Friday, May 24, 2013

GENERAL: Spam Comments

I get a lot of spam comments on my blog but I have to say that THIS is my all time favourite.

It feels a lot like my brain when I make myself sit in front of the computer with nothing to say.

I especially like 'anal acrobata pattycake' - I'm pretty sure a friend of mine had that once.

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FILMS: The Two Types of Women (according to Bromances)

Do not even get me STARTED on this:

I can only assume Grown Ups 2's subtitle is Men Rule! Women: Not So Much.

I haven't seen it. I mean, if I wanted to watch a bunch of privileged men shirking their responsibilities and being dicks all day, I'd watch Parliament TV.  But those WOMEN. My GOD. Those moany old sows being all annoyed at their fun-loving fellas. Poor men.

I'm guessing that film shares the same depth of female character development plumbed by THIS doozie:

It's a funny-ish film. I like Zac Gallaifliifjakis. I don't like how they leave their friend roasting on top of an hotel and I don't like the mess they leave behind.

But what I don't like the MOST is how they show women.  Yeah it's a bromance. I get that. Women aren't going to feature heavily and that's fine. But at least put some THOUGHT into those you do choose to feature. There's more to being a woman than being really, really nice and really, really horrible.  I know. SHOCKER.

First off Ed Helm's fiance is just despicable. She's mean-spirited, spoiled and generally a complete fucking bitch.

But what's this? A cute little lady who's super good fun but also happens to be an 'escort'?

Oh PURLEASE.  These are the laziest depictions of women in a film EVER.  It's like the writers have only seen two films: Porky's and Porky's 2.

I have absolutely no doubt that this is exactly how the character discussions for these two went:

'Right. So that's all the guys done. I guess we should look at the women.'

'God, I am dying for a drink. We've been in here for eight hours.'

'Five more minutes, guys. That's all.'


'So Stu's going to marry this woman. But when he's in Vegas he gets drunk and ends up with someone completely different.  What do you think?'

'Hey. I know. Let's make his fiance a complete bitch so that everyone hates her and no-one feels sorry for her when Stu jilts her on her wedding day.'

'Genius! And we can have the other woman as an exotic dancer who may, or may not, be a hooker! But she's super sweet and innocent and only does it for cash for her baby.'

'I think we've nailed it fellas. Margaraitas back at mine?'

'I'll bring the blender!'

And the most depressing thing about it all is that Heather Graham looks so HAPPY about it.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

FILM: STAR TREK - INTO DARKNESS - where have all the women gone?

I lo-o-oved JJ Abram's 2009 Star Trek. I mean, seriously blown away by it. It was paced to perfection with a time-travel storyline so mind bogglingly good that each time I watch it I find myself still chasing how everything fits together. That is a sign of a really good film for me.

Last night I watched its sequel, Into Darkness, and was not disappointed. Even more exciting with the fabulous Benedict Cumberbatch (Cumberbunch in our house, I just.can' in all kinds of brilliant villainy. I love his journey from the snivelling toad on Starter for Ten to an action star who has, and I take no pride in saying this, a really sexy run. I know. I am SO predictable.

Anyway.  Yes: yes, great film, great visuals, good story, good dialogue (although Bones is reduced to a vehicle for dour one-liners, lurking in the background of adrenaline-filled scenes with all the warmth and likeability of a Tory back bencher opening a new state school in Streatham), great sets and nice looking people.

I really enjoyed it.



The film is set in the early/mid 2200s and while there are women at a ratio of about 75/25 (men/women) in the worker ranks of Star Fleet, elsewhere it appears that the strides in the workplace that women have taken over the past fifty years clearly stalled somewhere around 2100.

It was only a short part of the film, and the second bit I mention was seriously nip-to-the-loo-and-you've-missed-it.


One of the key early scenes, where all the commanders, admirals, basically all the big cheeses in Star Fleet, are called for a summit, the members of the meeting are almost entirely male.

