LGBTQIA+ Staff Round-Up for Pride: Queer Media We Love

We’re currently living through one of the weirdest and darkest and most stressful times most of us have ever experienced–you don’t need me to tell you that. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is how much we need to continue fostering our communities if we’re going to survive with our mental health and relationships and sense of hope intact. Thinking about good queer media, and sharing it with y’all, is only one tiny part of that work, but it’s a part I can do today, just in time to honor the end of Pride. Read on to hear what some of our LGBTQIA+ GeekGirlCon staffers love about their favorite queer media, take care of yourselves and each other, and then let’s get back to showing up for Black lives and queer liberation.

Look at this beautiful piece Tina Burns, our Twitter Social Media Specialist, made earlier this month! [Image Description: Watercolor Pride flag with the word “Love” written in cursive on it.] Source: Tina Burns

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

#GeekGirlTalk: Felix Ever After

Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:

Teal (roman type!)
Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek

Hanna (italics, baby!)
Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever

I think both Hanna and I have been craving some really good, really queer YA recently. When I started hearing about Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender online, I knew it was likely to be just that. The story follows a 17-year-old Black trans kid named Felix as he muddles his way through a summer program he’s completing at the private arts high school he attends in New York. A few important throughlines of the story are that Felix doesn’t know what to make for his senior portfolio (which he’ll submit in his college applications), he’s questioning whether there’s more to his trans and queer identities than he’d previously thought, and he feels a lot of anxiety about the fact that he’s never been in love and what that might mean about him. It’s serious YA stuff, and serious queer stuff, and that’s the exact arena I’m most interested in. But, before I dive into what I was thinking while reading, Hanna, what did you think of Felix?

So, for the first 30 or so pages of Felix, I was really afraid that I wouldn’t love it. (Which, of course, wouldn’t have ultimately mattered so much; as a white cis queer woman, my personal opinion on the book is irrelevant as long as it connects with the communities represented within it–namely, Black trans people). I was frustrated by the Felix’s friends (with the exception of Ezra and, eventually, Leah), and I was worried that the multifaceted and intense transphobia that Felix experiences early on meant that the book would reinforce a narrative in which trans people are always the subjects of violence and are never allowed joy. Ultimately, though, I loved this book. It was so complex, emotional, and full of such realistic depictions of friendship, love, family, and identity. A few things in particular stood out to me: the fact that the quasi love triangle in the book actually worked (!?), the beauty of Felix’s search for an identifier that felt right to him (which felt so believable to the experience of a teen who’s just, like, “It’s a great thing that I have Google to help me figure this out,”) and the way that art (and artist’s block) helps Felix connect with himself and understand what he really wants out of life (spoiler alert: getting in to Brown isn’t going to solve anyone’s problems). Teal, I would love to also talk about the fact that this is an #OwnVoices book–something that is, of course, crucial for so many reasons.

[Image Description: Cover art for Felix Ever After. There’s an illustration of a Black kid with short wavy brown hair. He has a low-cut grayish tank top. You can see some tattoos on his arms and parts of his top-surgery scars on his chest. Around him and on his head there are doodles of flowers and yellow paint smears. The background is an orange-red.] Source: Goodreads

Yes! Okay, so #OwnVoices, though y’all likely already know, means exactly what it sounds like: It’s a way to describe books that are written by authors who share the identities of their main, POV characters. This is a hugely important thing in all fiction, but particularly in books for and about kids and teens where so much of the plot revolves around a coming-of-age and/or emotional journey for the main character. In terms of this book and the intersection between the characters’ experiences and my own, I’ve been thinking a lot about #OwnVoices and how it’s being utilitzed by queer writers for their queer characters.

Something that we talk a lot about, Hanna, is the fact that queer writers (who are writing queer characters) in any genre, but notably in YA since its popular iteration is relatively new, have to do a lot of work that cishet writers don’t. There is context about queerness that needs explaining, tropes that need dismantling and reworking. In so many ways, the fact that queer writers are getting long-overdue attention (though it’s still fractional compared to what’s owed) while the concept of #OwnVoices is being widely discussed is pivotal because it gives more genre-defining authority to actual queer writers. And I think Felix is a perfect example of this process and what it can mean for queer YA as more big publishing houses start paying attention to these stories. 

