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Author Topic: EP233: Union Dues - The Threnody of Johnny Toruko  (Read 29890 times)

stePH

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Reply #75 on: January 14, 2010, 04:29:43 PM
We are approaching the outer edge of Civility City

Remember to stock up at Al's Store on bottled water and Snickers for your journey into the Snarklands.

Or!

Why not turn around and head back into Civility City!  We have pie!

Can we have jam?

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Reply #76 on: January 14, 2010, 05:46:15 PM
We are approaching the outer edge of Civility City

Remember to stock up at Al's Store on bottled water and Snickers for your journey into the Snarklands.

Or!

Why not turn around and head back into Civility City!  We have pie!

If there's pecan pie, I am there.  :)



wakela

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Reply #77 on: January 15, 2010, 12:05:40 AM
What does "Shikaragaki" mean?



jrderego

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Reply #78 on: January 15, 2010, 12:13:40 AM
What does "Shikaragaki" mean?

Four Color Kids

"Happiness consists of getting enough sleep." Robert A. Heinlein
Also, please buy my book - Escape Clause: A Union Dues Novel
http://www.encpress.com/EC.html


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Reply #79 on: January 15, 2010, 12:19:25 AM
There were three Union Dues stories with a gay character that didn't revolve around his gayness earlier in the series. This isn't the only story Johnny appears in, after all.

Also, there aren't a lot of stories where gay characters are represented in ways separate from their gayness because you default to assuming a character is straight unless anything is said about their orientation. We don't know what Mr. Penumbra does in those 8 off hours, do we? (Though I would like to note that there is bisexuality, if I remember correctly, in Pirate Solutions.)



ancawonka

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Reply #80 on: January 15, 2010, 02:09:26 AM
I don't normally enjoy Union Dues stories as much as some of the other stuff, but this one I liked.  Teenage me would have been blown away. 

The ending was kind of dark (if you think about it)...  Johnny learns about unrequited love and has to live with it in a whole new way. 

Also, I learned a new word.   Kudos!



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Reply #81 on: January 15, 2010, 05:23:54 AM
Because this is a Team Shikaragaki (did I spell it right?) story, isn't it aimed toward somewhat-younger readers (mature YA, I believe)? And while I think they can handle somewhat-mature topics, sometimes you have to paint with a broad brush.

I couldn't disagree more, but given that we've already spent a page and a half on the title, I think I'll refrain from derailing into a discussion about why people tend to write terrible YA stories instead of really good ones, which mostly revolves around the (false) idea that the young'uns can't handle complexity.

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Reply #82 on: January 15, 2010, 05:28:19 AM
I really expected TK to somehow influence Tam instead, to make him more receptive.

For me, that would put this story solidly into the horror genre, frankly.  Mind-rape is squicky.

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deflective

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Reply #83 on: January 15, 2010, 08:35:55 AM
We are approaching the outer edge of Civility City

Remember to stock up at Al's Store on bottled water and Snickers for your journey into the Snarklands.

Or!

Why not turn around and head back into Civility City!  We have pie!

come to the snark side.  we have cake.



stePH

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Reply #84 on: January 15, 2010, 02:55:18 PM
Why not turn around and head back into Civility City!  We have pie!

come to the snark side.  we have cake.

The cake is a lie.

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Reply #85 on: January 15, 2010, 04:29:54 PM
Also, there aren't a lot of stories where gay characters are represented in ways separate from their gayness because you default to assuming a character is straight unless anything is said about their orientation.

I think you hit the nail on the head with that answer.  Very well put!



Sylvan

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Reply #86 on: January 15, 2010, 05:46:49 PM
Excellentness indeed.  Mr. DeRego has done it again and made me eager for his next outing in his expanding universe!

Also, congratulations on the shrunken waistline and general state of health; that's not something easy to do.  I'm struggling with it, myself.

The tale, "Union Dues - The Threnody of Johnny Toruko" was very heart-breaking.  I found myself thinking about the closeted life of Johnny and how growing up through his teenage years -from life in a strict, literalist religious household to the four-color world of the Pyramids- must have been so stifling when you don't fit so well in the role you've been assigned.  As I listen to more of the Union Dues series, I'm getting the growing impression that a civil war is brewing and not in a cheesy, Marvel Comics way.  The roles the Supers are being pressed into don't sit well with a large number of them and Johnny is emblematic of that.