Seriously? In 200 years, women still aren't in those top jobs?

The only woman at the table was this Vulcan woman.

I may be being a cynic but she's good ten years younger than the rest of the old farts around that table (apart from Kirk because, natch, he's like some boy wonder).  She also appears in the second Big Cheese Meeting again, surrounded by even more gouty-looking colleagues.  Maybe she's a stellar candidate - maybe she's a female Kirk. Which would be awesome.

But I doubt that's what JJ Abrams had in mind when he cast for Big Cheeses.  But even if he did. Even if this spunky young woman is another wunderkind, just the one? One woman on that table was enough?  It bothers me so much that no-one thought that the current male-dominated Top Tables may have changed in 200 years.  That alongside the puffed up male generals and admirals, there might be an equally puffed up female general or admiral with years and experience and authority under her belt. A woman who might also have earned their place at that table through skill at leading, inspiring, strategizing and all the other kinds of 'ings' Big Cheeses need to have shown.  God forbid more than one.

I know it's a TINY part of the story, but isn't it a little narrow-minded to completely overlook the fact that women are becoming increasingly more present in the board room and in the military?  Not as much as they should, but it is growing. How amazing would it have been if JJ Abrams (or his casting agents, both of whom were women ....) had decided to acknowledge this trend of equality and just put a few women in there. Not loads. Not even a 50/50 split. Just some.

I don't know. Maybe the women in Star Fleet struggle to climb the Corporate Ladder because they're stuck in these outfits.

The sight of Carol climbing into a shuttle whilst trying to maintain some kind of gusset-free dignity really underlined the impracticality of the female uniforms.  Women don't travel in them: they wear grey jumpsuits (I mistyped that originally as jumpshits which is AWESOME) just like their male colleagues. And Uhulu changed into something far more practical - TROUSERS - for her assault on the Klingons.

This clearly indicates to me that those mini-dresses are nowhere near as practical for the business of space travel as they look. And don't even get me started on the sorts of havoc to be wreaked on the back of a bare thigh during a long shift on a plastic chair in a skirt that short ...

I mean, look how uncomfortable Zoe Saldana looks in this shot as she relaxes with her colleagues:

Isn't it about time that, with such a brilliant renaissance of a dated brand, that women were included in the redux too?  I mean, Uhulu's a great female character with all sorts of power - more of her would be wonderful. But I was suspicious of physics doctor Carol who just seemed too young and beautiful to be who she said. And rightly so because this is what Abrams thought of her:

It's not enough to have female characters with outstanding abilities in translation and physics when you diminish them like that. It's not good enough to make your female characters everything: it's not good enough to make them doctors with great racks.  That is not what being a modern woman is about.

A successful and inspiring woman is exactly the same kind of person as a successful and inspiring man.  She doesn't need a bloody washboard stomach and tits up to here to be good at what she does. (unless she's a model, natch)

Bones. Scotty. Chekov. Sulu.

You don't see them in their skivvies but their knowledge and skills make them key characters.  Carol's some kind of physics genius but Abrams has also chosen to give her a smoking bikini bod. WHY HASN'T THE WORLD  OF 2250 MOVED ON FROM THIS POSITION? God, it depresses me that my great, great, great, great granddaughter will be facing the self-same bollocks I currently ignore. According to Abrams, anyway.

Just because Abrams and his production crew are trying to stay true to the original 1960s design, does that include attitudes to women. If a male black character had been depicted as intellectually inferior or a Jewish character as greedy would they have stuck to those hideous out-dated stereotypes? Just because the women were basically sexed up phone operators in the original series, doesn't mean that the women in the new films have to continue to be beholden to those dated attitudes of objectification and simplification.

This is a Sci-Fi film for a whole new generation of girls, and it's a good, powerful, fun film. It's just such a shame JJ Abrams missed the trick that women have come further than space travel since Star Trek first aired. Maybe next time he'll put one bright old admiral broad amongst all those farts on the Big Cheese Board and one bright young woman may be inspired to boldly go where no man has gone before ...

