Moana and Feminine Symbolism

As Moana’s grandmother retells: “In the beginning there was only ocean until the mother island emerged with the greatest power ever known–it could create life.” The mother island Te Fili is beautiful and serene – an all-powerful mother-creator. However, it is beset by monsters and Maui, the disruptive trickster, steals her heart amid menacing music and a glaring green light. “For generations this peaceful island has been home to our family, but beyond our reef a great danger is coming. Legend tells of a hero who will journey to find the Maui, and together the demigod Maui, and together they will save us all.”

 

Grandmother: The legends are true. Someone will have to go.
Chief Tui: There are no monsters. No reason to leave the island.

 

She is right and he hopes he can ignore what’s happening – a strategy that will only make the world worse. Likewise the mother’s defeatist talk – “Sometimes who we wish we were, what we wish we could do—it’s just not meant to be” – is a challenge the heroine must rise above.

Hikar, a demon of earth and fire, defeated Maui and he lost the heart in the ocean. Hikar represents the grief and vengeance of the goddess – the stronger side used to defend herself in times of loss and war. As she lashes out in fury, a spreading black cloud fills the world.

Moana, among the toddlers, is the only one responding to the story with bright-eyed curiosity and joy. She is the innocent but she’s already a savior. She begins as a baby, protecting a baby turtle with a protective leaf over it. In doing so, she turns down the pretty pink shell that is a physical reward, like a shiny toy. Impressed by her goodness, the ocean offers her a pathway of pink shells, along with a glorious ocean tour and finally the lost heart. This is a green glowing stone marked with a spiral. Of course, this entire encounter represents a toddler’s make believe more than anything the heroine remembers sincerely.

Moana’s feminine symbols are perfect. In fact, “moana” is the Polynesian word for ocean, emphasizing her destiny as a voyager. The sea is the source of all life and thus a feminine power, with Moana cast as goddess in training. As for the heart, green is the color of immaturity and growth, the fertility and health of the land. “The spiral was connected with the idea of death and rebirth: entering the mysterious earth womb, penetrating to its core, and passing out again by the same route” (Walker 14). It is the image of women’s mysteries, or of journeying to the deep secrets hidden within the self and the world.

Pink conch shells are actually a symbol of the woman’s sex organs, emphasizing that good-girl Moana will not be tempted by sex but only by the heart. Pink suggests femininity and also sensuality, because it’s similar to flesh tones. A shell, especially the cowrie shell, represented the feminine gate of life as far back as 20,000 BC (Campbell the Masks of God: Primitive Mythology 376). The cowrie was used as a feminine symbol to avert the evil eye in India, with a name likely derived from the goddess Kauri. “Cowries were used throughout the Middle East, Egypt, the South Pacific, and the Mediterranean countries as charms for healing, fertility, rebirth, magical power or good luck” (Walker 507-508). Symbolically, the conch is a vessel filled with the water of life and thus a womb symbol. The spiral conch-shell symbolizes infinite space that gradually expands in a clockwise direction. Thus it’s the Human Journey through birth, life, resurrection, and more. The shell’s hard casing protects life, while its pearly luster and aquatic nature connect with puirity. In Buddhism the conch shell’s call is meant to awaken one from ignorance, and signals victory over suffering.  In Chinese Buddhism, the conch shell signifies a prosperous journey, and in Islam it represents  hearing the divine world. All these resonate with Moana.

Moana’s actress, Auli’i Cravalho is the youngest Disney Princess voice in history, being only 14 years old while filming (16 by the time the film came out). One critic describes her as “a fully rounded character with an idealized yet believable body, flaws that she acknowledges and fights, and a resourcefulness that makes her admirable even when she’s failing” (Robinson).

 

Only 14 when she performed Moana, having never done any film acting before, Cravalho is remarkably self-possessed, with a bold singing voice—perfect for the role. In addition, the tunes (by the harmonious trio of Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, Disney regular Mark Mancina and Samoan singer Opetaia Foa’i) are stirring, and the gorgeous visuals make Motunui an inviting place to dwell indeed. Lush, colorful and intricately detailed, the CG imagery is captivating throughout the movie, from the tops of the mountains to the depths of the sea.. (Gingold)

 

Moana has two living, loving parents in an unusual break for Disney. More unusually, she has a real female mentor. Her grandmother proudly describes herself as the “village crazy lady.” Gramma Tala (Rachel House) teaches her to dance by the ocean side that “misbehaves” like them and celebrate her feminine gifts. The ocean is the source of feminine power, bringing endless fertility and connecting the islands. As Moana accepts her role as future chief, she struggles to protect her island as the coconuts die and the fish vanish. Finally, she accepts that as Chosen One she will have to quest to save them all.

 

The queen goddess in mythology was not a warrior but a creator, the earth itself worshipped as the Supreme Mother. Imitating her, the girl becomes a life-giver and protector, a goal which heroines risk everything to achieve. Dorothy saves Toto over and over, for he is her most childlike and sparkling self, her vulnerable side most in need of protection. Lyra of The Golden Compass quests for her best friend Roger; Bella Swan rescues her true love, daughter, and vampire clan; Coraline saves her parents. Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games to save her sister, and Tris risks everything for her own parents and brother. These repeated rescues symbolize building a family and fighting to the death to defend it. By accomplishing her task, the heroine grows from child to mother-protector, ready to take her place as head of the household. (Frankel, Chosen One, Kindle Locations 204-210).

 

The film offers the sensitive cultural imagery of The Lion King or Elena of Avalor along with the impetuous restless teen of The Little Mermaid and the irritable buddy comedy of Frozen. Unlike almost every Disney Princess, she doesn’t sacrifice everything for love of a man but finds a way to be an independent heroine. “Directors Ron Clements and John Musker are veterans of the ’90s Disney Renaissance (they crafted Aladdin, Hercules and The Little Mermaid). But that era’s girl-power animation also feels nimbly rebooted here, via Moana’s Pocahontas-style leadership and Mulan pluck” (Stables).

Unlike other Disney heroines she doesn’t have elaborate costume changes into princess gowns – she’s an adventure heroine who gets the job done and climbs mountains and swims all in the same sturdy outfit. Moana wears an elaborately patterned white skirt and a coral colored top and sash – the pink of femininity blended with the red of the mature woman. “Coral was called the ocean’s tree of life, its red color attributed to life-giving feminine blood” (Walker 507). The white skirt suggests the immature virgin just beginning. As From Girl to Goddess, a book exploring the stages of the heroine’s journey, says of the mythic heroine: “She is a maiden (white) longing to become a grown woman (red). To accomplish this, she faces death and gains powers of the spirit (black)” (Frankel 57). This last comes from the red and black lava goddess.

Moana’s father Tui (Temuera Morrison) intends for her to be “the next great chief” with a red feather crown – an unusual role indeed for the Disney heroine, once seen with almost no one besides Elsa. She’s filled with yearning to strike out and explore what adventure might await beyond the forbidden reef that surrounds and protects them like a wall. Her father insists she has responsibilities at home. However, as he guides her to the highest mountain where his forefathers have each piled a stone in a tower of masculine pride and lineage, it’s clear he intends her to take a man’s path. “No coronation in the latest Disney-princess movie Moana happens. Still, the future of the titular princess is insinuated by contemplative shots of Moana staring at an elaborate headdress, the tribal equivalent of a crown, with both trepidation and anticipation” (Cao).

The heroine of Brave tries to do this for herself, rejecting marriage to shoot her bow. (In fact, these are the only Disney Princesses who aren’t retelling a classic fairytale or finding a love interest.) But Moana feels a feminine yearning for herself – being not a king but a queen. She takes the men’s boat out, trying to emulate her father’s journey beyond the reef (pig companion in tow) to find fish for her people. She tries to solve their problems and protect them as she once aided the turtle, but she realizes she will need a greater act of heroism. And as her father stays home where it’s safe as the world dies, she will need a far different path. “You told me to help our people. This is how I help our people,” she insists.

Her grandmother shows her what she lacks by guiding her to the feminine sacred place of the island – a cave. A cave symbolizes the dark innermost place of the self – all the person has repressed or forgotten. Within, Moana sounds the drum (another feminine symbol, suggesting the power of the earth and the heartbeat) and discovers her people’s forgotten legacy – they sailed all the oceans joyously – men women and children. Together they would settle for a time then travel ever on in a great golden fleet with dolphins playing around them. “To protect our people voyaging was forbidden, and we have forgotten who we are,” her grandmother tells her. Among all the ships, she sees a small one with the heart’s spiral shape – the symbol of a woman’s labyrinthine journey into the spirit. Her perfect vessel awaits.

The grandmother gives her the heart and tells her her ocean encounter was a true one. “I was that there that day. The ocean chose you.” As she adds, “The question you keep asking yourself—who are you meant to be?” She insists a hero must take Maui to the goddess to return the heart.

As her grandmother lies ill and likely dying, she gives Moana her locket to keep the green heart in. The locket is blue mother-of-pearl, perhaps a mussel – color and shell are both feminine symbols of the mature goddess-woman as are the pearls that it’s strung between. “The pearl signifies humility, purity, innocence, and a retiring spirit,” Jones notes in History and Mystery of Precious Stones as he describes the “modest splendor and purity of the jewel” (94, 113). They were said to be a combination of masculine and feminine, male fire and female water.

Blue, the color of sky and sea, represents the life-filled goddess. “Blue has also come to symbolize purity: Christians associate it with the Virgin Mary, and it is the Roman Catholic liturgical color used on her feast days” (Shepherd 344). She is always pictured as wearing a blue gown with red scarf or cloak.

Moana leaves behind Pua the Pig, her childhood pet who suggests the safe family life (and perhaps a willingness to be lied to as she assures him she’s not eating pork). Instead, she takes along Hei-Hei the rather insane rooster, as she insists, “Sometimes our strengths lie beneath the surface. Far beneath.” People have hidden talents buried deep within, much as she does. “Every winged being is a symbol of spiritualization,” as the mind reaches like the bird for the heights (Cirlot 26). Though Hei-Hei is mad and can’t actually fly (or swim), he suggests breaking boundaries and finding freedom. At the climax, she drops the spiral stone and he saves it for her, contributing a moment of aid at just the right time. As she sails, her grandmother as manta ray sails in her wake like a beautiful glowing butterfly, symbol of the soul.

As her grandmother insisted, Moana finds Maui at last (voiced by Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson), only to discover he’s completely full of himself. “Do you who Maui is? The greatest demigod that ever lived, who stopped the sun, who pulled up islands out of the sea, and battled monsters. Do you know why I know all this? That’s because, I am Maui!” Dressed in green leaves with luxuriant black hair and black tattoos, he’s covered in the fertility symbols of the wise, mature creation force – one whom Moana must learn from. His small Maui tattoo, over his heart, appears to be the voice of his conscience or his shadow, expressing the thoughts and impulses he keeps bottled up. His constantly changing tattoos emphasize his shapeshifter powers. His favorite form, that of a hawk, is a quintessentially masculine image. The hawk suggests swiftness and keen sight with great skill at the hunt – it’s a symbol of striving for great heights.

 

“In another Disney Princess first, theirs is an odd-couple adventure rather than a love story, more True Grit than true romance” (Stables). As the powerful ancient god, he’s skeptical of the “self-taught” heroine.

 

Moana: The ocean sent me.
Maui: You’re what, 8? Can’t sail? Perfect choice.
Moana: It chose me.

 

He also acknowledges the film tradition they both come from, noting snarkily, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.”

“He gives the movie a jolt of vainglorious energy that both contrasts with and complements Moana’s earnestness” (Gingold). While he sings about his greatness, he shuts her in a cave and takes her boat. She climbs out of the cave using her grit and tells him firmly, “I am Moana of Motusi. You will board my boat and restore the heart to Te Fili.” Maui self-centeredly retorts that he stole the heart as a gift for mankind and they should be grateful. It takes his journey with Moana for him to realize he was wrong to take the goddess’s power and that his success shouldn’t come from another’s possessions.

When he first arrives, the heart seems to be one more trophy from one more adventure, like his celebratory tattoos. Around his neck are more toothy trophies and he has a crowd of fans…at least as tattoos. He signs Moana’s paddle, her chosen tool, with his fishhook symbol and the heart that has become hers, suggesting her journey from the sea to the goddess’s island. A paddle, like a wand or a hand, suggests impacting her world and allowing her to travel.

Maui’s chosen weapon is a giant swordlike fishhook – without it he feels completely impotent and can’t exercise any of his superpowers. “Without my hook, I am nothing,” he insists. By contrast, Moana’s subtle, all-pervasive ocean magic (or rather the ocean as her helper) keeps popping her back onto the ship, letting her outmaneuver even the ancient god of sailing. She taunts him with the heart, adding, “Are you afraid of it?” in fact, he is, realizing the awesome creation force of the goddess – he can steal it, but not understand or truly own it.

