What’s a Gishwhes?

Slim chances are, you’ve vaguely heard of this thing called Gishwhes. If you have but don’t quite know what it is, it’s probably because there are people on your Facebook timeline trying to prepare you for what’s to come. You’re confused and a little annoyed by these posts, and that’s okay. I’m here to explain to you what Gishwhes is, what it does beyond turning mundane objects into weird worlds of abstract art, and what you can do to help those poor bastards struggling to find a neighbor with a boat, a pineapple and an iguana on short notice.

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This year’s mascot: Porcupanda.

This year looks to be the last for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen – that weird Gishwhes word we’re throwing around like you know what it means. The hunt begins August 5th and will end on the 12th, which means we gishers are about to get into panic-mode if we aren’t there already. If you know a gisher, you’ve been warned via Facebook about upcoming bizarre all-caps questions regarding the availability of a goat. You’ve been asked if you were interested in helping a team accomplish their tasks since you have access to an art museum or have coffee with a government official. You’ve seen videos about Syrian refugees and infographics about Nepal. But what does all this mean? Why should you care?

The Thing About Gishwhes

I’ve written about my Gishwhes experience before, and recently my friend and teammate Jessica Mason wrote an article about Gishwhes for The Mary Sue. If you’re interested in finding out more about the hunt itself, click those links. But for this particular article, from me to you, I’d like to focus on what we’ve done outside the hunt and what you can do to support a gisher to have the best damn hunt ever. For us, it’s more than just a week of absurdity – gishers are out there to change the world.

One Act At A Time

Gishwhes has accomplished a lot in the past few years. From Guinness World Records to saving tens of thousands of acres of forest in Nepal, Gishwhes has proved year after year that it isn’t just about winning – it’s about putting good out in the world and restoring a little faith in humanity. Last year, stories of Syrian refugees – including one woman paralyzed by a sniper and a teenager who tried to commit suicide so there was one less mouth for her family to feed – brought the Gishwhes community together to raise over $200,000 in the first 72 hours of the campaign. Helping military veterans, participating in blood drives, donating bone marrow and providing much needed supplies to women’s shelters are just some of the ways Gishwhes strives to make an impact.

Gisholarships

There’s no way something as big and involved as Gishwhes could happen without a registration fee. Unfortunately, whether it was the $10 a few years ago or $21 this year, some people who want to play simply can’t afford that extra expense. To make sure as many people who want to play can, there are gisholarships where registrants can also gift a registration to another person, or provide paid registration to someone they invite by email.

My second year gishing, someone who ran a Twitch page was raising money each month for various charities. She contacted me after seeing my Gishwhes blog on tumblr and invited me to watch one of her Twitch sessions where Mercy announced all donations would go to me to provide gisholarships. We were able to provide 8 gisholarships for the hunt, and have been friends ever since.

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This year I was messaged by one of the original gisholarship winners from a few years ago, a member of the Israeli army who looks forward to participating Gishwhes as a fun distraction from some of the harsher things she has to deal with. She asked if we had any ability to provide gisholarships again this year. My team (Team TrashBrigade) happened to have $20 left over from our pool of funds from which we were donating to Random Acts through individual campaigns during their annual event, Endure4Kindness.

After giving that gisholarship and seeing how happy it made the recipient, we decided we wanted to do more. We organized a gisholarship giveaway – we wrote and created art for the Supernatural fandom in exchange for small donations to help us give as many gisholarships as we could. In the end, we had 15 gisholarships – enough to fund an entire team.

Other teams followed our lead and began donating gisholarships after Gishwhes announced they were saving forests of Nepal with every gisholarship. Not only were those donating giving people the opportunity to join in on the madness, but they were helping save over 40,000 acres of forest that is the home to critically endangered animals.

 

How You Can Help Your Gisher

Yes, we’re saps who love helping others and saving rainforests. But we’re also a bit weird. The outcry of Gishwhes is “Death to Normalcy!” and during that mad week, we set aside social norms to just live and exist in a world where being outlandish and extra creative is just how things are. It’s a break from the mundane day to day. That in and of itself should make you slightly interested in helping out a gisher. “But how?!” you cry. “I’m a normal person who can’t recreate a Matisse painting out of legumes!” There are still ways you can help make this last Gishwhes the best ever.

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Last year I claimed Pikes Peak for Gishwhes. I couldn’t have done this, or a few other tasks, without the help I had from my friend Mercy. Remember the lady from the gisholarships story? Yeah. She flew up to meet me for the first time & help me make the best submissions I could for a few days of that week I was home alone and sick while my family was out of state.

Don’t Ignore The Pleas For Help

Listen. We know it’s annoying to be posting about Gishwhes on Facebook as frequently as we do. And we know we sound desperate. But listen. It’s because we are. During Gishwhes, we’re going to be sleep deprived, running on caffeine and sugar highs, experiencing crashes, and sitting on the floor crying surrounded by yarn, fabric, paint, and pizza boxes with hot glue stuck to our fingers. Be kind to us. And if you can, lend a hand.

  • Join In! Do you secretly want an excuse to do something crazy, spontaneous and (maybe) completely out of character? Do you also have amazing photography skills or are really good at holding up a prop just out of frame? Lend your assistance to a gisher friend who is struggling to get a shot. Like road trips? You may get the opportunity to make a “quick drive” to the Grand Canyon. Plus, who hasn’t ever wanted to be an accomplice in 5 minutes of light trespassing for the sake of art?
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TrashBrigade member Christy has All The Holidays At Once in the style of The Last Supper with the help of friends and family.

