A Rather Long Post About Being A Fan.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve talked a little before at about fandom, and in particular about the way a fandom can either become a very bullying or very supportive place. If you’ve been following my Twitter account the last couple days, you probably won’t be surprised I’m going to talk about fandom again right now. Everything I’m going to say is from a personal point of view; I don’t pretend I’m speaking for anyone but myself, and I certainly can’t comment about anyone else’s experiences, goals, desires, dislikes, etc.

Okay, disclaimer over, now for the backstory. I’ve never really been a “group” sort of person. Even among close friends, I tend to keep to the edges, watching and listening more than talking and participating. I generally go with the flow, and tend to form strong opinions only after much thought and comparison to other opinions, and only once they seem to make sense. I’m certainly not very vocally, and when I am, I try to be pretty fair and balanced about it. Even on my own personal soap box of this blog, I still try to use positive language to try and educate rather than alienate. When interacting with other people, I look at things from as many sides as possible and keep my observations to myself except for a few occasional pointed comments if I think they are warranted or if I’m particularly passionate about the subject.

Make no mistake, I DO have loyalties and preferences, and in the right environment I’m as susceptible to “fan-flailing” as the next excited and passionate person. But more often than not, I simply don’t want to get dragged into arguments if someone disagrees with me. I have very little patience for that sort of thing, having been constantly exposed to it growing up. Those kinds of things very often have little to do with actually sharing different points of view for mutual education and enlightenment, and more to do with “THIS IS WHY YOU’RE SO WRONG AND SUCK AS A PERSON”, especially when they happen in most places on the internet. I’d much rather have conversations that go more like “YOU ARE AN AWESOME PERSON AND I’M SO GLAD WE GOT TO SHARE THESE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS”.

So usually, my fandom interaction goes something like this: there will be a thing I like, and I’ll see some other people liking that same thing, and they might have different things to say about it, and I’ll listen and go “oh, cool, I totally see that now” or “oh, cool, never thought of that before” and I may or may not actually agree with those things, but it doesn’t matter because we’re all enjoying this things and learning from each other and sharing our passions. I love that kind of stuff. And if I really like you, I might even start ranting about cinematography or something!

And then sometimes someone will come along and tell all the people sharing and liking this one thing why that thing is a X Y or Z bad thing, and it will escalate back and forth, and sometimes the cool people rally, and something the not-cool people will make death threats, and it’s all just very unpleasant and nasty and often enabled by a lot of the cultural problems we’re dealing with more and more these days. I’ve talked about some of those problems before on the blog. Check the archives.

Anyway.

In fandom, these two scenarios are pretty frequently played out. However, I’m relatively new to being active enough to observe it happening in the moment. I’ve been a fan of various things all my life, but due to the aforementioned “sticking to the edges”, I never really interacted with other fans all that much. I might read articles, but would skip the discussion boards and comment sections due to all the arguing and insulting and hating and bullying it often seemed to degrade into. I’d rather just enjoy the thing I loved on my own and keep all the excitement and theories to myself, rather than risk being attacked online. I had enough going on my life already, and made the choice not to add more stress.

That all started to change a year or two ago, with the oh-so-excellent Snark Squad, who run a website with one of the most polite, intelligent, respectful comments sections I’ve ever heard of. To be sure, they’re had their difficulties with hate and threats and insults and bullies too, but the Snark Ladies are some truly classy women, and they — with the help of the regulars — would always address the problems and bring the discussion back from the explosive potential.

I finally had a place where I could venture out of my shell and leave comments, without the fear of attack from all sides. It was a revelation. I created a Twitter account solely to be able to interact more with these incredibly awesome people. I started a blog because they had shown me how meaningful someone can make their own little corner of the internet, and how supportive an online community can be. They inspired me, and helped me feel safe putting myself out there. Even if I was attacked or threatened, I knew they would have my back.

I’ve branched out a bit since then; the last few days on Twitter, as I mentioned, have been full of fandom posts for a particular ‘shipper corner of the internet connected to the TV show Supernatural. Actually, my semi-involvement with them has been going on a bit longer. It started with the earlier blog post here (linked above in the intro to this post), when I talked about how divided and hurt the fandom was, and how irresponsible some of the actors had been about the issues causing it.