She learns to persuade him, leaning on his need for adoration to convince him to quest with her:

 

Moana: Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and the sea, let’s save the world.
Maui: I’m not going on a mission with some kid.
Moana: You’d be a hero. That’s what you’re all about, right?
[Maui imagines crowds chanting his name and hears the chant]
Moana: Maui, Maui, Maui.
[we see that it’s Moana quietly chanting his name]
Moana: You’re so amazing.

 

When she realizes he’s a far better sailor than she is, she persuades him to teach her (of course, when she’s unsuccessful, the ocean intervenes and even hits him in the rear end with a sleeping dart). She high-fives the ocean for its help. Meanwhile, Maui teaches her to be more than a princess—to be a Wayfinder with the ancient powers of her people.

 

She doesn’t even need a love interest to define her story. Maui, a tattooed trickster with all Johnson’s gleaming-toothed charm, is compelling, but he’s also ageless and inhuman, so it’s a relief when he doesn’t start giving his traveling companion the hey-baby eye. Moana is all about familiar patterns, refined to their ultimate forms, and presented with a satisfying energy and power. But Musker and Clements also have the sense to pick and choose which tropes make sense for their story. As perfectly as these old beats work in this new context, Moana functions as well as it does because the story team ultimately focused on finding everything about Disney stories that worked in 2016, and improving everything that didn’t. (Robinson)

 

She insists she’s the chosen one and “the ocean chose me for a reason.” Maui debates that the ocean is flighty and unrealistic – common criticism aimed at women. As with the father-grandmother clash, Maui’s patriarchal attitude versus the ocean’s small interventions and gentle pushes soon fail. “I have no idea why the ocean chose me. You’re right. But my island is dying and it’s just me and you,” she insists. She also discovers Maui’s famous generosity for mankind hides a deep insecurity that gives him much more depth:  He was abandoned by his human parents so he seeks humanity’s love.

 

Moana: You did everything for them so they’d love you.
Maui: It was never enough.

 

Moana insists: “The gods aren’t the ones who make you Maui, you are,” but it takes him some time to learn this lesson.

To regain his hook they journey to a towering stone island. There, Maui employs his superbreath then chants and dances on a stone face which opens and swallows them.

 

Moana: We’re going to the realm of monsters.
Maui: Don’t worry, it’s  a lot further down than it looks.
[Maui jumps in and screams with glee, Moana keeps looking down the opening]
Maui: I am still falling!

 

They land in a psychedelic realm of monsters where Moana knows nothing. This is a typical journey for the heroine, dragging her to the tall patriarchal tower where she has no power.

 

In many fairytales from Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” to “The Six Swans,” the heroine’s most dire struggle takes place high in the prince’s castle, far from the mysterious protection of the forest or ocean. This, like the wicked witch’s castle or the Death Star, is the world of order and tyranny, where the young heroine is truly helpless. Other heroines descend to the underworld: Lucy and Susan witness the White Witch murdering Aslan deep in the forest, while Lyra Belacqua crosses into the land of the dead. Katniss falls unconscious at the climax of all three of her own books. (Frankel, Chosen One, Kindle Locations 336-340).

 

Enemies include the greedy glittery giant crab Tamatoa and the violent but semi-inept coconut people, the Kakamora. The first is an enormous god with an enormous treasure pile; the latter construct massive ships. Both thus are symbols of patriarchy. Moana defeats both with agility and cleverness.

 

With an eco-conscious story favouring redemption over outright villainy, there’s just a bit less tugging on your heartstrings. As Disney baddies go, Jermaine Clement’s giant treasure-crazed crab Tamatoa is a ball of fun (‘Shiny’, his Bowie-ish disco celebration of all things bling, is a highlight). But he’s no Ursula the Sea Witch. (Stables)

 

While the coconuts and fish are dying because of a spreading evil and heartlessness, it resembles an oil slick. Thus a subtle environmental image appears as well.

The pair fight the lava god in the climactic battle with Moana providing the support for Maui’s heroic hawk flight. However, his brute force approach fails and his fishhook is damaged. At once, he decides that another blow would destroy all his power and he will not try again. When he leaves her, Moana’s courage and certainty vanish. She tells the ocean to choose someone else and returns the totem. As she despairs, her grandmother comes to her in a beautiful blue glowing manta ray and offers to guide her home. However, as her grandmother adds, “Scars can heal and reveal just where you are.” At this moment of comfort, Moana reconsiders. She reclaims the heart and her mantra changes to one of solo power: “I am Moana of Motusi. Aboard my boat, I will restore the heart to Te Fili.”

Though Maui’s frightened to fight and risk destroying his hook, though he does the right thing in the end. “Moana, I got your back! It’s Maui time!” he announces and flies into the crucial fight. “Hook, no hook, I’m Maui,” he concludes, basing his heroism on more than possessions.

“What resonates strongest as the story concludes, however, is its heart—as embodied by its title character, who forges her own path among both her people and her Disney sisterhood” (Gingold). Moana solves the riddle when she sees the ancient spiral on the lava goddess’s chest. “Let her come to me,” she tells the ocean. She faces this deadly force and responds with sympathy and love, comforting her and returning her heart to the spiral’s center. “They have stolen the heart from inside you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.” Her heart restored, the goddess turns green and loving once again.

The goddess sends her home in a pink and yellow flower covered boat. These are a reward, celebrating her feminine power as her island’s new heroine.

 

The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess, back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may rebound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet, or the ten thousand worlds.4 Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces, 193.

 

Back home, Moana lays a pink conch on the stone pillar, acknowledging the tradition but making her own feminine mark. She then takes her people back to the ocean where she teaches both her prents navigation. In a pink feather dress, she’s achieved the next stage as, perhaps not a chief, but an explorer, leader, and teacher.

 

Unlike Queen Elsa, Moana does not undergo a coronation. She does become a wayfinder for her people to teach them to sail toward the horizon. But even without seeing Moana reach the status of chieftain, the audience understands that she heads a mile closer to her ascension. She does not wear the traditional headdress introduced in the opening, but she does wear a flower wreath, her own crown, suggesting that she both cherishes and transcends her traditions.

Moana reminds us that the Disney heroines—some of royal birth, ordinary bookworms, maidens—should be allowed to outgrow the title of Princess and the limitations instilled upon them. (Cao)

 

 

 

 

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Cao, Caroline. “Moana Won’t Stay A Princess Forever.” BirthMoviesDeath, Nov. 30, 2016 http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2016/11/30/moana-wont-stay-a-princess-forever

Cirlot, J.E. A Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Routledge, 1971.

Frankel, Valerie Estelle. From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2010.

Gubgold, Michael. “Movie Review: MOANA Joins The Pantheon of Great Disney Heroines.” BirthMoviesDeath, Nov. 18, 2016 http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2016/11/18/movie-review-moana-joins-the-pantheon-of-great-disney-heroines

Jones, William History and Mystery of Precious Stones. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1880.

Robinson, Tasha. “Moana review: after 80 years of experiments, Disney has made the perfect Disney movie” The Verge, 26 Nov. 2016. http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/26/13749060/moana-film-review-walt-disney-animation-dwayne-johnson-diversity

Shepherd, Rowena and Rupert. 1000 Symbols. New York: The Ivy Press, 2002.

Stables, Kate. MOANA REVIEW: “WAVE-TAMING MOANA GETS a TRUE HERO’S JOURNEY IN THIS SOUTH SEAS STUNNER” 28 Nov. 2016. http://www.gamesradar.com/moana-review/

Thomas, William and Kate Pavitt. The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems. London: William Rider & Son, Ltd., 1922. The Sacred Texts Archive. http://www.sacred-texts.com/sym/bot.

Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988.

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Call for Papers: SELF PROMO STORIES

Call for Papers: SELF PROMO STORIES

Want to share your cleverest self-promotion gimmick? Was it your bookcover wrapped around candy? A costumed hero passing out fliers? Did you have success with a book fair? Or BookBub, Twitter, or Facebook? This anthology collects AUTHOR’S TRUE STORIES OF HOW THEY PROMOTE THEMSELVES. I’m thinking everyone writes one story, someone cute and memorable and original, something that ideally worked well. First person anecdote. You may use technical details from websites and social media and goodreads and so on if you like, but consider just saying “I went to this site and followed the directions.” This isn’t a technical book — it’s a clever ideas book. (Likewise, I’ll do a glossary at the back in case anyone doesn’t know what KDP free days or hashtags are. No need to explain the basic terminology).The audience is absolutely authors getting their start and looking for neat self-promo ideas. Ideally, this would be something other writers could replicate. If your experience was dependent on your particular genre or book subject, that’s still fine – there are many ways to adapt it. Authors writing about fiction/nonfiction/poetry/any genre/self pub/traditional pub/ebooks/audio books are welcome. Basically, tell me about your booth decorations, your free coloring books, your unusual chocolates, your custom sign, your party, your book fair event, your giveaway…whatever you did that was really neat.

I encourage you to describe your book IN A WAY THAT FITS YOUR STORY in order to slip in a sly promo, though everyone also gets a bio. See my example stories below to see how I got some description of my book in.

I’d like to get LOTS of these stories, say 50, so do pass on the information to other writers. 500-1500 words (not hard numbers, but I’m looking for short experiences after all). Since this is meant to be educational and also work as advertising, I plan to publish as free ebook only on Smashwords. Thus there will be no cash involved, but you and anyone you like may download infinite copies. The hope is that authors will not only benefit from your story but also be intrigued enough to track down your book or website. You’re welcome to give people a reason to go to your site – perhaps to see your sample press kit or social media links. And with 50 of us spreading the word and requesting it for libraries and so on, this anthology really might make an impression on the author community.

To submit, please send your complete story as well as a 100-150 word third person bio. I prefer that you paste it all in the body of the email. Email to Valerie @ calithwain.com, subject: SELF PROMO ANTHOLOGY. You may send 0-3 photos of yourself and your bookcovers (or you doing your self-promo) if you like. High quality jpgs preferred, though for the web, 72 dpi or so still works.  Deadline of Nov 14, 2016.

Two sample stories:

The Power of Silly Hats (600 words)

My Harry Potter parody has flying pigs in it.

Yep, that’s just the way it worked out. So when I was hat shopping online and the shop’s silly hat section had a flying pig hat, I shrugged and forked over the $9. It was my first book, published as self-publishing was gaining popularity and Harry Potter was losing it, so it felt like a good purchase. I could put it on my seller’s table with the sorting hat, sparkly cape tablecloth and other goodies.

At the big Harry Potter conventions that followed, everyone had a costume and most, a specific persona – someone would be Lord Voldemort or Tonks for all five days. On a whim, at the 2008 Harry Potter con in Dallas, I donned the hat. When people, expectedly enough, asked how the flying pig connected to Harry Potter, I handed them a bookmark (with my first and now second Potter parody on it as well as many flying pigs) and explained that they were in my own book — Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, in which flying pigs deliver the mail. Please take a bookmark, it’s on sale in the dealer’s room or Amazon.

To my delight, as I walked along, someone else stopped to ask me why the pig…but this was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Obviously, I gave my standard answer and followed with “And I’d love to tell you about the books…” They indeed wrote an article about me which I linked to on my website and quoted a short endorsement from. The pig had earned its $9 sales price.

By the 2010 con, the attendees greeted me delightedly as “flying pig hat girl”…even though I wasn’t wearing it at the time. Shrugging and mentally surrendering to the inevitable, I assumed the hat once more. It seemed I had my own con persona…at least it was tied to the books

At the same hat shop, I purchased “giant witch hat” — it’s five feet tall and now has a red blinky on top, thanks to my Silicon Valley dad. When I want attention, I wear it (and a witchy dress, but this part isn’t terribly memorable) and walk around more conventions, often tangling with my eternal nemesis, the doorway. When people say “nice hat” or point and laugh, I hand them a bookmark, sometimes without a word. Keeping them handy in a pouch or sticking out of my purse obviously matters, as I need them on the spot.

Flash forward several years to the San Mateo County Fair Author’s Day. By then I was writing academic nonfiction as well, but I wore my flying pig for the attention. In a room of authors, I wanted to stand out. Plus, I thought the parodies might be a good draw. The gracious lady in charge asked who wrote nonfiction and I raised my hand. Laughing that someone with a flying pig on her head did serious writing, she held out the mike and asked for my story. Seemed the hat still had its magic…

What’s the takeaway? At book sales all the authors have candy and bookmarks. At conventions, everyone has neat costumes. But if you can find the gag that’s just odd enough to make people ask questions, or the pun that needs explaining, or even just the ridiculous touch that makes everyone laugh, that’s far superior to the handcrafted costume that took weeks to make completely canon. Those are nice, but not as memorable.

