Tag Archives: Movies

Tom Cruise: Do we think he’s sexy?

3 Aug

Mission Impossible: Fallout, I saw it too. I know many of you did, because those box office figures don’t lie. Apparently, we all loved it too. Lots of action (believable and not) some bombs, bad guys who want to end the world–the usual action stuff. The plot was so straightforward, I had plenty of time to wonder about Tom Cruise…is he sexy?

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It didn’t seem to me he was trying to be sexy. Ridiculous with his over the top action, sort of romantic with his lost love, kind of smart with the way he figures things out, and very determined–especially when he was hanging from the cliff, everything looking really, really bad, but he kept trying until he saved everyone. But sexy? I didn’t think so.

It didn’t seem to me ‘they’ were trying to make him appear sexy in Fallout. I liked that. There weren’t any shirtless scenes, no long tough-guy stares. It was only later that I had second thoughts. Maybe he was supposed to be sexy and I just didn’t notice.

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I spent about an hour looking through many, many Tom picks. You know what I realized? He always looks the same. Same hair, same smile, same clothes. Even his expressions are pretty much the same.

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Even though he looks the same all the time, his career really has been all over the place. He danced in Risky Business, flew planes in Top Gun, disturbed people out in Interview with a Vampire, surprised us in Tropic Thunder, saved the world in the Mission Impossible franchise. Maybe that’s his secret, how he’s gotten to be one of the highest paid male actors. Think of him as a Where’s Waldo for the movie biz.

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His personal life, same thing. Married and divorced to very different women, jumped on Oprah’s couch,  is said to be one of the nicest people ever.

But wait! There’s more to show his life is very varied:

  • At age 14 he enrolled in the seminary, only to drop out at age 15 to become an actor.
  • In 1990, when he married Nicole Kidman, we wore no shoes.
  • 1996, he sued German Magazine Bunte for stating he had a zero his sperm count.
  • Ongoing, is huge fan of professional wrestling.

Now you’re intrigued. Right? You need to know,  what’s next for Tom?

Top Gun 2: Maverick! With Val Kilmer and Jennifer Connelly!

OMG! How excited are you!

What about you? Hot for Tom? Or not? Prefer a different action hero? Give us your thoughts in the comments.

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Isabelle Drake’s erotic contemporary romance beach read, Make Me Blush, is currently available for free with Kindle Unlimited. Find her on Facebook or Amazon and follow her snapchat @isadrake for the most personal snaps.

 

Heroines Locked in the Erotic Gothic Universe of David Lynch

11 Jun

by Chloe Robbins

The gothic and the erotic go hand-in-skeletal-hand. When people think of gothic romance, first thoughts often run to authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Victoria Holt, but the genre is much larger than these titans. In fact, one of today’s most famous gothics often isn’t discussed as a gothic at all. Musician, writer, film and television maker, David Lynch’s work is chock full of delicious gothic eroticism and romance. In Lynch’s stories, gorgeous heroines are constantly thrust into the romantic, moneyed darkness of someone else’s realm—a hotel, a spaceship, a movie set—forced to navigate literal secret passages even as they explore their own internal ones. “Gothic” as a style is characterized by the grim, the extravagant, the grotesque, the violent, the darkly romantic, the mysterious—a style that drenches Lynch’s work.

In Baltimore, the erotic twists and edges of this style are also celebrated in Lynch’s work through an annual David Lynch Fest. At this festival, a diverse line-up musicians and burlesque performers come together to strip, sing, and dance to various interpretations of Lynch’s creepiest, sexiest stories. As a Baltimorean—and a lover of all things gothic-erotic—I want to share some of this annual celebration with you by highlighting just a few of Lynch’s sexiest, most powerful, and most gothic heroines. (Disclaimer: some spoilers lie beyond.)

Twin Peaks

Who can forget Audrey Horn from Twin Peaks? Even the ultimate cinnamon roll hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper, couldn’t help but fall under her thrall for a time.

Twin Peaks is constantly indulging in and poking fun at the romance genre and especially its gothic tropes. From the idea of “tainted innocence” (read: young girls coming into their sexual identity under dangerous circumstances) to doppelgangers to murderous/lecherous family members to ghosts. Audrey Horn epitomizes so many of these gothic tropes, but perhaps most obviously that of the “tainted innocent”: a high schooler who feigns experience and jadedness yet yearns for fairy-tale love (e.g. her relationship with Agent Cooper); the ghostly pale skin; the dark hair; the blatant sexuality (e.g. her decision to break into Agent Cooper’s hotel room and wait for him, naked, in bed); and the shadowy fortress owned by her pervy father (aka The Great Northern Hotel), which is, of course, riddled with secret passages and peepholes. Audrey Horn is one of many romantic gothic heroines in Twin Peaks, coming into her sense of self as well as her sexuality in the wake of a classmate’s brutal murder, discovering the countless ghosts, trapdoors, and Black (and White) Lodges within her town and within herself.