Things flared up again more recently when an online journalist was falsely flagged as a security threat and escorted from the convention she was reporting at, all without any investigation into the matter. Turns out, a bully with an agenda and a friendship with the actors’ bodyguard had sent an out-of-context screencap of the journalist tweeting a quote from a different show. Some “threat”, huh?

Some fans rallied to her defense, and others continued to attack. Look for the hashtags #IStandWithEmily and #EmilyDeservesAnswers for those who support her. The matter still hasn’t been fully settled; the convention apologized and refunded her, but their hands had been tied anyway during the whole thing. The show, the network, the stars and the bodyguard involved all still have yet to address the incident, apart from some vicious tweets from the bodyguard immediately after that he’s since erased.

To add insult to injury, the same journalist had been organizing and fundraising commemorative mugs and gift baskets for the cast and crew, to celebrate their tenth season and 200th episode (aired earlier this week).

The 200th episode itself was another touchy subject. Supernatural seems to have no qualms about meta commentary and breaking the fourth wall on occasion, and has multiple entire episodes pretty much centered around doing just that. The results are…mixed, to put it diplomatically. Reception among the fans depends greatly on who you talk to.

It’s not surprising; the show has a history of not understanding fandom, of not handling PR well, and of inadvertently condoning or deliberately ignoring bullying behavior of some of the fans towards many others. Of course they’re going to be a little “off” when it comes to trying to break the fourth wall on the show and have meta commentary on something they don’t actually seem to understand all that well. They give us broad strokes, and the reality is very nuanced. It’s an obvious and understandable mistake, but one they could have handled much better in the past if they’d not been so blind to their own privileges and the damage they were causing.

It’s understandable that fans who have had a painful experience at the hands of the people in charge of a thing they love, and at the hands of other people proclaiming to love that thing, might be a bit wary, a little mistrustful, and just too tired to keep hoping and fighting for what they love. It’s understandable they might not feel safe in the general fandom. It’s understandable they might decide they need a break, or some reassurance from people like them, before they risk exposing themselves again.

If the thing you love has been a cause of pain, betrayal, attacks, threats, and all manner of not feeling welcome or safe, and if the people perpetuating that behavior feel vindicated doing so due to comments made by the people who are ACTUALLY in charge of that thing, then yes, taking a break or even leaving it forever are totally legit options. That’s kind of obvious.

I’m new to this fandom, and while I do already have some pretty strong loyalties, I haven’t been on the front lines of this fight. I haven’t been attacked for years, as some have. I haven’t had to go through the roller-coaster of hints and hopes and disappointment. I went into this thing pretty late in the run, and I was pretty heavily aware of exactly what to expect from it. I went in, but I did it with my eyes open and my guard up. The fans I’ve paid attention to are fabulous people. I avoid the ones who aren’t adding to my experience of the show, the ones who are attacking those things I feel loyalty towards, the ones who are bullies. It’s a survival method. I get to bask in the good stuff, while aware enough of the bad to try and avoid stepping in it. I stick to the edges still, but now there’s some interaction going on, too.

Back to the 200th episode. It was promoted as a “love letter to the fans”, which made some of those fans very nervous. Not only is the fandom heavily divided and antagonistic with a history of bullying, but the show itself has a track record during some of those meta episodes AND in the real world of belittling and insulting many of the very fans who’ve supported it and kept it on the air for those ten years. There was a very strong and skeptical “wait and see” vibe on my Twitter feed.

Then people started live-tweeting as they watched the episode.

Reports trickled in that sounded more hopeful, and then some started doing that “fan-flailing” sort of excited all-caps tweets that are probably about half the reason I love being around fandoms. The show had actually given the fans something they could enjoy, to various degrees. Not everyone loved it, of course, and like everything in life it could have been even better. Yes, all those other issues still existed. Yes, there is still all the baggage and bullying to contend with. But the 200th was far better than a lot of us had feared, and it gave those who analyze the meta a lot of new material to work with (which is probably another quarter of the reason I love fandom — meta analysis is addictive when you’re already an over-thinking geek who loves mythos and the process and ideas behind storytelling).

