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Shipping Reylo: Adam Driver & A More Twisted Last Jedi

8 Jan

by Madeline Iva

Alexa Day had a fabulous blog post on The Last Jedi last Friday.  Check it out.  I just want to extend the convo a little here — cause The Last Jedi was the first Star Wars film I’ve actually liked since Empire Strikes Back.  Not only was The Last Jedi more diverse and watchable than Return of the Jedi, and all the prequel episodes, it was far stronger, I thought, than The Force Awakens.  Yes, it was still uneven – and see Alexa’s notes on the guy who says that kind of thing about your parents is not your friend. Real wisdom there.

But hey, you know where this post is going – and it’s not going to be all about the porgs—cute as they are.

First of all, don’t tell me Adam Driver is not hot. Second of all — don’t tell me in your twisted little heart you were less than happy that this unexpected Kylo Ren & Rey thing suddenly splashed across the screen.Adam Driver is hot

REASONS TO SHIP REYLO:

  1. SEXUAL TENSION IN STAR WARS: YES, PLEASE! When Kylo Ren started to connect with Rey I sat up in my seat and was like: hey now! This movie is starting to come alive.

  2. HE’S THE MOST INTERESTING CHARACTER IN THE WHOLE MOVIE: I mean, come on–Finn, Poe & Rey? Yawn.  (Poe is a tragic waste of Oscar Isaacs if you ask me).  I thought so in The Force Awakens and even more so in The Last Jedi.  The sign of a really good actor is one who fills up an only mediocre role with charisma and emotion. Adam Driver is doing just that–and the other guys aren’t. He’s filling Kylo Ren with emotional intensity.  And so what if he draws with colors outside the Crayola Machismo Box? So they’re calling him emo. Fine. Fine. I don’t care!  He’s got his issues, okay? In The Last Jedi we find out exactly what one of those compelling issues is–and it’s pretty compelling.

  3. REY IS FAR MORE INTERESTING WITH THIS COMPLICATION: Frankly, she needs the assist. She upped her game big time by bouncing off Kylo Ren. In fact, Poe and Finn could use some of that edgy-sexy-emo assist too. Almost everyone in the rebel camp could use some help in being more interesting. Everyone except the porgs–they were totally holding their own.

  4. YOU TOTALLY WANT TO SEE KYLO REDEEMED, DON’T YOU? During the film, Kylo Ren is so on the cusp of falling over into the good side you can taste it: nom nom nom!

  5. GIVE ME A GOOD ANTI-HERO ANY DAY. They seem like they’re cranking up the works for some kind of intimate, doomed romance between Rey and Kylo Ren–and I am all over that sh*t. Let’s hope there’s some sex that happens between them, even if it’s far too late for full on redemption and he’ll have to die or something…

In the end—I will dream my little dream that Finn and Poe get their edgy, forbidden, sexual no-no encounter as well.  Why not?

Let’s say Finn is caught by the evil empire, put through retraining by Captain Phasma, and that they get together in some terribly twisted way.

Finn and Captain Phasma

You know Captain Phasma–she’s Brie from GOT.

Meanwhile, Poe and the doomed Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) found time for a very short, very fraught and heated sexual tryst that wound up on the cutting room floor.Vice Admiral HuldoPoe

BEYOND REYLO:

But if you really REALLY want to grab me by the scruff of the neck and never let me go — then after Kylo and Rey don’t work out, let’s ship Kylo Ren and General Hux. Domhnall Gleeson is another great actor who’s coming up less than in his role.  Let say Kylo Ren startles General Hux one day by stating there’s always been some chemistry between them, and it’s finally time to not only admit it, but to start exploring it.  That would scare the whiney out of Hux.  Then just let them go at it.  Now that I’d pay some good money to see.

General Hux, Kylo Ren, and Captain Phasma

Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had.  She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  Check out her other Lady Smut postsJoin her newsletter or follow her on Facebooktwitter, and PinterestWicked Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

After the Fire: Where The Last Jedi Takes Us

5 Jan
unhuxed

Behold Domnhall Gleeson, unhuxed in The Revenant. I just thought you should see that.

By Alexa Day

Where do I start with The Last Jedi?

I spent a little while, probably longer than I should have, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say about the latest cinematic installment in the mighty Star Wars franchise. Star Wars isn’t my family the way that Star Trek is, but the giant chord that gives way to the opening crawl still gives me goosebumps after all these years. My affection for the characters and the story runs deep enough to make me protective. I want the best for the series. So when I challenge the filmmakers to do better, I try to do so firmly but lovingly.

I loved The Last Jedi. It’s challenging an audience that needs to be challenged. It takes us into a darkness more subtle than its predecessors have shown us. Despair and hopelessness settle over these characters like a chill in a damp room. We’re restored to light and hope by the end of the movie, but there are a couple of places along the way that bother me.

And so, firmly but lovingly, let’s start with those places.

It’s all spoilers after this Tweet from Emo Kylo Ren.

Still here? I know. Kylo Ren has problems. We will address that in a moment.

First, let me join the long, long line of people delighted to see so many women in The Last Jedi. Star Wars has always been reasonably friendly to women in leadership for the Rebels, but the Empire and First Order have kind of been boys’ clubs until now. In The Last Jedi, I saw women working desk jobs for the First Order, down in the trenches working the switchboards with the buttons and the blinky lights. They call to mind a lot of women we know — working a crap job for a giant corporation because that’s how you keep the bills paid.

The First Order’s highest ranking woman actually appeared in the preceding movie. Captain Phasma made quite an impression in The Force Awakens, with her blinged-out Stormtrooper armor. In the giant corporation that is the First Order, Phasma is like so many of us out here toughing it out on the day job. She’s better than the drama that Supreme Leader Snoke uses to keep Kylo Ren and General Hux circling around each other, and she knows it. She’s not just trying to avoid the Disciplinary Chokey-Doke ™. She’s about getting her job done because that’s what effective leaders do. But all that hard work isn’t getting her the attention she deserves. The First Order rewards drama a lot faster than hard work. Raise your hand if that sounds like your job beneath the great ceiling of glass.

I want to see more of the woman in the gleaming armor (with a red-trimmed cape, no less), so I hope Finn didn’t succeed in killing her. I’m approaching this question the way I would approach it in a soap opera — no one is dead until there’s been an open-casket funeral and the box is in the hole. But Star Wars killed off Darth Maul just as he was becoming the most interesting character in his film. They’ve taken out characters with strong potential before. I was just hoping not to see that mistake more than once.

There is apparently a movement to ship Kylo Ren and Rey. That actually makes sense to me on one level. Over the years, I’ve had many, many friends who wanted to set me up with the only other black person they knew because we “have so much in common.” Sticking Kylo Ren together with Rey makes the same kind of sense, and it promises to have the same kind of results. The fact that Kylo Ren and Rey are both strong in the Force is not enough to build a dinner date on, much less a relationship. Kylo Ren and Rey are both living in a vacuum right now, so they can’t see that.

But I do. I see it.

Before I saw the movie, one of the spoilers that slipped through to me was that the mystery of Rey’s parents would be solved at last. I like Rey, so I was a little curious about who her parents are. I didn’t think Luke Skywalker would repeat the cycle of well intentioned abandonment that marked his own childhood. But who else could her parents be? Who else did I know?

Somehow I got to the end of the film with no answers. Concerned that I had missed something, I turned reluctantly to the Internet. At what point had the mystery of Rey’s parents been solved?

The answer was unexpected.

Rey’s parents were nobodies from nowhere who sold their child to get a fix and were later buried in a shallow, unmarked grave, forgotten by a world that was better off without them. We know that, the Internet says, because Kylo Ren says so.

