I Get No Respect…

keep-calm-and-respect-others-10Today’s blog post isn’t so much about writing – although it does cross over – as it about our culture in general.

When did we become a culture of no respect? And I don’t mean the Rodney Dangerfield type, either.

I’ll give you an example. Last week I had to go to traffic court because of a fender-bender I was in. (Nothing major, never fear.) Out of the thirty or so people there, only two were dressed nicely, one being me. I realize it’s not a criminal court, but come on, people, it’s still a court of law. I was raised that you dress up for business, anything to do with the law, and to go to the theatre. I won’t go so far as to dress up for air travel (if you’re going through hell, you may as well be comfortable), but at least show you look like you know you’re not in your living room.

One woman was downright belligerent to the judge and several talked back to him. When did that become permissible? I kept waiting for someone to throw their butts in jail. I’ve known people who talk back to cops, too. Why would you do that? What part of “yes, sir,” and “no, your honor,” do you not get? You may not be happy about your situation, but at least show these authority figures the respect that goes with their station.

Another example comes from my day job, where our CEO, like so many others, has an internal blog. We allow comments on this blog so that it’s a two-way dialogue. A fair number of our co-workers don’t seem to understand this does not mean say what you would say on your personal Facebook account. They just say whatever they want, however they want, even though their picture and contact information are tied to their account. I want to shake them and say, “Do you not realize this is the CEO of the entire organization you’re talking to and you could get fired over this?” There have even been a few occasions of profanity, which had to be addressed with the person who wrote it. (Glad that’s not my job…)

This all crosses over into writing with the Internet. I’m not sure whether or not to blame it (and its anonymity) for people feeling like respect is no longer owed to anyone else (but don’t you dare disrespect them because they deserve respect and they’ll make sure you know it).  Or is it a parenting thing? A larger cultural issue? All of the above? But do I know that when we regularly have things like writers stalking/flaming reviewers, or threats against authors because a series didn’t end the way someone thought it should, it’s clear we’ve thrown respect out the window.

One of my relatives has long been an advocate of mandatory military service at age 18 to help kids mature and learn to respect authority. God knows I would make the worst soldier ever (I’m small, have no stamina and I don’t like being yelled at, plus I’m a weenie), but I think she may be right. Perhaps such a drastic measure isn’t the answer, but we need to do something to put respect for others back into people.

I don’t want us to turn into some weird totalitarian society with blind faith and required allegiance, but we can’t go on this way. When we’ve lost the basic tenants of respect for authority and for one another, there’s not much left. What goes next, dignity? Or is that already gone, too? I prefer to see this as a blip in our culture’s history, rather than a sign of its crumbling. But sometimes it’s hard to have hope.

As for me, all I can do is try my best to act like a civilized human being.

What do you think? Have you seen evidence of lack of respect in our culture? What do you think is the reason? What are your solutions?

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Ichabod: A Man For The Ages

A few years ago, my fifteen year old daughter and I watched all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a mother-daughter bonding ritual I can highly recommend. We watched the first couple seasons of Angel together, and a few episodes of Bones. Lately we’ve been trying to find another series to share. We started season one of Supernatural and watched a few episodes of The X Files, though neither really clicked for us.

And then…

We saw the trailer for Fox’s new series, Sleepy Hollow. My daughter was lukewarm about it, but I thought it looked awesome, and did some arm-twisting to get her to watch the first episode. Three episodes in and she’s already doing a little arm-twisting of her own, insisting her brother watch along with us.

I think we found our series.

And, I think I found a new fan-girl crush. (Though perhaps I won’t mention it to the children.)  Ichabod Crane, as played by Tom Mison, is one of the two best things about the show. The other best this is Abby, played by Nicole Beharie. She’s a police lieutenant, sort of an Agent Scully to Ichabod’s Agent Mulder.  The interaction between the two of them is pretty compelling and makes the show worth watching.

Because really, you can’t think too hard about the plot or your brain will break.

I’m not alone in my appreciation for Mr. Crane. In this post from StarPulse.com, the author pretty much trashes the show, but has some very complementary things to say about the hero:

Suprisingly, I loved Tom Mison as Ichabod. I had absolutely no expectations going in, but he knocked Ichabod’s contemporary Renaissance man out of the park. He’s so charming and adorable that I literally threw my undies at the screen.

And I’m right there with her.

Well, sort of. There were children in the room. Teenagers. You know.

Of course, while watching the show, I had to put my writer’s hat on. True confessions: I rarely take it off. Anywhoodle, out of the striking visuals, on-screen chemistry, and loopy plotlines, I pulled a more serious question. What is it about Ichabod that had him catching panties within minutes of the premier?

What makes a compelling hero?

A while ago I wrote a post on heroes for the Crimson Romance authors blog, and here’s how I answered that question. Good heroes rely on attributes besides their looks. They stand up for what’s right. They may break a few rules, but they get the job done. Whether they’re charming bad boys, swashbuckling adventurers, or deadly competent fighters, they face their internal and external demons to win the day.

Mr. Crane covers that ground pretty well. He died in a Revolutionary War battle, but 250 years later he comes back to life. Instead of freaking out over cell phones and Starbucks, he jumps into trying to save the world from the Headless Horseman.  Abby drinks some weird Indian potion to fight the Sandman, and he takes a swig, so she won’t have to battle alone. His wife from back in the day is trapped in some kind of purgatory, and he’s going to save her, too.