I have also been Princess Leia with bagels over my ears. One guy I met at a con that way recalled me four years later. What’s a Jewish Alderanian Princess to do, but go with it…

 

 My KDP Experience (900 words)

As I write this, I just earned myself 4,700 downloads during my KDP free days (on a book with only one review). How did I manage it? Lots of work.

First I scheduled the promo of my Doctor-Who related book (Doctor Who: The What, Where, and How) to release a week before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (earlier would have been better and gotten me some reviews, but I just didn’t have the time). I scheduled a five-day giveaway beginning the day before the anniversary release and ending at the end of that weekend (five days at once allows more people to see all of your posts, of course).

Starting a few days before, I joined Doctor Who fan groups on Google Plus and Facebook, along with science fiction groups and author self-promo groups. I befriended top Doctor Who posters on Twitter, following them and sending them a message which many reposted. I began posting my messages on Goodreads (where they’d linger in their categories for a few days).

Goodreads and Facebook message:

Free Dr Who Guide Today!

Doctor Who: The What Where and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam To celebrate the 50th anniversary release this week, the book is FREE on Kindle TODAY-Monday. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

With optional book paragraph to follow. But a pitch where you can hook them in one sentence is best. Pasting the link ensured a picture would go up too.

Tumblr and Google Plus message: Same as above but with hashtagged keywords too.

Twitter message: Variations on the following:

Doctor Who: The What Where and How # free Nov 21-25 # freekindle http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Whereebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ # ebook # freeebook # DoctorWho # DoctorWho50th #movies

I didn’t like the look of tiny URLs, but that would’ve given me a few more characters. Varying the hashtags helps to reach more people. Don’t forget hashtags can be part of the information. #freekindle means the same as “free on kindle.”

Starting early the morning of my free promo, I went nuts. Basically, I posted my message on all the applicable Facebook pages. My tweets went to Facebook, and I individually tweeted book promo people and Doctor Who people, many of whom were kind enough to retweet (even without the RT request I likely should have included). Granted, Facebook will bar you if you look like you’re spamming (too many posts or posts on sites that don’t encourage it, I would think). On all the pages, I check what other people were doing. If the rules on the upper right said no self-promotion, I moved on. I never posted more than once a day on a site, or if my previous post was still visible. (There are so many sites to cover, after all). Obviously, a group or fan page with thousands of watchers is better than one with just a few. In a day I could go some Google Plus groups, some Facebook groups, some Goodreads groups, some tweets, some forum posts. Better than overwhelming the system.

For Doctor Who weekend, thousands of fans were posting with Doctor Who hashtages, and other similar hashtags, which I noted and copied. They were also publishing THOUGHTS on the anniversary special and original content, from reviews and blog posts to memes. I wrote several insightful blog posts, pasting my book link at the end with a note on where they could find similar material. Then I alternated posting my book ads with announcements about my blog.

#DayoftheDoctor In-Joke References List http://wp.me/p10chw-5y review of #dayofthedoctor and easteregg list of cool stuff at https://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com #DoctorWho50thAnniversary #DoctorWho50th #DoctorWho

Everyone was posting great websites and reviews. So I commented on these in their comments section on the bottom, generally including “I wrote a similar review available at…” I retweeted other people’s clever posts and announcements—I had many new Doctor-Who related Twitter followers, after all. Not all of my comments had my ad— only where applicable. But my picture was my book cover after all…

I put the prettiest pictures on Pinterest, which each were also posted to Twitter. Many new followers were repining and admiring the great pics in my Doctor Who Pinterest Gallery. My own book covers were there as well, with a comment on the website for purchase.

I attended several live Doctor Who parties (which I had planned to write reviews of for more content). I asked many friends to let THEIR friends know about my free guide, and I messaged them a copy of my ad when I got home. Many retweeted it, specifically tagging their friends who were Doctor Who lovers.

I did all this for British sites as well as American. If the page seemed British (co.uk) I used the British Amazon link.

Basically, I sent out messages for five days straight, on every place I could think of, particularly those where my potential readers hang out. It worked.

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Tools of the New Ancient One: Symbols and Easter Eggs in Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange began with a Wonder Woman trailer (among others) emphasizing how long Marvel is making us wait for a superheroine movie. At the same time, The Ancient One, Strange’s mentor, does a decent job bringing us this archetype; many of the symbolic tools she passes to her protégé are likewise strikingly feminine.
She begins the film in complete control (much like Wonder Woman in all we’ve seen of her). With spinning circles of golden light that she wields as blades, she decimates the foes led by Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius. Further, she has complete control of the world around her, bending and warping reality to entrap them. Finally, she ends the fight by summoning a golden wheel of spinning fire and walking through her portal without an extra breath spent.

Magic leaves sparkler trails when the characters gesture their way through spells, forming shields or whiplike weapons or cool patterns just for the showy hell of it. It makes the air crackle like a sheet of ice when they travel to the mirror dimension, which is like our dimension, only less easily damaged in fight scenes. Magic warps reality itself in Doctor Strange, making buildings fold in on themselves and streets bend and curve in impossible directions, twisting and turning like the world is a Rubik’s Cube in the hands of an impatient child. It allows rooms to stretch out like elastic, then snap back into shape. (Willmore).

Saffron robes suggest enlightenment and, with the hood drawn up, mystery. She’s cool, in a way Doctor Strange longs to become.Meanwhile s bald woman is surprising, suggesting an androgynous hybrid.

“Look, she’s a chameleon in everything she does,” says Feige of Swinton, whose credits include Snowpiercer, Trainwreck, and 1992’s Orlando, in which her character transformed from male to female. “She has this amazing [ability to] harness of this androgynous sense. So, we use the term ‘her’ and ‘she’ in the film but, other than that, it’s very androgynous. Because it doesn’t matter.” (Collis)

The androgene, in myth, is a magical person, with skills and wisdom of both genders. Thus She will teach Doctor Strange how to use his hidden feminine side, all while battling male foes on the battlefield. When EW asked Swinton whether she is playing a man or a woman, the actress responded, that “I wouldn’t know how to answer that one. I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder” (Collis).

Her perfect poise, supported with dramatic music, then switches to more popular tunes as Strange appears in his operating room. This dramatic juxtaposition emphasizes their contrast: She has devoted her life to serving the world, but he is still very much part of it, seeking fame and material success. When he’s crippled, Pangborn sends him to Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, a place of “gurus and sacred women” where he can learn magic.

Casting a forty-year-old white woman as “The Ancient One” of Kathmandu subverts all expectations. When Strange meets her, she’s quietly serving tea, while he logically assumes the seated elderly Asian man is the ancient one. She corrects him with a self-aware smirk. Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has told Strange at the gate, “Stephen Strange, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything that you think you know.” However, Strange is still surprised over and over.
Of course, casting Tilda Swinton (however excellent a job she does) is a problematic moment of whitewashing.

It is absolutely unsurprising that Swinton is terrific in the role — embodying ageless beings is one of her many strong suits, from her gender-switching, century-spanning turn in Orlando to her patchouli-scented vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive. But not even the rewarding sight of a mischievous, hairless Swinton informing the film’s self-centered protagonist, “It’s not about you,” can obscure the point that Doctor Strange has missed. The film doesn’t actually get away from the cliché of a white guy soaking up Eastern wisdom and turning out to be a more gifted practitioner than the people it originated from. It just scoops out and replaces the character who’d traditionally be the source of all that wisdom, rather than figure out a way to improve and deepen him. In doing so, Doctor Strange ends up treating Asianness like it’s a lifestyle choice rather than having anything to do with culture or race. (Willmore)

Destroying the themes of the “Tibetan-mystic-hidden in-the-mountains,” stereotype by subverting age, costume, and gender rather than race would make a much more progressive statement. Likewise, Wong, while an amusing character who now has a much less subservient personality, was mostly left out of advertising and trailers. This when Daredevil fights hordes of faceless ninjas and Iron Fist also has disturbing racial questions makes the MCU seem more than a little backwards.
In fact, the entire movie has cultural stereotyping throughout: “It calls upon a classic kind of Orientalism, blurring culture to revel in a vague sense of Asian exoticism without bothering with specifics, and, more pressingly, without the people,” Allison Willmore explains. As she adds:

The worst of those half-steps is also a matter of visuals. Kamar-Taj is a mishmash of Asiana — it’s in Nepal, but its residents like clothing that’s Japanese-inspired, especially in the combination of robes and the obi-like sash favored by the villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former Ancient One pupil gone wrong. Strange, upon arriving, is shown a book in which an MRI chart is placed alongside a chakra and acupuncture one. The latticework panels that line the walls look like chinoiserie, while the courtyard seems modeled after a Buddhist temple. The saffron garb the Ancient One is first spotted in seems to recall those of a Buddhist monk as well, though it’s not religion she teaches, per se — more a new way of looking at the universe. Christine, when she re-encounters Strange, muses that it sounds like he’s joined a cult, and Kamar-Taj does, at times, feel like a particularly demanding meditation retreat.

Of course, the institute continues to subvert expectations: its students come from many races, especially the Black character Mordo, who’s generally front and center. Later, Mordo hands Strange a card with Shamballa written on it, but denies Strange’s guess that it’s a mantra he should meditate to, saying, “It’s the wi-fi password. We’re not savages.” Wong, who actually has a quirky sense of humor, listens to Beyoncé.
Nonetheless, Strange is instantly skeptical of the Ancient One’s teachings. She shows him a chakra chart beside an acupuncture chart and an MRI, emphasizing that each artist has part of the puzzle – spiritual knowledge is as valid as science. Of course, Western medicine is notoriously skeptical of acupuncture and Strange complains that he’s seen the Chakra drawings in gift shops (a valid complaint, as the deep spiritual practice has gone mainstream). He insists, “I don’t believe in fairytales about chakras or energy or the power of belief.”
If these stories are all about a chosen one who can save the world, the Ancient One is the chooser. She eyes a skeptical Strange. “You wonder what I see in your future? Possibility.” When he dares to shove her in anger, she then pushes his astral form out from his body.  Strange is still skeptical, demanding, “Did you put mushrooms in my tea? Was my tea drugged?” However, she responds calmly that it’s “Just tea. With honey.” She needn’t use magician’s props because she’s already magic incarnate. As she explains, she had to show him a deeper reality. “You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?” She also opens his third eye, through only her touch. After she pushed him through a tangle of alternate dimensions, overwhelming in their majesty and horror, he’s convinced. “Magic sends the movie’s title character, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), spinning through the cosmos, through black-light multiverse dimensions, and through the pupil of his own giant eyeball. The look is a little bit The Matrix, a little bit Inception, a little bit Dark City, and all acid trip” (Willmore). First he’s hurled into space, overlooking the planets, with a gently flapping butterfly. These delicate creatures symbolized the soul, but Strange cannot grasp it before he tumbles away. There’s a dark world of purple, a magical one that’s blue with psychedelic colors. Glowing blue crystals suggest the heavenly serenity he lacks but that awaits him.
Through the trip, she maintains complete control, hauling his body back for a moment to examine it, then throwing him back into the cosmos. She narrates, like the overarching form of god – a mother who can pick up and put down that baby as she pleases. At last, he returns, stunned. She smiles, “Have you seen that at a gift shop?”
He falls at her feet, humbled and gasping. “Teach me.”
She considers for a moment. “No.”
Her people throw him out, and he must humble himself at her door, accept that he knows nothing and show his determination before he’s finally welcomed. In a vivid symbol, his watch is as shattered as he is. Since it’s from Christine, it symbolizes her love, which Strange holds onto even though it’s destroyed. Watches symbolize man’s preoccupation with time – they are artificial and Strange keeps his all locked in a drawer, suggesting a control over these trophies. When he approaches Kamar-Taj, it’s shattered, emphasizing that he will have to throw away such physical controls.
Mordo describes the Ancient One as unpredictable and “merciless yet kind” – a host of contradictions indicating her multifaceted nature. The mentor understands the workings of the universe in a way the untried hero does not. In many ways, becoming a spiritual tutor is more of a women’s role, and especially appropriate for the mature man. The elderly Dumbledore, Gandalf, or Obi-Wan teaches the young hero to use his powers but also shows him how to grow up. Strange is already grown, and all his training has focused on the physical world of prestige and control. He knows science and has built a reputation based in his accomplishments. Thus the spiritual woman can introduce him to his untapped mystical, self-effacing side.
When their lessons begin, she opens a classic protective circle with the nine sephirot inside. Etz Chiym, the Tree of Life, is the symbol at the heart of the Kabbalah. It encapsulates creation, existence and the return to the Divine in ten spheres called sephirot and the twenty-two paths through which they interrelate. The sephirot are the 10 attributes/emanations in Kabbalah, through which Ein Sof (The Infinite) reveals himself:
Keter, the Divine Crown
Hokhmah, Wisdom
Binah, Understanding
Hesed, Mercy
Din, Justice
Tif’eret, Beauty
Nezah, Eternity
Hod, Glory
Yesod, Foundation
Shekhinah, God’s Presence in the World