He did say that, yes. I remember. I’m just surprised anyone believes him.

Sit down with your Aunt Alexa for a moment. This is important.

Kylo Ren — who needs to keep a shirt on at all times because the unnatural pallor of that poorly defined torso is not sexy at all, pookie — is lying to Rey. I think a lot of you have been told a lie just like this. I thought you knew it was a lie, but now I’m not so sure. So I want to help you out.

A person who cares about you will not tell you that you are nobody from nowhere who came from nothing. He will not do that even if he knows it to be true. He will not do that even if you know it to be true. He will definitely not do that if he knows this is something that bothers you. This is not to say that he will run along behind you, polishing your ego. Not at all. He might not constantly sing your praises to the mountains — but he will not tell you that you are insignificant, or that any part of your identity is insignificant.

You know who does tell you that you’re nobody?

That predictable, played-out lie is the trademark of a man who has figured out (a) that you are out of his league and (b) that you have not yet discovered this. You are nobody from nowhere who came from nothing, and you have no significance at all … except to me. Your Aunt Alexa and most of your friends can all name one useless dude who tried it with them because he had nothing to offer and he knew it. He probably needed to keep all his clothes on, too.

I hear some of you out there. But Vader —

It’s true that Darth Vader also gave Luke Skywalker some unwanted news about his parents. That situation was very different. For one thing, Vader was telling Luke the truth. His information was about as reliable as it gets. Vader was also trying to get Luke on the same side of the Force. Vader was trying to lift Luke up with him, using the truth. Kylo Ren is trying to drag Rey down with a lie.

I love you because we’re the same is a very different message from you can’t leave because you don’t have anything else. If you don’t hear me say anything else today, I need you to hear that.

The long road from farm boy to Jedi Knight to Jedi Master has not been kind to Luke Skywalker. His decision to follow Obi-Wan brought him to the highest point in his life, a place of meaning and purpose and fulfillment and enlightment. And then the bottom fell out, and the way of the Jedi cost Luke everything he had. This is the Luke who greets us at the beginning of the film.

Mark Hamill said, at one point, that he was opposed to where director Rian Johnson was taking his character. “[A] Jedi doesn’t give up,” Hamill said. The idea that Luke would find himself in such a dark place, no matter the circumstances, was simply unthinkable.

That really spoke to me. Because I am not in a place emotionally to hear from someone who never gives up. I’m tired. I’ve given up. And the idea that I would find myself in such a dark place was once unthinkable to me, too.

In a film filled with strong and vulnerable and multi-dimensional female characters, I saw myself most clearly in Luke. He doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s spiritual transformation anymore. He wants to be left the hell alone and leave other people the hell alone in return. When I saw Luke hiking up to the Venerable Jedi Tree with a good old-fashioned firebomb in one hand, I pumped my fist. I don’t need another cheerleader. I need a good old-fashioned firebomb and a venerable target at which to hurl it.

Yoda’s appearance, just as Luke is about to let that firebomb fly, turns the film away from its slow but inexorable march into the dark. Yoda being Yoda, he does this in a way that feels backwards to the rest of us. He doesn’t stop Luke from burning down the tree. He starts the fire himself.

It raises an important set of questions.

When the tree is gone, Luke will remain. Who is he now, in the ashes? What will he do now that he’s closed the door on his past?

What will he make of his freedom from the order and structure that informed his entire life?

It’s a big question. Luke finds an answer in his most defining moment, before he truly passes the torch to Rey.

That question is out there for all of us. Who will we be after Burning It All Down? What will we do in the ashes?

I didn’t need a cheerleader or someone who never gives up, but dammit, I needed that question. I needed that as much as I needed to Burn It All Down. I think Hamill saw that for himself, too, because he walked back his doubts about the film and his character upon further consideration.

I don’t think fandom is entirely ready for all that. Not right away. There’s a reason AMC Theatres felt they needed to warn people that the interval of silence in the middle of the story was intentional and not a defect in the sound system. Some people aren’t ready, and some of them won’t be ready for a long time.

But are you? Are you ready to consider who you actually are, without the identity and the structure you’ve been trying to grow into?

Isn’t it worth asking?

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Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

 

 

 

Thor: Ragnarok: Anti-Patriarchial Action Adventure

23 Nov

 

 

I knew going in what I wanted fromThor: Ragnarok going in–And I got it.  But it also had some excellent surprises.  First let’s go over the good stuff we expected:

I wanted humor. The very first Thor film had a lot of excellent humor–and who doesn’t love a hero–and a franchise–that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Who doesn’t love riffs on anti-cool-ness? (I do!)

I wanted Hela! I was excited to see an all-powerful villainess with the most-est.

As played by Kate Blanchet, Hela in all her glory is a lot of Goth eye make-up and a lot of scorching fury. Her tortured, slinky self was magnificent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: her antler horns are ridiculous–almost as ridiculous as Loki’s–which is saying a lot. It takes quite a good actor to wear it well, and Blanchett did.

I wanted Loki – Hiddlesbum, you hot thing you.  He was expected, even needed in the film every bit as much as Thor was. Always elegant, and in this film not given particularly much to do. He nevertheless did a good job of portraying his own skewed agenda throughout. Sometimes a reluctant part of the team, Loki’s never one of the mob. He’s an independent thinker, with his own perspective, and that’s why I like him so much. 

Idris Elba as Heimdall, alas, has never pleased me in the Thor franchise. Three reasons why:

  • They loaded him down with some crazy eye contacts
  • and about five tons of too much sincerity
  • in too small a role. Sigh.

What I wasn’t expecting was:

Valkyrie! Tessa Thompson got to play the reluctant hero role as a POC side-kick. YAY!  I found her arresting.

Thor gets a make-over! He gets a haircut. (Yay!) There is also some gratuitous shirtless Hemsworth time. (Was that abdomen CGI? I don’t think it was, but day-am!) Hemsworth, really is at his best as an actor playing a frank, yet dumb warrior dude. He doesn’t deserve his role because of pure acting skill; there is no denying the man’s super-human arms. Whew! In a way, I’m glad his shirtless moment didn’t go on and on, because I have no idea what was being said in that scene, and wouldn’t have been able to follow the movie’s plot had such shocking Hemsworth shirtlessness continued.

WHAT YOU DIDN’T SEE IN THE FILM BUT I COULD TOTALLY IMAGINE:

I think the creators of Thor know us by this point, ladies. That Thor ending—where there’s a bit of a singular moment between Thor and Loki when they’re alone. Full of emotive unspoken feelings. Full of pauses.

This is what I said to my sweetie on the way back to the car afterwards:

In my version of the film that’s where they would have started having sex.

Sweetie said: No way! They’re brothers.

Adopted!

Please.

Look it’s been a hard year for us women. We need Thor & Loki sex.

META-NARRATIVE ABOUT THE DEATH OF OLD SKOOL PATRIARCHY, ANYONE? (!!!)

It was a surprise to see Karl Urban with a bald head and heavy make up at the beginning of the film, yet he was there purely as a representation of Old skool masculinity.

A sop to a certain kind of gun-loving guy, Karl Urban has babes and guns at the beginning of the film. But the film really deflects that. An instant later, some creature spits up all over the babes, and things go to hell in a handbasket. Poor Karl really just wants to have his one true warrior moment. At the very end, he gets to have that moment—along with all the gun-toting idiot dudes out there–as he go down in a blaze of old skool masculine glory, seemingly selfish at first, but sacrificing himself for the good of others.

LET’S GO DEEPER PEOPLE: That’s one layer of the film–and it’s thin.