I’m not holding my breath for things to get any better in the fandom or the show. Despite what all my positivity may suggest, I’m much more pragmatic than optimistic. But because I stick to the edges, because I went in with my eyes open and never had to have the painful process of disappointment and attacks, I can set all the politics and social issues and bigger picture to one side for a moment, and just enjoy the ride of the 200th as a stand-alone, isolating it for the moment from this history attached to it and enjoying it at face-value only. From that point of view, it was a pretty fantastic episode; full of giggles and nods and surprisingly insightful yet utterly ridiculous songs. There were plenty of things to flail over, even if they turn out not to be as meaningful in that bigger picture in the future. For one hour, I could just enjoy being a fangirl.

The episode is called Fan Fiction, and I think what I want to take away from it as the moral of the story is this: the story belongs to anyone who loves it enough to care about it, to anyone with the passion to fight for it and believe in it, even if the story they’re focused on is slightly (or very) different than someone else’s. It’s not about what’s “canon” and what isn’t. It’s about the heart of storytelling — drawing people together, taking them into someone else’s life and bringing them on a journey, letting them experience emotions and situations they wouldn’t otherwise, and leave them feeling a little more connected to the people around them afterwards. Fanfic or canon doesn’t matter; at this level, all good storytelling becomes equal. It’s the story that’s valid, not the origins. And good storytellers are valuable, whatever they’re credentials, because they’re how stories stay alive and relevant and able to grow.

In that respect, I’d say the little corner of fandom I’ve been on the edges of is doing things exactly right. Storytelling and fiction exist to be shared. Studies show that people who are exposed to fiction develop more empathy for others, because it helps them understand who are different than them, people whose lives look nothing like their own but whose emotions and struggles are just as real. Clearly it isn’t a magic cure, or else no one in a fandom would be bullying anyone else, but it’s a good starting place. The friendships and support that can come out of shared storytelling and fandom can last a lifetime, and are the foundation of a functioning society of any size. We need empathy to survive as a people, and we certainly need it to thrive and grow ourselves.

Be kind to each other, and read more. Both acts are good for you.

Love,
GeGi.

Read Your Book Case

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Advanced Sexuality 101.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

In last week’s Tuesday post I talked a bit about my gender identity. Thanks to some inspiration from one of my bloggy friends, I thought a good follow-up would be talking a little more on that, and start talking about sexuality. This is a huge subject to cover in one post, so I’m going to try for just a basic introduction to some of the more complex aspects this time. If you have any questions afterward feel free to ask in the comments!

To a majority of people, I think sexuality is still considered a bit of a yes/no, black/white, gay/straight subject. Hopefully quite a few people are aware of some of the middle ground — bisexuality — and see that it is a legitimate aspect of a spectrum. However, there’s a growing awareness that sexuality, like gender, can be much more complex and multifaceted in reality and practice.

Below is a useful chart for reference; I like this one because it contains enough categories that I think it starts to reflect a bit more accuracy with us more complex humans, yet it is still a fairly simple and accessible breakdown for those being introduced to this concept.

According to this chart’s categories and definitions, for instance, I would currently self-identity this way:

  • Gender Identity is genderqueer.
  • Romantic Attraction is lesbian.
  • Sexual Attraction is bisexual.
  • Sex is female.
  • Sexual Practice is grey asexual.

This is basically why I label my sexuality with the catch-all term “queer”, in case you wondered.

Now, I’ve already talked about being genderqueer in the prior post I mentioned. “Bisexual”, for me, is not about binary genders; it is saying “I like those with gender/sex like me, and I like those with gender/sex unlike me”. I prefer it to pan-sexual for personal reasons (nothing against those who prefer pan-sexual! I’ve used that label as well, and have zero problems with it. Labeling yourself is all about personal preference). I’m going to assume that “lesbian” and “female” probably don’t need explaining. If they do, then just ask me in the comments, or do a search on the internet, or look in the local library.