Friday, May 10, 2013


I am SO excited because The Apprentice is back. It really is the only thing on TV I actually remember to watch - apart from Homeland and ... well, Homeland, really. 

The first two episodes have been that heart-racing mix of hilarious stupidity and outright nob-ending and I LOVE IT.

Two things are already standing out for me:

1. Why are most of the girls dressed like they're auditioning for a Business Lady Stripper role?  Have I missed something or can you not be taken seriously as a woman in business unless you wear six inch fuck-me heels and do your hair like Katie Price? They're attractive women, but they looked like dolls sitting at the boardroom table.

And one of them's a doctor for God's sake. It's embarrassing.  I was genuinely gutted when Jaz left - as comedian Kathryn Ryan rightly noted, she was the only one who didn't look like they'd had their make-up done by Take Me Out.

It's also hugely disappointing that one of the candidates chose to describe herself as having the 'energy of the Duracell bunny, the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and the brain of Einstein' yet then went on to ask who the president of the UK was ... If you're going to sell yourself as something, at least try to live up to it.

There's nothing wrong with being a sexy, powerful, successful woman. Of course there isn't. But there is something wrong when you notice the shoes first and the business sense second. 

2. The boys are no better. A clutch of posturing, vain, dim-witted morons all shouting over each other how bloody amazing they are at selling, guys.  The kind of men who think that if you say something enough times, it's true.  Even the Silly Shit PhD student is useless - anyone who undercuts HIS OWN COLLEAGUE is a fuckwit on any planet.

However, my favourite is Alex Mills who dresses like Del Boy and came up with the Silly Shit's name of the Silly Shit and also called him a Pleb in fury. I didn't even know that was still in use (outside of Tory MPs, natch, whose entire cannon of swearwords are sourced solely from Biggles stories). His camel coat worn over the shoulders a' la Jerry from The Good Life ... AWESOME.

At this point, it's too wide a playing field to say who might win, but I'm going to say the final five will, hopefully, be: 

Ice Maiden Stephanie - she may be unpopular with the other women, but I like her humanity.

The one wearing Laboutins (Natalie?) - she seemed on it a bit more than the rest at the Brewery.

Niall The Cock - the cocks always seem to stay in and are good value.

The Body (Miles?) - he seems cool and calm enough to get through a Board Room Attack.

Alex. Because he's bloody brilliant.

The rest will be nailed by their own desperation.

Friday, May 03, 2013

WRITING: Is Chick Lit really just a woman's world?

The other week, I went to an author's night which included the rather wonderful Polly Williams (who, it turns out, is a friend of mine's sister-in-law - I know - this means we're essentially related) speaking on a panel about her current book.  She was joined by Veronica Henry and Ciara Geraghty ( both brilliantly engaging too - Ciara in particular is hilarious: if you get a chance to see her at a book event, go. She also has awesome hair).  All three were super bright, articulate and funny - it was such an inspiring night I came out all aglow.

But, since then, something that Polly said during the course of the evening keeps snagging in my head. She was sharing an anecdote about how a stuffy literary broad-sheet critic had savaged one of her early books and how, a few years later, she happened to be seated next to him at a wedding. He was, of course, nervously charming and everything ended up happily, but the review still stung.

Polly was incredibly discreet and did not name or give away any identifying features but from what was said, he was clearly a middle-aged white man.  I'm guessing of the kind that's predisposed to calling you 'dear' from the moment you're introduced. (Veronica Henry guessed straight off who it was, btw, (and was equally discreet) because he'd also ripped one of her books apart.)

I can't remember exactly how he'd done it, but it was a fairly ruthless assassination of Polly's book that, in the main, women had embraced and enjoyed.