Miss Jennifer is a good teacher and guide for them in at least one regard.  She taught Johnny, albeit in far too short a time for him to truly grasp the lesson and its ramifications, that there are times you have to buckle down and live in very unfortunate circumstances.  Many people live a life of service to which they are either ill-suited or -frankly- loathe.  It neither suits them nor rewards them.  Union Dues represents that beurocratic nightmare very well.

With Johnny, though, it runs very, very deep.  I would not at all be surprised to see him in Antarctica one day.

But, again, at least Miss Jennifer is right about unrequited love:  it never changes or grows tarnished.  He'll have that love for the rest of his life.  Or, perhaps, until he meets someone else ... someone not straight who can share his life.

For any gay man who's fallen for a straight man, it's hard -very hard- to live with.  It's a hurt that doesn't go away easily.  But it does go away with time, friends, and life.  This story shows that hard point in opening up and being yourself -in balancing responsibility with who you really are by telling the truth to those who can help you shoulder your burden- in a pretty awful world for a gay person.  You have to stay closeted in this world, at least as a teen.  It's pretty nasty.  At least he has TK and Miss Jennifer on his side.  That, alone, will help a bit.

Coming out is hard.  It should be hard even for a super-hero.

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



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Reply #87 on: January 15, 2010, 05:56:35 PM
Why do stories with gay stories with gay characters only have plot lines that revolve around their gayness? Isn't it a bit of soft bigotry to assume that the characters are so one dimensional that that is the only issue going on in their lives?

Oh, come on...

"You can tell a story about someone who's gay but it can't revolve around what makes them gay?"

That's absurd!  That's like saying, "You can tell a story about an astronaut but it can't revolve around what makes them an astronaut."  In short, if there is a character trait that is important to that character's make-up -VERY important- it is going to figure into the plot.  That's how writing works.

Try turning it around:  try removing all aspects of straight-ness from the next straight character you find in a story.  Remove that character's straight relationships, straight-identifying emotions, life's consequences arising from society, children (something that -generally- has something to do with their heterosexuality, although less these days), and other, similar properties.  You're left with a big hole in that character unless the story has absolutely nothing to do with relationships, at all.

The most mundane stories featuring gay characters tend to be neutered gays:  they're gay in name alone or feature gay stereotypes:  effeminate affectations, snarky attidues, an addiction to the Carpenters, best-friend female confidants, a love of show tunes, etc., etc., etc...  A good story with a solid gay character will still make reference to what makes them gay:  their same-sex attraction or partner or emotional bond.

Well, duh!  That's what it means!  :)

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



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Reply #88 on: January 15, 2010, 08:15:09 PM
@Sylvan

I think the issue is less about having gay characters do anything gay and more about the fact that when a gay character is included, oftentimes "gay" is the only thing that character does.  They ARE the Gay Character.  And when a story is written about a gay protagonist, many times the story is ONLY about being gay.  For instance, a gay astronaut story which spent the whole story on how hard it was for him to make it as an astronaut despite being gay rather than a story about an interesting adventure had by an astronaut who happened to be gay.

I don't think this story is "just about being gay," but a lot of Johnny's conflict comes from that struggle with concealing his identity.  I can see where it would be a borderline case, if someone were sensitive to that sort of thing.  Still, any unrequited love would make for a similar story and, as has been pointed out, several UD stories have characters who just happen to be gay rather than Gay Characters.

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Sylvan

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Reply #89 on: January 15, 2010, 09:47:05 PM
I think the issue is less about having gay characters do anything gay and more about the fact that when a gay character is included, oftentimes "gay" is the only thing that character does.  They ARE the Gay Character.  And when a story is written about a gay protagonist, many times the story is ONLY about being gay.  For instance, a gay astronaut story which spent the whole story on how hard it was for him to make it as an astronaut despite being gay rather than a story about an interesting adventure had by an astronaut who happened to be gay.