 

Mullholland Drive

Mullholland Drive is a delicious example of Lynch’s unique brand of Hollywood Gothic, and the main characters—the lovers, Betty and Rita—are dripping with eroticism.

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In the very beginning, Betty’s “innocent” dream of becoming a Hollywood star is juxtaposed with Rita fleeing a mysterious car crash, as if fate had slammed them into each other—a pair of shooting stars, shot straight into each other’s hearts. Set in Hollywood, lush gothic threads run all throughout this film: the winding hallways of the mysterious Aunt Ruth’s house, the haunted theater where Betty and Rita hear the ghostly rendition of “Llorando,” the sexually-charged search for identity that both Betty and Rita tumble into together, the shadowy film sets where Betty discovers darker and darker tunnels within herself, on and on and on. This film is all about the haunted house of the mind built within the desirous, hungry package of the body.

 

Dune

I know most David Lynch fans would rather his film adaptation of Dune be left unmentioned, but there’s no denying the gothic-erotic influences running riot through this space opera, and just because it’s not a great film doesn’t mean there aren’t moments and characters that aren’t sexy as hell.

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As Tor.com is quick to point out in their break-down of why the film doesn’t work, this movie is aesthetically dark. Every cathedral-esque spaceship, castle, and cavern is packed with shadows, all but begging for some Phantom of the Opera-style candelabras. And while this maybe isn’t the best way to build up a vast scifi universe, it’s a great way to make the entire film feel as though it took place inside Vincent Price’s sexy little grin. Filled with scheming royals and estranged family members, with grotesque villains and flashing daggers, it’s no wonder that even Lady Jessica, a side-character and the mother of our hero, is turned into an erotic figure in this setting. I say “even” Lady Jessica because, in some ways, it’s positively radical that Lynch would take a middle-aged mother character and give her so much sex appeal, her own journey through this tale being one of tortured love for her murdered husband as she carries their secret baby (another classic gothic trope) to term.

 

Wild at Heart

And speaking of tortured love… Lynch takes the idea of a road-trip movie to a whole new level with the lovers, Lula and Sailor, who flee a band of assassins that Lula’s mother Marietta has hired to kill Sailor. The film’s gothic elements may shine darkest in the grotesque violence of Marietta’s desire to strip her daughter of all sexual power and freedom, but they can also be seen in the shape of Marietta’s slow-emerging madness that only Lula and Sailor seem to fully understand: the literal Wicked Witch of the West.

Lula’s character is another example of the “tainted innocent”: she’s charged with sexuality and power, especially (and ironically) due to her mother’s violent desire to see these powers contained, even as she is also a bit childish and naïve. Haunted, a runaway, abused as a child (and as an adult), adrift in a sea of violence, Lula fights to take what she wants out of life and retains a fairly healthy sexual identity through it all. A classic gothic heroine.

 

Blue Velvet

I’ll never forget seeing a Blue Velvet-inspired burlesque performance wherein a dancer wearing gasmasks over her face and breasts slowly revealed more and more gasmasks that she’d managed to hide on (and in) her body. For many, Blue Velvet is nothing but disturbing. But as disturbing as certain elements are—the violence, the constant taunting shadows, the gasmasks—there’s no denying the eroticism of a young hero exploring a stranger’s house in search of clues only to duck into a closet and end up spying on her.

The secret passage is a beloved plot device in gothic tales because it so often finds a heroine in a dangerous situation and gives her fresh power, fresh control, while also acknowledging that she herself is riddled with secrets and hidden depths. In Blue Velvet, we see this dynamic inverted with our young hero finding momentary safety within the heroine’s closet, watching her undress and drape herself in blue velvet, only to be discovered and dragged into the light. Our heroine in this story doesn’t need to lurk in the dark to find her power…or to allude to her hidden depths. She grabs a knife and forces him out of the closet herself, demanding that now he will undress for her.

The truth is, the gothic is often disturbing. It is often dark and uncomfortable and taboo. This is also why it’s so undeniably sexy. The forbidden. The dangerous. The fantasy. What’s important is making sure that the fantasy is handled by an artist who understands the live wire they’ve just taken hold of, someone who understands how these tropes and devices have been used in the past to cause harm and knows how to circumvent, challenge, and subvert these harmful possibilities. For danger to be sexy, there must also be great trust—perhaps not between the characters, but between artist and audience.