They emphasize a path to enlightenment through selflessness and awareness of the universe – traits Strange most needs to acquire. The shape is also connected to the World Symbol – the entire world order (consisting of spheres) held together by “a mysterious, unseen central force that the Hindus called Maya – the Goddess who created the material universe” (Walker 63). The World Tree of Thor’s Norse mythology has a similar image.
The most basic magic is the portal, a fiery wheel conjured with a double-circled finger ring. Circles are particularly feminine symbols, suggesting the lifecycle. “The universe begins with roundness; so say the myths,” Walker says. “The great circle, the cosmic egg, the bubble, the spiral, the moon, the zero, the wheel of time, the infinite womb; such are the symbols that try to express a human sense of the wholeness of things” (2). Gauntlets, wristbands (seen later) and rings accentuate the acts of the hands – symbol of active power. Thus the physical power is augmented with the spiritual, something that confuses Strange, who’s certain his shaking hands are stopping him from achieving the latter.
Hands are a masculine symbol, indicating the worker and emphasizing his effect on his environment. Strange has loss the full use of this physical tool and thus must replace it with mental and spiritual ones. When the Ancient One has Master Hamir show that he can do magic with one hand missing, she teaches that physical power is not the only form of strength. She thus teaches him to surrender his will rather than trying to impose it on the world. She also abandons him on Mount Everest, a place higher and physically mightier than he is, to emphasize he will not win with physical gifts.
When Mordo spars with Strange, he orders him to defend himself, and Strange creates his first weapon – a glowing cord stretched between his hands. In ancient myth, cords bound the earth to the heavens and people’s minds to their reason. Ropes thus emphasize interconnection and bonds between body and spirit. The Fates spun a lifeline for each person, and the Egyptian goddess Hathor bound sinners in glowing ribbons. They can also represent the umbilical cord, connecting each person with the divine mother. In Greece, “Ariadne’s thread leading Theseus through the Labyrinth (into the darkness and out again) represented the rebirth journey” (Walker 130). Strange is operating under the Divine Mother’s guidance and also trying to connect with the people around him, leading himself at last in a journey of rebirth.
The Ancient One also offers Strange the Mirror Dimension, where he can train without affecting the physical world. Once again this is a feminine symbol of her power and spirituality, one Doctor Strange uses under her guidance:

Rather than a sign of vanity, this mirror was a divine soul-catcher, or passage to the spirit world, as it was considered universally. Amaterasu’s mirror is her shotai, her god-body. When she bestows it on her grandson, earliest emperor of Japan, she says, “My child, when thou lookest upon this mirror,
let it be as if thou wert looking on me. Let it be with thee on thy couch and in thy hall, and let it be to thee a holy mirror.” Today it is the most sacred image of her at her shrine at Ise.16 Celtic women were buried with their mirrors, as a gateway to the afterlife, and Buddhist and Christian teachings describe
a future in which we can see beyond the shallow reflection of our current existence. Snow White’s stepmother seeks her mirror’s advice as from an oracle, and some magicians trap their victims as “slaves of the mirror” forever. In Egypt, the word for life and mirror is the same (ankh). One reflects the other. In fact, the ankh symbol is an image of the goddess, round head over outstretched arms and upright body. It became known in Egypt as a symbol of sexual union, feminine circle and male cross united. Thus it came to represent immortality, worn by the gods to show their eternal life. (Frankel 47-48)

Mordo tells Doctor Strange that nothing more is known about her “except that she’s Celtic” and really, really old.
While Strange is most closely associated with the Book of Vishanti, the plot begins when the villains steal an incantation taken from the Book of Cagliostro, a magical text penned in the late 18th century that gathers mystical knowledge from countless sources. Books obviously symbolize the intellect and all the wisdom Strange must aquire, so he reads as many as he can. Nonetheless, Strange finds the juxtapositions of science and the occult frustrating:

Dr. Stephen Strange: [on magic] This doesn’t make any sense.
The Ancient One: Not everything does. Not everything has to.

The Ancient One teaches him that he must start over – study and practice his skills as he did through all the years of medical school, but this time take a different path. Instantly, Strange starts cheating the system, learning how to use the mystic Eye of Agamotto to tamper with time. His teachers are aghast, telling him he isn’t just warping time but breaking it and could be stuck in a time loop forever.
The eye as a protective charm is seen most as the Middle Eastern Hamsa/Hand of Fatima or witches’ Evil Eye. Barbara Walker describes the eye as the judging stare of the crone, or the essential eye contact between mother and baby – a formative image that lingers with the child long into adulthood. “So many ancient traditions identify the birth-giving goddess with the All-Seeing Eye that there might well be an archetypal connection” (308). The Hamsa (a protective hand with a blue eye in the center) uses this magic to ward off evil forces. Thus Strange’s long-prized amulet connects him with the mystical feminine side of reality. Its green light suggests the mystic and arcane. The design remains similar to that in the comics, albeit with the addition of the Seal of the Vishanti over the top of the eye. Steve Ditko in fact drew inspiration from the real world charm The All Seeing Eye of the Buddha, which protected its wearer against evil.
When there’s an attack, he stumbles through a portal into the New York Sanctum, wearing the Eye of Agamotto. He fights the invaders with his cord, but they transform the building around him, suggesting a command over reality itself. He summons light wheels like those of his teachers’ but they’re clumsy. He hasn’t yet mastered the magic. Only when he fights them using the world as a tool – switching the portal to different locations – does he succeed. He fights them with a kind of torch with a bowllike cauldron on the end. Kaecilius smirks. “You don’t know how to use that, do you?” Of course, the is another feminine symbol, combining the bowl of the womb with the flame of enlightenment — Strange can’t yet master either. Kaecilius smashes him into a display case, where the Cloak of Levitation escapes and protects him.
A cloak suggests disguise and concealment – feminine attributes in folklore. Red is often the color of the mature woman, the mother, brimming with life energy, while his tunic, blue as the sky, suggests spiritual enlightenment. In classic art, the Virgin Mary wears a blue cloak and red robe – the reversal of Doctor Strange. The Cloak of Levitation shields Strange from blows and drags him to the weapons room where it pulls him away from swords and spears of physical, masculine battle, in favor of a more defensive straightjacket.
With Kaecilius entrapped, the men talk and Strange discovers Kaecilius has an agenda much like his own – to end mankind’s suffering and death. When he calls life “little sparks,” Strange must accept that they think the same way. Nonetheless, he defies Kaecilius, insisting, “The Sorcerer Supreme defends existence.” When his enemies wound him, he portals back to Christine and gets her help in healing him as he fights on the astral plane. Nonetheless, he blends his old world and new, using the defibrillator to power his astral self.
At last the cavalry comes and Strange flings himself, Mordo, and the enemies into the mirror world. To his shock, however, they are stronger there. The heroes are losing, tossed around a shifting reality, until, suddenly, the Ancient One joins the fight. Instantly, she takes control, creating a swirling stable patterned floor underneath them. Her symbol is reminiscent of the Celtic triquetra, three circular arcs enclosed by a circle, reflecting a protective Pagan or Christian trinity. Her glowing circle weapons become fans, a feminine image of defense and concealment. At once, Mordo realizes she wields the power of darkness as well as light. However, Strange realizes that everyone compromises, that her knowledge of darkness has made her more equipped to fight. This lesson appears in stories of Hulk and Daredevil, but Mordo rejects it. Meanwhile, the Ancient One fights valiantly, but is defeated.
Strange brings her to the hospital, and finally humbles himself to ask Doctor West for help – he’s learning to let go. When he sees the Ancient One’s astral form float away as his team operates, he follows. Under a sky full of stars and snowflakes, with flashes of lightning, they talk. Winter signifies age and death – an ending to things. Lightning is conflict, magic, emotion – all the things Strange stands poised to embrace. Stars suggest the infinite. There, the Ancient One tells Strange he must choose between medicine and magic. She also must tell him, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all…It’s not about you.”
He takes this lesson to heart for the final conflict. He uses the Eye to save the innocents around the Taiwan Institute, then fashions himself, not a weapon but a simple protective device. His green armbands of looped time break all the rules, much as his teacher did. Like her methods, they’re effective. They suggest the arcane power of magic combined with the simple human magic of his long-shattered watch, now restored to a stronger, if different form – like himself.
Using his own cleverness and instance on breaking rules, he flies off to confront the smoky-headed Dormammu. The image for this head is actually Cumberbatch’s, emphasizing that he’s the tiny voice of reason and altruism within, battling his monstrous, selfish greed. The world around them is purple with bruise-colored spheres like a wound…or like dark magic. This is the enemy’s stronghold, where the hero has no power. Thus Dormammu kills him over and over. Sometimes the hero’s task is to endure, weaponless, to sacrifice all he has to save innocents. This Strange does, dying over and over to prolong life on earth, saying only “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain,” until he wears down the villain with his passive resistance. On a few occasions, he defends himself with golden shields, suggesting a new mastery, but each time, he dies. He’s at last learned to surrender his will, saying “I could lose again and again and again forever.” At this, Dormammu finally gives in.
Returning to earth, Strange does not kill Kaecilius and his goons, but gives them what they always wanted — eternal life as part of the one they worship. He has saved the world as mastered the powers of his master, the Sorcerer Supreme. Nonetheless, he sets aside the Eye of Agamotto until he’s ready. Since it’s an Infinity Stone, this suggests setting aside entry into the MCU multifilm conflict, though his time will come soon enough.

If you enjoyed this analysis, do check out more with The Avengers Face Their Dark Sides: Mastering the Myth-Making behind the Marvel Superheroes https://www.amazon.com/Avengers-Face-Their-Dark-Sides/dp/0692432450
Easter Eggs