I do understand your point, Scattercat but what about the point that so many authors state:  why have a trait if it is not used or a part of the character?  What I'm proposing is that the trait, while not having to be the driving point of the plot, does have to have an impact upon the character.  When you are talking about someone being gay, and not just a gay stereotype or label, that element of who they are is going to be part of the story.  Otherwise, it's just a label thrown into the character for diversity's sake.

Sort of like saying, "I've got a black friend" or "this is my Jewish pal, Andy" and then leaving it at that.  It's a tag that identifies the character as something without backing it up:  telling and not showing, in the writer's vernacular, if you see what I mean.

This isn't to say you can't have them as real bastards, negatives, villains, or even stereotypes.  That's fine, too.  But if a character is going to have a trait, it has to be more than a mere label is what I'm saying.  Mr. DeRego, whom I am assuming is straight (although one should never assume), wrote very well on the subject and touched on points that showed this was more than just writing a stereotypical gay tragedy or "label" story.

Does that clarify what I was saying a bit more?  :)

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



WhiteShadow

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Reply #90 on: January 16, 2010, 06:48:16 PM
I feel like I should say something deep and philosophical so as to not break the tension going on here.

But I can't think of anything.

So instead I'll just say that I really enjoyed this story and that the thought of a Union Dues TV show made me giddy as a school girl when the Jonas Brothers are in town  :)

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Scattercat

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Reply #91 on: January 16, 2010, 08:13:44 PM
Mr. DeRego, whom I am assuming is straight (although one should never assume), wrote very well on the subject and touched on points that showed this was more than just writing a stereotypical gay tragedy or "label" story.

I wouldn't argue that this story fell into that trap, though it did skirt the edges.  It's just important not to have gay people portrayed as evil or as virtuous, but to have them as characters first and foremost.  Otherwise, you're still labeling them; if stories about gay people are only about BEING gay, then they're not really full characters.  Stories about straight characters don't revolve around BEING straight, even if they're romance stories.  Straight romances are about the object of affection and the obstacles in the way of uniting with them. 

Basically, having "gay" as the only and defining character trait someone has can be just as restricting as never using gay people at all.  Their sexuality should only come into it if the story (as this one is) revolves around romance in some way. 

The best example I can think of from pop culture right now is Dumbledore; the fact that Dumbledore was gay never came up in the books because it wasn't relevant.  Does it explain some of his motivations and actions more clearly?  Absolutely.  But Dumbledore wasn't "the gay wizard."  He was Dumbledore, who also happened to be gay in addition to trying to save the world.  (There are much, much better examples out there; this is just the only one I can be fairly sure other people have heard of.  Though honestly, "The Petrified Girl" over in Podcastle was also a pretty good story that had gay characters without being about their gayness.)

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WhiteShadow

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Reply #92 on: January 16, 2010, 08:54:54 PM
When was it ever said Dumbledore was gay?

Just curious  :)

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stePH

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Reply #93 on: January 16, 2010, 09:04:18 PM
When was it ever said Dumbledore was gay?

Just curious  :)

I thought Rowling stated it after the publication of ...the Deathly Hallows; supposedly the producers of the movies were looking to write in a female love-interest for Dumbledore's character (though one questions the necessity of this, as none such exists in the books). 

...here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Quote
While speaking at Carnegie Hall, New York City on 19 October 2007, Rowling was asked by a young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love". Rowling said that she always thought of Dumbledore as being gay and that he had fallen in love with Gellert Grindelwald; whether Grindelwald returned his affections, Rowling did not explicitly state. That love, she said, was Dumbledore's "great tragedy." Rowling explains this further by elaborating on the motivations behind Dumbledore's flirtation with the idea of wizard domination of Muggles: "He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrustful of his own judgement in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and a bookish life."


...okay, here's the seed of what I was given to understand:
http://theknightshift.blogspot.com/2007/10/jk-rowling-says-albus-dumbledore-is.html
Quote
Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," she spotted a reference in the script to a girl who once was of interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed to director David Yates, revealing the truth about her character.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2010, 09:07:18 PM by stePH »

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WhiteShadow

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Reply #94 on: January 17, 2010, 03:48:46 AM
Thank you  :)

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Sylvan

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Reply #95 on: January 17, 2010, 03:53:20 PM
I wouldn't argue that this story fell into that trap, though it did skirt the edges.  It's just important not to have gay people portrayed as evil or as virtuous, but to have them as characters first and foremost.  Otherwise, you're still labeling them; if stories about gay people are only about BEING gay, then they're not really full characters.  Stories about straight characters don't revolve around BEING straight, even if they're romance stories.  Straight romances are about the object of affection and the obstacles in the way of uniting with them. 