As for the last category, “grey asexual” is a term that can have different definitions depending on who you ask. Broadly speaking, it can be an umbrella-term for folks that aren’t quite sexual, but aren’t quite asexual either. The middle ground, so to speak. This one is a bit tricky for some people to understand, so I’ll get into it more further down. For now, just try to keep in mind that sexuality can be more than just an “on/off” thing for some of us.

I’m going to assume that thinking of sexuality and gender in these ways is new and unfamiliar for you. If it isn’t, awesome! I love awareness and diversity, so good for you! For the rest of you, I’m going to start getting into these categories a little more. This subject is about as huge as the number of people in the human race, since we’re all incredibly diverse and unique in many ways — so if I get something wrong, it’s because I can only speak for myself and my own understanding. Think of this as an introduction rather than the definitive word on the subject.

Obviously, a lot of people are probably not overly complex, and therefore might not think of some of these things being separate categories; not every chart separates romantic attraction, sexual attraction, and sexual practice, for instance. But that’s one of the reasons I love this particular chart. Those ARE separate things for some people, and defining our own sexuality to ourselves — much less coming out to other people — can get very confusing very quickly without the realization that we can have different answers for those aspects.

Much the same way my biology is female but my mind and personality are genderqueer, I experience physical attraction — “that person looks sexy”, etc — to all genders, but tend to only have romantic attraction — “I wanna spend time with that person”, etc — with non-male/female gender types. Oddly enough, I’ve been in more “dating” type relationships with men; I guess I seem to come off as a straight female unless I correct people all the time, and for a while it was easier from me to do as expected and ignore how I felt, due to unfortunate circumstances. But I usually didn’t feel quite right in those relationships, more like I was playing a part than just being me, and they rarely lasted very long.

As for sexual practice, I would personally like to break down this category further: Sexual Practice Identity and Sexual Practice Behavior. Like the separation of other categories, those can legitimately be different things for some people. It can cause confusion and distress for one’s self and others trying to deal with the seeming paradoxes caused by trying to definite them as one thing. Currently my answers would be the same for both, but there have been times when they were not. For instance, the last time I was in a relationship, my identity was still grey asexual, but my behavior wasn’t. That caused a lot of problems and stress for me, because at the time I didn’t know how to break it down into these categories to reconcile how I felt with how I acted.

Speaking of grey asexual, this would be a good time to get into another aspect of the sexuality spectrum. Hopefully most people are aware of the range between gay and straight, with bisexuality being in the middle. However, this is only one side of a sexuality pyramid. Asexuality — those who do not experience sexual attraction/desires — is the other tip. In that vast space between those points, are all the people in-between; those who rarely experience sexual feelings, those who only do under very particular circumstances, those who experience it very atypically, and so on. If you want more information about this, I suggest you check out AVEN’s website here, because it’s basically a whole other post to really get into it, and I’m just doing overviews at this point.

I call myself grey asexual to indicate that I’m somewhere in the middle of that pyramid/spectrum. In terms of Sexual Practice (both behavior and identity), I don’t consider myself completely asexual; yet I have very little interest at the moment in pursuing a physical relationship with anyone — and am only slightly less averse to the idea of a romantic non-physical relationship (those relationships would be called demisexual, by some definitions). As mentioned above, I have a history of feeling conflicted about physical relationships even when I do think I want them — so I’m pretty sure I would label myself grey asexual for my Sexual Practice Identity even when my Behavior did not indicate it.

All in all, I tend to approach all aspects of my sexuality — like my gender — as being quite fluid. I’m aware this view is pretty atypical from the majority. It can lead to a lot of confusion and uncertainty, for myself and others, but I find the fluid and multifaceted approach helps my own sanity more than it hurts anything else, and that’s the important thing. Everything I’ve talked about here is only as useful as it is helpful; if it doesn’t help you, don’t apply it to you. But by the same token, please keep it in mind when dealing with others, so you can be respectful of their identities and needs.

There’s a lot of information in this post, so I’m going to leave at that for now. I didn’t really get into everything, but it’s a start, and hopefully it will spark some interest in learning more about this fascinating subject! If you have any questions or would like me to do another follow-up on one of these topics, leave a comment…

Love,

GeGi.

