Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Have a New Idea!

This one's really good, and I'm pretty excited about it.

How would we really react to superheroes in our society? Would we embrace them? Of course not! They're different, things to be feared. Right?

So the government steps in and takes care of the whole problem. Any child who Manifests superpowers becomes a ward of the state. The parents are paid, of course, for their trouble raising the child until that point. But it's important for the government to step in, because uncontrolled powers can be deadly for the rest of the family. Even the point of Manifestation can be terrifying, and my main character, Chelsea, nearly killed her family in a housefire when she Manifested.

So she's taken to the Academy, where the government trains their Supers. As you can imagine, the arrival of Supers has changed the landscape of the world, but more importantly, it has changed the way the world fights its wars. What use are weapons as we know them when you have a Super who can absorb nuclear energy or crush missiles in his bare hands?

Chelsea knows she's going to be a soldier. She's a firepath, and she knows she's too destructive for anything else. When she first arrives at the Academy, she earns the nickname Wildfire after a campout disaster, and the Academy soon becomes concerned that she's not going to be any good to them if she's scared of her own powers.

That's where Liam comes in.

He's the poster child for the Academy. He Manifested when he was hardly old enough to walk, and his powers are some of the strongest the Academy has ever seen. He's tall, blonde, and he's got the strong jawline. Perfect Hero material. The Academy is already dreaming about the propaganda posters they can make of him. 

He's also got a particular talent for annoying Supers into showing their true powers. So when he tries his technique on Chelsea and she shows off powers even she didn't know she had, he surprises everyone by asking to partner with her. He thinks he can help her, mold her.

And he might be a little bit attracted to her.

Chelsea, of course, thinks he's a stuck-up and condescending puppet of the government, but she's always seen things a little differently from the rest of the Academy.

He's able to train her for her first tour of duty, and while she's out, she catches the eye of the public. Reporters in the field start to follow her story. That's when she earns her mask, and her old nickname becomes a household name. After her first two years on duty, she returns as Wildfire the Hero. And the Academy knows it.

She's dangerous.

They try to groom her to be a Hero. They even give Liam to her as a partner. But she and everybody else knows that they can't keep her contained much longer.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Moms Are Superheroes

So there's been this article trending lately about how Amy Glass looks down at us young married people who have ended our lives and can't contribute to society anymore and have given in to the patriarchy blah blah blah.

Anyway, I've seen lots of different responses to it. I debated whether or not I should go through and respond line-by-line to her article or if I should address the general sentiment. I'll start with the general sentiment, the really toxic idea that to be feminist means you have to shun motherhood and marriage (which I hotly contest, especially as a young, married feminist). But not in the way you think.

See, I think the thing is, Amy Glass isn't part of superhero culture. 

Yeah, that one surprised you, huh?

Growing up, I was taught that superheroes are the ideal, what we should strive for. (I'm talking real superheroes, not the gritty angst fest at DC right now, but that's a different debate.) Now let's go over some of their traits, shall we?

1. Heroes are selfless

Remember when Captain America stood up to bullies even when he wasn't big enough to take the hit? Or how about when Tony sacrificed himself in the Battle of New York? Or how about all the side characters who sacrificed their lives so Our Hero could live? 

What about every single story where the bad guy tries to lure the good guy to his death by, you guessed it, appealing to his (or her) selfless nature? "Give yourself up or [insert character] dies." Doesn't even have to be a sidekick or a love interest. Could be a random citizen.

Point is heroes are selfless.

That's why moms are heroes. That's why when Mom gets dolled up for a night on the town and Sally comes down with the flu, she stays home. That's why she gets no sleep: she was fighting the monsters in the closet. That's why when she spends the day driving kids to soccer practice instead of reading the brand new book she just bought, she's a hero. 

(This is also why dads are heroes, but that's another discussion. I could go on and on about how awesome dads are, especially because mine was amazing, but I'm trying to address the mom issue.)

2. Heroes are mentors

My favorite hero is Nightwing, and my favorite of his stories are the ones where he takes the latest Robin model train surfing (riding on top of trains). These are usually character-building stories where he takes the new Robin under his wing and talks about how to deal with this whole new life. 

So please, yes, tell me how much good I'm not doing by taking the latest Human model under my wing and talking about how to deal with this whole new life. That's very fascinating. Do go on.

3. Heroes are looked up to

Oh my gosh, we see this everywhere. People dressing up as the Avengers. Little kids getting excited to get autographs from the Flash. Everywhere they go, heroes are looked up to (except Spiderman and the X-Men, but that's a whole other story, and even then, the people who recognize that they are heroes look up to them).

I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of realizing you're a little kid's hero. I was sitting next to my husband's ten year old sister the other day, and I was just casually doodling. And then I looked over to see that she was copying my doodles with all the care of a little girl still learning about drawing. There's something very special about that moment.

Now imagine that every day. Imagine going to make dinner when your son asks if he can use the mixer so he can be a cook too. Imagine sitting down to play the piano and your toddler sits down next to you with her toy xylophone.

4. Heroes are looked down on

Pay attention, Amy. This is for you.

Spiderman is the easiest example here, so let's go with this. Dear ol' J. Jonahlambasts this poor guy. Spiderman's different! He's evil! Look at the choices he's made; I would never make those choices. Oh, look, he's choosing not to be famous but instead to serve in quiet anonymity. Oh look, he's causing a scene with those villains; can't he control them? Oh gosh, there he goes again giving himself up; what a dope. He must be part of the system.

Oh wait, my bad. Those are anti-motherhood arguments. Oh look, she's choosing to eschew a hike in the mountains or fame and fortune (or whatever else she's giving up) to serve in quiet anonymity. Oh look, she's causing a scene with that child who's teething and doesn't know why the world is so mean; can't she control her child? Oh gosh, there she goes again giving up something else for her kids; what a dope. She must be part of the system.

5. Heroes are unpaid

...and yet no one questions their contributions to society. In fact, how many superheroes have you seen who turned down an offer of a reward? "Just doin' my job," as the cliche goes.

So, you're telling me that these heroes who serve anonymously, who shape the next generation of heroes, who provide good examples for those who look up to them and suffer the slings and arrows of those who hate them - you're telling me they're not contributing to society? Now replace the word "hero" with the word "mother" (or even just "parent"), and does anything change?

Yeah. Thanks for your opinion. Time to do some serious thinking about your definition of a hero.

I'm sorry that you live in a world where people who give everything for their children are worthy of your ridicule. I'm sorry you live in a world where "live now and be selfish" has taken the place of "live well and be remembered." (To be fair, I'm not saying the decision to not be a mother is selfish; that's an individual decision with lots of factors, not to mention the fact that there are some people who can't actually have children, and they're definitely not selfish for not having kids! Yeah, not opening that can of worms. I'm just saying theattitude behind your choice to look down on mothers is selfish.)

We could go on for another few pages talking about how this doesn't mean mothers can't do things for themselves. Yeah, moms can totally take a vacation and go hiking in the Alps or whatever else you want them to do. They can. They can also read a good book on their own. Write a good blog post. Take time for themselves. (It's the moms who don't get that time because their husbands don't do their part in the partnership that we as feminists have a problem with.) But that's not the point here.

Nor is the point the fact that there are other things I can do as a woman to be a hero. Yes, I hope to one day chase my dream and be a best-selling writer, for example. My best friend wants to be a heart surgeon. I'm not saying being a mom is the only way to be a hero. But let's at least stop pretending it's somehow evil to choose to be this kind of hero.