Chloe Robbins is a writer and editor living in Baltimore with her delicious husband and various taxidermied creatures. She’s currently at work on her paranormal romance novel, A Stony Heart, and has short fiction forthcoming with Circlet Press’s Dressed in Black anthology, inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Ingrid Goes West & Discovers O’Shea

31 Aug

O’Shea Jackson Jr. Yowza!

by Madeline Iva 

I loved this movie! It’s a satire, and send up of social media crazy.   Let’s talk about the juicy acting before tearing into the bloody guts of the film.

WARNING: vague spoilers litter this entire post.

THE CAST OF INGRID GOES WEST IS FAB:

First – O’Shea Jackson Jr. – HELLO!!!!!!

He came into a scene and I just kept watching him – OMG. Cute. Damn. I kept thinking of him as a less cranked Ice Cube – (Who I kind of obsessed over when he was a kangaroo mutant in TANK GIRL, btw.)

From the moment he was on screen kept thinking: Hey! Look at him. Ingrid? Why are you not paying attention to this guy! Go for him, Ingrid. Look!

I loved that he was playing a geeky screenwriter/batman obsessive. It is my opinion that aside from movies, TV, and romances needing hot POC guys in general, that we especially need more cute/hot/black/geeky men. (Like Echo Kellum!)

O’Shea knows how to flirt with the camera, is all I’m saying.  And –well, what do you know? I get home from watching the movie, check IMDB, and O’Shea is Ice Cube’s son.

No way! Yes, truly.

In a just world we’ll O’Shea Jackson Jr. rise to super-stardom.

Side note for Billy Mangusson: I saw him in Damsels in Distress.  Do I like his ken-doll good looks? No. Ken dolls have never done it for me.  So I don’t feel obliged to mention him here because of his hotness factor—for me he registers a zero on that scale. But his manic energy made an impression. He was good – perfect even, in his loathsome movie role. He’s a character actor in the body of a Ken Doll (which he can’t help of course–) and I first saw him in Damsels in Distress—which is a great daffy movie, btw, check it out.

Finally: Aubrey Plaza. She’s so good it hurts. She’s doing the crazy-manic thing well, of course, as the role calls for. But Plaza is also going through hip moves like a gymnast nailing the landing. She’s so on it when it comes to social tracking.  It’s like she knows how to rate social currencies up and down like she’s the Tokyo stock exchange.

But that’s when her character is barely in control. When her character spins out of control, then we are watching straight up humiliation humor of the kind we’ve long been familiar with when it comes to comedic actors like Jerry Lewis (R.I.P.) and Ben Stiller, but that we see far less in women (with the genius exception of Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher on SNL). My sweetie had to hide his eyes during these parts of the film. “I can’t watch.” But I was rejoicing in Ingrid’s social belly flops.

Aubrey Plaza has her own unique persona going on, with a misanthropic attitude and deadpan voice.  We think we’d quickly get tired of this one note, but Plaza will surprise you.  She has no fear of taking her audience to other dimensions of her comedic range. She also reached into emotional points you didn’t think she’d necessarily be able to handle, giving her stiffly uninflected comedic axe. But this is what we know of Aubrey Plaza – she works it and she works it hard as an actress. She pushes higher, deeper, and lower than one would have thought she could go. I’ve noticed in movies and in TV that Plaza is always better than you think she’s going to be.  She’s one to watch.

Here are two other great movies she was in—be sure to check them out:  SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED and LIFE AFTER BETH.  She also had a small role in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Hey! Maybe that’s where she met Billy…)

BUT LET’S MOVE ON TO THE MOVIES INNARDS:

STYLING: First of all, the movie, appropriately enough, it was beautifully directed, in a totally classic instagram style. You know what I mean – that understated boho thing (and by understated we do NOT mean inexpensive or second hand.) At the same time ‘the look’ invokes color drenched quirkiness, it also should invoke the clean look of big open spaces:  sort of like a fresh ocean breeze off the Malibu shore as it wafts across the bodies of billionaires meditating on the beach.  The movie did this very well — well done, movie!

BUT WHAT IS THE MOVIE ACTUALLY SAAAAAAAAAAAYING?

CLAIM ONE: The obvious message: If you’re mistaking social media connections for real relationships—you’re cray-cray!

And yes, we (I) need reminding that:

  1. there is a life beyond social media (I know, so hard for you youngins who’ve never experienced anything but.)
  2. You need a few real people to have relationships with in your life–at least.
  3. It’s okay to have thousands of great acquaintances on social media –just remember they’re acquaintances.
  4. Social media is a reflection of our lives—not our actual lives.

Even so, some might say that social media is a more insidious evil. I had a friend who once gave a critique of the TV show Friends by saying: The problem is that they’re all so funny, so gorgeous, and well dressed. They make me dissatisfied with my real friends. I take her point.