  • Respond To Our Facebook Posts. Yes you can absolutely share that post begging to borrow someone’s ball gown. React to it. Comment. Share. Tag friends who may know a NASA worker or an Amazon manager. If you respond, it might come up higher in someone’s feed. If they see other people engaging, maybe they’ll read it instead of scrolling past. Activity on a post gives it a legitimacy. Otherwise we sound like a crazy person screaming on a subway car where everyone is just avoiding eye contact. Make your own Facebook posts for your gisher friends asking for assistance. We don’t know what for – but networking and broadening their reach for potential assistance is important for gishers. Your neighbor might have their mother in town who would be giddy to be depicted winning an arm-wrestling contest with someone dressed like Thor.
  • Be Our Second Brain. Know of a really weird place within driving distance that has a page on AtlasObscura?  Remember that a Renaissance Faire is going on that first weekend of Gishwhes? Our brain power drops substantially during the hunt. There’s a lot to consider, a lot to manage, a lot to plan and our brains will practically be melting. If you have an idea for something you see us struggling with, speak up!
  • Just Hang Out. We need company while we’re painting Zachary Levi’s face on a pair of jeans. It gets lonely when you’re coming down off of that V8 Fusion Energy rush at 10pm and trying to decide between Naples yellow and unbleached titanium white for a flesh-colored base. You could watch DVR’d Shark Week episodes or binge Stranger Things while we’re working. Just having someone there can help boost morale.

Take Care Of Your Gisher

  • Remind Them Of What They Need To Live. Because they will forget. Have they eaten anything other than leftover pizza? Drank anything other than Red Bull and coffee? Make sure they’re hydrating. Water is better than soda and energy drinks. If they refuse to hydrate because they don’t want to have to take a break to pee, poke them with a stick until they decide breaking to pee every half hour is better than you poking them with a damn stick to the rhythm of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” incessantly.
  • There’s This Other Thing They Need. Guess what it is? Sleep. Please don’t drug your gisher, but gently suggest that four hours is long enough to spend editing videos and photos and maybe they should close the computer and get a few hours of rest. A well-rested gisher is a better asset to their team than a sleep deprived member with low-energy.
  • Offer To Babysit. Are you free the first weekend? Do you have Wednesday off? If it’ll help, offer to babysit or petsit while they rush off to get some items knocked out. Take their kiddos with you to the pool since you were going anyway. Trust me, there’s a lot of baked goods and returned favors in your future.
  • Don’t Remind Them Of The Real World. This mostly goes for highly competitive teams and sounds harsh, but it’s relevant. They really don’t need to know what Trump did. They know the house is completely trashed. What’s a soccer practice? School supplies can wait until August 13th. Think of Gishwhes week as emergency room rules – is anyone in danger of losing sight, limb, or life? Then it can wait. In the same vein, please don’t ask them non-gish related questions. If they’re at work physically, they’re probably not there mentally. They really don’t have a response for attending Brittany’s baby shower in November. Yes, they saw the trailers for all the DC and Marvel movies released during SDCC. No, they don’t have time to talk about it. They might have a moment to speak with you about Chris Evan’s beard. If it’s not pertinent, pull an Elsa and let it go until next Monday.
  • Mental Health is Important. Be sure that the stress of the hunt isn’t weighing them down. Whether you’re a teammate, family member or friend watching them spiral into insanity, remind them to take breaks and breathe.

Gishers Just Wanna Have Fun

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Team TrashBrigade captain Chandra laughs herself to death in frustration as she tries to escape a wet suit after hours in a borrowed pool getting a shot for an item.

Gishers need all those things we’ve talked about, but they also need to laugh. For gishers reading this: If you aren’t having fun, you’re not going to enjoy the hunt. And that’s the entire point of Gishwhes. You want to have fun, do good and make people smile. That includes yourself. Gishwhes has helped me overcome crippling social anxiety (still working on it, but it was a catalyst for me to go from not leaving the house to speaking in front of rooms full of people – or singing “Hooked On A Feeling” in a Buffalo Wild Wings at lunch time).

Whether it’s your first time doing Gishwhes or your 6th year, or if you’re a friend or family member interested in helping out your poor weird friend who is really, really, frighteningly excited about what’s about to happen, just have fun. Go with it. Put aside everything else that’s happening in the world, take care of your health, go create stuff and laugh at least 80% more than you cry in frustration, because sometimes the cotton balls just aren’t going to stay on the aluminum foil wrapped robot.

So people who are innocent bystanders in this madness, please help your gisher – and gishers, do your best. Because it’s the last year, you gotta go big, whatever that means to you. Just remember to repay your helpers and family who are temporarily displaced by your epic mess of craft things however you can. Cookies and other food bribes usually go a long way.

Whatever your role in this gloriously weird week, even if you’re the official pipe cleaner bender, water-bringer and hot glue stick replenisher, I hope you have the time of your life. And in those hours where you’re too tired and want to quit, remember I’ll be rooting for you. I’m sending you good vibes, telling you to drink water and take your meds, and hoping you get some good sleep. Good luck, friends.  Gish-on.

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fandoms as social movements

Fandoms As Social Movements

One of the biggest impacts fandom has had on my life, besides the amazing friends I’ve made along the way, has been becoming a driving focus for doing good.

At the Always Keep (Nerd)Fighting panel at Denver Comic Con moderated by sociology professor Tanya Cook and clinical psychiatrist and professor Kaela Joseph, panelists Riley Santangelo, Anita Moncrief, and Charlotte Renkin commented on the amazing things fandom has done and continues to do with charities and as unique groups making impacts globally and within their local communities.

Wayward Daughters

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Riley Santangelo is a graphic designer who is one of the women behind Wayward Daughters, which started as “Wayward Daughters Academy” with the objective of showing The Powers That Be the fanbase’s desire for better female representation on the CW show Supernatural and has taken off due to the Wayward AF t-shirt campaigns, raising money benefiting charities such as Random Acts and New Leash On Life.

Wayward Daughters has openly discussed the need for dynamic female characters and realistic depictions of female relationships in media, but as a group, the Wayward Daughters community has become much more.

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Kim Rhodes for the first Wayward AF campaign. Photo by Studio56k.

 

Like most social movements, it started a conversation. Members of the community on twitter, spurred on by Supernatural actresses Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, started sharing their stories on what made them wayward. Taking ownership of the word, fans started viewing aspects of themselves or their lives that are dismissed or simply not talked about as a symbol of strength. Overcoming body image issues and eating disorders, fighting cancer, leaving an abusive relationship, and winning over addiction were deemed #WaywardAF, a hashtag that conveys a sense of pride and overcoming adversity. The actresses opened up with their own struggles with life such as overcoming drinking problems, troubles and joys of motherhood, and dealing with impostor syndrome, which created an open dialogue regarding societal pressures and working toward becoming your best self.

