion.

What are your goals as a mentor?

As a mentor my goal is give whatever knowledge I have to the next generation or up and coming individual.

How do you become a member of I Am D.A.N.C.E.?

To become a member of I Am D.A.N.C.E. you go online and download an application, mail it back and we get in touch right away. But we don’t automatically say, “OK, you’re a member.” We take time to get to know you. What are your real goals? What is your gift? It goes back to the basics, that connection, not assuming he put in an application because he wants to be a dancer.

Some people put in an application and they need a family or they have goals but they don’t know how to pursue them or they’re trying to build a network. … What’s really going on? As a member you really go through that artist development. What’s your five year plan? We just had a representative graduate from the Marine Corps and he’s a b-boy. He loves the culture of hip-hop but he had dreams of being an FBI agent and that’s his community service active side kicking in. We make sure that for 30 to 45 days we take the time to invite you to community service, gatherings, training, fitness, everything we get into to learn more about you.

What are your goals for I Am D.A.N.C.E.?

Let’s say you go to Texas, I want you to be able to get online and say, hey are there any members of I Am D.A.N.C.E. in Texas? You should be able to say, “Yeah, I have three members down, what’s wrong?” “Ah, my car broke down and I don’t know nobody.” We want you to be able to have that resource.

I want to be like a Professor X. It was amazing to me to see the academy for people with special abilities, because I feel like that’s what artists are. We have special abilities and gifts. We’re not weird, we have a gift. And that goes for every style of art. We’re not weird we just have special abilities we’re blessed to have. One day I’d like to have schools and centers that represent that.

The biggest thing though is having resources. It’s like WWIII when you’re an artist trying to find opportunities and there’s no where to go. I hope to give that opportunity to people. I feel like we’re definitely en route.

What is the most difficult thing about being an artist?

Doing this without bank loans and investors. I made a promise to myself to try to stay away to getting investors. I have donors. My mentor was the one who said don’t you dare get a bank loan. He said, “I want you to do all you can without doing a bank loan. Don’t be a sellout to your own dream.”

The more I learn about business the more I understand now. When you bring certain individuals to the table they might squash your vision and they might think they’re doing a thing but they might cut off the head without even knowing it.

I’m realistic though. My dad told me to be ready. Study. Understand everything about it — pros, cons, numbers, just be careful.

Sometimes things get hard but I learn so much. There are other options out there. I’m blessed to be in the city where we have GCAC that’s so supportive of the arts. They’re an incredible organization. The Ohio Arts Council. Columbus Foundation. These are great community foundations that are very supportive. And there are individuals in this city that believe in our mission. I don’t feel like I have to hurry up and find an investor.

Sometimes I have a dream about stuff that I want to do. I write out the blueprint. And sometimes I have to bring myself back to earth so I don’t overdrive myself.

How do you differentiate, know when to scale back?

It’s instinct. It’s a gut feeling. You don’t have to rush for anybody. My uncle always told me to trust my own judgement. You work hard, you can trust yourself. If you feel that something’s wrong, than it’s wrong. You’re not ready? It’s OK. You will be ready someday.

What do you do when you get artist’s block?

When I get artist’s block I leave the state. I’ll find out what my two week plans are and I’ll get on a Greyhound bus and go to another state. I did it last summer. I went straight to Philly…. I just walk. I look at the culture of life. I people watch. I see how people act, how people react to things, how they move. They’re like pictures in my brain.

How is Columbus different from these places you visit?

A lot of other cities feel more hungry than us. Especially New York. It’s fast-paced. In Columbus it’s 3 am and the police are out making sure no one’s outside. In New York, it’s pizza and on to the next job or they’re in the studio creating their business. I love that. I love a city that never sleeps. They understand that if I stop now, someone else is about to get ahead of me. Or if I stop now I might not be able to remember this vision I had in front of me. My artist world kicks in between 3 and 6 in the morning.

What’s your greatest advice to young artists and dancers?

Be outside of the box. But do not try to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be scared to be different. Understand that connecting to the people all around the world is important. Don’t be scared to take classes, go to programs that will help you develop. The biggest thing about every owner, entrepreneur or artist is development. If you ignore development you’re going to have a long road.

How do you participate in self development?

I built myself around people that are challenge me on a daily basis. When I talk to my mentors or the people I look up to, they’re always challenging me to read about what’s going on in the world, in social media, traveling. They always challenge me on a different basis. I always try to make sure that I’m not getting comfortable. I’m always making sure my feet are still on fire.

If you could invite three artists, living or dead, to a dinner party who would they be?

Bruce Lee. His state of mind was ahead of his time. The way he felt about the world, the way he felt about martial arts. He felt that if you were a dancer, you were a martial artist. If you were a writer, you were a martial artist. Somebody who was thinking like that in the early 1970s. Where were you at in 1998 when I was going through all these changes in my life? It would be the most incredible conversation.