• Doctor Strange first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in 1963, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. His origin story only came in his fourth appearance, in Strange Tales #115. The movie plot is about right.
• In the comics, the book was stolen by Baron Mordo so he could use its power to defeat the Ancient One. In the movie, Kaecilius takes his place, but Mordo makes the journey to villain through the film. In Strange Tales, Kaecilius is one of Mordo’s disciples. Here he takes Mordo’s place as villain, while Mordo gets a more extensive origin story. In the comics, the book contains the knowledge to control time. In the movie, it explains how to use the Eye of Agamotto to achieve the same end.
• In the comics Christine Palmer is actually the name of one of the Night Nurses (there have been three). Another Night Nurse is Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), the ER nurse who ends up helping out the various members of the future Defenders during their shows.
• The song playing while Strange has his life-changing car crash is the psychedelic rock classic “Interstellar Overdrive” (1967) by Pink Floyd. The band featured artwork from Strange Tales #158 on the cover of their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets (1968), which featured the Living Tribunal.
• Some of Dr. Stephen Strange’s prospective surgical patients include an Air Force colonel injured in a suit of armor. The timing is wrong for Col. James Rhodes, aka War Machine. But it might be the soldier who was injured testing Justin Hammer’s Iron Man armor back in Iron Man 2, shown in the courtroom scene. Strange rejects an elderly woman to preserve his statistics and is also told about a young woman with schizophrenia and an inhibitor chip who was struck by lightning. This last might be significant — Lodestone and Nebula have had implants to either control or enhance them.
• Dr. Nick West, who in the movie has a rivalry with Doctor Strange, is based on Nicodemus West, a doctor who, in the comics cannot save Strange’s hands after his car accident. West is a prominent character in The Oath (2007), a popular five-issue Doctor Strange miniseries by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin, which heavily influenced the tone of the movie
• The scene where Strange wakes in the hospital bed is framed in homage to this cover shot comes from Brandon Peterson’s run on Doctor Strange, which shows the car crash origin.
• A few throwaway lines from the Ancient One recall some of Strange’s comics titles. She refers to “the language of the mystic arts,” and Doc is known as the “master of the mystic arts” in the comics. Her title is Sorcerer Supreme, eventually his own.
• Wong connects Strange to the larger Marvel universe when he explains, “Heroes like the Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.”
• Avengers Tower appears in its rightful place as part of the New York City skyline.
• The Ancient One’s home of Kamar-Taj has always been part of the story, though it wasn’t named until much later in the comics.
• When Strange is finally allowed to stay with The Ancient One, Mordo hands him a piece of paper with “Shamballa” written on it. Mordo deadpans that it is the Wi-Fi password. It also nods to the famous Doctor Strange storyline “Into Shamballa”, in which Strange was given the chance to shepherd in a golden age for mankind, but at a cost so severe he couldn’t bear to pay it. This reflects the theme of this film – the cost of power.
• Many theorize that Ejiofor’s role is a combination of Doctor Voodoo, the Houngan Supreme (like a Sorcerer Supreme, but for Voodoo), and Baron Mordo.
• Wong first appeared in Strange Tales #110, as a stereotypical servant, who could fight but not use magic. Here he’s been updated with more of a personality, a position of authority, and Sorcerer powers.
• Trying to break the ice with Wong, Doctor Strange asks if he just has a single name “like Adele” and then proceeds to mention Bono, Eminem and Drake as well as Aristotle, getting in piles of pop culture. When the pair meet again, Strange compares Wong to Beyoncé, a comment Wong ignores, then later he’s seen listening to her on his walkman.
• The Book of Vishanti is “off limits” to Strange until he steals it from Wong. In the comics, The Vishanti are a trio of benevolent Gods from the multiverse. Agamotto was appointed by the Vishanti before ascending to become one of them.
• An Extra called Clem So with long white hair also appears as one of the sorcerers – he was in Guardians Of The Galaxy in the prison, with the artificial leg.
• One of the mages at Kamar-Taj is Tina Minoru (played by Linda Louise Duan). She is a link to The Runaways comics universe, since she is the mother of teen heroine Nico Minoru. Tina wields the Staff of One, which she eventually leaves to Nico.
• Master Hamir – the sorcerer with one hand – is an allusion to Hamir the Hermit. In early issues of Strange Tales, he was the Ancient One’s personal servant and later the father of Wong.
• Mordo wears the Vaulting Boots of Valtorr — Valtorr is a powerful mystical entity Strange invokes repeatedly in the comics.
• The Living Tribunal may not have a staff, but his existence is set up here. In comics, he’s powerful enough to battle the Infinity Gauntlet.
• The Book of Cagliostro comes out of the Steve Englehart/Frank Brunner Doctor Strange comics
• Doc’s Sanctum Sanctorum at 177a Bleecker Street with its distinctive window with the Sanctum rune appears. From the very first story it was listed as being in Greenwich Village, a more bohemian and dangerous place in 1963 than currently.
• There was initially going to be an Easter Egg specifically pointing to The Black Knight. The New York Sanctum includes the Black Knight’s headwear.
• The Crimson Bands Of Cyttorak is a spell that sends red coloured bands of energy out of Strange’s hands like whips to bind his enemies. His magical cord weapon seems reminiscent of this.
• Doctor Strange was given the Cloak of Levitation by the Ancient One at the conclusion of his second battle with Dormammu (in Strange Tales #127), and he kept the look ever since. the Eye of Agamotto is his best-known accessory.
• Doctor Strange and Mordo’s outfits are closely modelled on their traditional comic book looks, from the former’s white streaks in his hair, blue belted tunic and flowing red cape to Mordo’s green robes.
• The Oath echoes the movie scene in which Christine Palmer operates on Strange while speaking to his astral form. Both star Palmer, though in the comics, she’s Night Nurse.
• From Doctor Strange’s first appearance he’s doing astral projection. The astral plane fistfight is right out of Strange Tales #111, in which Strange and Mordo battle, knocking each other through walls and so forth.
• The Ancient One is first introduced in Strange Tales #110, as Doctor Strange consults with him before taking on a case. The Ancient One in the comics does draw power from the Dark Dimension – his name is often uttered in various spells and incantations by both Doctor Strange and The Ancient One.
• In Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner’s A Separate Reality, the Ancient One gives Strange a mysterious metaphysical pep talk then dies.
• While the smoky-headed Dormammu didn’t appear until Strange Tales #126, he was mentioned all the time and is Strange’s most well-known foe
• The Eye of Agamotto, which can manipulate time, is finally revealed as the Time Stone, one of the Infinity Stones — only the Soul Stone now remains unaccounted for in the MCU.
• The Master of the New York Sanctum is referred to as Drumm. This is Daniel Drumm, the brother of Jericho Drumm, Brother Voodoo, a heroic sorcerer in the Marvel comics.
• When he prepares for battle, Wong is seen grabbing a kind of magical staff, in fact, the Wand of Watoomb.
• Strange’s original artist – Steve Ditko – gets homages with some of the art, especially The Dark Dimension. The tiny Doctor in the world of strange connected spheres is all him.
• Strange slams into the side of a bus on which Stan Lee is reading Aldous Huxley’s 1954 essay, The Doors of Perception, an account of using mescaline, which is a hallucinogen similar to LSD. This references the trippy quality of Steve Ditko’s early work on Strange, and the sixties counterculture it foreshadowed.
• There are a significant number of similarities between this film and the animated Doctor Strange film from 2007. In both, Dr Strange is taught personally by the Ancient One about reality warping, and by Wong, and the Ancient One’s disciples travel the world. Strange also has a female “sidekick,” with Gina Atwater instead of Christine Palmer. In both, Baron Mordo is black and develops a resentment for what Strange and his fellow Sorcerers have become.
• The facial capture for Dormammu was performed by Benedict Cumberbatch, while the voice was provided by an unidentified British actor.
The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea,” said Derrickson. “Because no one understood Dormammu better than Benedict did. I also wrote that role to be a kind of ultra-inflated version of Strange. He is an ego run amok; he is this cosmic conqueror where everything, where literally everything in the multi-verse is about him.There’s something interesting about this confrontation of this little, tiny guy who has this power of time and this monstrous conqueror who is trapped by a clever gambit. There’s something about that worked well, and I didn’t think anybody to interact with Benedict than he, himself.” (“13 Coolest”)
• In the comics too Strange and Dormammu are forced into a pact when Strange helps save the demon from the Mindless Ones and Dormammu is forced to agree not to ever attack Earth again.
• When Kaecilius and his associates are banished into the Dark Dimension, they transform into blob-like, one-eyed creatures known as the Mindless Ones. These extra-dimensional creatures with no will of their own attack many Marvel characters. They may appear in films to come.
• The warnings come after the instructions repeatedly…and at the film’s end, there’s another warning – this one about distracted driving.
• Thor appears in the first post-credits scene and sets up Thor: Ragnarok, as he searches for his father, Odin. Strange did team-up with Thor in an early story involving Loki.
• The second post-credits scene shows Mordo’s development as a villain. In the comics, Mordo is Doctor Strange’s rival, introduced in Strange Tales #111, with an origin story in Strange Tales #115.

If you enjoyed this analysis, do check out more with The Avengers Face Their Dark Sides: Mastering the Myth-Making behind the Marvel Superheroes https://www.amazon.com/Avengers-Face-Their-Dark-Sides/dp/0692432450

Works Cited
“13 Coolest Doctor Strange Easter Eggs, References, and Trivia.” IGN, 26 Oct 2016 http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/10/26/13-coolest-doctor-strange-easter-eggs-references-and-trivia?page=1. Web.
Collis, Clark. “Tilda Swinton Says her Doctor Strange character’s Gender Is ‘in the eye of the beholder’” EW, 30 Dec 2015. http://www.ew.com/article/2015/12/30/doctor-strange-tilda-swinton-ancient-one. Web.

Frankel, Valerie Estelle. From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend. McFarland and Co., 2010. Print.
Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. Harper, 1988. Print.
Willmore, Alison. “The Incredible Visuals and Unfortunate Orientalism of “Doctor Strange.” BuzzFeed, 27 Oct., 2016. https://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonwillmore/doctor-strange-review. Web.

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Call For Papers: Self Promo Stories

Call for Papers: SELF PROMO STORIES

Want to share your cleverest self-promotion gimmick? Was it your bookcover wrapped around candy? A costumed hero passing out fliers? Did you have success with a book fair? Or BookBub, Twitter, or Facebook? This anthology collects AUTHOR’S TRUE STORIES OF HOW THEY PROMOTE THEMSELVES. I’m thinking everyone writes one story, someone cute and memorable and original, something that ideally worked well. First person anecdote. You may use technical details from websites and social media and goodreads and so on if you like, but consider just saying “I went to this site and followed the directions.” This isn’t a technical book — it’s a clever ideas book. (Likewise, I’ll do a glossary at the back in case anyone doesn’t know what KDP free days or hashtags are. No need to explain the basic terminology).The audience is absolutely authors getting their start and looking for neat self-promo ideas. Ideally, this would be something other writers could replicate. If your experience was dependent on your particular genre or book subject, that’s still fine – there are many ways to adapt it. Authors writing about fiction/nonfiction/poetry/any genre/self pub/traditional pub/ebooks/audio books are welcome. Basically, tell me about your booth decorations, your free coloring books, your unusual chocolates, your custom sign, your party, your book fair event, your giveaway…whatever you did that was really neat.

I encourage you to describe your book IN A WAY THAT FITS YOUR STORY in order to slip in a sly promo, though everyone also gets a bio. See my example stories below to see how I got some description of my book in.

I’d like to get LOTS of these stories, say 50, so do pass on the information to other writers. 500-1500 words (not hard numbers, but I’m looking for short experiences after all). Since this is meant to be educational and also work as advertising, I plan to publish as free ebook only on Smashwords. Thus there will be no cash involved, but you and anyone you like may download infinite copies. The hope is that authors will not only benefit from your story but also be intrigued enough to track down your book or website. You’re welcome to give people a reason to go to your site – perhaps to see your sample press kit or social media links. And with 50 of us spreading the word and requesting it for libraries and so on, this anthology really might make an impression on the author community.

To submit, please send your complete story as well as a 100-150 word third person bio. I prefer that you paste it all in the body of the email. Email to Valerie @ calithwain.com, subject: SELF PROMO ANTHOLOGY. You may send 0-3 photos of yourself and your bookcovers (or you doing your self-promo) if you like. High quality jpgs preferred, though for the web, 72 dpi or so still works.  Deadline of Nov 10, 2016.

Two sample stories:

The Power of Silly Hats (600 words)

My Harry Potter parody has flying pigs in it.

Yep, that’s just the way it worked out. So when I was hat shopping online and the shop’s silly hat section had a flying pig hat, I shrugged and forked over the $9. It was my first book, published as self-publishing was gaining popularity and Harry Potter was losing it, so it felt like a good purchase. I could put it on my seller’s table with the sorting hat, sparkly cape tablecloth and other goodies.

At the big Harry Potter conventions that followed, everyone had a costume and most, a specific persona – someone would be Lord Voldemort or Tonks for all five days. On a whim, at the 2008 Harry Potter con in Dallas, I donned the hat. When people, expectedly enough, asked how the flying pig connected to Harry Potter, I handed them a bookmark (with my first and now second Potter parody on it as well as many flying pigs) and explained that they were in my own book — Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, in which flying pigs deliver the mail. Please take a bookmark, it’s on sale in the dealer’s room or Amazon.

To my delight, as I walked along, someone else stopped to ask me why the pig…but this was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Obviously, I gave my standard answer and followed with “And I’d love to tell you about the books…” They indeed wrote an article about me which I linked to on my website and quoted a short endorsement from. The pig had earned its $9 sales price.

By the 2010 con, the attendees greeted me delightedly as “flying pig hat girl”…even though I wasn’t wearing it at the time. Shrugging and mentally surrendering to the inevitable, I assumed the hat once more. It seemed I had my own con persona…at least it was tied to the books

At the same hat shop, I purchased “giant witch hat” — it’s five feet tall and now has a red blinky on top, thanks to my Silicon Valley dad. When I want attention, I wear it (and a witchy dress, but this part isn’t terribly memorable) and walk around more conventions, often tangling with my eternal nemesis, the doorway. When people say “nice hat” or point and laugh, I hand them a bookmark, sometimes without a word. Keeping them handy in a pouch or sticking out of my purse obviously matters, as I need them on the spot.

Flash forward several years to the San Mateo County Fair Author’s Day. By then I was writing academic nonfiction as well, but I wore my flying pig for the attention. In a room of authors, I wanted to stand out. Plus, I thought the parodies might be a good draw. The gracious lady in charge asked who wrote nonfiction and I raised my hand. Laughing that someone with a flying pig on her head did serious writing, she held out the mike and asked for my story. Seemed the hat still had its magic…

What’s the takeaway? At book sales all the authors have candy and bookmarks. At conventions, everyone has neat costumes. But if you can find the gag that’s just odd enough to make people ask questions, or the pun that needs explaining, or even just the ridiculous touch that makes everyone laugh, that’s far superior to the handcrafted costume that took weeks to make completely canon. Those are nice, but not as memorable.

I have also been Princess Leia with bagels over my ears. One guy I met at a con that way recalled me four years later. What’s a Jewish Alderanian Princess to do, but go with it…

 

 My KDP Experience (900 words)

As I write this, I just earned myself 4,700 downloads during my KDP free days (on a book with only one review). How did I manage it? Lots of work.

First I scheduled the promo of my Doctor-Who related book (Doctor Who: The What, Where, and How) to release a week before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (earlier would have been better and gotten me some reviews, but I just didn’t have the time). I scheduled a five-day giveaway beginning the day before the anniversary release and ending at the end of that weekend (five days at once allows more people to see all of your posts, of course).