 

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Briana Buckmaster and her little one for Stands’ New Leash On Life campaign.

In May of 2015, Wayward Daughters had designed pre-made postcards to be sent to the producers of Supernatural asking for a spin-off including the characters Jody Mills (played by Kim Rhodes) and Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster). Then in March 2016, Wayward Daughters asked Supernatural fans how interested they would be in a Wayward Daughters spin-off. An overwhelming majority,  88% of respondents, voted “Heck yes!”  When a backdoor pilot called “Wayward Sisters” was announced in 2017, you could practically hear the excited screams across social media.

 

The Supernatural fandom was told it was being listened to, and that meant something. Santangelo felt the Wayward spin-off was a “direct result” of the Wayward Daughters campaign – and she’s not alone. After current Supernatural show runner Andrew Dabb spoke on the long-time coming of this spin-off at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), fans and pop culture news sites continued to congratulate the grassroots movement of fandom for making the possibility of a Wayward Daughters show a reality. “I’m in awe every single day with Wayward Daughters and the fan community that has been created,” Santangelo said in June at the Always Keep (Nerd)Fighting panel. Talking with friend Betty Days, Santangelo recognized the importance of this emerging social movement. “Large companies try to capitalize on fandom more and more,” Days told Santangelo. But fandom is grassroots – something companies just don’t seem to grasp. “We’re gonna use our fandom for good we want to see.”

Santangelo partnered with Stands, Rhodes, and Buckmaster to put out the first shirts. “As individuals we feel like our actions don’t mean very much,” Santangelo said. When people start to come together in something like Wayward Daughters, they feel like they’re making things happen. “The fervor just increases,” Santangelo said with a smile.

Fan Fic 4 Flint

fanfic4flintAnita Moncrief was astounded as the media moved on from covering what was happening in Flint, Michigan. “They thought the crisis was over,” Moncrief said. A community organizer for over 17 years, Moncrief went into Flint as a consultant and now goes in monthly for water drops “to let the people know they aren’t forgotten.”

After seeing the 200th episode of Supernatural, the setting of which was in the disparaged city, she had the idea to link fandom with Flint. Moncrief started Fan Fic 4 Flint, a contest for writers and artists in the Supernatural fandom to raise money and awareness for Flint residents. After synopses are submitted at $10 each, a writer will be given the opportunity to produce a script for Supernatural: The Play, inspired by the one depicted in the 200th episode, to be performed in Flint as a benefit for the community. Artists will have a chance to have their work featured on social media, t-shirts, posters, and other merchandise – the sales of which will go directly to the citizens of Flint.

Moncrief hopes that the collective voices of the Supernatural fandom can return attention to the on-going crisis happening, not only in Flint, but in towns and cities across the nation. She stresses that this is bigger than the city that inspired the movement – it’s an infrastructure problem. “It starts in Flint, but it doesn’t end there.”

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Volunteers involved with Fan Fic 4 Flint’s water drop in May 2017. Photo from their instagram.

Fan Fic 4 Flint is delivering water, toys, diapers, and other necessities to Flint residents and reports news regarding updates to the water crisis on their website.  It’s not only adult fans who are helping out; fandom social movements call out to the young fans and local community youths to get involved as well. Younger teens have a difficult time getting started in activism because they don’t know where to start. Earlier this year, she had 15 kids in Flint doing water drops. They “want to get involved, but don’t know where to look,” Moncrief said. It starts with social media, but Moncrief says these movements go from “online to offline engagement.”

 

Nerdfighteria and the Harry Potter Alliance

Charlotte Renkin is a filmmaker and cosplayer who is a member of Nerdfighteria and the Harry Potter Alliance. These two groups are the embodiment of mixing nerds with community action. Members of Nerdfighteria are fans of Hank and John Green, the Vlogbrothers who have extended their YouTube footprint to educational videos in their Crash Course series, SciShow, The Art Assignment, and Sexplanations. No matter what you’re interested in, chances are, Nerdfighteria has a place for you. Renkin describes the group as “close knit” and “the size of a small country.”

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Nerdfighteria’s iconic hand gesture.

Renkin wasn’t exaggerating when she said, “Fans are a force to be reckoned with.” Nerdfighteria’s goal is to decrease world suck, and how they are achieving that goal is through widespread education and activism. On YouTube, Project For Awesome raised over 2 million dollars for charities in 2016. The lending site Kiva has been a platform for Nerdfighters wanting to help small business owners get on their feet in an effort to stimulate local economies around the world since 2008.

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The Harry Potter Alliance strives for literacy education and social activism.

Harry Potter has taught us many lessons, but perhaps the most relevant is that standing by and being complacent in the face of ignorance and tyranny is unacceptable. The Harry Potter Alliance is a similarly global group wanting to engage young people in activism and increase access to books by building libraries, and implementing book drives with the hope to make literacy education services possible. Why are Harry Potter fans so interested in creating global change? Renkin says that the reason these fans are so invested in the social and political climate is that they can see the parallels in Harry Potter to our world and want to help make the world a better place.

Unstoppable Forces

How could these relatively small groups cause so much good to be put out in the world? Santangelo explains that we’re looking at an extremely proactive community. “Fandom represents the marginalized of society.” These fandom movements are made up of women, LGBTQA, neuroatypical, and minorities who band together in order to help not only each other, but anyone who is disadvantaged.

Being a part of something bigger than yourself is something a lot of people want to accomplish, and fandom is a conduit for this kind of action. “It’s really about acceptance,” Moncrief said. The shared interests and values that members of a fandom share are what keeps the fire going to fight for the rights of others. “It takes courage to step out there – to take that leap of faith and say I can do this.”

Fandom isn’t one movement – it’s many. The actions of fans and actors on these shows alike stir up involvement in a way that continuously moves toward betterment of families and communities. “It’s not just one superstar,” Moncrief said. “It’s regular people….it’s going to start showing up in our neighborhoods and our school boards.”

