Archive for July, 2012

Sex vs. violence

My husband and I love movies, and we watch the odd television show. We’ve found for the last while, when we watch a movie, one of the peripheral issues we consider is: could we let our son, who is eight, watch this movie?

My movie-watching and book-reading wasn’t much censored by my own parents, as I recall. Well, I read more books than I watched movies (lack of transport creates is own limitations) but still, I was left to my own devices with books. My dad suggested books from time to time — Willa Cather’s My Antonia one summer, Frank Herbert’s Dune when I asked about science fiction — but I don’t recall ever being told “You can’t read that.” So I’ve read Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye and  bunch of other stuff, serious and fluffy.

Movies were a different story. I couldn’t go myself for the most part, as I had no way to get there. Back then, movies weren’t the sort of hobby they are for me now. And these were the days before cable was so prevalent, before all the networks we have today, before things like TCM.

I’ve come to the conclusion that to some extent, movies are easier to censor than books. I can block shows with certain ratings using the V-chip (and I do); I can simply say “no” when my son asks to watch something. He has no TV in his room — he can’t hide under the covers with a flashlight as he could with a book. And somehow, I think reading about things, where you make the movie in your own head, is different from watching and seeing the ideas and dialogue interpreted for you.

So we watch these movies — our collection ranges from Amelie to Metropolis to Zombieland — and as I said, one of our first thoughts is, can our boy watch these? And then we find ourselves wracking our brains for the content of the movie. Often, the deciding factor is sex.

I know many people out there — and I include myself among them — say they’d rather have their kids see two people in love being intimate than two people beating the bejeesus out of each other. But when would you like that? I don’t particularly want to explain to my 8yo what sex is, and I don’t think at this point he wants to know.

Sometimes it’s easy — he will not be seeing Zombieland or The Terminator or Inception or Austin Powers or Sunset Boulevard or Batman Begins. I feel those films and others are either too violent, contain too much profanity, or will bore him. Trying to explain what’s going on will frustrate me and bore him. I really don’t think he’ll care, or understand, Norma Desmond and her desire to reclaim her stardom. (But by God I’ll make him watch that one day! And Casablanca!)

However, I could explain the violence in many movies in relatively simple terms. In The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, I can tell him that the bad guys want money and will do bad things to get it and the good guys will do what they have to do to stop the bad guys. That divide would probably apply to most movies. Autobots are trying to stop the Decepticons from destroying the earth; Batman is trying to stop [insert villain]; etc. Sex is different; it doesn’t lend itself to that kind of relatively easy explanation.

For example, we were debating whether we could show our son any episodes of Firefly, the late, lamented sf series by Joss Whedon. I said, well, not the episode where Mal (the captain) and Wash (the pilot) are captured and tortured by a mobster. Then I said, well, no, because one character, Inara, is a “companion” — a legal prostitute. In the few episodes of the show that were made, it’s not so much that Inara sleeps with anyone that concerns me, it’s more the repeated times Mal calls her a “whore.”

Actually, that word caught me off guard in another movie we recently watched, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. In a scene involving the god Vulcan (Oliver Reed) and the goddess Venus (Uma Thurman), Vulcan calls her a trollop, a floozy, and then — several times — a whore. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when our boy didn’t ask me what that meant. The Iron Man debate ended quickly when we recalled Tony Stark’s roll in the hay with the reporter.

Don’t get me wrong. I might be holding these movies back, but I’m not sitting him in front of Tarantino movies, or even things like The Dirty Dozen. Old movie does not equal safe movie. I’m just making my calls as best I can and it dawned on me that in this process, sex tends to be the deal-breaker. Violence is not “better than” sex. But it struck me, as I said, that it’s easier to explain the violence. And perhaps it’s easier to ignore, in some ways? One of the scenes my son has watched many times is the end of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin Skywalker loses his extremities (and mind, one could argue) in a light-saber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. But I can tell him that Anakin became a bad guy and Obi-Wan was left with no alternative to stop him. I can explain that good guy/bad guy thing.

The columnist Gregg Easterbrook has noted many times in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column the descriptions of “violence” in MPAA ratings. Something like Spider-Man will say “Rated PG-13 for comic book violence.” I have also seen “action violence,” “science-fiction violence,” etc. Easterbrook asks — why isn’t it just “violence”? Marketing, probably, and I’m sure he knows that.

In fact, I could argue that watching a guy shooting webbing out of his arms at a guy made of sand is, in fact, different from the violence you’d encounter in a movie like Heat. Spider-Man is not realistic and is not meant to be.

Sex is different, probably because it involves emotions and fluid judgment, and those are a whole lot harder to explain to a kid. I don’t really think my kid is ready for those explanations yet, although when he asks I’ll be as honest and direct as I can be for his age. If he asks more, I’ll answer more. It’ll just be a little harder to explain.

L’histoire, c’est fini

Whoa. I posted the final chapter of Rhythm and the Blue Line today, and let me just say that although my readers and I were on the same written page, they had more of them in mind than I did. Here are the comments at Literotica, if you’d like to browse them (sorry, no other public comments available).