I would posit that the rest of Thor is attempting to shift Action Movies in a new direction—make them more progressive. (Shocking, I know.) How did THOR: RAGNAROK mark a profound shift in action adventure movies of the future? Many critics are buzzing about the different meaningful aspects of this new directorial vision – the first POC director in the franchise. I want to argue that the film is (as much as it is anything else) literaly dismantling patriarchy, as well as creating space for women as active players in the Thor Universe.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

First the women: Hela is a great villain. She could have been more clever, could have gotten deeper, but her role involved a shocker—see below.

There’s also the Valkyrie. No more Thor’s mother and sister sitting around at home while all the action was happening elsewhere. The Valkyrie is right up in it. She is the female Karl Urban, taking up far more space in the film.  She also fights in the end, knowing she’s gonna die.

No women need to be saved because they’re the weaker sex in this movie—on Valhalla the entire population needs saving. Nor are the women reserved for romantic interest fodder. There are no romantic interests at all in Thor: Ragnarok (unless you buy my Loki & Thor m/m fantasy. ;>) Women are included as players, pure and simple. Hela kicks ass, and the Valkyrie—full of doom and foreboding–wads into a losing battle, then pounds away at it just like the men.  Why not, right? They’re all gods–it’s not like their physical forms really matter.

Credit:Jasin_Boland/Marvel Studios 2017

But what was even better and more riveting to me—was this fabulous tearing down of Odin—Thor’s father (played by Anthony Hopkins.)

The back story in this movie is that Odin had a daughter, named Hela – and they ravaged 9 kingdoms together, raking in the booty. That is, until one day Odin seemed to grow a conscience about all the plundering and decided to go in another direction. So Odin’s solution was to cast his daughter out of Valhalla. Her very history was written over, with other remnants and symbols from that time buried and forgotten. Until Odin’s death. As he’s dying, he tells his two sons about their lost sister—and once he’s dead, she’s back, with a big old chip on her shoulder and some major daddy issues.

The first thing she does is go and uncover all this erased history in Valhalla, (I couldn’t find pictures of the cool moving ceiling mural–but it was really well done) staking her claim as first born to rule all of Odins 9 realms. And what the hell—she wants to go out and conquer all the remaining realms as well.

The picture of Valhalla literally crumbles to reveal a hidden truth underneath.

So as a villain, her major lasting strike is that she complicates the idea of Odin as a good guy. Nor is he ever vindicated in the end. There’s no rolling back from her revelations once she’s vanquished.  The upshot: Valhalla, built upon ill-gotten, illicit colonialist wealth, is destroyed.

Buh-bye patriarchal kingdom.

In the end, yes, Hela is displaced by Thor. It’s not done with a “the man’s supposed to rule” kind of presumption. Thor acknowledges that as eldest born Hela has a legitimate claim to the throne.

But then Thor points out that she’s the worst. True. Hela has an unquenched desire for conquest, totalitarian rule, and a cavalier disregard for the death and destruction of her subjects. That’s what they say, but that’s not how actions play out.  At the very end, Hela **is** left to rule Valhalla–and to destroy it. A world born out of multiple sins is pulled down into flames and destruction, while Thor and his people seek a new place to start fresh.

Want to read more interesting discussion about the film?  Here’s a Mashable blog post on Thor’s themes of colonialism.

and a blog post about the deliberate use of Maori humor in Thor:

https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/31-10-2017/thor-and-his-magic-patu-notes-on-a-very-maori-marvel-movie/

 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lady Smut – our Black Friday giveaway that starts tomorrow, Nov 24, 2017. Check it out!

Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had.  She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  Check out her other Lady Smut postsJoin her newsletter or follow her on Facebooktwitter, and Pinterest

You Talk Too Much, Mother: Skip Hemlock Grove

22 Jun

F*ck it! At least I was good in the show.

by Madeline Iva

“You talk too much, Mother.” This is the big culminating moment of the first season for Hemlock grove. Roman kills his mother by ripping out her tongue.  Oh, you want a spoiler alert? Here’s my spoiler alert: Hemlock Grove is misogynistic as f*ck.

Skip Hemlock Grove–here’s a few good reasons why:

1) TELLING WOMEN THEY TALK TOO MUCH

Man, that culminating moment did not sit well with me.  Don’t get me wrong: Roman’s mother is evil.  But she’s 3-D evil, and has a lot of interesting stuff going on with her.  But you see, Roman is evil too.  We’re ultimately rooting more for him, because we’ve seen more of his humanity, but we’ve seen a bit of her humanity as well.  Given the fact that they practically cancel each other out, can we really triumph in someone telling his mother to shut up, then killing her? Hmmmmmm.

It’s just the whole way it was done–like we were supposed to rejoice that she’s being ‘put in her place’.  No.  Having pretty much gulped the first season in three swallows, I was left to assess the damage of my cough ridden days spent binging on the sofa.

2) I sat through, like, FOUR WOMEN BEING CHEWED UP BY A WEREWOLF–VAGINA FIRST. 

3) I sat through Roman RAPING A GIRL AND THEN TELLING HER TO FORGET IT HAPPENED. (He has that power.)

4) THE DEAD GIRL BODY COUNT: 12 named female characters on the show.  Seven high school girls and five women.

SO! Who’s left at the end to be in season two? It’s a blood bath people. By the end one is left in town. (The one who was raped.) One has left town.  Ten are dead. (We think.)

There are 11 named male characters on the show.  All of the authority figures are male.  Who’s left at the end? Well, one moves away by the end of Season one.  One has his face scratched–but it will heal.  And one is dead.  The homeless guy.(Suicide.)

Ten women dead by the end of season one and one homeless guy.

5) VIRGIN/WHORE TROPES — WITHOUT IRONY. Slut shaming is so 1980’s, people.

The show has a good mother and an evil mother. The good mother gets far less on-air time, and doesn’t actually DO anything. You have a somewhat clueless virgin and a lot of ‘popular girl’ werewolf bait. The sluttiness is played down a bit, and not really judged—but we know how this goes.  The cheerleader, the slut, the mean girls. They all wind up screaming and then the blood splatters…it’s just so old. SO OLD.

I was the interesting weird girl. I could have been a leading character. You could have done so much with me to redeem yourselves! And you didn’t! Agggggh!

I wrestle with the fact that I love gothic-suspense-y twisted and perverted stuff. And this is suspense.  This is twisted and perverted stuff. But wait.  Usually the point of all this gothic mayhem is that we see it from the point of view of a young female character.  What’s revealed to her is the unfair twisted horrors that she never suspected lay beneath the place that at first did not appear all that bad.

But wait! This is exactly the experience I had with this show!  Yet I don’t *think* that’s the experience the show creators wanted to convey.  The world is a sinister, creepy place where ten women die (and two get raped) for every one male death. Gah! I already knew this, but thought we’d seriously left this crap behind us.

6) WE WANT NEW SKOOL GOTH NOT OLD SKOOL MISOGYNY: There’s so many other twisted, perverted, and gothic stuff that can involve getting out of the old school male trenches. Gay people doing twisty stuff. Men getting raped instead of women. (but not the gay men, please.) Monsters (the physical kind) having love affairs. Gorgeous a-sexuals. Disabled heroes. Jewish heroines. (The place is near Pittsburgh, for god’s sake.)

On this show women are 99% grotesque, evil, or werewolf bait/victims while the very few who aren’t spend most of their time on the sidelines, are passive, unless, you know, they’re being supportive–of the men. What is this? 1955?

There’s one fairly important character on the show who is a person of color.  And that’s it.  She winds up flayed, and suffocated.  So she’s dead. (We think.) One person who is disabled.  Shot twice with a shotgun–dead. (We think.) Nobody included in the show at all who is over the age of 50–except–wait for it–a Hispanic maid.