“I contain multitudes.”

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve mentioned before that I am genderqueer. In case that interests any of you, I thought that today I’ll talk about it a little more.

When I was a kid, I never heard of any options outside the gender binary (male/female). I was female-bodied, so I figured that meant I was female. I grew up in the country, and I was either by myself or tagging after older kids a lot. My favorite game was coming up with fantasy scenarios — usually along the lines of my being an elf ranger with a stick for a sword and an imaginary bow, fighting orcs and having epic adventure quests. I was quiet and and uncomfortable around girls my age, because I couldn’t relate to them. They were interested in love stories and playing mommy and being mean towards other girls, and I wasn’t. I was more interested in trying to prove that I could be as good or better than boys at anything, being physically strong, and having fantasy adventures alone in the woods.

As I got older and the other girls started reaching the ‘boy-crazy’ phase, I related less and less. I swore to myself that I would NEVER become obsessed with make-up and skin and clothes and especially with boys. It all seemed like such a waste of time to me, when there were so many other interesting things to do and think about — like reading, and fantasy games, and archery lessons, and riding horses, and running around in the woods.

As I entered teenhood, I got more and more uncomfortable with my body. I wore baggy boyish clothes, because anything more feminine or revealing felt awkward and wrong. I spent more time online, looking for things that would help me understand why I had slowly stopped feeling the pride I had felt as a child in my body and gender. I started fantasizing about being a boy, and experimented with binding my chest. I imagined what I would have been like had I been born male. I started writing stories with male narration. Yet I didn’t quite feel comfortable with claiming a transgender identity. Being a girl still didn’t feel right, but I didn’t quite feel like a boy either. I started identifying with androgyny, and the idea of being “both” and “other” at the same time.

When I first came across the terms “genderqueer”  and “genderfluid”– the idea that gender is a spectrum and one’s position on it can be outside the usual categories, and can even change dependent solely on how one feels at any given moment — I knew I had finally found the answer I’d been so desperately looking for. It was freeing and liberating; suddenly I could let go of the guilt I felt at “failing” to be a girl, or at “failing” to be a transboy. I wasn’t either, and I didn’t have to choice between them. I could just choose to be ME, free of gender labels that didn’t fit anyway and had been feeling more and more like they were full of constraints and expectations.

Some days I want to be a bit girly. Some days I want to be a boy. Some days I’m still horribly uncomfortable in my own body, because it is so very female. Some days I don’t care. Mostly, I wish society in general knew that gender wasn’t always binary, so people would see me as my actual gender rather than just my female body.

I worry sometimes that telling people about all this will make them think that I hate or fear being female, or that I have “penis envy”, or some other completely error-filled assumption that helps them invalidate my feelings in their world-view. My response to these and similar claims: I believe those feelings are probably normal reactions in a society that creates a world where being female is a bad thing, and being male is a good thing, and it speaks vastly more about the problems with such a society than it does the invalidity of those feelings. I don’t know how much of what I feel about my personal gender is in reaction to living in an insidiously patriarchal culture. Even if the answer was “100%”, should that really make a difference? We don’t exist in a vacuum, so why should my influences make what I feel less valid? It’s still how I feel.

If we lived in a more equal society, I would hope that it would also be more equal towards a less binary view of things like gender and sexuality. I want to live in a society where the person I know I am is accepted as valid without explanation or defense, where discussion is surrounded by genuine interest instead of attacks, and I would be able to check the box that says “fluid”. All those things should be basic freedoms for all people.

At the end of the day, how I feel about ANYTHING when it comes to identity — gender and sexuality included — tends to be in constant flux. It’s part of being alive, at least for me. It’s part of my growth and change and exploration. Fluidity is part of my identity. I call myself genderqueer because that’s who I am. I know it the same way others know they are male or female.

Love,

GeGi.

“A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Most of the time, I try to be pretty cheerful and positive on this blog. This is not always an accurate picture of who I am in physical life. (I prefer calling it my physical life instead of my “real” life, because the internet can be just as much a real part of life as the physical bits.)

I’m sure that’s pretty true of most blogs; still, though, I want to talk a little about why I make that particular choice with this blog. However, first I want to mention why I’m going to talk about it.