Starting a few days before, I joined Doctor Who fan groups on Google Plus and Facebook, along with science fiction groups and author self-promo groups. I befriended top Doctor Who posters on Twitter, following them and sending them a message which many reposted. I began posting my messages on Goodreads (where they’d linger in their categories for a few days).

Goodreads and Facebook message:

Free Dr Who Guide Today!

Doctor Who: The What Where and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam To celebrate the 50th anniversary release this week, the book is FREE on Kindle TODAY-Monday. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

With optional book paragraph to follow. But a pitch where you can hook them in one sentence is best. Pasting the link ensured a picture would go up too.

Tumblr and Google Plus message: Same as above but with hashtagged keywords too.

Twitter message: Variations on the following:

Doctor Who: The What Where and How # free Nov 21-25 # freekindle http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Whereebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ # ebook # freeebook # DoctorWho # DoctorWho50th #movies

I didn’t like the look of tiny URLs, but that would’ve given me a few more characters. Varying the hashtags helps to reach more people. Don’t forget hashtags can be part of the information. #freekindle means the same as “free on kindle.”

Starting early the morning of my free promo, I went nuts. Basically, I posted my message on all the applicable Facebook pages. My tweets went to Facebook, and I individually tweeted book promo people and Doctor Who people, many of whom were kind enough to retweet (even without the RT request I likely should have included). Granted, Facebook will bar you if you look like you’re spamming (too many posts or posts on sites that don’t encourage it, I would think). On all the pages, I check what other people were doing. If the rules on the upper right said no self-promotion, I moved on. I never posted more than once a day on a site, or if my previous post was still visible. (There are so many sites to cover, after all). Obviously, a group or fan page with thousands of watchers is better than one with just a few. In a day I could go some Google Plus groups, some Facebook groups, some Goodreads groups, some tweets, some forum posts. Better than overwhelming the system.

For Doctor Who weekend, thousands of fans were posting with Doctor Who hashtages, and other similar hashtags, which I noted and copied. They were also publishing THOUGHTS on the anniversary special and original content, from reviews and blog posts to memes. I wrote several insightful blog posts, pasting my book link at the end with a note on where they could find similar material. Then I alternated posting my book ads with announcements about my blog.

#DayoftheDoctor In-Joke References List http://wp.me/p10chw-5y review of #dayofthedoctor and easteregg list of cool stuff at https://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com #DoctorWho50thAnniversary #DoctorWho50th #DoctorWho

Everyone was posting great websites and reviews. So I commented on these in their comments section on the bottom, generally including “I wrote a similar review available at…” I retweeted other people’s clever posts and announcements—I had many new Doctor-Who related Twitter followers, after all. Not all of my comments had my ad— only where applicable. But my picture was my book cover after all…

I put the prettiest pictures on Pinterest, which each were also posted to Twitter. Many new followers were repining and admiring the great pics in my Doctor Who Pinterest Gallery. My own book covers were there as well, with a comment on the website for purchase.

I attended several live Doctor Who parties (which I had planned to write reviews of for more content). I asked many friends to let THEIR friends know about my free guide, and I messaged them a copy of my ad when I got home. Many retweeted it, specifically tagging their friends who were Doctor Who lovers.

I did all this for British sites as well as American. If the page seemed British (co.uk) I used the British Amazon link.

Basically, I sent out messages for five days straight, on every place I could think of, particularly those where my potential readers hang out. It worked.

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Girl Power Comics

There are many girl power comic books and comic book characters — more than ever before! Here are a few to enjoy today, International Women’s Day!

A-Force

The Avengers

Avengers Academy

Batgirl

Batwoman

Birds of Prey

Black Widow

Captain Marvel

Catwoman

Darna

DC Comics: Bombshells

Donna Troy

Elektra

Fray

Gotham Academy

Huntress

Katana

Madame Xanadu

Ms. Marvel

Power Girl

Runaways

Scarlet Witch

She-Hulk

Silk

Spider-Girl

Spider-Gwen

Spider-Woman

Supergirl

Superhero Girl

Squirrel Girl

Thor: The Goddess of Thunder

White Tiger

Wonder Girl

Wonder Woman

X-Men

Young Avengers

 

Independent comics for kids to try

Brennan, Michael. Electric Girl, Vol. 1. San Francisco, CA: AiT/PlanetLar, 2000.

De Liz, Renae, et al, eds. Womanthology: Heroic. San Diego: IDW, 2012.

Dingle, Adrian. Nelvana of Northern Lights. 1941. San Diego: IDW, 2014.

Foglio, Phil and Kaja. Girl Genius. Seattle: Studio Foglio LLC, ongoing.

Jones, Casey and Jason Reeves. All Fall Down. Burnaby, BC: Arcana Comics, 2011.

Kieth, Sam (writing and art). Zero Girl. USA: Homage Comics, 2001.

Madrid, Mike. Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics. USA: Exterminating Angel Press, 2013.

Madrid, Mike. Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics. USA: Exterminating Angel Press, 2013.

McClaren, Meredith (writer, illustrator). Hinges Book One: Clockwork City. USA: Image Comics, 2015.

MacLean, Andrew. ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times. USA: Dark Horse 2015.

Mills, Tarpé. Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944-1949. Ed. Trina Robbins; Des. Lorraine Turner. San Diego, CA: IDW Publishing, 2011.

Montclare, Brandon and Amy Reeder. Rocket Girl Volume 1: Times Squared. USA: Image Comics, 2014.

Pope, Paul, J. T. Petty, and David Rubín. The Fall of the House of West. New York: First Second, 2015.

– . The Rise of Aurora West. New York: First Second, 2014.

Randolph, Grace and Craig Rousseau. Marvel Her-oes (Her-oes #1-4). New York: Marvel, 2010.

Robbins, Trina(w) and Anne Timmons (i). Go Girl! Oregon: Dark Horse, 2002.

Sala, Richard. Cat Burglar Black. New York and London: First Second, 2009.

Shapiro, Mark and Ogaz. Eartha Kitt: Femme Fatale. USA: Bluewater Productions, 2014

Yolen, Jane and Mike Cavallaro. Foiled. USA: First Second, 2010.

– . Curses! Foiled Again! USA: First Second, 2013.

 

Superheroines of Film and Television

Movies

The Avengers.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Batman Returns.

Batman & Robin.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 

Catwoman.

Elektra

Guardians of the Galaxy. 

 

The Powerpuff Girls: The Movie.

Red Sonja.

Sky High.

Supergirl.

 

Wonder Woman 2009.

X-Men.

X2: X-Men United.

X-Men: First Class.

X-Men: The Last Stand.

 

Television

 

Agent Carter

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

 

Avengers Assemble

The Bionic Woman

Birds of Prey: The Complete Series

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Cybergirl

Dark Angel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Heroes

Justice League

Justice League Unlimited

Kim Possible

Legends of Tomorrow

Lois and Clark

Marvel Super Hero Squad

Marvel’s Jessica Jones (adult)

Misfits (adult)

The Powerpuff Girls

Powers (adult)

Sailor Moon

The Sarah Jane Adventures

 

Spider-Woman

Steven Universe

Supergirl

Teen Titans

Vixen Season One. CW Seed, 2015. http://www.cwseed.com/shows/vixen/vixen-season-1

Witchblade

Wonder Woman

Xena: Warrior Princess

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Guest Blog Posts

With my monthly column for legendary women and occasional posts on Thought Catalog, I guest blog more than I blog on my own site. The thought occurred that I and others might want to find them all. So here they are:

Legendary Women

Game of Thrones Season Six Wrap Up June 2006

DC Bombshells Rewrite History Mar 2016

“Is it more sexist not to hit you?”- The Women of Deadpool Feb 2016

Comparing Rey Amberle and Wonder Woman Jan 2016

2015 Geek Girl Power Comics Shopping Guide Part 1

2015 Geek Girl Power Comics Shopping Guide Part 2

2015 Geek Girl Power Comics Shopping Guide Part 3

Skye’s Heroine’s Journey 2015

Supergirl Pilot 2015

Joss Whedon’s X-Men 2015

Doctor Who and Missy 2015

CW’s Vixen 2015

The MCU Black Widow 2015

Game of Thrones Season 5 2015

 

Also article and interview about my Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey:

http://www.legendarywomen.org/content/buffy-and-her-journey-heroine

http://legendarywomen.org/content/valerie-frankel-author-buffy-and-heroines-journey-interview

Thought Catalog

Hot Teen Vampires And Werewolves: How Did They Start, And More Importantly, Who Gets The Girl? 22 Mar 2016

Game Of Thrones Season Five Wrap Up: The Book vs The Show And Where We’re Going

One of the big disappointments for me (and I’m not the only one) were the Sand Snakes.

28 Jul 2015

How Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is Very Joss Whedon

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has returned, and to no one’s surprise, Skye’s new plot expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe while simultaneously transforming her into a superhero.

8 Apr 2015

The “Strange, Young-Old” Peter Capaldi Will Bring Doctor Who Back To Its Origins

More to the point, this Doctor is on a mission to find the Time Lords and restore the balance, returning the series to, perhaps, its mid-series premise of a “secret-agent-man” Doctor taking orders from the higher-ups and interpreting them to his rebellious liking.

20 Aug 2014

12 Game Of Thrones Mysteries That Are Going To Drive You Crazy

Who will win? Who will finally take the Iron Throne?

11 Jun 2014

“The Day Of The Doctor” And The Hero’s Journey

“The Day of the Doctor” is a perfect Hero’s Journey arc…if “The Night of the Doctor” (the brief online minisode available here) is included.

26 Nov 2013

Game Of Thrones Recap: Thoughts On The Season 3 Finale And Beyond

After last week’s WHAM! of an episode, viewers approached with trepidation. However, this episode was mainly wrap-up. Walder Frey gloated, Joffrey gloated, Tyrion and Tywin debated ethics, Tyrion broke the news to Sansa, Arya took a very small revenge.

10 Jun 2013

Other Websites

Hogwarts Professor: Aug 21, 2013 – Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Alchemy

Denise Derrico’s Key of Dee: Jan 2016  Why Rey Needs a Light-Chakram 

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Filed under Books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Comics, Doctor Who, Films, Game of Thrones, Heroine's Journey, Star Wars, Superheroes, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fantasy

How Many Sales Should Successful Writers Have?

I have no idea. I just reposted an article saying self-pub books really aren’t selling in millions that got lots of Facebook responses. So I found myself thinking: How many am I really selling? I just finished doing taxes for the year and discover myself reasonably above the poverty line in the US (the poverty line is listed as 11,000 for a single person with no dependents apparently. That indeed would cover my food, rent, and utilities for a year, but I should add that I live in basically a writer’s garret. I’m sure many in pricey Silicon Valley who have homes and families could not manage on this.)

So I’m a working writer –as in 12-plus hours a day. With 12 books out a year, I’m certainly productive. A HARD-working writer. But I’m not paid by the hour or the word — only by royalties (ranging from 70% alleged gross to 8% net depending on publisher and type of book). And THAT depends on sales.

I’m the author of a whopping 45 books right now (yes, really, check ’em out on http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK), and part of me is wondering…so when do I hit the big time here? When do I get the wealth and recognition? Is there a point to writing another 45? (My genre is analysis on popular series like Sherlock, Doctor Who, Outlander, and Game of Thrones. Of course, they have built in fandoms already, which is awesome.) Of course, I’m discovering it’s not really about the number published, as 2-5 of them bring in far over half the sales (History, Homages and the Highlands: An Outlander Guide,the Hunger Games guide Katniss the Cattail, and sometimes a Game of Thrones guide or another tv/film related surge).

So basically, I sit here writing 12 books a year hoping ONE will catch fans’ eye (Predicting can be tough — I wrote another Outlander book and Katniss book, neither of which succeeded even half as much. Some series like Harry Potter and Marvel’s Avengers proved surprising duds. For my related books anyway.) And yes, sometimes I write whatever I feel like, with more eye to education or silly parodies and less to commercialism. Hence all my analysis on the Heroine’s Journey and vague plans for a free guide on the topic.

So today (admittedly wasting over an hour of my writing time) I decided to slow down and actually look at all these sales figures everyone sends over. What numbers am I really dealing with?

Self publishing: Here I have a lot. In fact, I have 24 on createspace/23 on Smashwords/25 on kdp/5 on ACX (most of these are the same, published in all three or maybe four mediums, but a few are exclusive.) There appear to be 27 unique titles, three of which are listed as free on Smashwords.

 

Kindle Direct sales (from Amazon publishing). 4552 copies sold this year. Kdp just sent me 13 tax forms from all the different countries. Goodness knows how many I’ll get next year.

 

Smashwords and the ebook companies they distribute to (Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony…): I sold 5169.9 copies (they’re counting people reading part of it, apparently) which made about $700. Total. All the sales coming in hundreds are, sadly, my free books. Two of these are “samplers” — a chapter each of already-published stuff, meant to boost sales. It only took me a few hours to put them together. No idea whether readers are then motivated to go purchase the full books.