At this point, I should just KNOW when I see some guys sucking on cigars that whatever it is, it isn’t for me. I’d be far more interested if they were sucking each other’s dicks.

7) WOMEN ARE THE ‘OTHER’ REALLY? REALLY?? I’m scratching my head thinking “Who wrote this?” Young Hollywood guys or old school white writer guys? Or some mix of both? Bleh. Because by the end I’m convinced that these writers/producers/directors don’t find women very interesting or multi-dimensional.  Okay, so maybe all these women aren’t *really* dead.  Like dead for good. But the way women are treated in general–I don’t even want to know what they have to go through in season two.

I give the old guys a pass assuming they grew up in the Mad Men era or took the 80’s to heart and haven’t evolved with the times. They’re dinosaurs. So be it. However, I have a hard time not making all sorts of disturbing assumptions about younger men writing this stuff. Like maybe they’re bro-culture rape-y types. I could see them saying “Hey! We included lots of women in the show.” Yeah, like you deserve a medal.  That’s not the point.  How can you be in your twenties, thirties, or forties in America and not have a clue about women? How can you still see women – who are all around you, no matter where you are – as the “other”. Still????? Something must be wrong with you.

So as hot as poor Roman is – that’s it for Hemlock Grove for me.  The show moves on–and one hopes, learns from its earlier mistakes.  But I’m not alone–obviously.  For more excellent Hemlock Grove hating check out Yo Heart Frijole’s astute blog post.

And follow us at Lady Smut.  Where we’re upbeat and positive–unless you’re being a total asshat and get us really angry.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

Red As Blood: Women & Gothic Romance

1 Jun

Lovely readers — I attended a panel at #WisCon that made me cry out with perverse desire.  It was called Red As Blood — a panel on women and the Gothic genre.  Loosely organized, it revolved around the interesting desires and situations that comprise Gothic joy and perversity.

“A young woman meets an interesting, mysterious man in a giant, lonely house.  It turns out he may have bad intentions.  Sometimes she wants him to have bad intentions.”–Emily Cataneo.

What I liked about this panel was that everyone on the panel–authors and fans alike, really obsessed over what I obsessed over, and had exactly the same attitudes that I had. Everyone on the panel was raving over Crimson Peak–especially Tom Hiddleston, especially the house and clothes — AND

Spoiler Alert!

…especially the end where two women fight it out with knives in bloody nightgowns.

Everyone didn’t care if there was no logical reasoning behind certain events in their favorite Gothic novels or movies.  Our love of Gothic is not about reason.

Then what is it about? It’s about a feeling of creeping doom, of impending horror.  But no ACTUAL horror, mind you.  If horror is that moment of curdling screams and blood splatter on the wall, then the gothic genre is about hearing that scream from a far distance and discovering the blood splatter on the wall by prying open a secret passage.  (Preferably 5 to 20 years after it got there.)

The gothic genre is about secrets.  About dread.  About creeping horror — yes! But it’s a psychological horror.

Notorious is supremely logical–but the sense of oppression is still intense.

Now let’s talk romance in these novels.  For my joys I hit the Goodreads best Gothic romances page. There you will find not only the old classic authors like Anne Radcliffe and Victoria Holt but also Gay Gothic Romances, and Gothic romances with witches!!!!

Now, when we turn to Gothic film, the problem is that they are often horror films and take things just a leeeetle too far for my taste. Sigh.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about gothic romantic films:

The Gothic romance film is a Gothic film with feminine appeal. Diane Waldman wrote in Cinema Journal that Gothic films in general “permitted the articulation of feminine fear, anger, and distrust of the patriarchal order” and that such films during World War II and afterward “place an unusual emphasis on the affirmation of feminine perception, interpretation, and lived experience”. Between 1940 and 1948, the Gothic romance film was prevalent in Hollywood, being produced by well-known directors and actors. The best-known films of the era were Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), and Gaslight (1944). Less well-known films were Undercurrent (1946) and Sleep, My Love (1948). Waldman describes these films’ Gothic rubric: “A young inexperienced woman meets a handsome older man to whom she is alternately attracted and repelled.”[1] Other films from the decade include The Enchanted Cottage (1945) and The Heiress (1949).[2]

The Gothic romance films from the 1940s often contain the “Bluebeard motif”, meaning that in the typical setting of the house, a certain part is either forbidden to be used or even closed off entirely.[3] In the films, the forbidden room is a metaphor for the heroine’s repressed experience, and opening the room is a cathartic moment in the film.[4] In addition, the layout of the house in such films (as well as Gothic novels) creates “spatial disorientation [that] causes fear and an uncanny restlessness”.[5]

In 2015, director Guillermo del Toro released the Gothic romance film Crimson Peak. He said past films had been “brilliantly written by women and then rendered into films by male directors who reduce the potency of the female characters”. For Crimson Peak, he sought to reverse this cinematic trope.[6]

And did he EVER! If you adored Crimson Peak then here are some treats for you.  Here’s my fun review of Crimson Peak for one, along with some other movie recommendations below.  First of all, I highly recommend Suspicion–a Cinderella story in which we and the heroine are gradually brought to realize that a) she’s no Cinderella and b) this is not a happily ever after.

But if you want to get your gothic horror movie on–here’s a list from Indiewire to check out.  Some of them are fabulous.  Rosemary’s Baby is excellent.  Picnic at Hanging Rock is really mysterious. It’s like the missing girls floated off into some alternative realm after enough feminine corset squeezing and hair braiding to last a lifetime.  Gaslight is excellent.  As I mentioned above, Suspicion is one of my all time favorites.  The Shining is fabulous — but something I’d put on while doing another task so I could walk away as needed…(I’d put the premise of The Shining this way: What’s the scariest monster of the 70’s? The absent dad figure suddenly returned to be a ‘part of the family’.  Shiver. Ugggggggh!) Les Diaboliques was good, Notorius is sublime.  This list also made me want to see The Haunted with Kate Beckinsale as well as The Tomb of Ligeia…

THE GOTHIC ANTI-HERO OF ALL TIME? It’s gotta be Micheal Fassbender.  As I’ve commented before, Fassy seems to be all alone in his films.  That alone-ness is exactly what we want in a gothic anything. In the latest-greatest remake of Jane Eyre, he is utterly riveting.  At once flesh and blood with his long mutton chop whiskers, he seems like a Victorian that doesn’t wash everyday, that sweats, that chews his food. There is something very real and authentic about him–especially when it comes to his presence around women. Nevertheless, for all that he still seems like a very quietly haunted man who will NEVER be happy.  What I realized watching his performance is that Jane Eyre is a tale of warning: don’t fall for the man you work for.  Don’t let him seduce you.  Don’t succumb to the temptations he leads you towards breadcrumb of attention by breadcrumb of attention.  He has bad intentions and nothing good for you will result.  Fassy’s breathtaking performance is a seduction: rather slow and tender, but also deliberate enough to make one realize how wrong it all is.  His inscrutable mind is clicking behind the command of his words, looks, and touches the entire time.

Tom Hiddleston is an incredibly close second for my all time fav goth anti-hero.  His charismatic flavor however, connotes the possibility of a happier ending. If Fassy is the haunted man in his giant spooky house at the beginning of the movie, then Hiddles represents that peek of sunshine, that thin slice of spring — expressed only by a few blades of grass and one lone daffodil at the end of the movie.  There is something a little softer and more pliant about Hiddles the lover. He represents hope and escape from psychological hell into some sunnier, more mild and quietly happy place.  Tom seems like a man who needs an other to pair with him.  While Fassy, a more coporeal lover in the moment of temptation, perhaps–seems to stand alone in his blank emptiness to the bitter end.

I see Tom as more of an HEA guy–even if the HEA is with his sister.