Underestimating a group of people who are, well, fanatical in their beliefs is short sighted. They’re an inspirational force of do-gooders whose efforts are paying off and starting to get noticed. Not only are these fans writing academic papers regarding their shows and fandoms, blogging about representation in media, and kicking ass in Geeks Who Drink trivia, but they are out there on social media and in the community actually making a difference and leaving a positive impact on the lives of others.

Maybe one person really can change the world. Especially if they have a few fandom friends.

 

 

 

A Personal Take On Wonder Woman

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen Wonder Woman. After the movie, I decided I was going to have to sit in the bathtub and cry about how awesome it was while I thought about what I wanted to say about this movie, since a lot of why I loved it so much wasn’t about the movie itself.

Before heading to the theater, I’d been warned on all social media that I was going to cry. As with most movies that seem to promise this, I put on my best eyeliner and told myself I was not going to cry in public – I couldn’t ruin my makeup. It’s a tactic, so don’t judge me. It works. Mostly. The truth of the matter is that Wonder Woman was so incredibly different and amazing in so many ways that I struggled to keep the tears from falling. Whether or not you got a little emotional re: Wonder Woman, let me break down to you why this female viewer’s eyes were leaking.

Spoilers possible below.

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American Gods Worth the Hype

There is always hesitation when a favorite novel is being adapted.  A cherished book is like your child, and it’s hard not be defensive when it comes to these works – to find a balance in your mind between wanting everyone to enjoy this book and also it to be handled properly in adaptation. But the best thing to hear for book lovers is that their fave is not being made into a movie, but a television series. This opens up so much possibility to stay close to the source material, to not cut out anything really important to the novel, and to even expand on the existing universe.

Imagine our excitement when American Gods was slated for a second season by Starz even prior to the show’s premiere on April 30th. With already two seasons to look forward to, fans of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel were even more excited to see how this story was going to play out. The potential for additional seasons (or at least a third) puts less pressure on the creators to cram too much into too little time, leaving plot points or characters integral to the story on the cutting room floor. Instead, we’re being gifted with an expansion of the world Gaiman created, and with his involvement in the project, you almost feel like you’ve been handed a gift.

american-gods-premiere-date-posterNot only are Gaiman’s readers’ reeling at the fortune of how much of the story we’re going to get, but Bryan Fuller and Michael Green are the creators with David Slade on as director and producer on some of the episodes. Fans of the television series Hannibal will know two of those names well. After the worry of adaptation passed, the next wave of panic was how the material was going to be handled. It’s quite visual and haunting, and when Fuller was announced as the person taking on this enormous task, all apprehension I had about the telling of American Gods fell to the wayside. Fuller’s Hannibal was so intense in its visual storytelling that I knew Gaiman’s material was in good hands. After watching the first episode, I’m certain we’re all in for a ride.

Many adaptations simply fall flat or deviate so far from the source material it loses something in the process, or the product just doesn’t live up to the hype. This is one of the only times that I haven’t been let down in the slightest – in fact, I was so pumped up for what’s to come after watching the first episode that I couldn’t get to sleep. My husband, who was hesitant to judge because hasn’t read the novel and only had seen a few episodes of Hannibal with me, commented on how great Ian McShane is for the part of Wednesday (we’re fans of Deadwood) and said that the beginning of the show reminded him of a mix between 300 and Hannibal, and I couldn’t disagree. He wasn’t interested in watching the show despite the trailers I’d shown him, but five minutes in, he was hooked. The characters have been brought to life by an incredibly perfect cast led by Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle (The 100), and I’m fairly certain at least one of the casting directors sold their soul for such an amazing group to fill these powerful roles. Told with a touch of humor and over-the-top imagery, American Gods is a force to be reckoned with.

If you didn’t believe the hype before, trust that American Gods is well worth your time and the add-on subscription to your Amazon Prime account. You can watch American Gods on Starz and Starz apps on devices and through affiliates on Sundays at 9 E/P.  Be ready to believe.

Supernatural Writers Glynn and Berens Tee Up the End of Season 12 With “The Future”

Last night’s episode of Supernatural was extraordinary in so many ways – enough for me to want to sit down and write something about it. We’re in season 12 with the Winchesters, and with the show renewed for an unprecedented 13th season on the CW, fans are curious as to how these story lines and relationships between the characters are going to play out. Spoilers below!

With episode “The Future” (12.19), writers Meredith Glynn and Robert Berens breathed some life into a season that has felt a bit disjointed both in writing and, in some cases, acting. Shows have a tendency to drop plot points and pick them up later when convenient, and Supernatural is not immune to this. After last season’s questionable plot regarding the Darkness and the short-lived and ill-used arc of Dean Winchester as a demon in season 10, some viewers are in and out, cherry-picking the episodes they watch live (during initial airing) based on the writers and what characters are involved. The show has been around long enough for fans to know which episodes are must-watch and which ones can sit on the DVR for a few days. Whether or not the show takes note, a lot of this has to do with who penned the script.

“The Future” brought back the angel Castiel (Misha Collins) who had been incommunicado, and returned to the main plot of the season. A woman pregnant with the antichrist (Kelly Kline, played by Courtney Ford) is being fought over by heaven and hell and Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) struggle to find a way to save as many lives as possible while putting down the threat of Lucifer’s child being born, while Cas decides to take the fight on himself for the Winchester’s safety and to redeem himself for heaven.  This all feels a little bit like Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens in terms of possibility for plot direction, and if it did happen to go that way, I for one would not be upset about it. 

This week’s writers scripted the characters in such a natural way that I actually fell back in love with the show. Glynn and Berens didn’t overcrowd the script by pushing way too many characters and plot points into an episode, nor did they make excuses for where they might be in a way that distracts from the story they’re trying to tell on screen at that moment. Other episodes have tried to patch plot holes with shoddily presented exposition, and “The Future” didn’t try to do that. With the exception of one moment regarding the pregnancy term with a nephilim that I don’t think could have been helped with as far along in the season we are, there wasn’t a ton of exposition just thrown out flat, and even at that Jared Padalecki’s delivery allowed it to flow like conversation.