I think that this is one of the aspects of this book that makes it so specifically perfect for young adults/teens (even though, of course, YA books are for everyone) and so specifically perfect for this particular time period. Callender does so much work in this book to explore identity terminology, to explain and illustrate the many forms that transphobia can take, to affirm a multiplicity of identities and specificity of experience, to discuss the joys and limitations of Pride™. Sometimes, it feels like a lot of exposition, a lot of work to get the book’s audience on the same page. But in some ways, that also feels like a necessary strategy for right now–especially when Black trans people still face such disproportionate levels of violence, and when there is such pervasive ignorance and misinformation about trans and nonbinary identities. Teal, what do you feel about the approach that Callender takes? Did it work for you? What are the upsides and the limitations of having to do so much more explaining that white cishet writers?

I think the upsides of this approach are monumental in that Felix, and other books like it, will give so much to their readers. Like, just as a point of reference, Hanna and I, two white adult people who have had a lot of safety and validation in exploring our queerness, need this book much differently than I imagine queer kids of color might. And the fact that we have people like Callender who are putting in so much work to get these stories out in the world is so heartening. This is the kind of art that I want to support with my attention and my money (and my blogging lolol). 

Also, despite everything I just said, I also found so many moments in Felix, especially the parts where he’s thinking about his queerness, to so intensely give me the feeling of, Wow, this is why we need queer people to write queer sh**. Hanna pulled this perfect quote to give you an example of Callender’s real triumph in this process:

 “I was hurt this summer, hurt more than I thought I ever could be. It could’ve been easy to say I was hurt because I’m trans, because someone singled me out for my identity, but there’s something weird about that—something off, about suggesting that my identity is the thing that brought me any sort of pain. It’s the opposite. Being trans brings me love. It brings me happiness. It gives me power. It makes me feel like I’m a god. I wouldn’t change myself for anything.”

One other/final thing I’ll say is that I’m just so excited about how the quote unquote genre of queer YA will continue to evolve as more queer writers publish new stories. We’re going to get so much good and real and hopeful depictions of queer people and relationships. And we’re going to get our own tropes and our own genre conventions, and it’s basically the only thing I’m excited for. 

On that note, let’s continue this conversation and celebrate Pride by sharing reviews and recommendations for more YA written by queer BIPOC on Twitter. You can find me @TealChristensen and Hanna @HuppTwoThree. 

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

On the Changing Values of Animal Crossing

This piece was written by Emily Mozzone, one of GeekGirlCon’s Marketing Designers. If you’d like to pitch a guest post, contact us at blog@geekgirlcon.com!

There’s no doubt that Animal Crossing has come far as a Nintendo IP. For those of us who have played since the beginning, Animal Crossing has metamorphosed from an odd, obscure game that none of your friends played into the worldwide phenomenon it is today. The data backs this up: Animal Crossing for the GameCube sold a little over 2 million copies worldwide, while Animal Crossing: New Horizonssold some 1.88 million copies in its first 3 days on sale in Japan” only, and that’s not even including digital copies.

A lot has changed in the Animal Crossing universe since its launch 19 years ago, and overall I think these changes are for the better. The game is generally more accessible and friendly to players: I’m thankful that I live in a world where I can just fly to my friends’ islands over the internet rather than try to find another kid who owns Animal Crossing on the GameCube and then trust them enough to physically swap our memory cards. I’m glad that kids don’t have to get constantly berated and teased by their villagers (let’s be real, GameCube NPCs were savages).

xamples of Absolute Savagery in Animal Crossing - myPotatoGames
[Image Description: Screenshot of Animal Crossing gameplay. The dialogue reads, “Why, you’re so short, I can’t help but laugh! Whoa ho ho!”] Source: My Potato Games

But as the series has progressed and strived to be even more fun and enjoyable, I think a little bit of the magic and freedom has been lost. f

Historically, Animal Crossing has been about taking your time. We live in a world that constantly asks you to rush, be productive, make money. In video games, we fight, we level up, and we try to win. Animal Crossing throws all this out the window. There is no way to win: Animal Crossing simply asks you to value “family, friendship, and community.”

So what’s changed in the Animal Crossing world? Why do I feel like the game has strayed from these original values?

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

GiveBIG Tomorrow!

Just a little reminder from us to y’all that GiveBIG starts tomorrow, and GeekGirlCon needs your support as much as ever.