 

Createspace (Amazon paperback publishing) 2616 books sold. 986 of those were my silly little Outlander guide. All right, seems the ebooks have beat the paper ones. Not a shock as my sales are online not bookstores. Publishing paperbacks is slightly more work, but I think it’s worth the effort. I like them, anyway.

 

ACX (amazon audio books): 5 published books (I can only give them self-pub, as otherwise publishers have the rights. Here I get 40% if I pay the recording artist upfront or 20% if I split the proceeds with them instead.) 865 sales – almost all Outlander or Game of Thrones related. Upon discovering this, I started auditioning another batch.

 

So that was 13,203 self-published books sold. Far far under a million, but a respectable number. Flattering in terms of people influenced, though I’m not a cat climbing into a box on YouTube. And…for them all I ended up making about 50 cents a book. (With thousands of my free and 99 cent books sold in comparison with smaller numbers of my $2.99 ebooks and 9.99 paperbacks, that isn’t the most logical calculation, but there it is).

By this point, I am thinking rude thoughts about royalty percentages. I might sit and calculate how much of Amazon’s 70% royalties I’m really getting, or consider raising prices (in fact, out of 45 books, only 3 are free and 1 is 99 cents). I could take my business elsewhere. But we all know the deal. I could sell them on my own website and keep 100% but no one would ever find them. And thus I’m forced to come back to my original premise that I’m going for fame not fortune…

Comparisons are odious as some famous person said. In fact, they’re illogical too since my traditionally published books have different content and sometimes audiences than the self-pub stuff. Certainly different math. But let me pop these up here too:

Traditional Publishers: (They mail me quarterly or biannual statements which I pull checks from then file carefully…in my desk clutter. Okay, that’s on me.) These are all small press or academic, admittedly. I have not broken into the Big Howevermanyareleft.

Zossima Press (half a year’s numbers): 3 published books. SALES: 24 paperback, 66 ebook (60 of those my Myths and Motifs in the Mortal Instruments thanks to the new TV show). Royalties: Around $1.50 per $15 book

McFarland: 4 books, 2 edited anthologies (3 more coming soon). SALES: 668 (paper and ebook in half a year). Around $1.75 per $35 book. Yep, $35. And that hurts the sales, of course.

Thought Catalog: 5 published books. SALES: By back-calculating sloppily my percentage of the royalties off the tax form…maybe 1500 copies. Around $1.50 per $5 book

Other Traditional Publishers: 4 published books that do rather badly: not enough pennies to worry about.

Traditional publishing is giving me steady numbers, while self-pub fluctuates wildly as I do page reads, free samples, free kindle five day giveaways, and other clever schemes which increase readership but not definitively sales. No shock there. For Doctor Who 50th anniversary weekend in 2013, I convinced 4500 people to download a free copy, but the Doctor Who book isn’t pulling amazing sales.

So where am I? 45 books published, with me convincing about 20,000 people this year to grab a copy of something and I’m making a living wage…but once again I’ll bring up the garret. I was a bit depressed upon looking at my tax forms, though not as much when I compared it to the previous year’s. 2013 to 2014 doubled, and 2014 to 2015 went up by a third. Things are indeed looking up…perhaps even toward a retirement plan (Plan: Do nothing and live on royalties or keep writing forever because now I’m addicted.) Is this the definition of “successful writer”? Seems so. And sure, I was hoping for more of a NY Times Bestseller profile with fabulous book promotion tours paid for by my royalties (sometimes I do this, but significant budgeting is involved). But I get to be a writer. And I’m making it work.

Well, enough of this — I really have to get back to writing now. Best wishes to everyone doing what I am, however successfully.

Do check the books out by the way — the list is up on http://vefrankel.com or http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK. Apparently I could use the paid sales.

 

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Clary Fray and the Heroine’s Journey

(This traces her story through the six Mortal Instruments novels, and as such, spoils them completely during its deep analysis. Of course, fans of the show Shadowhunters would certainly find the novels delightful.)

 

The hero’s journey, or story of the Chosen One, is the basic format for most myths, epics, and fantasy novels. The Chosen One is a heroic child like Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker destined to fight the forces of evil. In the darkest place of all he faces his tyrant father or wicked stepmother, the darkest impulses he keeps buried within himself. He faces death and returns to life stronger than before, for death is a metaphor for crossing from child to adult.

The heroine’s most typical quest is rescue of family members, especially the little sibling that represents her child. The heroine often quests to find her best friend or little brother, in The Golden Compass, A Wrinkle in Time, and other series. Clary spends City of Bones questing for Simon the rat then kidnapped Jace, all while seeking her mother. Jace calls Clary “the girl who walked into a hotel full of vampires because her best friend was there and needed saving” (Lost Souls 522). As she rescues Simon and Jace over and over, while saving her mother and stopping her father’s slaughter of the innocent, Clary’s family sphere becomes the motivation for a much larger epic. At last, she becomes the savior of all the Shadowhunters, teaching them to bond with the Downworlders and save them as well. Her inspiring love and creativity preserve the world of magic in the ultimate triumph.

 

The Call to Adventure: Losing the Mother

Clary grows up in Brooklyn, living a normal childhood. When her geeky friend Simon takes her clubbing, she sees three powerful teens destroy a demon…and no one else sees anything. Her mother is so worried she tries to drag Clary off to the country. One of those teens, Jace Wayland, seeks Clary out later to tell her she has the sight and is clearly more than she seems. However, at that moment, demons invade, destroying her home and kidnapping her mother. The quest has begun.

Clary’s quest begins with her mother’s kidnapping, as Clary struggles through three books to save her. Of course, the mother is usually absent during the heroine’s story. Disney’s Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, Mu Lan, and Pocahontas are raised by their fathers. Snow White and Cinderella have stepmothers. Fairytales, like other heroine’s journey tales, follow this pattern for a reason. The mother, who was the childhood protector, cannot continue shielding her daughter from everything or there will be no adventure. It’s time for independence. Sheldon Cashdan explains in the fairytale study The Witch Must Die:

The mother’s exit, paradoxically, is empowering in that it forces the children in the story to confront a cruel and dangerous world on their own. Lacking a mother or protector, the hero or heroine must draw on inner resources that might not have been tested were the mother still around. (42)

This is particularly true in City of Bones: Joyce has more than sheltered Clary from the hazards of the demonic world and threat of Valentine: She has hired Magnus Bane to erase all of Clary’s paranormal sightings and memories of them in order to keep her completely innocent. She seeks to blind Clary of the sight and strip her of her magical perception as well as her heritage. In this way, the mother becomes too protective, to the point of stifling the heroine and preventing her from adventuring. She has become the adversary, like Rapunzel’s stepmother, who locks her in a tower. The dark side of the loving mother is “anxious nursing and over-instructing, far beyond the needs of her charges. She may fail to affirm their own need for a sense of strength and independence, and thus delay the maturing process (Molton and Sikes 42). With Joyce’s kidnapping, Clary is released, and discovers the world of magic and evil for the first time.

The Good Mother is perfect kindness, love, and protection. As such, she has few defenses. To have the forces of wickedness kill the mother would be like having one’s inner demons devour one’s gentle, kindly side – a horrifying development for the psyche. The best way to protect or insulate the mother from such a fate is to leave her out of the story (as fairytales often do) or even have her quietly perish. “Though her absence makes the child highly vulnerable, her peaceful departure is preferable to a scenario in which she dies a violent death” (Cashdan 42). Such a thing is its own death-rebirth cycle, as the death of the mother leads the child to sink into despair and then rise strengthened, channeling the mother’s spirit into her own developing self. (Frankel, Buffy 121).

Another reason for the mother’s vanishing is the Jungian Mother Complex, which is one of the earliest and most central forces in a girl’s psyche. A baby views the mother and itself as inseparable – one person in fact. Therefore, it’s impossible that the mother should yell or punish or upset the baby, any more than its own arm might. Therefore, the baby imagines two mothers: one completely loving, selfless, and perfect, the other the “Terrible Mother” – the punisher and evil force. She is a killer of children, like the White Witch of Narnia or Wicked Witch of the West. These two figures – protective, angelic mother and vicious cruel mother – represent two conflicting voices within the self.

Valentine, though a man, is the child killer and evil parent of the first trilogy. He’s a killer of children: decades ago, he experimented on Downworlder young. He tortures and experiments on his own children as well, as Jace and Clary soon discover. Now he will kill all the marked Nephilim who haven’t pledged loyalty to him.

The protective mother is the force inside Clary that wants to keep her a child, safe and innocent yet unable to affect the world or find her destiny. The dark mother within wants to force experience and pain on her to compel her to grow. Lilith, the evil mother figure, takes this role in the second trilogy. The Inquisitor is another monstrous mother – burned by grief, she becomes a figure of ruthless, merciless, cruel order corrupted by revenge. Watching her, Clary decides who she doesn’t want to become. The capricious fairy queen and Dorothea, inhabited by a demon, represent other cruel mothers who echo the darkness inside Clary herself. Without Joyce for protection, Clary must confront all these forces and learn the harsh skills she needs to survive. Luckily, she has friends.

 

The World of Magic

The first gift Clary receives from the magical world is the Sensor, which she takes from Jace, her first guide. The Sensor is an appropriate tool as heroines often receive tools of perception as their talismans on magical adventures: golden compasses, magic mirrors or spectacles. Of course, Clary doesn’t use the sensor to see the magical world but to combat her enemies, and she shoves the sensor into a demon’s mouth, slaying it with the protective runes. This signals that Clary will certainly not be a passive damsel on her adventure.

In the first book, she uses her new power of perception to sweep away glamours and see the Shadowhunter world for what it really is. Perception is a significant part of her life, joined with her prophetic visions, magical sight, and lost memories of the Shadowhunter world. Further, visions and images define her: Clary keeps a sketchbook because, as she explains, she thinks in pictures, not words (Bones 204). When she pushes aside a glamour, she imagines cleaning it away like old paint under a rag of turpentine (Bones 133). “Clary is every bookish, fantasy-loving girl who grows up wielding a pencil and a sketchbook instead of mutant powers or a sword,” Sarah Cross explains in her essay on Clary (20). She may be ordinary, but she can use her abilities from our world to change everything.

Jace teaches Clary the basics of the Shadowhunter world, and his teacher Hodge offers her other facts. However, neither acts precisely as her mentor.

The child on the Chosen One’s path leaves his or her unsatisfying birth family to find a better one, a “real” one. “My parents don’t appreciate me, and they’re so boring. I must be adopted and belong somewhere more magical and special,” the child thinks. In fact, Clary’s impulses are correct, as generally happens in Chosen One stories – she has the perception of a Shadowhunter, and with it magical gifts. She’s even uniquely powerful among Shadowhunters, as she eventually discovers. She is not the daughter of Jocelyn Fray the prosaic artist and her husband Jonathan, the dead soldier. In fact, her father is the infamous and villainous Valentine, and her mother was once his revered and powerful wife. Even Clary’s “stepfather,” Luke, is a werewolf.

With her mother kidnapped and Luke rejecting her, Clary must find another guide to who she really is. This she finds in the ancient warlock Magnus Bane, her first mentor. Magnus comments: “Every teenager in the world feels like that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants. The difference in your case is that it’s true. You are different” (Bones 231). He has been hiding Clary’s memories at her mother’s insistence. Like Gandalf and other great wizards, he provides help whenever the heroes cannot solve their own problems. Clare notes: “In writing about Clary, I am writing about the feeling that a lot of teenagers have that they are different somehow, alienated, unlike others. Only Clary actually very literally is another kind of species of human” (Enchanted Inkpot).

The mentor’s task is to give the hero or heroine a talisman to protect and strengthen her. Most male heroes receive swords, from Sting to Excalibur to Harry Potter’s dueling wand. For heroines, along with tools of perception, books are very common, appearing in Inkheart, Ella Enchanted, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Kane Chronicles, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Katniss of The Hunger Games has her father’s logbook as well as his bows and jacket. Clary is no exception, as Magnus offers her part of her birthright by handing her the Gramarye of runes, which will teach her to understand the hidden world. She hears a click in her head, like a key turning in a lock. After, everything seems clearer, and she’s gained stronger powers of understanding and remembrance. She soon begins writing runes, not only from the book but from heaven itself – runes only the angels know.

Women’s powers often come, not from fighting, but from crafting. Cheyenne and Micmac women cast spells of magical protection through their weaving and beading skills. In Hopi myth, Spider Woman molded people from the clay of the earth and attached a strand of her web to each of them, weaving them together. The Inuit Aakuluujjusi created the caribou from a pair of her discarded trousers and the walrus from her lumpy jacket. Ix Chel, water and moon goddess of the Maya, is a weaver, whose whirling drop spindle twirls the Universe. The Fates and the Norns likewise spun lives, with the gods themselves unable to change their wills. Goddesses are creators, but they use the magic of crafting and creating as much as birth magic.