In addition to the dialog that felt very natural, the small things Glynn and Berens put into the script truly allowed the audience to suspend disbelief in a show that was beginning to feel like a soap opera. Cas trying to return a cassette tape Dean had given him. Sam is hard at work calculating and plotting their next move. Cas is locked out of the Impala, and even though he’s arguing with Sam about what to do and defending why he’s mad at Cas, Dean still tosses Cas the keys and continues his conversation. That’s real. That’s layering a scene. This writing team proved it doesn’t have to be all close ups and dramatic pauses. A scene doesn’t have to stop for emotion to be pouring from the characters while also moving the plot along.

Any actor will tell you that a well-written script makes their job easier, and it really showed last night. The cast’s mannerisms as their characters were less exaggerated than some of the season’s previous episodes. In those cases I alluded to above, the characters are sometimes written and therefore played in ways that feel like caricatures of who they have been portrayed as for years. Lucifer’s power and fierceness as he screamed at the demon Dagon (played beautifully by Ali Ahn) came through without coming off cartoonish which matched the tone of the episode, and the timing of everything, whether comedic or dramatic, was perfect. Collin’s portrayal of Cas essentially being kidnapped and talking to Kelly from the backseat of the Impala was outstanding. Padalecki expresses Sam’s earnestness and hope to perfection, and the hurt Dean feels is played even more poignantly in this episode – almost unlike anything we’ve seen since season 8, but Ackles’ facial expressions and tone of voice are always on point.

Amanda Tapping (who also played angel Naomi in Season 8) directed the episode, continuing an enjoyable trend of Supernatural alum directing episodes. The potentially triggering suicide attempt at the beginning of the episode could have been played far worse than it was, but in the hands of Tapping, it was presented it in a way that was actually beautiful and used as an integral piece of storytelling – not showing the skin being pierced, but instead focusing on the face of the actress to draw full attention to the emotions the character was going through. For a graphic suicide scene, it was, in my opinion, tastefully done. The framing of scenes was beautiful, especially when peeking through the art deco cutouts in the Men of Letters bunker and wall partition in the motel room. While a few things stuck out in an I wish they had… kind of way, the episode was one of the best of the season, hands down. [Note: Next week we’ll have an episode directed by another person who’s no stranger to the Supernatural family, Richard Speight, Jr., and written by new arrival Steve Yockey, both fan favorites.]

As usual, there were some dissenters online (especially on twitter) who expressed hatred of the episode because, frankly, they simply don’t like one of the main characters, no matter what the writers do. Their negativity is in no way a commentary on Glynn and Berens’ abilities. The arguments ranged from asking why Cas was still alive to why he would leave the Winchesters in danger, but when played against every character arc in the show’s history, especially in regards to the recurring theme of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, their arguments are hollow. Glynn and Berens wrote a story that was completely in line with the overarching themes of the show and the motivations of its characters and seemed to foreshadow a frightening and compelling end to the season – something the audience needs after the past two years’ season finales fell a little flat. Whether audience members liked the episode or not, everyone is wondering if Cas is being influenced by the unborn nephilim that saved him from Dagon, and how this potential pull on loyalties will turn out for Cas, Sam, and Dean. This is one of few times during season 12 that I can say I’m genuinely looking forward to finding out what happens next for the Winchesters. 

Supernatural airs Thursdays on the CW at 8pm EST, 7pm Central.

Logan is the Superhero Movie We’ve All Been Waiting For

We’ve suffered through a few rough installments of the X-Men series, and frankly, we’ve been suffering through a lot of superhero movies that blatantly ripped apart character development or spat in the face of canon all for the sake of the Big Audience. Blockbuster movies have been a staple of the superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genre for decades, and for many viewers, the predictable plot lines, deaths for shock value, and poor application of special effects, editing, or cinematography have made the movie-going experience a little stale. But we’ll go because we love the genre, and the production houses know it.

Last year, Fox Studios was backed into a corner when it released Deadpool, a rated R superhero (antihero) movie that featured sex, cursing, and more bloody murders than any red suit could conceal. It was a hilarious punch in the face to movie execs who swore that the superhero movie’s target audience was the PG-13 crowd, and it couldn’t be a success if there wasn’t the opportunity to market the movie to the whole family and pump out some serious merchandise for kiddos to gobble up.

What Deadpool did for the genre in terms of shaking things up, Logan has taken a step further by doing the unexpected. Going a step in another direction, Michael Green, David James Kelly, and James Mangold present a grim character-driven film that does what X-Men has always (or should have) done – presented the audience with interesting characters, a social commentary that is culturally relevant, and questions that stay with them when the lights go up.

Logan is a lightly-played prophetic dystopia of what feels like a very realistic future. It drives into the heart of society, of Logan and Charles Xavier, and of our own humanity while posing questions about personal autonomy. Mangold’s story has depth without exposition, and paired with John Mathieson’s eye for shooting compelling scenes, Logan is a beautiful film – something that most superhero movies can’t claim. There’s action, explosions, and all the other traditional action fodder that audiences eat up, but it’s done in a way that is compelling. There were moments while watching I was captivated by stunts and choreography that I hadn’t seen before. And even better, Logan doesn’t guarantee anyone’s safety; there’s no sense of the hero shall prevail. Instead, the audience is in the moment, not sure whether or not anyone will make it to the next day. There’s no nightmare to wake up from, and everything will not be okay.

Beyond the outstanding visuals and somber story, the acting of Sir Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Dafne Keene (who we should all most certainly watch) was superb. Perhaps there was more body to the script than previous movies, but Logan simply stands out from the performances of previous installments. The supporting cast, including Orange is the New Black‘s Elizabeth Rodriguez, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, and Eriq La Salle, is excellent as well, seamlessly adding to the dynamic of the narrative.

At this point, I don’t have any criticisms of the film – the questions left unanswered aren’t truly relevant to appreciating the story we were given. There was drama, humor, action, and meta-references that actually prove to aid the story and aren’t a standalone prop for fans to point and smile at. To top off the already deep satisfaction of the film’s ending, Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” plays us off in a fitting tribute to the title character.  Hopefully the success of this film leads to more R-rated, character driven flicks that do these characters and their stories justice. These movies don’t have to be guys and gals in spandex who never curse; take these characters and ground them in reality and you still have an extremely compelling story to tell, both through narrative and visually.