Most importantly, he works from a core of confidence that communicates itself from the moment he crawls up through the dirt. It’s that confidence that allows him to get involved in a murder investigation, when he’s not actually a cop – and totally sell it. It’s that confidence that allows him to show humor and  vulnerability and charm. It’s that confidence that makes him a leader.

It’s that confidence that pulls a girl’s panties right off her butt.

His long coat doesn’t hurt, either.

Sleepy Hollow Dude
Ichabod Crane

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s possible Ichabod Crane could turn out to be a candidate for the Epic Coats Club. What do you think? Have you watched the show? Are you a member of the Ichabod Crane Fan Club?

epic coat club bnw
Who is your favorite member of the Epic Coat Club?

No True Geek: The Mythical Faken-Geek

Green Forest, Bogenfreund
Image by Bogenfreund, “Green Forest,” creative commons license.

“You can’t be a Trekkie if you’ve only watched TNG onward.”

“Oh, you like comics? Well, who was Superman’s nemesis in the third issue following Lex Luthor’s rise to prominence?”

“That’s not what Damon actually said in season four episode eight. Bejeebus, did you even watch the episode?”

Every so often in fandom, someone will card you.

Not your driver’s license — your Geek Cred Card. And if you get asked something or called out on not knowing a thing, sometimes it’ll leave you sweating bullets and questioning the state of your underoos.

And it rankles me.

Being a geek to me isn’t about what you love or how verbatim-y you can get when someone asks you to rattle something off. Being a geek is about loving a thing.

That’s it. I might take pride in being able to name just about any Buffy episode if you tell me a few snippets of the plot. It might thrill me to be able to tell you definitively that there are no demons in my apartment, car, or dog because I’ve memorized the long exorcism from season two of Supernatural. But I’m not going to ever tell you that you’re not as big a Buffy fan as I am or that you don’t love the Winchesters as much as I do if you can’t do those things.

Earlier this week, I read an article by a woman who was sharing her experience about cosplaying in a screen-accurate Star Trek uniform from The Original Series. Not only did she get concern-trolled like mad about the length of her skirt — to the point that she felt so uncomfortable by the large number of comments that she changed — but she’s had heaps of people come up and quiz her. Random trivia. Little snippets of fact from within the story of Star Trek and without.

I thought to myself, “Why does anyone think that’s necessary?”

In short, she’s been carded. And presented with the No True Geek logical fallacy. In case you’re unfamiliar, there’s a common logical fallacy known as the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. It’s saying, “Oh, no true Scotsman prefers vodka to scotch.” Or “No true Scotsman would agree with the conservative party in Westminster.” It’s a way to Other someone, to prove to oneself that they don’t belong in your club.

When it comes to geekdom, it happens a lot. When it’s friends bantering and discussing a mutual Loved Thing, that’s one thing. When it’s a stranger using tricksy, Gollum-worthy questions to embarrass and humiliate, that’s something else altogether.

It’s like saying the person who spends two hours a day playing Bejeweled Blitz and Simpsons Tapped out isn’t a real gamer because no true gamer would play those games. Ultimately, the No True Geek fallacy is harmful because it is a mindset that forces the masses of unique, snowflake-y humanoids inhabiting geekdom to constrain their loving of things to one limited ideal of what that ought to look like.

The same can go for fantasy or science fiction — recently female authors have been fighting the inane idea that true sci-fi would never have romance (inane because those making that argument clearly missed Han and Leia’s courtship along with Spock and Uhura and heaps of other stellar — get it?! Stellar? — romances written by males).

To Other someone: to boot them out of a club you feel you’ve staked your claim on with a crayon-scrawled sign.

Another example is that good-looking people can’t be geeks. The argument that no true geek is good-looking because good-looking people wouldn’t have experienced the ostracism and angst of adolescence getting bullied or picked on for their looks. I read that one in a couple different comments tonight.

I consider myself to be a good-looking person. No one’s run screaming from me in years. But just because I don’t make babies cry now doesn’t mean I didn’t spend my adolescence absolutely miserable. I had horrific cystic acne that started when I was eight. I had grossly misaligned teeth followed by three years of painful, shiny, obvious orthodontia. I blushed easily. I was ridiculed and made fun of constantly. I was not, by anyone’s standards, an attractive teen-thing.

Saying no true geek can be attractive is a logical fallacy. It’s another way of Othering someone.

And that’s not what geekery is about.

Geekery is about loving a thing. It’s about the gooey delightful feelings of effervescence when a show comes off hiatus. It’s making inappropriately high-pitched noises at the sight of someone’s Buffy lunchbox or silently giving someone a Live Long and Prosper when you see their Star Trek shirt. It’s discussing existential nihilism and misanthropy over Twitter. It’s the people who will sit in line overnight to get into Hall H at San Diego Comic Con this week. It’s the feel of that comic book in your hands or turning to the letters from fans at the back and feeling tears well up in your eyes at the number of people who are as thrilled to see an all-female X-Men cast as you are.

Geeks are the ones who should be opening our arms to let new people come love things with us. High-fiving random strangers for dressing their little girls in Green Lantern shirts — or grinning and leaving 2π in the tip line of a $20 check because you saw the server wearing a quadratic joke on a wristband.

If you’ve been the Other, you should know how it feels.

Instead making people prove their ways in, why not open the door for them?

Let’s love things together.