What do you think, readers? Sound out below in the comments section — and I’m all ears for good contemporary gothic romance reading rec’s.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Guess the Lady Smut TBR Stack–Win $10 Amazon Gift Card!

4 May

Hi RT Orphans! Does your TBR pile have some of the same titles as ours? Let us know–leave us a comment below. 🙂 Want to buy the book on our TBR list? Click the link.  Meanwhile, here’s another fun game you can play at home.

FIRST Read the TBR lists. THEN guess which list belongs to which blogger. Your blogger choices are below & we’ve abbreviated the longer names for you. We also provided some hints.  THE FINAL STEP IS TO email us at LadySmutBlog@gmail.com with your guesses. The first reader to email us the most correct answers wins a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

CONTEST ENDS FRIDAY MAY 5th AT 12PM PST!!!!!

OUR BLOGGERS:

Elizabeth Shore

G.G. Andrew

Kiersten Hallie Krum (KHK)

Alexa Day

Rachel Kramer Bussel (RKB)

Elizabeth SaFleur (ESF)

Isabelle Drake

Thien-Kim Lam (TKL)

Madeline Iva

Ready to play? Here we go——

Lady Smut TBR List #1

Hint: This blogger is a foodie who loves diverse romances & sex toys

  1. Alpha by Jasinda Wilder
  2. Nine Kinds of Naughty by Jeanette Grey
  3. The Muse by Anne Calhoun
  4. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  5. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Lady Smut TBR List #2

Hint: This blogger likes to share all after a few dirty dates. ; > 
  1. The Pawn by Skye Warren
  2. Trophy Wife by Alessandra Torre
  3. The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke
  4. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
  5. The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

Lady Smut TBR List #3

Hint: This blogger is a big fan of New Adult romances, secrets, and other crazy, sexy topics.

  1. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  2. Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
  3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. Deadly Testimony by Piper Drake
  5. Ghostland: An American History of Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Lady Smut TBR List #4

Hint: This erotica author loves blogging about TWD, kidnapping & a few other illicit topics.

  1. Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill
  2. All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart
  3. Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Chorderlos de Laclos
  4. Slow Surrender by Cecilia Tan
  5. The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres

Lady Smut TBR List #5

Hint: This blogger is wild about reviewing her fav authors.

  1. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
  2. The List by Tawna Fenske
  3. Madly by Ruthie Knox
  4. Beyond Doubt by Kit Rocha
  5. Edge of Ruin (set of 3 Viking Dystopian Novellas) by Megan Crane

Lady Smut TBR List #6

Hint: This author blogs about edgy topics of desire including: swallowing, tattooing, cross-dressing–even Jewish Swingers. 

  1. Purity by Jonathan Franzen
  2. The Fireman by Joe Hill
  3. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  4. The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose
  5. Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha

Lady Smut TBR List #7

Hint: When this author wasn’t all tied up, she’s blogged about CW’s Riverdale.

  1. Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler
  2. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  3. DC Comics Bombshells: Enlisted by Marguerite Bennett & Marguerite Sauvage
  4. Initiates of the Blood by Cecilia Tan
  5. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Lady Smut TBR List #8

Hint: This blogger is a capital BDSM Erom author

  1. Bombshell by CD Reiss
  2. Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill
  3. Royally Matched by Emma Chase
  4. The Chosen by J.R. Ward
  5. The List by Anne Calhoun

Lady Smut TBR List #9

Hint: This author loves blogging about wicked villains & paranormal television shows.

  1. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  2. The Unlikeable Demon Hunter by Deborah Wilde
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  5. A Darker Shade of Magic V.E. Schwab
Send off those answers and follow us at Lady Smut. If you want to know the about the latest fun when it comes to sex, romance books, and pop culture–we won’t leave you guessing.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Person Of Interest: My TV Show Hangover

30 Mar

He’s a soft-spoken, hot killer–if you like that sort of thing.

By Madeline Iva

The upside to having a week long bout of stomach flu was enjoying a PERSON OF INTEREST marathon, aka watching Jim Caviezel eye candy.

I’d never been interested in watching the show until I saw a recommendation on i09 that was like: The last season is out! You have to go check out the entire show on Netflix! Well, okay then.

Now I’ve finished the last episode, and I am in the thrashing throes of a terrible TV show hangover…So thanks, i09.

Of course, seeing commercials for the show at one time, I thought: Hey! It’s that guy who was the leader of the Others on Lost.  And hey! It’s that guy who was in that whack sci-fi alien/Viking film (Outlander—but not the Outlander you’re thinking) and G.I. Jane. Damn he’s hot. Even when he’s looking anxious and sad.

I *liked* Carter and am following her from this show to other work she’s done.

So why wasn’t I interested? Cause it seemed to be about these wistful attractive women in danger, and this creepy-yet-competent ex-military guy who saved them with some slightly futuristic computer device. Yawn. Happily, it’s not like that AT ALL.

WARNING: SEMI-SPOILERS AHEAD!

Even in the first episode there a tart reversal and the heroine in need of saving turned out to be something else all together.  That made me happy and kick-started my whiffling through all five seasons before pulling the plug on Netflix. (I have a book deadline coming up and need to buckle down.) Also, I had no idea that it was a bit futuristic. (Though since the election it leans into that zone where it’s not completely Science Fiction, it’s really more like Really Scary Science Fact.)

The show with an AI called “the Machine” spitting out numbers that saved people morphed a lot as it went on. It started out as a kind of surveillance heavy 24, with a lot of white, male characters. Instead of dumbing down like most shows do, it went the other way…We saw more POC story lines and actors join the show, more female characters & LBGT references—and more female villains. The show found a sci-fi geek audience and as a result, leaned into progressive, liberal ideas and concepts as it went along, reversing its stance on the surveillance machine from “I know it violates our rights–but look! It does good things!” to “I’ve created a monster! A MONSTER!” wails of despair and gnashing of teeth.

But when we’re talking the best parts of the show, I’m sorry, CHARACTER IS KING! Pontificate on all the weighty discussions you like including:

  • AI and personhood
  • Safety vs. privacy in the modern state
  • Misuse of governmental power

my true obsession will still lie with Jim Caviezel and powerful story arcs about Carter, Sameed and other human characters. The AI lacked all qualities I want to spend time my with: sexiness, humor, cleverness, and personality.

Jim Caviezel, on the other hand, is this reader’s hero proto-type. The character he plays, John Reese is brooding, handsome, soft-spoken with a sense of humor, and yet, um, deadly.  Because he’s in mourning for his dead one true love, every episode leaves you wondering–will he feel the pull of desire/love/passion again? Oooooh how I wanted him to! But then I’m a complete masochist for the unattainable hero.

A do-er, not a talker, Reese has done bad things to a lot of bad guys—and yet, he can no longer tolerate the grim, clandestine life where he was given orders, but no iron clad proof of guilt for those he assassinated. Unquestioningly following orders eats at his soul, until he’s at the point where despite orders, he can’t betray his partner—who at the same time betrays him.  At the top of the show, he’s lost his mission in life, his identity, and even his one true love.  He needs redemption and a purpose—enter Harold who has a quirky all-powerful machine and gives John Reese’s ex-CIA black ops dude a goal in life.