But we all laughed at how of course he'd be a shit about those books.  Of course he would because they weren't aimed at him, anyway!

Which is what's stuck with me: that it was accepted in that room, by practically everyone, that this stuffy old fart wouldn't like Polly's book.

It seems that we all accept that genres, in particular gender genres, are still very much alive and kicking. We are accepting that this book - the one with the soft, feminine cover - this is for girls. This one here, with the  sweat sheen muscular forearm with a smear of car oil beneath a bright yellow, angry font. That's for boys.

Are we still writing in sexes?

It's not about women writers. Not at all.  There are men writing Women's Commerical Fiction now too and plenty of women write Literary fiction (isn't all writing literature??? Whatevs, don't get me started on THAT).

It's about the audience.

One of the most frustrating things is that women readers, as a sex, are a genre.

If you asked Andy McNabb (sorry, he's the most opposite of Polly Williams I can think of) who his audience was, would he say 'Men'? No. He'd say: 'People who like fast-paced, violence-rich, kind of non-story stories'.

Do you think Hilary Mantell says 'Women?'. No. She says 'People who are interested in challenging, literary historical fiction'. (I guess. I'm pretty sure she'd put it a whole lot better than that. Hilary Mantell is AWESOME).



We even have a specific CATEGORY for us: Women's Commercial Fiction. What authors are in Commercial Fiction? What's the difference between that and the category with the word Woman at the front?

And the WORST thing about it is this: it is totally acceptable for fiction written for women to be seen as the easy option.  It's okay for people to say the word Chick Lit with a sneer, even by some who write within the genre. It's expected for books tackling tough subjects - Jojo Moyes' for example - to have soft, girly covers. It is a given that fiction written FOR WOMEN will not get a decent review from a man who writes for a broadsheet newspaper. Commercial Women's Fiction, for those outside of the circle, is dismissed as fluff and nonsense. It fills their pretty little heads and keeps them quiet for the weekend.

Why don't we expect critics to like books written in this genre, even if they are old farts?  Why do we accept being marginalised?

If we really think 'oh he just won't get it' then we'll never get out of the sidelines. What's to GET? It's a funny, touching, romantic etc. story with a (in the main) female protaganist. WHAT IS SO HARD TO 'GET' ABOUT THAT???  If the Old Fart wouldn't connect with that story, why did the newspaper ask him to REVIEW IT????

When I first published my Chick Lit book on Amazon, it was uncategorised, but I was still surprised that the first person to read and report back on it was my ex-boyfriend from school. A very Alpha male ex-boyfriend who said it wasn't what he'd usually read but he'd actually really enjoyed it. He knows I'm married so I'm guessing it wasn't part of some ruse to get me back (we snogged for three weeks 20 years and 20lbs ago). Which means there's a whole world of books out there that this man who, it appears, always wears sunglasses and likes guns, would absolutely love but he's not been made aware of.

I call that a travesty. A TRAVESTY.

BUT ...

Having said that: do we want to come out of the sidelines? It's not as if money's not being made over there and it's offering talented women (and men) success.  Do we, readers and writers of Women's Commercial Fiction, actually choose to be in a world of our own where are stories are discovered by people like us and adored in a way that few other genre books are. Do we care that Old Farts don't like them?

And how much does it matter anyway? Polly Williams' career was hardly destroyed by that dreadful review.

I guess the itch that can't quite be scratched is the acceptance of marginalisation. I like that there is a whole network out there of greedy readers who can't wait to get their mitts on the latest release. I guess that what makes me sad is that it just feels like we're limiting ourselves.  These are, at the end of the day, REALLY GOOD BOOKS and those people who dismiss them as 'just' Chick Lit don't know what they're missing.  That's all.

So am I right? Is it time to rise up against the ChickLit dismissers?

Or am I less right - is being part of an exclusive club a powerful place to be?

Download my book from Amazon today for a sunny Bank Holiday read!

One Way Or Another - Lucy Barker