Basically, having "gay" as the only and defining character trait someone has can be just as restricting as never using gay people at all.  Their sexuality should only come into it if the story (as this one is) revolves around romance in some way. 

...snip...
(There are much, much better examples out there; this is just the only one I can be fairly sure other people have heard of.  Though honestly, "The Petrified Girl" over in Podcastle was also a pretty good story that had gay characters without being about their gayness.)

Oh, I definitely concur Scattercat!  But that's not what I was addressing; not exactly at any rate.  Please feel free to point out if you think I'm splitting hairs, here, but I feel that what WillMoo was originally saying was impossible:
Quote from: WillMoo
Why do stories with gay stories with gay characters only have plot lines that revolve around their gayness? Isn't it a bit of soft bigotry to assume that the characters are so one dimensional that that is the only issue going on in their lives?
To be gay is to have that trait influence every point in your life in the same way that being straight influences every point in your life at least insofar as in our current society it does.  Since that is where the reader exists, that is a reality of the audience in my mind and an immutable fact at that.

This said, the plot lines will always revolve around how that character interacts with their environment.  That environment will always be touched by the elements that the author brings in to their character.  If the element is different from the default standard in such a way as to merit mentioning in a significant way, it really has to be a part of the plot.  By definition, then, I feel that it is impossible -unless telling a tale in a completely gay-accepting society to an audience of gay-accepting people for whom this is the norm- to simply drop in a gay character and have it accepted that their actions and persona is to be taken for granted as a character trait that needs no further exploration in terms of the plot.

Now, to undercut what I've just written, I will admit that there are plenty of stories that have characters with laundry lists of traits that never are given exploration within the confines of a story.  Horror stories spring to mind for this, although they are hardly unique in this manner.  Having just watched "the most dangerous night on television" last night, though, this is easy to recall.  ;)  "Economy of character" doesn't always demand such rigor as I describe, above.  Sometimes a trait is merely there to give the illusion of depth that the author doesn't have time (or word-space) to devote to give the story fuller impact or realism.  I concede this.

What I will state to the contrary (and please don't think I'm laying out a straw man with the above, it was not my intent although I can see how it could appear to be so) is that if you have a main character, all of that character's traits should be relevant in some way -major or minor- to the plot, character interactions, character development, dialogue, internal dialogue, or actions taken during the progress of the story.  In short, if you have a gay main character, there is no way for that "gayness" not have the story revolve around it or be touched by it in some fashion.

I would say this is generally a meaningful fashion, given how much sexual orientation impacts everyone's daily life in terms of:
  • Who they are attracted to,
  • Who they talk about when they mention, casually, who they like,
  • Past significant others,
  • The use of pronouns when talking about attractions,
  • Children and spouses,
  • Sex,
  • Emotions,
  • Interactions with society, the law, religion, friends, family, etc...
But, anyway, I think I've rambled enough in this post.  ;)

I hope I've not been seen as uncivil, Scattercat.  I know how these long posts can carry a lack of emotion (or even negative emotion) in text-on-screen while my intent has been to be friendly and conversational.

I definitely look forward to your reply and that of anyone else wishing to participate on either side of this discussion!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)



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Reply #96 on: January 17, 2010, 08:38:46 PM
So all stories about straight people have to mention that they're straight, or at least provide a member of the opposite sex for them to be attracted to?  I don't think that's true at all.  Many people are straight in stories and never have even a thought of "Whoa, s/he's attractive!"  Thus, I don't see why a character being gay would have to come up in the plot of the story as a matter of course.  Being gay shouldn't be more visible than being straight; to hold up gayness as something "special" or "unusual" is to be, however mildly, marginalizing and discriminatory.