Tarij Henderson – so sparkly bright and fun off the TV show, plays Detective Carter–who goes looking for “the man in the suit” out shooting knee caps of bad guys and breaking a thousand laws while doing so.   Now, I knew from Kiersten Hallie Krum via facebook, that Carter left the show at a certain point. For Kiersten it was hard to keep going after that. For me, knowing Carter was going to leave but not when or how ended up giving the show tremendous suspense — and like a horror movie I waited, tense and clutching my pillow to see when It Happened, getting more and more wrenched about it the more I liked her character. Henderson did a phenomenal job with developing her character and growing it. By the time she left the show, I was nodding my head thinking about what Lexi says about the infuriating state of racial diversity in entertainment today…This is another tragic example, and though the actors actually sought to correct that as much as they could in their penultimate scene together, grrrrrr. And now I’ve followed Tarij over to not just her Oscar nominated role in HIDDEN FIGURES but also over to EMPIRE where she’s did an actor 180 and portrays a completely different kind of role. (Why has no one on Lady Smut talked about Cookie yet? Why?)

Kevin Chapman plays detective Lionel Fusco, a crooked cop who finds redemption after some swift strong-arm tactics from Reese sorts him out.  Lionel got some great noir-ish lines and had fabulous delivery. I wonder if they had planned on making him such a big part of the show from the beginning, or if he was a happy discovery.  Reese has done much worse and seems less fundamentally tethered to the world.  As Jim Caviezel said at one point (I paraphrase from an interview I found on You Tube that took place at some con) Reese is a shark.  If he stops moving, he dies.  Other men have described him as batman in a suit.  It’s very interesting that the show portrays these two paths to redemption, each with its own singular flavor.  Lionel’s character has some charming grit, and a less tragic trajectory.

Michael Emerson was born to play the role of Harold, reclusive billionaire dork.  Harold builds the machine that plunges the characters into their episodic heroism.   Amy Acker (you know her from Firefly) got the thankless task of spending half her time having moral dialogues with Harold, while the other half was spent voicing the words and motives of the AI. Not fun—not fun at all, and yet she carried the weight of a whole other character upon her shoulders to the point where you felt like there actually was a machine with some proto-personality hovering about inside the internet ether.

I enjoyed the inclusion of Sameed – a short, female version of John Reese’s character, showing that a woman could do whatever a man could– and playing a kind of sociopath role to boot. No guilty torment for Sameed!

Although the show starts off Reese and Harold as the stars and swiftly includes Lionel and Carter as side kicks, the show changes direction in a fundamental way.  Soon, it becomes more of an ensemble cast with Harold and Amy Acker’s character, Root, in the staring roles.  We often see a lot more of Sameed as well, and John Reese’s role shrinks substantially over five seasons.

I think this was a wise move on the part of the producers…nor did a greater sense of inclusivity (fall out from Carter leaving the show?) seem to bother Jim Caviezel much in interviews about the show.  There was a way in which the show settled his character arc and then let it rest there.

Then they turned to other topics that more heavily involved Michael Emerson’s role as Harold, and his moral responsibilities as the one who created the surveillance AI machine. By the end, the AI character, AKA “The Machine” had as much character growth and backstory as any of the other characters—not an easy trick to pull off.  

Another thing that I liked about the show was that it started off grim, and only got more grim as it went along. But I’m perverse that way…

I’ve watched all five seasons now, and I now have a horrible tv show hangover. I actually went to You Tube and started watching a lot of videos taken at various Comi-Cons to ‘learn more’ but really to ramp down my addiction until I could walk away.

Hangovers I now think, are more than any other reason why we authors have social media platforms…So people have a place to go when they can’t say goodbye.

In all these interviews, I never really wanted to hear anything about what the creators had to say about the show, even though they were articulate men of ideas. I wanted to hear from the actors instead. This is because in essence the creators HAD their say…and we saw it all play out. Choices about character deaths, romances, etc, we saw the creator’s ideas were splatted across numerous episodes and dialogue everywhere. I was more interested in the background behind the show. What kind of training the actors go through? What kind of humor did they share? How did cast members related to each other? (Jim Caviezel trained with special delta forces men in San Diego, Tarij told all kinds of Jesus jokes poking fun at Jim, and Michael Emerson is every bit as articulate and intellectual as his character.)

Now I’m going to go off and write something in Jim Caviezel’s character’s voice…buh-bye!!!

Follow our blog — we’re not soft spoken, we’re outspoken, but charming nonetheless.

And check us out at RT Booklovers convention where we’re going to have a really fun event:  Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/ event/never-have-you-ever- ever-ever

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

Billionaire Romance Will Never Die

24 Mar

by Elizabeth SaFleur

Let me be Captain Obvious. The rich aren’t like us. So it tracks that we’d be fascinated by these super rich creatures, right? Who wouldn’t want to live in that world, albeit virtually and vicariously, through romance stories? The “economic one percent” make problems disappear with the swipe of a credit card. They board private jets when the mood strikes for sushi but only from that little place they discovered in Japan. They buy all the shoes, books and enemy’s businesses they want, whenever they want.

Who wouldn’t want to read about these people?

A bunch of hands just went up in the room, as in “Me! Me! Stop with the billionaire romance already!” Apparently, a tribe of billionaire-hating readers who have a strong disdain for such reads exists! I discovered this on Facebook — the authority on all things true and accurate, right? written with extreme sarcasm. Direct quotes include:

“If I never read another billionaire romance life would be so grand.”

“Can we just have the billionaire thing over already?”

“Oh, yay. Another billionaire romance. Retch.”

I’m shocked, I tell you. SHOCKED.

Then I remembered hearing a panel at last year’s RT Booklovers Convention (forgive me for not remembering the details) where someone said Millennial’s reading tastes are vastly different from older generation’s. The younger generation wants–shudder–reality, as in romance books set in the real-world with characters who were authentic, i.e. not rich, not glamorous, not billionaires. In short, they wanted to read about people like them.

The same RT panelist said the older generations were more apt to want escapism romance. And, sorry to break it to the world, but at some point in the not too distant future the younger generation will become the older generation. So we authors need to care what these youngin’s think–today.

(Side note: Have you heard about the rich kids of Instagram? Well, lest you think everyone young is rolling pennies at night, take a gander at THIS.)

Back to our blog post at hand. Do these predictions mean tales of the wealthy whisking away the innocent virgin to unimaginable pleasures and private islands will go away? Is the billionaire erotic romance market, gulp, fading?

Nope. Not. Even. Close. So say, I, and not because I publish a billionaire erotic romance series. Scout’s honor.

Google images return results when you ask for “billionaire romance.” Thousands! Millions!

 

The Guardian recently published an article on this very topic, triggered by the recent Fifty Shades movie. (Read about my and Madeline Iva’s opinion on the movie here). How could anyone NOT click on an article with the headline, Filthy rich: our tortured love affair with wealth porn.

Wealth porn means accepting that someone is more interesting after seeing their stock portfolio. Kind of like being a virtual gold digger (guilty!). After all, many have said if Christian Grey lived in a trailer, he’d be considered an abuser. The fact he has a penthouse in Seattle’s most expensive building makes his, ahem, viewpoints and behavior around kink okay.

Back to the topic at hand. Forget that in real life millionaires and billionaires rarely have time for Saturday strolls with the family in the park, let alone time to jet off to Japan for sushi. Unless one has inherited a fortune, it takes an obscene amount of office face time to purchase luxury living. But in books, they have oodles of time to lavish attention and resources on their heroines. Thank goodness. I get enough reality in, well, real life.

Below are my super-non-scientific reasons why the super rich will grace our book’s pages for years to come and readers will love it–even the Millennials.

Billionaire romance can be aspirational. A girl’s gotta have a dream, so why not fill your head with visions of full-time maid service and a full-time cook (my ultimate dream)? But more than that, if you believe in the power of manifestation, what you imagine becomes closer to reality. Deep down, I wonder if this is what makes billionaire romance reading so appealing. I read at night and know my dream state is affected by this activity. I have to believe others feel the same.