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who posted. Positive or not, it means a lot that you read the story all the way through, especially given the long lag between chapters eight and nine. Also, I believe that I must have done something right if people get riled up.

The overriding complaint is the need for an epilogue; people feel that lines were left untied. Specifically, readers maintain that three issues remain unresolved: Ryan and her father, the success of Imaginary Grace, and the permanency of Ryan and Brody’s relationship. Now, I don’t exactly mean to defend myself, but what the heck — it’s my blog.

One at a time. Ryan and her father — this is about as resolved as it’s going to get. I never intended to have Ryan and her father reconcile. For one thing, that doesn’t always happen. For another — anyone can do that. I wanted to leave it like that; I wanted Ryan to be on her own, to keep going on her own. She’s gone this far, after all. One commenter asked: “Do you seriously mean to say that it just took one shouting match with her dad to get over years worth of misery and insecurities?”

Ah, no. I never said that. I never said whether Ryan was in fact miserable or insecure, and I don’t think a person would get as far as Ryan has if she was that hung up on what her parents might say. Ryan has been building her life on her own for years, despite what they’ve said to her and their lack of support. And does this line, from ch 9, spoken by Ryan to her father not provide a little finality? “Too damn bad, because I’m fucking finished with you!”

There was really nowhere else to go after that.

Next problem: the success of Imaginary Grace. Many readers wanted me to continue on and describe the band’s continued rise to the top of the music hill. Mostly they wanted this, and I can sympathize, because they wanted to rub Ryan’s dad’s nose in it. 🙂 Some also wanted it as a tool for her family to reconcile. Going back to above, that wasn’t going to happen. Also, the band’s success wasn’t quite the point. Don’t get me wrong — in my head, they’re the next big thing. But I think following the band up this road would have resulted in a fair bit of repetition, and that bogs a story down.

On to the last looming issue: Ryan and Brody and what happens next. Many, many readers wanted an engagement between our brave heroes. Well, I can’t apologize for that. It wouldn’t work. They are by no means ready to get engaged or married. After all the issues they’ve had, the way they’ve had a hard time trusting themselves and their feelings — moving in is a big step towards marriage, but they are not ready to jump that far right now.

I realize that readers expect certain things out of a romance and that I didn’t deliver that. I can’t apologize for that. I don’t write stories in order to stick to a formula or outline. I do with the basics, I can’t deny — I have the couple meet, fall in love, have trouble, make up. I don’t always (I hope) do it the same way, because that’d be boring. At least for me, and I’d think for you, to a point.

So as often happens, I wrote the story I wanted to tell, which wasn’t always what the readers expected, or even wanted. Still, I hope overall people enjoyed it, because that’s the other thing I aim for.

Final chapter

Here it is, the final chapter of Rhythm and the Blue Line. All I can say is I hope you enjoy it, and feedback is always appreciated. Here’s an excerpt.

She searched for a place to start as they walked up the street and settled on asking, “Are you mad at me?”He looked at her in surprise. “No, why would I be?”

“I don’t know. I’m just—I’m trying to figure this out, Brody. I don’t like the way things are between us but we don’t seem to be able to get past it.”

“I know. I don’t know what to do either.”

“I’m going on the tour. I can’t change that.”

“I know. I’m still not happy about it; can’t change that.”

Ryan closed her eyes and paused before speaking. “But are you happy for me? That I have the chance to do this?”

“Yeah, I am,” he said with no enthusiasm.

Ryan bit back an angry reply. That would set them on the same track and nothing would be solved. She had to break the pattern.

“Brody, we can’t keep going like this.” She stopped and waited for him to turn and look at her. “I want you to be happy for me. It really—it hurts that you’re not.”

He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I said I was happy for you. I don’t need guilt trips, Ryan.”

“God damn it, this is not a guilt trip!” She made a frustrated sound and put her hands on her hips. “Okay, here it is. I love you. That’s why it hurts that you can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm for me at all.”

Brody stared at her and she tried not to feel defensive. “Look, I didn’t say that so you’d say it back, or to pressure you or anything. I just—we keep saying the same things. I didn’t want to go without being honest, and I didn’t want to hold anything back.” She waited a few beats. “Aren’t you going to say something? Anything?”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.” Brody looked as confused as she felt.

“No.” She shook her head. “This isn’t about what I want. It’s about how we feel and what’s going to happen next. It’s about—about the fact that in a few days I’m leaving for a couple of months and I hate the idea of losing you before that happens.”

“No one said you were going to lose me.”

Rhythm or the Blue Line?

Warning — if you haven’t read the latest chapter of Rhythm and the Blue Line, this will contain spoilers. You can click here to start at the beginning, or click here to read chapter 11.

The feedback on this one has surprised me a little in that there seems to be a bit of a divide as to who is right, Ryan or Brody. I’d say that they’re both right and wrong. I probably relate a little more to Ryan, being a woman myself, but I try to be fair here. I know that in a relationship, fault is not always even or clear. Sometimes you’re not sure what you’re upset about, or why, or how to express it. And here you have two people who want to be together, who did not expect to become so involved, who both have goals and expectations about their lives.