Do all the pretty people on social media ruin us for “real life”? Hmmmm. I want to say I don’t think so – but you have to be strong about limiting your social media intake.  And this is where I feel the movie plays an important role in inviting us to examine our lives vis-a-vis social media.  For instance, looking back on it, I would say that yes, my Sweetie and I do socialize in person a bit less than we used to in the years before we joined fb.

Which brings us to claim #2 that INGRID GOES WEST makes:

People who are on the other end of the selfie stick – the “influencers” on social media — look down upon their followers/worshipers and, when you meet them in person, they are shallow and inauthentic.  My response to this is twofold:

One: Maybe some do — (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian) but I don’t.  I also don’t think I’m an influencer.  So.

Two: The world is chock full of people who were shallow and inauthentic and yet popular and somewhat famous L-O-N-G before social media came along.  So what’s really changed?

Yet the film is at it’s best, I think, when it shows that there is more to Taylor’s life than her instagram feed presents. Her nervous monitoring of her husband’s artistic career and satisfaction comes to mind.  There was something about the role that radiated a sense of instability (Good job Elizabeth Olsen!) that rang incredibly true to me.

On the other hand, as expected, Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) stops the great moments that are happening in her life to capture the moment so it meets her ruthless instagram standards.  Ingrid of course, is at that point where if it didn’t get captured on social media, it didn’t count. She takes every instance of these friend selfies as a quasi-religious moment to savor.  Personally, I think most of us just wear out before we hit the Taylor point in our lives.   Or at least I do — I go to weddings, or author events and I take a lot of pictures and post them on social media –but then I’m done! I’ve experienced something, I’ve put it out there, moving on now!

After seeing the movie I wanted to go out and dig into these issues of social media, our place in them, and the social ethics involved.   Sweetie wanted to dismiss the movie. It made him uncomfortable in parts, and he didn’t see it the edgy double-bladed sword of truth like I did. INGRID GOES WEST offers up a chance to examine our relationship to social media–the ways in which we revel and triumph in it, and the ways in which it undercuts what keeps us stable and sane in our real lives. I say these are good conversations worth having.

So FRIEND— go see the movie already! Talk to me about your thoughts regarding the movie down below.  : >

And since we’re talking about social media–I’m glad you’ve found us at Lady Smut. I’m glad that you want to take this journey we’re on as we explore the possibilities of a women-friendly, sex-positive world. We’re here to share our favorite romances with you—many of them smoking hot—and we’re glad you took some of your valuable time to park your attention here for a few minutes every day.

I never feel inauthentic when it comes to the people who support Lady Smut. I appreciate you all every day.  Whether you’re on a lunch break at work or at home in bed sobbing over a shitty love life—we’re here to cheer you up, and let you know others out there are smart, intelligent women who love romance. We think the way you do.

Hugs!

Madeline Iva is the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  You can’t follow her on Instagram, but you can join her newsletter.

 

 

Beta Me, Baby

26 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

By now, pretty much everyone on the planet with the slightest connection to me knows of my mad love for Wonder Woman the movie and Wonder Woman in general. Loud and proud, baby. Loud and proud.

 

The film has stuck with me for weeks. I saw it a second time with a friend for whom it was a first-time viewing, and found even more to love about it. Those Amazons. Strewth.

 

I’m currently caught on the marvel (heh) that is Steve Trevor, the beta male. Amongst all the awesome female kick-assedness of the film, Steve Trevor is not so quietly being equally awesome. I touched on this a bit in my blog about the movie.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

Any cursory scan of my blogging history shows my affinity for the alpha male, at least in print and TV/films. In real-life, I can put up with that bossy, tough guy BS for about half a second before the guy has to show me something more. A guy can be masculine and manly and not be a jackhole about it, alpha or no. And this, I’m begging to believe, is the core of the beta hero, of which Steve Trevor may be the perfect example.

You lead, I’ll follow

I texted with my best friend about Steve Trevor this week.

Her: I dig the beta hero, so I’m biased.

Me: A lot of women do and if they were all like Steve Trevor, I’d definitely go there. I think he’s a mix of  both [alpha and beta]. Goes to show that beta doesn’t automatically mean weak or not a leader of men.

Her: He’s absolutely both and definitely a good example of someone willing to share the load. Smart enough to take the reigns and give them back as the situation changes. He doesn’t constantly have to prove himself. And I think the beta part comes through in that he doesn’t try to change everyone’s opinions of [Diana]. He tries to keep her somewhat within the social boundaries so they can be effective (not because he feels those boundaries are good) but lets her prove her own worth to others. So, not take-charge in that way, but sexy because he knows it’s unnecessary.

My bestie is one super smart lady.