Reality fatigue is real.  If you seek a break from the negative news filling our airwaves and headlines these days (who isn’t?), romance is perfect for such an escape. Reading about the super-rich takes this diversion to a new level. As for that RT panel that said Millennials don’t want reality? Remember that was before the recent U.S. presidential election, although we were deep in it. Just not as profoundly as we are now. Now we’re so entrenched in absurdity and negativity, we’re like pigs in slop (except pigs like slop).

Billionaire romance features the good guys. Lordy knows, we need some honest-to-God heroes right now, and will for decades to come to get over what’s happening in real life. In reality, the mega rich don’t have the best reputation, especially in today’s times. In romance novels, these wealthy heroes may be flawed, but they sure are heroic and deep down good. Heck, in books even the villains are usually redeemed. Or, if an unethical rich person is cast in a romance novel, they “get theirs” or at least are so obviously bad we know what we’re dealing with. That’s not always the case in real-life. That makes romance novels appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Note: In real life you’d be hard-pressed to find a billionaire who looks like Jamie Dornan. Just sayin’. 

No office pallor here!

Oddly, rich heroes and heroines make me feel normal. When reading, provided it’s not dark erotica or romance, my problems fade for a little bit. In fact, my problems don’t even show up in billionaire romance, even though the characters may be going through the same jealousy, insecurity, emotional vulnerability thing that I might be going through. But it always works out in romance, so I know it will be all right in the end. And if someone with a bank account the size of Fort Knox is worried about being loved, well, dammit, I’m not so strange after all.

In the end, romance has a time-tested appeal that taps into our human nature of wanting love to conquer all. In billionaire romance, we get to tap into that AND our desire for freedom and achievement — ultimately to not be at the behest of others.

Why do YOU love the billionaire romance? Or not?