Geeks Who Drink host successful “Supernatural” quiz night in Colorado

This was an awesome event – definitely recommend finding a Geeks Who Drink trivia night near you! Two of my GISHWHES team members participated in Portland and took first place there.

Nerd Alert News

20161026_203128 Geeks Who Drink host successful “Supernatural” quiz night in Colorado, Photo credit to Colleen Bement

20161026_191738 Geeks Who Drink host successful “Supernatural” quiz night in Colorado, Photo credit to Colleen Bement

The ultimate quizmasters, Geeks Who Drink scored once again with a “Supernatural” themed night. “Hunters” descended upon the Kline’s Beer Hall in Arvada, CO Oct. 26, 2016 ready to rock. Pencils in hand and clever brains filled with trivia, these fans came enthusiastic and ready to complete. This month’s Geeks Who Drink quiz night was called “Pudding! A Supernatural Quiz” and the event was a huge success. Flannel shirts and beige trench coats were the clothes to wear that night. One adorable fan came as a Castiel/Hogwarts crossover, and one super tall guy came as “season one Sam” and just nailed it! Even one of the quiz hosts was quite a lovely Abaddon, complete with a pseudo slit…

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How You Gish

Every year for the past four years I’ve dedicated a week of my life to competing in the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (gishwhes), which is even bigger and weirder than it sounds. It was started by Misha Collins, actor on CW’s Supernatural and co-founder of Random Acts, a non-profit organization that ensures anyone, regardless of financial situation, can help make the world a better place. Gishwhes is based off of the University of Chicago scavenger hunt, which Collins participated in while attending the university – except bigger and weirder, of course. For a week in August, fifteen people in teams all around the world come together to produce creative content and accomplish tasks in an escapade of breaking social norms, pushing their own boundaries, and spreading kindness. In either competitive or for-fun teams, members try to conquer a list of over 150 items asking for photo or video evidence of someone on the team accomplishing the task. Winners join Collins for a fun excursion abroad; previous winners have gone to a castle in Scotland and sailed on a pirate ship on the coast of Croatia, and this year’s winners will be headed to Iceland. Every year the bar is raised higher for quality of items, and even celebrities are in on it – whether they know it or not.

I always look forward to this week of sleep deprived creative insanity, but this year was remarkably different. Every year, gishwhes has given me something; whether it be a new appreciation for sleep or new friends that have become my extended family, gishwhes has always been a highlight of the year. I’ve never ended a hunt and felt as if I was done playing this annual melee of creativity and boundary-pushing weirdness for good, but besides coming off a three-year stint captaining a for-fun team to join a competitive team as a regular member, this year felt special.

I loved captaining a for-fun team. We always welcomed first timers who wanted to try out gishwhes without feeling as if they were bringing down a highly competitive team with inexperience, testing the waters to see if this absurd event was something that they would want to take a week out of their year to seriously compete. I had a wonderful time, met great people, and was blown away by things my team and others could come up with or would be willing to do, but there were some down sides. For every amazing, hard working team member who made the hunt worth doing every year, there were no-shows, people who didn’t mesh with the rest of the team, or bad attitudes. After trying to run a team while in the middle of moving in 2015 and experiencing a run of bad luck with my lovely teammates dealing with personal catastrophes (2015 was a bad luck year for us, and I still send giant hugs to my team for coming through despite the multiple acts of god standing in their way), I just needed a break. I hated to think that I had gotten so frustrated by the process of dealing with items that needed to be completed last minute and people taking up a space on the team and contributing nothing that I didn’t even want to participate anymore – even though I had so many great for-fun team members. I needed something different to reinvigorate my love of the hunt, and I knew the first step was stepping away from the stresses of captaining a team.

While I was debating on how I was going to even do the hunt, or if I wanted to at that point, a friend and team member from the previous year messaged me to say she was starting a competitive team. The timing felt perfect, so I meekly asked, “Can I join?” It was quite possibly the best decision I’ve made in all my years as a gisher. Taking a cue from a few of my captaining tactics and stepping it up with some serious organization, Chandra went above and beyond prior to the hunt to make sure we knew each other and who was capable of what. And it turned out that our team meshed incredibly well together. We were all crass, either quietly or overtly, and had more nsfw conversations than necessary – which is kind of perfect. Everyone on our team was the perfect balance of competitive and super chill, serious and fun, shy and completely perverted, extremely talented and resourceful. We all-capsed at each other, laughed our asses off, and decided before the hunt actually started that those who could were going to meet up at a Supernatural convention in Seattle next April. Keep in mind that I’ve done this for four years and have great friends that have come out of gishwhes, but there was something about this group  in particular that clicked so incredibly well. Every member, even those that joined at the last minute, folded into the cool kids club. We were awesome. We were trash. We were going to Iceland.

team photo

Our team from L-R starting from the top: Cookie, Christy, Ash, Kai, Steph, Alison, Maddie, Chandra, Danitra, Nicky, Raelee, Janet, Nat, Melissa, and Jess

The 2016 hunt was from July 30th through August 6th. Team TrashBrigade consisted of our captain Chandra, team mom Janet, Melissa, Jessica, Maddie, Cookie, Danitra, Christy, Kai, Nicky, Nat, Alison, Steph, Raelee, and me (Ash). Chandra was the best captain a gisher could ask for. Not only was she supportive and deferred to the team for decision making, she pushed herself to the brink of sanity (never speak of the lutefisk), working with Janet, Melissa, and Jessica (all of which I cannot say enough about) to completely slay a huge amount of items, starting off day one strong by stumbling upon an abandoned train and obtaining a Victorian dress for an item I thought would be hard (classic dumb-Ash). Kai blew us away with her artistic abilities and gave Misha’s mom an honorary TrashBrigade member certificate. Christy did some charity work and created an all-holiday family dinner that rivaled The Last Supper in awesomeness. Nat was so in it that she had to keep herself from berating people at work for talking to her about things that weren’t gishwhes-related and made it onto the news. Maddie, on top of items like sewing cabbage into a cheerleading outfit, uploaded and submitted the completed items at the end of the day. Alison drove over an hour last-minute to have a tea party dressed as a teabag in a teacup ride. Raelee and Stephanie were too sweet and adorable for words, knocking items out left and right. Nicky jogged on an airport walkway, helped wrangle items and organization with Maddie and Nat, and understood twitter better than all of us. Danitra had a birthday party for herself, complete with cake, on a New York subway train. Cookie is a photoshop master, which we knew going in, so she took Matt Cohen’s abs on vacation in the best ways possible. And with my friend Mercy, who flew up to Colorado from Texas to keep me company the first few days of the hunt, I claimed Pikes Peak for gishwhes. I can’t say enough good things about these ladies. I mean, I could, but you would be like, “Okay Ash, we get it! You love them! Moving on!” 