With Steve Trevor on the brain, I paid more attention to Mon-el in the TV show Supergirl.

Chris Wood as Mike/Mon-El and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I’m not a fan of Supergirl, or, more accurately, I don’t want to be a fan of Supergirl. I really don’t want to like this show for Reasons. Yet I find myself absently watching it, usually reruns and usually around 7 AM on weekdays when I’m doing my FitBit and lifting free weights and need the distraction. But Supergirl is girlie and feminist, empowering and a little campy. And in season two, it introduce a perfect beta male.

Mon-el starts out as a self-serving boy toy who isn’t so much interested in using his powers for good as is for using his powers to score. But as the season progresses (I’m guessing here a bit; I haven’t seen most of the season, only the first three and the back nine episodes. Don’t want to like it, remember?). Anyway, as the season progresses, and he and Kara, aka Supergirl, fall in love, he becomes less a dude bro and more the perfect beta male and partner for his super-powered woman.

Ah. Young, superpowered love.

Mon-el is not left with no role to play. His powers are different than Kara’s and so how he can help in their missions differs too. But he’s learning from her all the time, much like Steve Trevor learns from Diana and the Amazons. At the end of the season, again like Steve Trevor, Mon-el sacrifices himself and his and Kara’s happiness in order to save the world. Literally. He does this because he’s learned this kind of sacrificial service from Kara. And, again like Steve Trevor, he knows in making that sacrifice that he’s leaving the more powerful person behind to carry on.

I’m not of the belief that only beta males can be this layered and complex, this manly and yet not the primary in all things. Dyson of the Lost Girl series is unabashedly (and literally) an alpha wolf (and, admittedly, occasionally a bit of an emotional dumb ass). As he falls for the succubus Bo and as, episode by episode, they become partners in crime solving, he defers to her when the situation warrants it, none of which makes him any less alpha be it wolf or man. They save each other, time and again, not because one or the other is weak or incapable, but because they each have their own strengths and often, Bo’s is the greater one in the situation. (At least in season one. I’m still trying to ignore most of season two, all of season three, when the man-hating began in earnest, and the majority of seasons five and six.)

Above all, these “beta’ males are not de-fanged of their masculinity because of a powerful woman. Powerful in their own rights, be it as a super-powered alien from another planet or as a superior leader of men, a truly heroic person, who is as human as the guy next to him, or an outright alpha male who isn’t a bully or a jackhole, when partnered with a woman vastly more powerful than they are in physical capabilities, they are not made lesser–they do not feel lesser–which is super sexy.

We need more of these complex, empowered, layered, kinds of men in fiction today, because there are, I’m convinced, far many of them in real-life than media would lead us to believe. In which case, beta me, baby. Beta me.

Do you have a favorite book or TV beta boyfriend? Give him a shout out in the comments.

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Follow Lady Smut and sign up for our newsletter so you never miss the sexy. Alpha, beta, or gamma–we take all comers.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

Wonder Woman: Worth the 40 Year Wait

12 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I was five years old in 1977 when I jumped off my older sister’s canopy bed and sprained my arm. Hers was a tall bed, tall enough to house a trundle bed underneath, and was as high as I could get at just past 9 PM on a Friday evening. You see, I’d just seen another episode of Wonder Woman. And I knew, even then, that was who I wanted to be in life.

After that stunt, my parents tried to forbid me from watching the show. You can imagine how well that went over. But I did have to promise no more leaps from high places. When my mother tried to curb our Saturday morning cartoon watching, I wheedled my way into her acquiescing to only the SuperFriends and the Smurfs. The SuperFriends are probably the only reason I was ever willingly awake at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. That year or the next, a girl in my class (who I went to nursery school with and, as it turned out, every other school through to high school graduation) got a full Wonder Woman kit for her fifth or sixth birthday. I was insanely jealous and, at that age, completely incapable of hiding it. Somewhere, there’s a picture of me at her party dressed in her birthday present (sorry about that, Kimmie).

You see, from as far back as I can conjugate, I knew I was destined to be Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was strong. She was never, ever bullied. Not for her looks, not for her size, not for anything. She rescued the underdog, the helpless and needy. She was respected by men–or at least by men worth of the title. She was honorable and righteous. She was kind and generous. She smiled big and knew how to have fun, but she never put herself above others, despite her power and strength and position. She could not only play with the boys, not only hold her own with them, but she could (and would) easily outpace their best efforts. She took care of those who depended on her and made sure they had what they needed, even at her own expense. She was a princess and a warrior. She was loved and lovable.

From a very early age, I longed to be all these things.

