If you were to chart my references in this blog so far, I think they would skew decidedly male. I began by pointing out that I identify with a lackluster Captain Picard. There have also been shout outs to Ted Striker, TV’s Frank, Speed Racer, my father, (not ranked in order of influence). Then, of course, there is my choice of pen name, and my aspirations toward John McClane.
My inspirations and aspirations are more inclusive than this trend would indicate.
Die Hard is not the only movie I can quote verbatim. I’ve watched Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre more times than I can count. Here’s a few of Jane’s lines that come to my mind quite a bit:
“I’m the same plain kind of bird as all the rest, with my common tale of woe.”
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little,” (fill in the blank here with whatever real or imagined challenge I’m facing).
Then there’s the 1995 movie version of my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion.
“. . .all the privilege I claim for my own sex – and it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it – is that of loving longest when all hope is gone.”
The heroine in Persuasion is named Anne Elliot, so I could have gone that route for a pen name. But I can see how that choice would come with an established laundry list of expectations from Janeites.
Some more contemporary inspirations: Jodie Foster, especially as Clarice Starling. But also Madeleine White (Inside Man), Eleanor Arroway (Contact), Annabelle Bransford (Maverick).
And Charlize Theron. (I’ve often wished I were a blonde who could pull off the skin-tight white look as well as the White Queen from X-Men or Charlize Theron in 2 Days in the Valley.) But Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa is a true aspiration for me. A lights-out fighter, AND she gets to drive a rig. A woman from the Green Place, of Many Mothers, who isn’t playing “like a man.” She is an exceptionally capable woman.
I could have chosen a gender-ambiguous pen name. A.R. McClane. But it feels false. I reject the notion that I have to obscure the fact that I’m female to somehow appeal to a larger audience.
I haven’t even touched my Star Trek inspirations. There’s Seven of Nine. And nearly every morning, I think of Jadzia Dax.
Quick background – Jadzia Dax was a joined Trill, which means she was the host to an ancient creature (symbiont) that resided inside of her. This is a big deal and a real honor for her species. She retained the memories and experiences of the prior hosts. The host just before Jadzia, Curzon, was male. Well, there’s a lot of ways I can go with this – there’s the awkwardness Captain Sisko (the Commander of Deep Space 9) felt when he first met Jadzia, because he had been close friends with Curzon Dax. It was strange for him to see Dax as a young, attractive female.
But here’s the reason I think of her nearly every morning: I remember her saying how it always takes her longer to get ready as a female. It wasn’t a complaint, more a statement of fact.
Maybe that was a long way to go for a small thing, but I have to think of something while I’m moisturizing, blow drying, applying makeup. . . (Thanks again, Memory Alpha, for the Dax refresher.)
My all-time favorite comic book character isn’t even human. He’s a bunny. By all accounts a male rabbit, but still a rabbit. Usagi Yojimbo wanders around a feudal Japan replete with lizards and other anthropomorphic critters, a ronin full of honor. I could totally get behind that kind of life.
Was John McClane a jerk who didn’t support his wife’s career ambitions? Yes. Have I ever pigeonholed someone, written them off because their dreams, their ambitions didn’t gel with mine? Yes. Am I proud of it? No. These are not the McClane aspects I aspire to. And I probably wouldn’t love the movie as much as I do if John and Holly didn’t reconcile in the end.
Maybe I should have outgrown Die Hard by now, but the truth is, I haven’t. And at my age, it’s not likely to happen.
I only saw Becoming Jane once, so it’s not one I can quote verbatim. But I recall a scene where, as a very young woman, Jane Austen entertains her family with her stories. It feels a lot like my writing career right now. A small, supportive audience in relative obscurity. (I’m leaving out the part where Tom Lefroy heckles her.)
Jane Austen died at the age of 41, only seeing limited success in her lifetime. I’m 46 and healthy, so I already have her beat on the mortality thing. Whether my writing can pull off one iota of her resonance remains to be seen. But I can think of a certain New York cop, and a post-apocalyptic Imperator from Down Under, and a kick-ass samurai bunny, who wouldn’t stop trying.