GeekGirlCon works all year to create physical and virtual spaces for us to come together and honor the contributions of everyone who’s been under-invited in traditional geek culture, and we have no intention of slowing down.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Why Bunny Day is So Unpopular

by GeekGirlCon Tumblr Adminstrator Member Emily Hendrickson

I’m more neutral about Animal Crossing’s Bunny Day event than a lot of other people. And from a game perspective, I understand why Nintendo made the eggs so ubiquitous. This is a children’s game, and if you were a kid who actually wanted to find recipes for and make all the egg items, you’d want the materials readily available. Plus, learning some of the recipes is contingent on how many eggs you’ve found; so, it makes sense to make quickly finding a lot of eggs easier.

All that said, the event has some major issues, which have been meme’d nonstop pretty much since the event began. And since the Bunny Day event is overlapping with the Cherry Blossom event, I feel it’s apt to compare the two and to answer why one (Cherry Blossom) is so much more popular than the other (Bunny Day).

[Image Description: Screenshot of Animal Crossing gameplay.] Source: Emily

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

What Programming are You Submitting to GeekGirlCon ’20?

While most things in our lives are on hold at the moment, one thing that isn’t is our preparation for GeekGirlCon ‘20. Besides all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that our team is working on, we’re also at the point in the year when we’re accepting programming submissions from our community. Submissions close on April 30, so I’m here to ask what panels, workshops, and events y’all have in store for us this year?

If you’re interested in submitting but aren’t sure where to start, I’d suggest first checking out the page on our website and then head over to our Facebook group for past and future GeekGirlCon contributors. I’m pretty sure I recommend it every year, but it’s seriously the perfect place to brainstorm programming ideas, find co-panelists, or troubleshoot the application process. 

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

#GeekGirlTalk: We Want to Hear from You!

Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:

Teal (roman type!)
Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek

Hanna (italics, baby!)
Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever

Welcome to #GeekGirlTalk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. 

This month–this dark, dark month–Hanna and I are coming to you with a request: We need guest co-writers for this series!

The goal of #GeekGirlTalk, from the beginning, has been to carve out some digital space for this community to really talk about the media we’re thinking about. For the past year(ish), Hanna and I have been facilitating the conversation via these blog posts, but now it’s time to grow. Not only has this been our plan from the beginning, but given everything that’s going on right now, we think this could be a really great opportunity to lean into the community we’ve built here at GeekGirlCon and get to know some of you better.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

#GeekGirlTalk: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:

Teal (roman type!)
Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek

Hanna (italics, baby!)
Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever

Welcome to #GeekGirlTalk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. For February, and to kick off a 2020 full of #GeekGirlTalk, we’re reflecting on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and the special place teen rom coms hold in our hearts. 

I, like everyone else in the world, fell in love with To All the Boys when it premiered on Netflix in the summer of 2018. For whatever reason, I hadn’t read the books, so I went in with almost no preconceptions. I’m not the biggest of movie fans, so it’s notable that that summer I watched it twice back-to-back and have returned to it several times in the past year and a half.

Hanna, we can get into the sequel (if we must), but first, I want to try and articulate why I think of this movie as such a triumph of its genre. To start, I must admit that I am very, extremely in favor of the Fake Boyfriend trope. It’s definitely my favorite romance trope and also maybe my favorite fiction trope in general. Not only do I think that it reliably adds the tension and drama we’re all seeking in our love stories, but I also find that it more consistently centers actual emotional closeness than other common tropes can or, at least, do. One of my biggest pet peeves about stories with romantic plots is how much so many of them rely on readers just believing in the emotional closeness of the characters without its development actually being reflected in the text. Now that I think about it, in my mind I tend to frame the Fake Boyfriend (and all of its more tangential iterations) as the opposite of the Soul Mate in terms of romance fiction. And, honestly, I think that while obviously the average person is not actually getting into that many fake-romantic-partner situations over the course of their life, the relationship-building that accompanies the trope is wildly more applicable to our real lives than the kind of situational drama that comes with finding (and then losing and then reuniting with) a quote unquote Soul Mate. I know we generally agree on most of this, Hanna, but I’d really love to hear what you think in re: the Fake Boyfriend potentially being the best romance trope out there. I also want to acknowledge that Fake Boyfriend stories can depend heavily on heteronormativity in way that erases the experiences of and/or is inaccessible to queer folks, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on that piece of things as well.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Passes and Hotel for GeekGirlCon ’20—Available Now!

Happy Friday, everyone! I have two exciting bits of news for y’all:

Passes for GeekGirlCon ‘20 are on sale NOW!