Wonder Woman didn’t get teased for her weight or her clothes. Wonder Woman didn’t get mocked for reading as she walked to and from grade school. Wonder Woman didn’t cry as she walked to junior high. Wonder Woman didn’t get ridiculed for reading romance novels because she needed to believe not only in romance and love, but that she herself was worthy of being loved. Wonder Woman didn’t worry about any of that shit. No one would dare.

So you can imagine my feelings to learn there was finally going to be a live-action Wonder Woman film. Or maybe not, because I’ve been trying for nearly ten days to figure them out, and I’m not all that much closer than when I walked out of the movie theatre.

For once, I did not learn every microcosm of information about the movie. I didn’t scan blogs or media sites, I didn’t haunt youtube videos of premieres around the world, I didn’t read or watch media blitzes and morning show spots and red carpet interviews.

I didn’t want the real world interfering with my life-long dream. A real, live Wonder Woman.

Some girls wanted a sparkly tiara. I always went a different route…

It’s been nearly 40 years since I was that young girl jumping off the bed. (Newsflash: that wasn’t my last jump.) Over time, my love for the Amazon princess has not abated. I have a Wonder Woman license plate frame. My best friend bought me Wonder Woman drinking glasses for Christmas. The Mother bought me Wonder Woman stud earrings (which I wore to the movie, natch). I had the Wonder Woman Underroos; as an adult, I have knickers and sleep shirts. I have Wonder Woman workout gear. I wore a different Wonder Woman shirt to the day job every day of the week the movie was released and still had another to wear Saturday when I went to see the film.

To say my expectations were high for this movie is to understate the emotional importance the film carried for me and that five and six and seven and fourteen and so on through the teenage years girl.

I’m here to say, it was absolutely, 100% worth the wait. It’s powerful, emotional, sweet, funny, sexy, emotional, and empowering.

“What one does when faced with the truth is harder than you think.” — Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Wonder Woman 2017

I’m not going to rehash every moment of the film or break down all the feminist principles or the (very few) places they went wrong. There are plenty of other places out there to read all of that. The nay sayers and trolls are making a lot of hay over the movie’s assertion that “love is the answer” as though the moral and theme of Wonder Woman can be summed up with a Beatles’ song. But it’s so much more than that.

“Be careful in the world of men, Diana, they do not deserve you.” Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman 2017

Diana’s strength isn’t in her weapons or her power. It’s in her heart where her true power lies. This is something our male superheroes struggle to convey and/or to capitalize on. They have honor and strength and commitment and sacrifice, but few have the courage to act solely from their hearts–from a place of love. Diana has so much love to give, her heart is so large, it can’t remain on an island sequestered from a world that needs her, however violent and cursed and male that world may be. She gives up the right to ever return to her home in order to go where she’s needed. Her mother, Hippolyta, reminds Diana that if she chooses to leave, she can never return. “How will I be if I stay?” Diana replies, to which Hippolyta has no reply.

Steve Trevor: I can’t let you do this…

Diana Prince: What I do is not up to you.

Wonder Woman 2017

That doesn’t mean she’s a pushover. She enters the outside world at a time when women’s suffrage had yet to happen and women were struggling for that very recognition. But Diana knows no world where she is not an equal. It doesn’t ever occur to her that she is less for any reason, but especially not because of her gender. Diana goes where she wants and does what she thinks is necessary and just no matter that all the men around her are telling her “no”. She is constantly being told “no” in this movie, and she just keeps on going. When Steve Trevor brings Diana with him to Parliament so he can update his boss, he tells her not to enter. He actually says “stay”. Diana ignores him and walks on in, bringing the entire room to a standstill because, good Lord, there’s a woman in the chambers of Parliament!

But to Diana, it is just another room and she rightly sees no reason why she shouldn’t be able to enter it. Later, she does the same thing with the war room. Why should she stay outside when the information she needs in in that room? Therefore, she must be in that room. She challenges the men because she doesn’t recognize their “superiority”. It never occurs to her that she’s anything but equal, or at the least, their superior. Not because she has a vagina, but because these worldly people, these men, have been corrupted by ambition or greed or war (there are a number of options offered in the movie) while Diana’s gaze remains clear and fixed. She knows the enemy and knows how to defeat him. She doesn’t accept “we can’t do that because of X or Y.” She knows what must be done and if the men aren’t going to step up and do it, then she is going to do it without them.

And here’s the thing: the men follow her.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

(For more on how great Steve Trevor is as a beta male who doesn’t lose his masculinity because he follows Diana, read this great post on Mary Sue, The Steve Trevor Factor: Wonder Woman Gives Us a Template for What Gender Equality Can Look Like. I could not say it better if I tried.)

Steve Trevor: “We can’t save everyone.”

Diana: “Maybe you can’t. But I’m going to.”