Ryan wants to be a successful musician, to make a living doing what she loves to do, and I don’t think anyone can fault her for that. She knows what she wants and is going after it. Brody is a successful hockey player, which he loves, and given the nature of sports as a business, I don’t think you can fault him for being careful — even resistant — to the idea of committing to a serious relationship. Players are traded with no advanced warning; expected contract offers may not happen. It’s a lot to ask of someone to stay with you through that, and yeah, they make a lot of money, but that doesn’t fix everything.

Final spoiler warning!!

So in Chapter 11, Ryan returns from Imaginary Grace’s tour, and a week or two later, is offered another one. The band will open for Stone Fortress, a group that’s “made it,” as well as headline their own shows at smaller venues. She is thrilled and at first Brody is as well, but then he realizes that this will screw up his summer plans — to stay in Virginia and be with Ryan. He’s stuck. He wants her to go for it, but the cost is time spent with her. Ryan is confused, too. She wants to be with him, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime, she tells him. She can’t pass this up, and let’s not forget she’s not the only in the band.

Brody wants her to go but also to stay. As Ryan says, this doesn’t leave her a lot of wiggle room. She can’t do both.

Response to this impasse in the feedback intrigued me. Mostly this feedback came from Literotica, but a little from other sites. One reader wrote the following:

“…it seems to me that it always about Ryan and Ryan doesn’t much care about anything else, so what if she isn’t good with relationships, is it any reason to keep treating Brody this way when he disagrees about something, she is incredibly selfish.”

Really? Ryan is selfish for wanting pursue her dream? When Brody has already achieved his? And the truth is in the argument that reader is referring to, I think Brody gets in the harsher line.

However, there was a rebuttal. 🙂

“while everyone seems to be on Brody’s side, here is Ryan’s side, she gets one of the biggest opportunities of her career to make big on her dream, he complains about leaving, if he truly does love her, he would [be] over the moon for her and not bitch about the time she won’t spend with him.”

To my mind — and the author has a view that of course is different from any reader — they both have valid points. That’s the way I usually write things. Nobody is all right and nobody is all wrong, which is so often the way it is in real life. I don’t, or I try not to, write my stories completely along conventional rules.  The basics are there, sure. Couple meets, couple gets along, couple falls in love, couple has issues, couple reunites. But I don’t always have a big blow up and fight, because that doesn’t always happen. What I have here are two people trying to reconcile what they want and not being sure how to do it; that doesn’t always entail storming off in a huff.

My opinion is that Ryan should get the edge here. As she told Brody earlier in the story, she is still trying to get to where he is — successful in doing what he loves. She doesn’t know how long that will take, or if she’ll even ever get there. I think now that the opportunity is there, Brody is entitled to be startled and even upset, but after he’s over that, he should want her to do it. There are even options to reduce the time apart, such as when Ryan suggests he visit her while the tour is going. I realize that professional sports is a year-round occupation these days, but it is the off season and Brody could most likely do that.

It’s all about making things work. And in chapter 12, you’ll find out if they do. 😉


Next Chapter of Rhythm and the Blue Line

Here we go: the penultimate chapter of Rhythm and the Blue Line is up!

It’s available at Literotica, (check new updates), and should be up at soon. Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting; all the feedback means a lot, as any writer can tell you. Here’s an excerpt:

Brody checked the lasagna while he waited for Ryan. He hoped she hadn’t gotten stuck in traffic, although he figured she’d call if something like that happened. It seemed strange that the six weeks were over. The only thing wrong was that he wasn’t still playing hockey. Not that he would be even if the team was still in the playoffs. He was improving and would try skating again the next week. Still, he chafed at the restrictions.

The knock at the door jerked him out of his thoughts and he hurried over to open it.


“Hi.” He stood there and grinned down at Ryan until she laughed.

“So are you going to let me in?”

“Just making sure it’s really you.” He leaned down to kiss her and reached for her guitar. “Come on in.”


After her things had been stowed in the bedroom, he reached for her and pulled her into a thorough kiss. She made a pleading sound and he tightened his arms around her, trying to make up for all the lost time. Her fingers toyed with his hair before she wrapped her arms around him and held on.

“God, I missed you,” she said.

“Missed you, too.” Brody held her for a minute, rubbing his cheek against her hair and stroking her back.

“You still have your beard.” Ryan pulled back just enough to look at him and smile.

“I didn’t think it was fair to shave it off until you had a chance to see it for yourself. I thought you might like it.” To prove his point, he leaned in and rubbed his chin against her neck. She yelped and laughed but he wouldn’t let her go.

“Okay, enough!” Ryan couldn’t stifle a few residual giggles even after Brody stopped.

“I knew you’d like it.” Brody grinned.

“So, what smells so good?”

“Lasagna. I figured you probably haven’t eaten.”

She laughed. “It’s been a while, and certainly not anything as good as what you make.” She wiggled her hips against him. “But I could wait a little on the food.”

Brody made some quick mental calculations. “Hold on.” He held her hand and led her into the kitchen, unwilling to let go now that she was here. She laughed as he got out a hot pad, set the lasagna on it and turned off the oven all with one hand.

“There.” He nodded and turned back to her, pulling her close. “Now we’ll have some food for after.”

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