  • Kids 0-5 years old: free weekend passes
  • Kids 6-12 years old: $15 weekend passes
  • Teens 13-17 years old: $30 weekend passes
  • Adults: $30 one-day passes OR $40 weekend passes
Me and you once we get our passes! [Image Description: Gif of two little kids wearing black cowboy hats. They’re showing off their red tickets and smiling.] Source: Giphy

This year, we’re partnering with the Paramount Hotel to offer group-rate rooms literally on the SAME BLOCK as the Conference Center. (Shout out to our excellent Operations team for making this magic happen!)

  • $175 per night
  • Available Friday, October 30 through Tuesday, November 3
  • This rate will expire, so wrangle your con-going companions and book now!
[Image Description: Screenshot of a Google map showing where both the Paramount Hotel and Conference Center are located.] Source: Google

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Why are Women with Mental Illnesses Portrayed So Inaccurately on TV?

Post by guest contributor Kate Harveston

You’ve undoubtedly seen a storyline similar to this one on TV: A woman becomes obsessed with so-and-so. Have you ever paused to wonder how this trope plays into the inaccurate depiction of those with mental illnesses? 

Although many celebrities have come forward about their battles with mental illness, depictions of characters with these disorders in movies and TV have little to do with reality. Instead, those with such disorders, particularly women, are still portrayed as emotionless and evil. This stereotype does a grave disservice to everyone in entertainment as well as to mental health awareness.

Mental Illness and Women 

Researchers often claim that women experience mental illness at higher rates than men. However, this figure is convoluted by the fact that they also receive treatment for these disorders more often than men. For example, while more women attempt suicide, more men die from it.

Suffice it to say that all genders experience mental illness. However, you can’t ignore the way society interprets these conditions differently based on gender. For example, picture somebody with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’re like many, you may envision a male soldier coming home from war. This stereotype is valid in some cases, but not all by any means. Studies actually show that physical and sexual trauma followed by PTSD occurs more often in women than in men. 

This statistic should shock no one in a world where 90% of all adult rape victims are women. Repeated sexual and physical trauma often results in mental illness, not murderous rampages. Consider how few sexual assault survivors receive justice in our courts. The records of rapists getting away with their actions should spur an epidemic of revenge slaughter if women were inclined to turn their trauma outward. The majority of the time, however, they suffer in silence.

Depictions of Mentally Ill Women in Film

If you flip to channels like Lifetime, you’ll see countless representations of women with mental illness losing their collective minds, stalking and killing with impunity. We’ve all heard of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” trope. In fact, the Lifetime channel dedicates Wednesdays to Women on the Edge. On the edge of what? 

Most of the time, the violent women depicted in these types of films don’t have a definitive diagnosis. Consider the classic Fatal Attraction. We know that Glenn Close’s character boils a bunny, but the movie never tells us what disorder compelled her to commit such a heinous act. It’s as if mental illness all fits into one neat category—it doesn’t matter if you have PTSD or a schizotypal disorder or anxiety. If you’re a woman and you have a mental illness, you’re simply nuts. 

[Image Description: Screen grab from Fatal Attraction. Glenn Close’s character is lunging at a man holding a large kitchen knife. She has a look of pain on her face. She’s wearing a white plain dress with long sleeves.] Source: ABC

Contrast this treatment to the way films depict men with mental illness. Has anyone watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest without cheering for Nicholson’s character? Directors often portray men with mental illness as loveable-yet-misunderstood rogues. Such movies focus on their redeeming qualities, a man-versus-society theme. Conversely, when a woman character has a mental illness, she’s the problem—not the culture she’s grown up in.

Changing the Dialogue Around Mental Illness and Women

To truly embrace the reality of mental illness, filmmakers need to quit using it as a convenient plot device. Mental illness doesn’t explain why women, or anyone for that matter, commit heinous acts. Such actions stem from a multitude of factors. Making the simplistic correlation between violence and mental illness leads to a continued problematic stigma about mentally ill individuals. Mental illness can be a contributor to violence in a person, but it’s not the sole factor. A convenient explanation for an unpleasant phenomenon doesn’t make it accurate. 

Instead, movies should show the real way mental illness affects women. They should present how they tend to isolate themselves from those they love and withdraw into despair. Films should show—and address—the overwhelming loathing of self, not hatred of others, that often exists as a hallmark way in which disorders manifest among women

Representation matters, and the images that people see in the media form part of our collective consciousness. By depicting the reality of mental illness for women in film, we can hopefully open up a better dialogue about mental health. Ideally, this new dialogue may even inspire people to seek help if they need it, instead of feeling like they have to hide their problems from the world, lest they be labeled and stereotyped.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

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