Wonder Woman 2017

Watching Wonder Woman, I thought of all the young girls experiencing Diana, Princess of Themyscira for the first time via this film, seeing and learning not that no matter what or who they want to be, they’ll always hear “no” and “don’t” and “no” again and “you can’t do that” or “women can’t do that,” but that they will be able to reply “maybe you can’t, but I’m going to.” That they too can be a wonder of a woman: Courageous. Kind. Wise. Loving. Beautiful. Strong. Undefeatable. That there’s not one of these elements they need to sacrifice to be any and all of the others.

Because Diana’s great capacity for love doesn’t make her a weakling. Oh no. She comes from far too heartier stock for that. The Amazons in Wonder Woman are feats to behold, fierce and fearsome, and more than one warrior’s cry brought chills to my spine–and an elated smile to my face. These are the ancestors of all the Black Widows and Supergirls and Buffys and Jean Greys and so on and so on. Every kick ass, bad ass woman hero or antihero, superhero or chosen one. They owe it all to the Amazons. And these are the women who raised and trained Diana to be all that is Wonder Woman, and to have Robin Wright, the Princess Bride herself, leading the charge, well, there are few greater ways to make the circle complete.

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I’ve written before about how romance novels taught me to be the heroine of my own story, how they continue to embolden women to reach for what makes them happy, to be that heroine. With the arrival of Wonder Woman, I’ve realized she started me on that journey. She’s the first to make me believe I could be more–that I was worth more

I’ve been trying to be Wonder Woman for 40 years. Strong. Giving. Honorable. Righteous. Kind. Compassionate. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Loving. Undefeatable Striving to achieve that destiny, to be that woman in a mortal, real-life existence. And I’ve failed, epically, far more than I’ve succeeded.

There’s been no magic bracelets despite my propensity for silver cuffs (gee, wonder where *that* came from?). No lasso of truth to discern who is lying to me and guide me to the truths of peoples hearts. No invisible jet to get to places quickly (though that bit I never got–what good is an invisible jet when everyone can see you through it anyway?). No superior strength or effervescent beauty. Just me being, well, me.

As it turns out, that’s been more than enough.

I am, as I’ve always been, a wonder of a woman. We all are. Heroines of our own wondrous stories.

Looks like that was my destiny after all.

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It’s theme week here at Lady Smut as we celebrate the release of our own Elizabeth Sa Fleur’s newest installment in the Elite Doms of Washington series, Lucky.

Be sure to stay up to date with all the Lady Smut sexy shenanigans by following us and signing up for our newsletter.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

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The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

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Why don’t you? The appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey

10 Mar

“Why don’t you write something like Fifty Shades of Grey?”

We romance writers get asked this question by friends and family. I have to admit this question puzzles me. Each time I’m asked I wonder:

  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something about two people seeking love and connection?
  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something erotic?
  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something that pushes the boundaries of relationships?

I only wonder these things because me asking them aloud would draw attention to the fact that the person asking the question hasn’t read any of my books. Of course, I don’t care whether or not the person has read my stuff but …well, I don’t want to make things awkward by pointing that out. Besides, as a writer, here’s the question that makes the most sense to me:

  • Do you mean why don’t I write something that sells millions of copies and creates just as many devoted readers and fans?

That one I don’t have an answer for. Nobody does. Many–many–of us writers have tried to figure out why that series in particular took off like that.

50 2

In my other life, I teach freshman composition at a college. We write essays, the standard sort that college freshman have been writing for years. Thesis statements, MLA formatting, research. All the usual stuff. One place where I get to mix things up is in the prompts. So, wondering what my students think of the 50 phenomenon, I include a prompt about the widespread popularity of the series. The prompt encourages the students to question the contrast between the book’s content, the relationship between the two characters, and the current wave of new feminism. Bottom line–why do women connect this book?

As you might imagine, the prompt generates interest. After reading seve50 3ral essays I’ve found a distinct difference between the younger, 18-20, and older, 25-30 women in regard to Mr. Grey’s relationship appeal.

The younger women find him super romantic. They are drawn to the idea of having a man so dedicated to you that he is “interested” in every aspect of your life. They don’t find him stalky or boundary-crossing, they find him devoted. These younger women write very little about the sex; they write almost exclusively about the attentive relationship. It seems that while young women view career and societal contribution as essential and validating, they still long for a dedicated partner.

The older women write about the sex. They are drawn to the idea of an extremely intense almost completely sexual relationship that has no emotional commitments. These women reflect that while they hope to have an emotionally intimate relationship in the future, they are, at present, busy with school and work and don’t have time to develop “that sort of thing” right now. This staying-single-longer, waiting-for-real-commitment life plan is on the rise,  but as noted above with the younger set, this older set seeks devotion. They simply define devotion in a different way.

