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#GeekGirlTalk: Race and Sexuality in Bridgerton

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

Teal (plain)
Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek
Caitlin (italics)
Star Wars, Marvel & the MCU, documentaries, and trope-defying comedy.

Jill (bold)
Superheroes, space, sci-fi, out-of-the-box sitcoms, cartoons, and PUNS.

Welcome to #GeekGirlTalk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. To launch this series for the year, I’ll be chatting with Caitlin, one of our content strategists here on the GGC blog, and Jill, our former workshop coordinator, about the Netflix series Bridgerton

Spoiler disclaimer: We definitely talk about a couple of big plot moments, but not in a ton of detail. If you really don’t like spoilers and you intend to watch the show, you might wait before reading.

Since I’m starting us out, I have a confession. I was really, really frustrated by almost everything about the show. Yes, it had our beloved cringey/dreamy regency social customs. It had the effervescent Nicola Coughlan. It had, if we’re being honest, the kind pure, unadulterated vibes that are getting us through this pandemic. But, as a lifelong fan of romance and period fiction and Shonda Rhimes (the show’s executive producer), my expectations were high….and entirely unmet. 

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!”

#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!”

#GeekGirlTalk: Self-Care During GeekGirlCon ’19

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 Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. Leading up to next weekend, we’re coming through with a special edition of Geek Girl Talk where we’ll be talking through our respective self-care plans for GeekGirlCon ‘19. The con is coming up on the weekend of November 16 and 17. If you haven’t yet, get your passes here!

I’ll start the conversation with an admission: As much as it pains me to say it, a lot of my excitement about attending conventions tends to be ultimately overwhelmed by anxiety. There’s some irony in that, I know. I spend months writing about an event that, when it comes down to it, ends up being one of the weekends I feel most drained and on-edge of the year. But, I also feel like that goes to show how much unique value I find in our con and organization; I’m beyond willing to support and show up for this thing, and I’m willing to do the work to manage my mental health well enough to make sure I can continue to sustainably. I have lots of tips and tricks and successes and horror stories about attending GeekGirlCon as a person with a lot of social anxiety, but before I get into that, Hanna, I’d love to know specifics about your relationship with mental health and con-going. 

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

#GeekGirlTalk: Depictions of Witchcraft and Masculinity in Charmed

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 Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. This month, we’re talking about Charmed, the CW reboot of the late-90s to early 2000s original. Charmed comes back for its second season on October 11, and we need to chat about everything Maggie, Mel, and Macy in preparation!

Spoiler disclaimer: We do get into some spoilers below! If you haven’t watched season one of Charmed/don’t want to be spoiled, then what are you waiting for? Watch the whole season in one sitting (totally doable) and then come back and talk to us about it!

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

#GeekGirlTalk: Subverting Heteronormativity in Romance Novels

Welcome to Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. This month, we’re discussing romance novels and what the genre has to offer in terms of queer representation and complex, autonomous women characters. In other words, we’re fangirling about Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue and Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient.

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

Spoiler disclaimer: We kept it spoiler free, so read on!

I’ll start by saying that this whole conversation could just be one long line of exclamation points as far as I’m concerned, because that’s how passionately I feel about our topic of conversation: romance novels in general, and Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang in particular. But since that won’t get us very far, I’ll actually begin with the fact that I love romance novels. My whole childhood basically consisted of flipping through slightly-age-inappropriate books to get to the smutty and/or romantic parts. Of course, my relationship with the genre—and especially with certain tropes (namely heterocentric ones)—has changed over the years. For a long time, especially as I was coming to understand more about my own sexuality and navigating real-life romantic and sexual dynamics for the first time, romance novels stopped being satisfying for me. Reading them was fun, but it wasn’t full of that giddy, half-in-love-yourself feeling that used to be there. I wasn’t connecting with the same dynamics and tropes that used to feel so all-consuming to me. That is, until I read RWRB this past month. I read it three times, and basically forced you to read it too, Teal, because my love for this book (and for you—you’re welcome for introducing you to this brilliance!) knows no bounds. I’m so curious about whether you had the same reaction—did reading this book feel different to you too? And, if so, why are we feeling this way?

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

#GeekGirlTalk: Queer Representation in Roswell, New Mexico

Welcome to Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. For our first installment, we’re unpacking queer representation in Roswell, New Mexico.

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

[Spoiler disclaimer: If you’re not caught up, this post won’t be too spoiler-y, as we just talk about general interpersonal stuff between the characters. We might recommend watching the first episode, though!]

Queer people being queer!
[Image Description: Michael is holding Alex’s face between his hands. Their foreheads are touching and their eyes are closed. The whole scene is set in blueish lighting.] Source: Tumblr

While I’m not (yet) familiar with its source material, I do consider the original Roswell TV series to be an important piece of teen media—not to mention one that I specifically harbor a lot of fondness for. And so, the new CW adaptation, Roswell, New Mexico, is a series I’m both excited about and slightly skeptical of. That being said, I’ve found that this version does have a lot of things going for it. The characters are older by about a decade, the show addresses current social issues directly instead of relying solely on the ambiguous implications of the alien-human metaphor, and the blatant whitewashing of the original cast is being backtracked. In other words, there’s a lot to be hopeful about. If I’m being honest, though, what’s struck me the most about this retelling is what it’s doing in terms of queer representation, and with one of the alien protagonists, Michael, in specific. I won’t argue that it’s the most radical or robust depiction one could imagine, but something about the way they’re writing his bisexuality is affecting me personally and, by extension, shedding light on the way this particular facet of queer representation has been failing us even as popular media is beginning to do a better job of normalizing non-hetero characters and relationships overall.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

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