Over the past year, give or take a bit, and especially the past month or two, I’ve become part of an online family of friends. Two in particular — real life sisters — have been through a few ordeals of their own recently. They have been amazing through the parts of it I’ve heard about. The vulnerability, honesty, and openness that they have shown in dealing with trauma is nothing short of awe-inspiring bravery. Their strength has encouraged me to start sharing a little more than I normally do.

By exposing the parts of ourselves that are most wounded, perhaps we can start to heal. By telling our stories, perhaps others will feel less alone in their own. By recognizing and naming the bad, perhaps we can start to build the good.

My own family hasn’t been the greatest at doing this. They kept a lot of secrets that I had no clue about, stuff they just didn’t talk about. For example, I didn’t know depression was prevalent in both sides of the family females until I was breaking down weeping after years of silent struggle. Imagine what a difference that could have made, if I hadn’t felt like something was broken in me for so long, if I hadn’t felt so alone in my pain.

Not talking about the negative things isn’t healthy, and it isn’t helpful. If everyone else keeps the bad stuff hidden and not talked about, it just leads to feeling isolated when we go through it ourselves. Those who have the strength and courage need to drag it kicking and screaming into the open, point at it and proclaim “this is real, this happens, this happened to me”. Only then can those without the strength begin to do the same.

So, on to my personal story…

This blog has become a kind of therapy, giving myself an exercise to find positive things to say and to think about. Here is why that is so important for me:

I struggle pretty much daily with anger and depression. I have for, well, about as long as I can remember. Even as a small kid, I had a lot of anger and a short temper — ask any of my family and they can tell you the stories.

Looking back, I can recognize the isolation and frustration I felt then, the fears and worries, the things that were just part of life to me. I didn’t know how else to be, what other options there were. I didn’t have any control or channels. Those things came much later, and with much deliberate work.

Teenagehood made things worse in a lot of ways. It’s always a difficult transition for anyone, I think, and it was no different for me. The depression got worse as the isolation and frustration got more prominent. The resulting anger turned more inward, bursting out in not-always-expected directions. And there were other things — like my best friend and first love dying — that made everything more intense and difficult to deal with.

The first part of my twentiesomethings were spent living alone, in a city; two things I had no previous experience with. I won’t say I wasn’t ready for it, because I don’t think I could really ever have been ready for it without actually having done it.

I made a lot of choices that I look back on as stupid mistakes, but I recognize that they were part of a learning curve. They made me the person I am now. I am lucky that nothing worse happened, and I recognize how much worse things could have been. For the record, I like who I am now. Mostly. Basically.

Still, I eventually hit my own personal rock bottom. I was in a living situation where I felt unwelcome and unsafe, in a relationship where I felt unappreciated and used, isolated once again from friends, and working at a job that was stressful and miserable. I was being emotionally abused and tormented, to the point where I couldn’t recognize what was true or not, and conditioned to blame myself for all wrongs. I was seriously considering killing myself. I needed help, and I needed out.

Two-and-a-bit years ago, I got those things: I moved back to living with my parents. Not in the house or even the state I grew up in, but in a place that I was still familiar with and felt like a second home. I spent some time recovering, having the safety and freedom to start to process all that had happened while on my own, good and bad.

Then I started to push myself in new ways. I started making long-term commitments to projects, like my photo blog and massage school and bardic training, that I would never have seen through before. I started finishing those things. It was a first, and it felt good. Unreal, a little, but good. I’m proud of myself for those things.

I went back to the city to visit friends, and started to realize how much I’d changed, how far I’d come since I left. I started to feel whole unto myself, for the first time that I can remember.

It’s a struggle, almost every day, to hold on to those positive feelings. There are always things to trigger old thought patterns, years of behavior and social influence, that hurt me. It is so important to have tools to counter those things: good friends, healthy habits, outlets, distractions, commitments with positive reinforcement. This blog is one of my tools. I didn’t realize it for a while, but I recognize it now.

It’s so easy to slip back into being negative, into being harsh or depressed or scared or apathetic. There are a lot of reasons out there to be that way. Sometimes it can even a healthy choice to be that way. It can certainly be a reasonable one.