If you’re one of the thousands, maybe millions, of people who’ve had this conversation–why is 50 so compelling–we’d love to hear what you think. Give us a shout in the comments.

And – follow us here at Lady Smut. We’re always here to inform, entertain, and keep you up to date.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers.

Fifty Shades Darker Celebration & Valentine’s Giveaway

9 Feb

by Madeline Iva

Are you going to see FIFTY SHADES DARKER this weekend? We are!fifty-ball

Well, Elizabeth SaFleur and I are. We’ve already got our tickets and we’re taking our spouses.  Not only that–we’re holding a celebration event on Facebook to chat with y’all about the FIFTY SHADES DARKER movie.  We hope you join us!50shadesshouldersleeping

Go to our event on facebook, press the *interested* button, then tell us what you thought about the movie:

  • What did you love? The actors, characters, settings, costumes, plot?
  • How did FIFTY SHADES DARKER compared to the book and the first movie?
  • Do you love billionaire romance themes in general? Or BDSM romances in particular? ; >

We’re also blogging about fascinating aspects of the movie here.  (Don’t worry, we’ll post everything over at the fb event too.)

  • Reasons Why Billionaire Romances Are Never Going Away
  • My obsession with Jamie Dornan
  • 5 Ways In Which Real Life Millionaires Aren’t Like Us
  • Jackie Horne from ROMANCE NOVELS WITH FEMINISTS will stop by. We’re discussing where young women are going with BDSM and how this is or isn’t reflected in the movie.
  • Joey Hill shares with us how to get kinky with her 10 favorite kitchen items.

50-shades-take-2

Admittedly, not all of us at the blog are 50 Shades lovers.  You might not be either — that’s why we have other smexy Valentine’s Day posts to offer you this month.  pantiesCheck out our posts on:

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

This Valentine’s Day weekend, we’re offering a Kama Sutra giveaway from Lux Aromatica that includes massage oil, soap, a candle, and lip balm.

To enter the giveaway, hit the SUBSCRIBE button on our blog now–it’s the pink button up at the top on the right–and fill out the form.  One random winner will be chosen from central Virginia where Kerensa’s stores are located and one random winner from the nation at large. (Continental US only, please!)

We look forward to seeing you all this weekend, even if you’re just stopping by to say hi. — xoxo

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750Madeline 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.

 

 

Turned on by wires & circuits? Intrigued by the opportunity to pre-program your experience? Robot fetish 101

13 Jan

By Isabelle Drake

Want to get busy with a techno man?  Interested in androids? Love the AMC show Humans?

If you are a Duran, Duran fan, or remember the old school video to Electric Barbarella, the sexy robot thing is nothing new to you.

Here’s something that might be new. Robot fetishism, considered part of technosexuality, is divided into two usually separate fantasies:

  • Sex with a person dressed in a robot costume, a person acting like a robot, or sex with pre-made sex android robot.
  • Sex with person who has been willingly or unwillingly transformed into a robot or being transformed into a robot oneself and subsequently having sex. The transformation is of key interest in this fantasy.

Both of these interests stem from the uncanniness of the android.

Ernst Jentsch, credited with being the first to identify the state of the uncanny in a 1906 essay, “On the Psychology of the Uncanny,” defines the state as a person’s “doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might be, in fact, animate.” He was quick to note that awareness and understanding of such a state is important to a fiction writer. “In telling a story one of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton and to do it in such a way that his attention is not focused directly upon his uncertainty, so that he may not be led to go into the matter and clear it up immediately.”

In the show, Humans, Anita confesses her love for Ed the scene is both compelling and disturbing. According to Sigmund Freud the basis for this reaction in the uncanny.

In his essay, “The Uncanny” Freud expanded this concept of the uncanny state being linked to the relationship between the animate and the innate. Additionally, he examined concepts of human development in regard to maturation as having a key relationship to a person’s perception of what is uncanny. For example, in childhood humans enjoy repetition. This appreciation begins before the child is old enough to desire, or even understand, control. As the child matures, and begins to understand the advantage of control and thus desires it, the child takes less pleasure in repetition.

Therefore, continued, undesired, and uncontrollable repetition is disturbing because it represents a lack of control and thus regression and is therefore potentially alarming. Freud asserted that the state of the uncanny is linked to the subconscious in additional way. He stated that a person experiences something as uncanny because it reminds the individual of the conflict between their repressed desires, desires which the individual presumably struggles to control, and feared punishment for deviating from societal norms.

Tell us what you think in the comments. Are human-like robots sexy or scary? Want to get busy with an android?7818008_f260

And – follow us here at Lady Smut. We’re always here to inform, entertain, and keep you up to date.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers. She’s also working on her own sexy android erotica.

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