Majority of our team – eight members – were first-time gishers. With such little experience, you wouldn’t expect the quality of items produced and sheer number of items completed. I thought being on a competitive team would be stressful, but as the gish-clock ticked down, I went to bed early for the first time. I wasn’t up at the last minute trying to scrape something together. I was relaxed and felt confident that we had done an amazing job. All fifteen of our members were highly active, kept connected through chat and our facebook group, and worked together to get the best possible item for our team to submit. We cheered each other, stepped up when things weren’t working out, and had so much fun.

Ending this year’s hunt, I can say that this was a completely different experience than I was expecting. Going in, I was nervous and wasn’t sure what to do because I wasn’t running a team. Then I realized what a whole team can accomplish – something I hope my awesome teammates from previous years found in their hunt this year. We’re all exhausted, but we’re still finding ways to make each other laugh in our group chat and putting together bloopers of our mishaps (gishaps?). After seeing what we produced, the good we put out into the world, and with how close our team still is after all the madness, all I can think is this is how you gish.

Ghostbusters is Just Awesome Fun

I was witness to some pretty wonderful things this week, and some not so wonderful things. But that’s nothing new; between my outdoor excursions and having access to the internet, I’m exposed to a great deal of what humanity has to offer, which unfortunately includes some pretty disappointing things.  This week, I’m glad to say that Ghostbusters was not one of them. 

It’s hard to put aside personal feelings and expectations when seeing a highly publicized movie. The backlash began as soon as the all-female cast for the reboot of the 1984 and 1989 films was announced. This was unsurprising, considering the outrage over the direction and focus of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, an amazing reboot that won six Academy Awards and broke barriers in the film industry. An impressive feat of writing and cinematography (as well as every other aspect of the film), Mad Max: Fury Road did great things for the female audience. Misogynists came out of the woodwork again for Ghostbusters, this time throwing a fit even bigger than the ones they threw over Fury Road and The Force Awakens (I patiently await the epic Star Wars tantrum to continue after Rogue One releases in December). Although done in a completely different genre in a completely different way, Ghostbusters managed to give female movie-goers a taste of how females can be positively portrayed in movies as, to the shock of everyone, human beings. 

I know it sounds like I’m reaching, but let’s break this down. Given the usual movie tropes, what do we normally see out of female characters? The reason the Bechdel test (the bare minimum that any human can ask for re: female characters interacting with each other) and the Mako Mori Test (the bare minimum that any human can ask for re: a female character’s existence and development) are even a thing is that there are so few films that manage to produce female characters and stories that treat them as people with their own ambitions. The Ghostbusters reboot is exactly that – a reboot. It’s its own entity, and the mistake many members of the potential audience made going in was that it would be the female embodiment of the original. Instead of going that route, Sony produced a film that was fun, smart, and entertaining. It wasn’t as raunchy as some may have expected, which was a somewhat pleasant change of pace but may have been disappointing for some viewers, which is so far the only reasonable complaint I’ve heard of the movie as a whole. The most notable thing about the comedy in Ghostbusters was that it didn’t rely on exploiting female sexuality, jokes about the actresses sizes, or any of the other go-to devices used when targeting a male audience. Melissa McCarthy’s character Abby Yates doesn’t receive any jokes about her weight or eating food – a breath of fresh air that may seem like a little thing, but in a body-shaming culture where overweight women are the butt of jokes and are made to feel as if they can’t even eat in public without qualifying it, it really is a big deal. Patty Tolan, played by SNL’s Leslie Jones, isn’t subject to jokes about her size either – 6ft tall to McCarthy’s just over 5ft frame – and is valued for her knowledge of the city as well as her positive “let’s do this” attitude. Kristen Wiig’s character Erin Gilbert is a bit of an unfashionable and awkward academic, but ambitious and earnest. She’s the only one swooning over the idiotic eye-candy Kevin, played by Chris Hemsworth, who the others don’t find attractive (looks aren’t everything – sorry fellas) and are reluctant to hire. Kate McKinnon’s character Jillian Holtzmann is phenomenal in every way, and gay (also representative of the phenomenal part). The women are smart and don’t qualify their intelligence by attributing to their fathers. They eat without talking about having to hit the gym later. There’s no romantic subplot (Erin’s attraction to Kevin is shown through awkward interaction that isn’t romantic – or rudely done). And the biggest sexual draw in the movie turns out to not be Hemsworth’s character Kevin, but McKinnon’s Holtzmann – the weirdly sexy engineer who in any other movie might just be “the young, cute, odd one”.

ghostbusters

Look at these nerds doin’ WORK.

The best part? None of this is shoved in the audience’s face. It’s just part of the story. Not once in the movie do you have to pause and digest the point being made – it’s simply integrated into the film. Amazing. Finally. In 2016.