And while you’re here, sign up for the LadySmut newsletter. We bring you all the smexy things to ponder.

~~~~~

Coming to the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta this May? Join the Ladysmut.com bloggers for a very special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Add this event to your RT Personal Agenda here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it  — “it” being the sex, the BDSM or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington. Join her Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty exclusive reader’s group or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

I Was Enjoying DARK MATTER ‘Til They ****ing Killed My Favorite Character

23 Feb

by Madeline Iva

***Yeah, this post is chock full of spoilers.  You’ve been warned.*** Dark Matter is a successful comic book made into a Canadian television show that you can binge watch on Netflix–which is what I did.  The gloomy ship, the tough characters and the cloudy mystery about their identity sucked me right in until I was devouring episodes left and right.

One. He's the good guy on a ship of tough criminals. So how did he wind up with them?

One. He’s the good guy on a ship of tough criminals. So how did he wind up with them?

WHY I LOOOOOOOOVED DARK MATTER SO MUCH:

The premise is pretty brilliant.  Six people wake up in sleep pods on a dark ship in space.  Their memories have been wiped.  In addition to that, the android that sort of runs the ship wakes up and starts attacking them, so they knock her out and end up injuring her.  To get her back up requires a memory wipe, so she too doesn’t know what happened to them all.  It’s science-fiction, but it’s also mystery.  Who are they? Who did this to them? Why? 

darkmattertwo

Two. She’s hot.

They give themselves numbers and I knew that they’d eventually run into their pasts and get names, but it made me extraordinarily satisfied that they call each other by numbers.  It becomes an alternative identity.  Later on Three learns his name is Marcus–but if the others still call him Three, it’s like they’re disavowing his messed up Marcus past and saying that he can go back to being their three–i.e. annoying, but not a completely heartless dick.

I like One best.  He is a good looking guy–but I mean, they’re all good looking, so really, it isn’t only that. However, in a ship full of tough people, he’s the good guy.  Which is a little scary, because the rest (Five excepted) so obviously are not. I usually don’t like the super good guys.  I like the maybe-villains.  But One is played by a very talented actor, who via subtle expressions and delivery squeezes a three-dimensional performance out of a two dimensional character.

Three is all walking id, questioning every decision that isn’t based on pure selfishness–so of course, he is fun to watch and a bit of a wild card. Later on, we see Three has a real soft spot for women. At one point we think Two has been executed and Three’s face is really something to see in that moment.  Three, also, is one of the best actors on the show–at certain moments.

THREE

THREE. Also the show’s id character. Also kinda hot. Sometimes. Also a good actor.

Two is the toughest character in the beginning.  Played by an asian female with some extraordinary thighs, she takes command of the ship with her bad-ass attitude.  One is quickly drawn to her, but when she wants to scratch her bootie itch and have a little meaningless sex, it’s Three she calls upon, not One. Which makes One smart.  So there are tensions between One and Two because: love triangle!  Not to mention that One and Three are diametrically opposed in terms of morality.

Yet pretty soon, it turns out that One discovers he’s got a BIG secret to keep and Three is right there when this secret is revealed to One.  So the two are connected in that way for a while and it’s massively uncomfortable for One. Which is great! (Although I hope you can follow what I’m saying, because it’s starting to sound like weird SFF algebra.)

Probably the most handsome guy on the show. But....meh.

Four is probably the most handsome guy on the show. But….meh. He adds the most in ensemble moments.

The show delivers Big Secrets every so often and they are mostly yummy.  The show is at it’s best when it returns to its gloomy mystery origins: you just don’t know who you can trust.  Goodie!

It’s often young Five who circles us around to these gripping plot reversals. I think I liked her at first simply because I associated her with these moments. But I also delight in Five being a Young Adult character–a main character and a girl–in a sci-fi television show.  I’m trying to think of another major adult SFF show where that’s the case, and I can’t.

Five aka "The Kid."

Five aka “The Kid.”

I enjoyed watching the Android–though you and I know her as Lauren  from LOST GIRL.  She gets dinged up from the git go and starts to go “off program”. For instance, she starts seeking approval from the humans.  The “right” thing to do would be to wipe her system and reboot–a kind of android seppuku. At one point there’s the potential to “upgrade her system” to make her feel and seem more like a human and a ‘rouge android’ element is introduced.  The program upgrade makes the Android seem like a whole other character.  The actress performs this well, but…ugh! (more later below).

So there was something here for everyone–I thought a lot of the ideas in the show were fabulous.

WHAT WENT WRONG…

I’m not saying this show was perfect.  One problem I had with five is that she’s so obviously an older actress playing a younger character.  She and Two are equally short, and she has far larger breasts, so buying that she was a teen was a challenge (She’s was twenty-two when they filmed).  I had to keep squinting to suspend disbelief about her.  I mean, it’s not just that they all decide she’s a young teen when she looks anywhere from sixteen to twenty-three, it’s that they keep saying things like: “She’s just a KID!” like she’s only twelve or something…But that’s not saying anything against the actress, who is quite good. Another thing is that she keeps having new clothes to wear when a) she was a stowaway, presumably on the ship without luggage, and b) everyone else on the show seems to be in the same-o, same-old clothes.

Android fail. Every few episodes she's getting zapped and it's lights out.

Android fail. Every few episodes she’s getting zapped and it’s lights out.

I had problems with the android ‘upgrade program’, although it was more like an epiphany. The plot of this particular episode struck my robot-romance fixated nerve.  It made me realize that the ‘upgrade’ shortcut would never work for a successful robot/human romance.  What do we love about idea of a cyborg/AI/robot/android romance if it’s not that the android represents the most difficult challenge of all? Huge boundaries (impossible boundaries some would say) exist in terms of getting a cold and emotionless being to develop attraction, love, and passion. That’s a HUGE obstacle. A quick upgrade to the system???? That’s just cheating. )

I delighted in watching Six waiting in a doctor’s office for a very long time where they continuously ran ads about adventuring off world via clone proxies.  Your body and mind are scanned in a pod, and your look-a-like clone wakes up on some other world.  Your clone enjoys your vacay and then all the memories from your clone are downloaded back into your memory while you’re in the pod.  You wake up and come out of the scanner remembering the events and sensations of your vacation.  Meanwhile, the cyborg that looks like you and is walking around as you, is taken somewhere, has a memory wipe and is put into a vat for recycling…

Six

Six. Nobody trusts nobody–not even the android.

I thought the show was creating an ironic situation in which Six was ignoring a bit of information crucial (and funny) in terms of unravelling the core mystery.   My hope was that someone had wanted a bad guy dream team to go do bad deeds across the universe.  So they made clones of the original criminals and when those deeds were done, wiped the clone memories–but for some reason the clones weren’t put in the vat.  Instead they ended up in the sleep pods on the ship — To me this TOTALLY explained the mystery of how they wound up on the ship together and why they had no memories…

Six wakes up as a clone from the pod...

Six wakes up as a clone from the pod…

Alas, that was not the actual solution to the mystery.  This was the writer in me, weaving together my own plot soup based on ingredients provided by the show.

My sweetie hated the clone device.  He hated it because real clones (one day) are/will be real people. This show perpetuates the idea of clones as objects to purchase and discard.  The clone thing is used as a plot device later on in other ways, but the clones when badly hurt tend to simply disintegrate a la Buffy stabbing the vampires and making them go poof. Why would a clone do that, he asked? It’s stupid. A clone–because it’s an actual human body–would go splat, not poof. It would not disintegrate into a cloud of clumpy dust.

Yeah, so that was kind of a regrettable choice.  Meanwhile, I loved my idea of the crew being memory-wiped clones.  The show has them on the ship starting from square one in a state of distrust, but circumstances make them pull together.  We know they were probably very bad in their former lives, but rallied by the influence of Five, aka ‘The Kid’, they have a chance to become new, better people. (Insert here your own philosophical discussion with a friend over the role of memory in personhood and if one can change merely by starting over. This is the good kind of sci-fi.)  As they slowly pull together to become a unit they build loyalty to each other and we know that many of the forms their enemy will take are elements of their past coming to haunt them. Everyone knows karma is a bitch–but it’s very enjoyable to watch.

One finds out that there is indeed a very bad guy out there with One’s face. (See! One is a clone!) Unfortunately, however, for my pet theory, the bad guy Derek Moss says something like “I’d think you were a clone, but someone would have had to scan my body to do that, and no one did.”

Booooooooo!

dark-matter-season-2-coverHowever, I was still delighted that One had this evil Doppleganger out in the world that could cause him no end of trouble.

But here’s the big problem.  They f**king killed One.  Whyyyyyyy? It seemed gratuitous and unnecessary given that they never really followed the conspiracy plot path the killing seemed based upon.  You eventually find out where the crew’s memories are stored and I knew that Evil One aka Derek Moss was still out there.  So my FTL plotting muscles realized ‘the gang’ was going to kidnap Evil Derek and stick One’s memories into him.  But that didn’t happen either. 😦

But! When Derek reappeared, I was like: Yay! Evil Derek is better than no One at all.  Alas, in that very episode the show killed off Evil Derek.

Oh people.  I was so disgruntled.  One was the glue that kept my interest in the show at super-high levels. Yeah, I liked all these ideas about the others and sometimes their interactions were okaaaaaay, but for me, One was the secret sauce.  Yes, the whole prison break thing was good. Yes, finding out Two’s backstory was pretty cool.

Frankly, since One/Derek’s death, I’ve only made it through about four more episodes while mostly folding laundry and checking email.  I just don’t care anymore–Maybe other audience members, more familiar with the comic books than I am, are looking forward to what’s around the corner.  Maybe they know stuff that I don’t.  Apparently DARK MATTER  has a very loyal following.  But I, good people, am done.

If you know the Dark Matter comics, tell me — is there reason to hope? Should I give the show another chance?

Have you ever suffered torment from the character you were rooting for being killed off? (I’m looking at you SLEEPY HOLLOW fans.) Did you slog onward or just give up?  I’ve resorted to writing DARK MATTER fan fic as a way of detoxing.  Sigh.  It’s premised on my rogue clone idea…Maybe it’ll become its own thing one day.

Follow us at Lady Smut where we make the darkness matter.  And subscribe to our newsletter if you want fabulous free reads. ; >

Meanwhile, here’s something to pluck up your spirits — we ran a giveaway from Lux Aromatica last week, and to say thank you to our readers Lux made a coupon just for you.  2017-02-ladysmut-flash-sale

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

I’m A Bad, Bad Man

28 Jan
Peter Capaldi, the common man's bully.

Peter Capaldi, the common man’s bully.

I’ve been hooked lately on a BBC British television comedy called THE THICK OF IT.  It’s the kind of British TV where I miss at least 1/5th of it because I don’t understand the references or can’t quite understand what they’re saying with such thick accents.  I muddle through straining my ears to catch the fast flying wit.  I can’t tear myself away because of the leading anti-hero, Malcolm Tucker.

Malcolm spends most of his time spewing explicit images of sexual assault and torture at the people who’ve made him angry–which is most of the people most of the time.  He does this with great inventive satiric force. He’s a bully.  While I’m sure in real life someone like Malcolm would terrify me, giving me permanent heart palpitations, as I’m watching the show, I confess,  I relish his appearance.  When Malcolm shows up, you  knowing the sh** is going to fly.  It’s just so wrong, but I’m finding him more and more attractive.

Why? Why is this happening? I don’t know.  Well, actually…I think I do know.  Malcolm’s a bully, but he’s a labor bully.  It’s like the labor party members are rats hopelessly lost in the idiotic maze of bureaucracy and scandal. The rats all want to huddle in a corner, but Malcolm’s job is to keep giving them random shocks so they’ll scamper towards the cheese. He’s a motivating force, the engine of fear and aggression that drives the satirical show.

Moreover, Malcolm speaks nicely to all the cleaning people who come into the government offices late at night and polish the place up. Top all that off with the cherry on top –Malcolm has a great Scottish accent.  I sit there listening to the foul invective spitting from his lips like it’s the poetry of Robby Burns.

I wonder if the show's creators realized how hot Hugh Laurie would be as House?

I wonder if the show’s creators realized how hot Hugh Laurie would be as House?

I guess it’s like being attracted to Hugh Grant’s character on House.  Cranky, mean, disrespectful?– yes, yes, and yes.  But the characters share some traits in common:

1) They care about their jobs with a single-minded intensity.

2) They don’t stop caring. They care way more than anyone else.

3) They keep trying and won’t stop trying until they are successful (or the patient is dead).

4) They exude absolute confidence, intelligence, and dexterity in all their doings.

Sounds heroic, yes?

5) Other than that, they keep the bar really low when it comes to behaving well.  This trait is something that I, for some perverse reason, always find super-comfortable to be around.

These admirable traits, buried in obviously flawed characters, make them deeply appealing–to me at least.

House’s character — much like Malcolm Tucker’s character — is basically heartless.  That just adds to the appeal somehow.  It’s so unfair, but when these characters do show a tiny drop of compassion or decency, it goes a long, long way.

Richard III woos Anne. "Was ever woman in this humour woo'd?Was ever woman in this humour won?"

Richard III woos Anne. “Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?”

So are there any heartless anti-heros out there that you sigh over? I have a friend who had a crush on Richard III for awhile.  Meanwhile, they say a book is only as good as its villain.  Recommend your favorite romance villains in the comments section below.  Or maybe mention them on twitter? #GreatRomanceVillains Here’s my twitter handle–  @madelineiva.

P.S.  You can find THICK OF IT on hulu.  There was a movie called In The Loop that is based on the television show that’s every bit as good.

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