But for me, for now, it’s a healthier choice to stay positive and reinforce cheerfulness here on my blog. It gives me a chance to practice having an up-beat voice in my head, countering all those worn-out endless loops of criticism. And I have other places to let out the occasional rant and rage, or breakdowns and depression. This place is not for those things.

I hope you all have a positive, cheerful experience in your day, and healthy outlets for dealing with the rest. Whatever your situation, I wish you care and safety.

Be gentle with yourself, and take time to smell the flowers!

Love,

GeGi.

Pass The Tissues, Please…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Third Star is one of the most beautiful movies about death and friendship and life I’ve ever seen. The Welsh film is directed by Hattie Dalton and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Burke, J.J. Feild, and Adam Roberson.

The basic story is that four friends are taking one last trip to Barafundle Bay before one of their number — James, played by Benedict Cumberbatch — dies of cancer. He’s just celebrated his 29th birthday, and everyone knows he won’t be around for another.

They take a special cross-country wheeled chair, because he’s too weak to walk the several day journey, and they take his medications and morphine and some special things like a tree one of them grew from seed and wants to plant at the Bay.

The film progresses a little like a road-trip movie — without the car — with montages of travel across the beautiful Pembrokeshire landscape breaking up each segment of events; a fight at a pub, an encounter with a beachcomber, and so on.

The interactions between the characters really play off perfectly as a group of friends who’ve known each other forever; they joke, they fight, they tease, they carry on. Nothing feels forced or overdone, it all seems genuine. I love seeing relationships done right in movies!

The moments of each scene in Third Star really counterpoint each other well, too. As in real life, the tragic parts mix and blend with humor. Life continues in the face of sadness, and there are absurdities happening even when it feels like nothing will ever be funny again. Death and dying bring out the whole gambit of emotions, from anger to sorrow to laughter. So it goes.

I’ve gone through losing my best friend at too early an age. It was under entirely different circumstances, but some things are true no matter what the trappings. I could understand what they were feeling in this film, because I’ve been to a similar place. The most beautiful part of Third Star to me were how they were able to accurately capture that surreal time in life when a loved one is dying and surrounded by friends.

This is a quiet and understated sort of story, which is exactly as it should be. It’s showing intimate things, both death and friendship, and the strain and relation those things have on those experiencing them. This film feels honest. There’s nothing noble about what these people are going through, but there’s nothing ordinary about it either. It’s real and it’s what happens, the good and the bad and the strange.

This story really hit home for me, especially right at the end. Yet I didn’t find it to be sad or depressing. I did cry, quite a bit, but it was good tears. It was kind of… death affirming, I suppose, though that might not be quite what I mean.

You’ll have to watch it to find out.

(And yes, the title is a Peter Pan reference.)

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log: Reflections of Past and Present.

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Two weeks down, one week to go of living out of my suitcase… Yay for other people’s washers and dryers…

This trip has been so interesting. I’m meeting up with people from various points in my history around Seattle, and it all feels very natural and easy to fall back into the rhythms of the healthiest part of our relationship. I think it’s a sign of how much we’ve all changed and grown; we are all more stable in ourselves now and the friendships we had, however turbulent at the time, were based on solid ground. It’s made me much more relaxed, and I keep having a strange feeling I can’t quite place, but I think it has to do with how different — and better than before — everything would be for me if I lived here again.

I’m not planning on moving back — I’m not planning anything beyond the next year I’m spending in Hawaii — but after my time here I feel like it would be a possibility again. But I don’t feel like I’m going to. I still feel like I’m done with the city itself; it’s just these people I’m not done with having as close parts of my life. I’m going to miss them, miss the energy they bring into my life, miss the parts of my personality they each draw out, miss being a part of their lives, miss feeling like I fit in here. But I’ll cherish knowing that I felt that way. I had doubts when I left. This has laid them to rest for good, I think. There are people here who love me, and who I love. There are places here that accept me, where I can belong when I choose to be there. I don’t really ask for much more than that from life.

Much love to you all, cyber friends.

–G.G.