In the end, Ghostbusters is a fun movie perfect for the end of summer, full of cameos from original cast members and nods to the original films while creating something new. Unfortunately the innovative aspect of realistic comedic storytelling the script provides will go unnoticed to those who don’t experience misrepresentation or marginalization. Bottom line: the film doesn’t deserve any of the hate it has received. Ironically, the loudest outcries against well-written female content come the same people who already have decades of well-written representation in media – and are vehemently against anyone pointing it out. Outspoken fans of female-driven media are sent hate through social media, threatened with doxxing, rape, or death, and recently actress Leslie Jones was besieged with racist and misogynistic tweets that caused her to take a break from social media. It seems that this Ghostbusters reboot is necessary, not only to organically show the audience what they’re saying about women in film in terms of presenting how female characters can be written in comedy, but also to reveal the vicious nature of misogynistic fan culture. Maybe it’s fitting that the villains in the most bitched about films with female characters (Fury Road, The Force Awakens, and Ghostbusters) are all power hungry white dudes who, oh so shockingly, get really pissed when women stand up to them (#NotAllWhiteMaleVillains). 

Whether it turns out to break even in the international box office market or not (numbers watched carefully by those who are excited to call the movie a failure), Ghostbusters is a fun movie worth your time and money. Especially if you have kids. The hate that has hovered over this movie since the beginning has been unnecessary, with added complaints ranging from ruining someone’s childhood to crying reverse-sexism with Kevin’s dumb-blonde inept secretarial character. Feels like I’ve seen that before though…. It seems like some salty fans and critics just need to go pet a dog. Or actually just settle in and enjoy a movie instead of looking for every reason to tear it down.

Weak Storytelling and Mishaps for Marvel

I received an ask on my tumblr asking me if I saw that Steve Rogers was now and always has been Hydra according to new canon. I’m angry enough about this topic to come out of my hiatus to rant.

I’m completely and utterly disappointed in this “new twist” on the Captain America canon, essentially rewriting everything that came before it. This move falls into the [does something dramatic and controversial for shock value] arena of poor writing. I know it’s poor writing, because I’ve written a plot twist in a novel and questioned it every day since. Luckily, the novel isn’t available and I can rewrite my mistakes, and the character isn’t a beloved symbol of good and an example of humble greatness.

The new development was discussed in an interview with Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort by TIME magazine. Marvel writer Nick Spencer apparently pitched the idea, and for the 75th anniversary of our man Steve, there was to be a shocking twist: a good guy was actually a member of a Nazi-adjacent evil organization. This whole time?! This whole time. But why is this a bad thing? From the the representation the character has and how beloved he is, to the concept and timing, it’s bad all around. It’s a recycled story line; they already did this with Ward in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and with the S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra agents in Winter Soldier. It’s a concept for the character that is neither compelling or coherent in thought. Like the killing characters off for shock value trope that has become a tiring staple, this twist is no longer a twist or a continuation of established canon – it’s awkward, offensive, and kind of fucked up. Some people simply don’t care and don’t understand why the outrage. Their response is shrug, big deal, it’ll be forgotten in a few months, but the reaction of people who love the character has been a resounding Fuck This, and I’m obviously in this camp.

[Note: I’m most definitely not in the send death threats to the writer camp either – please don’t do that. That’s more than unhelpful, does not prove any point, and is wrong. Steve Rogers would be ashamed of you.]

Why is this fictional character’s negative characterization so upsetting to me? Just his week, I explained to my oldest what “Hail Hydra” meant and why I didn’t want to hear him saying it again. He actually hung his head in shame the second I mentioned the link from Hydra to the Nazi party, and he’s only ten. He understands Nazi atrocities and what they represent. I hugged him and reassured him that he wasn’t in trouble, and that sometimes we do things we don’t know are offensive because we don’t know the meaning. When you do know the negative meaning of something, whether a symbol or phrase or action, and still perpetuate it,  then you’re an asshole. To hit me a little harder in the gut, I have been hand-painting a Captain America shirt and making a shield for my youngest’s Cap cosplay for Denver Comic Con. He’s eight, and Steve Rogers is his hero. So yeah, it does feel personal.

If this isn’t some bad idea for publicity gone incredibly wrong, it’s an amateurish, gimmicky plot twist that weakens the Marvel brand – a poor move, especially with the MCU being where it is right now. As fans are begging for female driven comics and diversity, excited about Black Panther coming to the big screen, and questioning why the Captain Marvel movie keeps getting pushed back while slipping in yet another Spider-Man reboot and an Ant-Man sequel (but we’re getting the Wasp so…), this only adds to the negativity regarding actions the profit-driven studio heads (i.e. the “women don’t sell toysIron Man 3 fiasco). Creating outrage on social media by disappointing fans equals dollars right? And that’s why we’re here…right? #WeWin.

If they’re doing this story line to avoid Captain America going after the Big Bad of the world at the moment (ISIS) like he was created to do with Hitler, that’s weak. I’m sure if that’s the angle, they would argue that it would cause greater Islamophobia (despite the fact that intelligent people realize that Muslims do not equate to ISIS and the same could be said for the first installments of Cap back in ’41), but how is Steve Rogers being on the side of the anti-semitic Hydra helpful at all when you have a xenophobic “leader” like Donald Trump running for president? Steve Rogers was created by Jewish men (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) to fight Nazis. He controversially punched Hitler in the jaw before the United States even entered World War II. He questioned his government and its overreaching practices over the years. He is an example of what it means to be on the side that tries to do what’s morally right despite opposition – whether that is internal struggles or fighting against a world power vying for domination and promoting genocide – and to want what’s best for the people of a nation you love.

As the daughter of a Veteran, the wife of a Veteran, and a Veteran myself, patriotism has been gently instilled in me since I was a child, so I know how much a patriotic character with a moral compass means to kids – and how horrible it is to see the needless destruction of heroes when we so desperately need goodness. A rough lesson in how not all “good guys” are great men is one thing; taking a hero like Steve Rogers and making him Hydra – on the 75th anniversary of his creation, close to Memorial Day, and during Jewish American Heritage Month –  is frankly gross.  Watch the special that recounts the history of the character and how people feel about Steve Rogers and tell me this Steve is Hydra! story is a remotely good idea, let alone makes sense for the character, whether in the comics or in the cinematic universe.

Steve Rogers being Hydra goes against everything that the character was created for and fought against for his 75 years of existence. This feels not only like bad writing and poor creative choices, but like a terrible publicity stunt that is working – it’s certainly got everybody talking.

TL;DR – Making a ‘Steve Rogers is Hydra’ story line is utter bullshit, but that’s just one fan’s insignificant opinion.