I mean, you're basically saying that we can't have a gay character unless that character's gayness impacts the plot.  Why is being gay different from being straight in that way?  Because only ~10% of the population is gay?  That's like saying you can't have a character be black or Mexican in a story set in the USA (where such races are, for now, lesser in number individually than Caucasian) unless that character's race affects the outcome of the story.  I just don't think you have a tenable position, either ideologically or from a literary standpoint.

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Reply #97 on: January 17, 2010, 09:33:33 PM
So all stories about straight people have to mention that they're straight, or at least provide a member of the opposite sex for them to be attracted to?  I don't think that's true at all.  Many people are straight in stories and never have even a thought of "Whoa, s/he's attractive!"  Thus, I don't see why a character being gay would have to come up in the plot of the story as a matter of course.  Being gay shouldn't be more visible than being straight; to hold up gayness as something "special" or "unusual" is to be, however mildly, marginalizing and discriminatory.

I mean, you're basically saying that we can't have a gay character unless that character's gayness impacts the plot.  Why is being gay different from being straight in that way?  Because only ~10% of the population is gay?  That's like saying you can't have a character be black or Mexican in a story set in the USA (where such races are, for now, lesser in number individually than Caucasian) unless that character's race affects the outcome of the story.  I just don't think you have a tenable position, either ideologically or from a literary standpoint.

I think you've both had plenty of good points so far, but I really agree with scattercat here.

And I still have no good insights of my own :) lol

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stePH

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Reply #98 on: January 17, 2010, 11:08:06 PM
So all stories about straight people have to mention that they're straight, or at least provide a member of the opposite sex for them to be attracted to?  I don't think that's true at all.  Many people are straight in stories and never have even a thought of "Whoa, s/he's attractive!"  Thus, I don't see why a character being gay would have to come up in the plot of the story as a matter of course.  Being gay shouldn't be more visible than being straight; to hold up gayness as something "special" or "unusual" is to be, however mildly, marginalizing and discriminatory.

I mean, you're basically saying that we can't have a gay character unless that character's gayness impacts the plot.  Why is being gay different from being straight in that way?  Because only ~10% of the population is gay?  That's like saying you can't have a character be black or Mexican in a story set in the USA (where such races are, for now, lesser in number individually than Caucasian) unless that character's race affects the outcome of the story.  I just don't think you have a tenable position, either ideologically or from a literary standpoint.

I'm with you all the way here.  Unless the author indicates otherwise, I'm going to assume (and I'd bet I'm far from alone in this) a character is heterosexual simply because that's the "norm" (read: statistically most likely).  Or maybe it's because I'm hetero myself... would any homosexuals care to weigh in with data points of their own?

Similarly, I will figure that a character is caucasian unless indicated otherwise.  It's on the author to let us know these things if it's germane to the story (and if it isn't, they can go ahead and pull a Heinlein, like revealing four pages from the end of Starship Troopers that Johnny Rico is Filipino. ;D It doesn't change the story a bit, but it has a bit of fun with the reader's assumed preconceptions)

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Reply #99 on: January 18, 2010, 08:19:23 PM
I liked this one, it showed a good insight into the throes of the heart that is teenage love/lust.  And I think this episode(and the call to brains asking people to come up with reasons why UD is different from other superhero stories) made me realize why UD is so good.  They are stories about people with superpowers, not superpowered people.  The people, and their stories, come first.  Comparatively speaking, Heroes is the best reference.  The characters change little, grow less, and are more known by their superpowers than by anything else.  There is about 5-10% of each UD story taken up by power use, and the rest is all story.  Powers should be the spice of superhero stories, not the main dish. 

On the issue of stories with gay characters but not about the characters being gay, I am reminded of Sleepy Joe, in which Roger is almost definitely gay, but if it is mentioned at all, it is not a focus of the story. 

That said, this story is not focused on Johnny's being gay, its just a good, modern twist on the puppy love/crush trope.  Its a good twist, because coming out is traumatic, and could cause the types of stress we saw in this tale.

My only gripe with the story is that two teens were running through NYC, then there was a large bang, and the girl was on the ground, her head smoking.  No one thought this might be interesting for the several seconds/minutes it took for that guy with the phone to show up?  Just a quibble. 

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