George Lucas. For him to sit there and build Star Wars as a religion for people? I need to know what is going through your mind as you built that!

Steve Jobs or JK Rowling. They’re brilliant. Or Jay-Z, of course. Whoever’s available to come over to dinner when Bruce Lee gets some time to fly down from the sky.

The One You Feed Podcast

Finding information about developing a spiritual practice is daunting for me. I don’t think church is bad or dumb or anything like that, it just never seems to be enough to answer all my questions.

It’s too black and white, cut and dry, good and evil. For a long time I just ignored that need within myself to find something higher, more powerful, especially because I’m still not sure, and I certainly wasn’t then, about what I believe in terms of an all-knowing God.

I do believe, though, that we all have questions we need answers. And while a religious faith satiates others’ questions or acts as a guide for them, I haven’t found one that works for me. Being a good, kind, courageous person and learning how best to navigate life’s problems with your own boundaries in tact is so individualistic.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about and participating in DBT therapy programs. To give you a synopsis, Dialectical Behavior Therapy is rooted in the idea that mindfulness is the start of the solution for a better, happier life.

By being mindful of our thoughts, exploring why we think them, separating them from emotion, and actively letting ourselves feel each emotion instead of either pushing it away or trying to make it more intense, we will know ourselves better and, thus, make better decisions for ourselves. Being mindful of each emotion and letting it happen puts you in control of it, which is such a relief when things feel so out of control.

It seems so simple, but, alas, things aren’t always black and white. It’s a daily practice to be mindful, just like a faith. But this practice has made me love myself and my life more and helped me through some very painful self realizations. Not only that, it has helped me be comfortable and patient with admitting my flaws and working to fix them, and from that my self love grows.

So, when I read about this newish podcast, put together by some Columbus guys, no less, I was totally hooked. The One You Feed is about all about exploring this practice (although DBT is never brought up, there are a lot of parallels and I find it greatly inspiring and a good supplement to emotional mindfulness practice).

The name comes from a Cherokee parable about a grandfather talking to his grandson about two wolves that were fighting, one represented greed, jealousy and cruelty, the other represented forgiveness, progress and empathy. When the grandson asked which wolf one, the grandfather responded, “The one you feed.”

I’m sure you get the symbolism, and at the beginning of each podcast the guys ask the interviewee what that means to them. I recommend listening to it. This most recent interview with author Susan Piver has been my favorite. I think there is a lot of power to be found in taking responsibility for your experience, even if you have been a victim before. You may not have caused the pain you are feeling, but you are responsible for taking care of it and will feel empowered once you do. Enjoy.

“The only gesture of fearlessness one needs to make is to not be afraid of themselves.”

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Some thoughts after seeing Selma.

Some thoughts after seeing Selma.

selma

1) The most moving, artistic shot in the whole movie was the scene where Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot. Slow motion. You see his face as he’s dying and framing his head are two black and white photos. One of an African American mother with two children, the other of a young black man, his eyes barred out by the glare of the diner’s light, like a censored photo, as if Jimmie could have been any black man. Any white man. Anyone denied rights. Anyone fighting for something they believed in and killed in injustice. What would you have done if that was your baby?
2) “Our life is not fully lived unless we are willing to die for those we love, for what we believe.”
3) Ugh. Ladies of the movement suffered two fold. The scene where Coretta listens to audio of her husband, MLK, cheating on her is painful and makes you wonder about the things you have to compromise for the greater good. The women’s movement sprung from the civil rights movement but gets half the respect.
4) How can you know about the history of slavery, the fucked up parts of how America was built (Native Americans, what?!), and not at least have some kind of sympathy for the cycle of violence and defiance, the psychological bullshit that minority communities face, from all sides?
5) How can you be a “patriot” and not support all Others’ rights?
6) How can you believe in Original Sin but not reparations? Eating meat but not abortion?
7) Fuck everyone who tells you talking about these things on social media is “not enough.” Can’t make a march or protest because you’re at work? Share about it anyway. It is important and anyone who makes you feel guilty about it is wrong. The more people see you standing up for something you believe in (and being honest about who you are), the more rounded their view of things will be, and that’s how minds are changed and progress is made.
8) Is it possible to have a movement like the civil rights movement without churches? That’s how they got white people involved. Today, though, the most “Christian” people I know are atheists or people who don’t believe in a certain faith.
9) The KKK was started by very poor white people looking for someone to make themselves better than. Poverty is the root of a lot of our shit.
10) Think about the courage it took to do what these people did, black and white. The most moving element of this was the first time they marched across the bridge (named after a KKK leader) to face a barricade of policemen and threatened violence. So you’re going there, you know if you get beat — and you will — you not only don’t have the money to get medical attention, but you don’t know if you will be admitted into a hospital or taken seriously for your injuries because you might have “asked for it.” And white people faced extra rage from racist white people who felt they were defying the natural born order. Would you have been mentally strong enough to face that?
11) How was this movie not made before now?