This too is Clary’s power, as she grows from an artist with a sketchbook to a creator of powerful runes, summoned from heaven itself. She “finds a way to turn her natural talents into the tools of her survival…she draws a better world into existence and she never lets the word impossible stop her. In Clary’s hands, the stele truly is mightier than the sword” (Cross 33).

In Ashes, she puts her enormous power into an Opening rune and blasts open the door of Jace’s cell. She later creates a Fearless rune and gives it to Jace to protect him. When she creates it, she thinks of her mother and when a “soft voice” in her head challenges her, she responds, “I am Jocelyn Fray’s daughter” (Ashes 282). As she imagines her mother’s paintings, the voice fades away. On Valentine’s ship, as she tears it open with her mother’s stele, she even hears her mother’s voice inside her head. Once she’s opened herself to creative, feminine magic, Madeline Bellefleur appears and tells her how to get her mother back. Clary’s feminine side is awakening.

 

The Lover

Jace takes Clary to the Institute, home of the Shadowhunters. These are the warriors who fight demons, protecting mortals who don’t even know they exist. It’s filled with motifs of angels and swords, suns and roses. Angels and swords suggest defense and offense in their constant war, along with the sacred trust to defend the world from demons. The sun is a popular hero symbol, while the rose is a symbol of perfection, round like a mandala or the world.

There, Clary discovers that she is tied to this ancient birthright. She and Jace squabble, but she’s drawn to him as well, far more than to her childhood friend Simon. Jace is mysterious and powerful, magical as she is mundane, aristocratic and old-fashioned. He’s everything she’s not, and thus, incredibly captivating.

The romantic figure in the heroine’s journey represents the unconscious world of dreams and power she’s seeking in herself. By learning from him, she grows beyond her ordinary self to embrace the magic he offers. Jace is not just a Shadowhunter with the dazzling good looks and charm Clary feels she lacks. From her perspective, he’s described with his hair in a “halo of damp gold” (Bones 306) and as a “wounded prince” (Bones 297). He’s also incredibly perceptive, seeing all the nuances of Clary and Simon’s relationship when Clary often misses details.

The heroine’s love is usually a shapechanger, a frog prince or beast. This reflects the constant indecipherable moods the other person has in a romance – he seems so foreign and incomprehensible that this lover must have turned into another person entirely. Jace becomes another person when possessed in the fifth book, but there are earlier echoes: When Jace discovers Valentine’s his father, Clary is horrified by the new obedient Jace, who surrenders all of his beliefs: “This new Jace, fragile and shining in the light of his own personal miracle, was a stranger to her” (Bones 436). His belief in Valentine is described as a kind of glamour. Similarly, Jace shifts names throughout the series, from the moment he’s revealed as Jonathan Morgenstern through his struggle to find the last name that fits him.

The greenhouse he and Clary share is a magical place – it even smells like Idris. The glass roof shines like the lake in reverse, and strange, magical flowers bloom there, in an enclosed magical world. In the greenhouse, Jace gives Clary a witchlight stone for her birthday. He tells her all Shadowhunters have them and adds, “It will bring you light…even among the darkest shadows of this world and others” (Bones 313). Later it pulses in her hand “like the heartbeat of a tiny bird” and shines in her hand “as if she’d cracked a seed of darkness” (Bones 423). Birds and seeds are feminine symbols, of freedom and potential respectively. As Clary uses the stone, she claims both powers and takes her place as a Shadowhunter. The gift of light in dark places is a feminine tool of perception, like Galadriel’s phial or Ariadne’s thread, a flashlight that will let Clary find her way.

When Jace gives it to her, Clary makes an engagement joke about how girls don’t literally want a “big rock” but a diamond. This mention emphasizes how Clary is already thinking she wants an engagement ring from Jace, and thus the “big rock” he gives her takes on that meaning, binding them together. Indeed, Jace follows his gift with their first kiss. In the greenhouse, this kiss is filled with the magical plants of Idris like an Eden or a place of creation magic. He also gives her apples in the greenhouse, a sign of temptation and sin, though apples were also beloved of Aphrodite. His birthday gift of the blooming flower “dusted with pale gold pollen” blooms only for a moment, symbolizing the short-lived nature of happiness in the world. In fact, the symbolism echoes this: they have a perfect moment, a perfect kiss, and then Clary’s messy love triangle ruins things as she stumbles into Simon.

When they leave for Magnus’s party, Jace offers Clary “a long thin dagger in a leather sheath. The hilt of the dagger was set with a single red stone carved in the shape of a rose.” He tells her the knowledge of how to wield it is in her blood (Bones 214). This is a feminine dagger – containing a red stone like Isabelle’s pendant and a rose shape – but set in a masculine weapon. It’s a talisman of the Shadowhunter world and an acknowledgement that Clary can be a fighter like Jace, Alec and Isabelle. Later, it’s revealed that the kindjal dagger was Valentine’s, with his falling star emblem. Luke has its match. As Jace, then Clary take Valentine’s red dagger, they become part of the war he began with the Downworlders decades before. They are the heirs to his dark legacy as well as his weapons.

In the third book, Jace gives Clary his Morgenstern ring when he goes to face death. Though their single night together in Idris is chaste, combining it with the ring symbolizes a marriage. It’s revealed in Clockwork Prince that Shadowhunters give their ring as a betrothal gift, like an engagement ring. While Clary doesn’t know this, Jace certainly does (as do Luke and Jocelyn). She wears the ring through the second trilogy, indicating that she’s given Jace her heart and more. In folklore, a ring is given as a promise of fidelity, betrothal, or marriage. Jace tells her later “It means I trust you with my past and all the secrets that past carries” (Fallen Angels 410). It’s the Morgenstern ring, symbol that Jace’s past will always be his childhood with Valentine but his future will belong to Clary.

 

The Animus

Simon’s mom notes that “you only need three people you can rely on in order to achieve self-actualization” (Bones 303). For Clary, these are her adoptive father Luke, best friend Simon, and boyfriend Jace. Clary notes that through her childhood she has only ever loved her mom, Luke, and Simon. In the first book, her mom is taken and Luke (temporarily) rejects her, and in the second, Simon dies and turns into a vampire. She must learn to do without all of them. She opens her heart to Jace, but discovers he’s Valentine’s son and her brother. Thus one of Clary’s greatest quests is to discover her identity without leaning on any of the men in her life.

Followers of Carl Jung’s philosophy, itself one of the roots of the hero’s journey, saw the need for women to actualize the so-called “masculine” side, the power, authority, and rational thought waiting to be developed within them. The next step is to “legitimize women’s power and authority in its own right” (Wehr 46). In Jungian psychology, the animus is another word for the heroine’s hidden masculine side. All characters represent part of the self, and Luke, Simon, Jace, and even Valentine and Sebastian all act as different types of animus, challenging Clary and forcing her to grow while offering different kinds of comfort and protection. When they are seen as aspects of the questing heroine, rather than individual characters, it becomes clear that their growth is mirroring hers in a traditional pattern. This Animus “evokes masculine traits within her: logic, rationality, intellect. Her conscious side, aware of the world around her, grows, and she can rule and comprehend the exterior world” (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 22).

As Clary matures, the animus figures in her life grow wiser and more useful, or are replaced by other, stronger, allies and enemies to challenge her. The highest level of Animus is as catalyst to wisdom. It “connects the woman with her spiritual side, making her even more receptive to her own creativity. Thus, the heroine, as well as the hero, obtains the mystical feminine energy that offers endless emotion, sympathy, nature, magic, insight, and perception,” as the first book on the heroine’s journey in myth and legend explains (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 23). These wise guides appear to Clary in the third book, as Luke, Simon, and Jace show her how to defeat evil with the power of her runes.

Simon, of course, is all passion without stopping to think. He lusts after Isabelle, snaps at Jace, and gets transformed into a rat because he wants to participate during Magnus’s party. The adventure in the vampires’ house nearly destroys them all. Still, when Simon is transformed into a rat, he acts as Clary’s perceptive animal companion, scouting exits and warning her that dawn is coming.

Several times, Clary is menaced by werewolves, which it turns out have all been sent by Luke. Though he protects her with violence and action, much as Jace does, his rejecting her early in the book has damaged their paternal relationship – he is not seen giving her much fatherly advice. In the first book, both are stuck in the early stages – Luke’s wisdom is seen more in the third book.

At the same time, Clary meets the Silent Brothers, described as being warriors of the mind rather than the body. They’re the ones who aid Clary with their advice and lead her to find her lost memories. Magnus Bane does the same, offering her the Grey Book and runes of her Shadowhunter heritage.

In the second book, Simon is transformed into a vampire because he follows his impulses and destructive jealousy. Jace likewise has become a destructive force for Clary, offering only a forbidden, confusing love. Both boys are eager to rush into battle, but less helpful when they should show restraint. Jace’s passion is his undoing – a fear demon nearly destroys him and the Fairy Queen makes him kiss Clary to upset him. However, he asks Clary for a Fearless rune, as he’s determined to master his weaknesses and become a figure of strength in the coming war. As he strengthens, Clary does likewise.

By the next book, Jace has become a model of order and law, only holding Clary’s hand as they lie together for the single night he requests. He decides to track down Sebastian and offer his life for a chance to kill him and Valentine. However, Jace is too emotional to defeat his father, when he shows up, full of sorrow at his brother’s death. Similarly, Luke’s life is all about restraint – he loves Jocelyn but can’t bear to tell her. All his life is about keeping secrets. In book three, however, Luke becomes Clary’s guide into the world of Idris. Luke takes his place on the Council as the lone voice of wisdom and Clary’s representative to the Clave, standing on the podium and dictating to them all. However, his inflexibility leads him to walk away from Jocelyn and nearly give her up. Luke as he insists on forming an alliance between Shadowhunters and Downworlders, Jace as he tracks Sebastian, and Simon who understands how to defeat Raphael, all learn wisdom in the course of the first trilogy and finally defeat their enemies.

Valentine and Sebastian are the crafty masterminds of the story and stronger adversaries than untrained Clary can defeat. Valentine, like the queen of the Seelie Court is “cool, menacing, calculating” (Ashes 256). He’s the patriarchy, determined to rule the world as the force of pitiless rigidity. While both may begin as incarnations of violence (Valentine leads the Circle in an uprising sixteen years in the past; Sebastian murders Max), they grow beyond this stage into master liars and manipulators. Valentine’s lie that Jace is his biological son haunts Clary and Jace’s relationship for most of two books. Sebastian deceives Jace so well that Jace believes they’re allies and best friends in the fifth book, just as he misleads them all when he first appears. Clary and Jace will need to learn true wisdom and perception, not to mention their own power of deception, in order to win against them.

At the climax of City of Glass, Clary risks her life portaling to the lake to warn the other Shadowhunters there’s a threat. She half-drowns, just like at the book’s beginning, only to discover Valentine has saved her. If Luke represents benevolent rationality, Valentine is the evil: inflexible obstruction and even madness. Clary reflects that he has “lost the ability to distinguish between force and cooperation, between fear and willingness, between love and torture” (Glass 482). He’s an evil Jonathan Shadowhunter, the second to summon Raziel to make a new Shadowhunter race. And he’s killed when Raziel administers the “Justice of Heaven” (Glass 495). The evil force of patriarchy and cruel order is killed by a greater force of order than himself, thanks to the wisdom and perception Clary uses for her final trick against him. In fact, only Clary can defeat him, not through force of arms but through her own cleverness. With intuition, faith, and love, all inspired by her friends, Clary finds the power to fight back silently, subtly. The patriarch, determined to seize total power considers her weak and helpless – very well, she will use that helplessness to defeat him.

 

The Feminine Sphere

Clary is surrounded by feminine role models, though she spends more time with masculine ones.

Toni Wolff, longtime mistress of Carl Jung, described four main feminine archetypes: Mother, Hetaera, Amazon, and Medial Woman. The Amazon is a virginal warrior-girl like Artemis or Katniss. This is Isabelle’s role in the story. (Though Isabelle, like Artemis, has occasional relationships, she remains single and fiercely independent). Jocelyn of course is the nurturing, kindly and absent mother who can no longer shelter Clary.

The Hetaera (a sacred bride of ancient times) discovers her inner sensuality by relating

to her consort. She is his lover or soulmate, inspiration or goddess figure, or on the dark side, femme fatale. She thinks in terms of her companion, just as the mother relates first to her child. Clary has few examples of this, but as she watches Jocelyn examine her past with Valentine and her future with Luke, she decides what she wants with Jace.

The Medial Woman is the most enigmatic of these figures. She is the seer, sage, prophetess, witch, or sorceress. “She is both a puzzle to herself and a mystery to those she encounters. In contrast to the other types, her primary relationship is to the other, the unknown, to God or gods” (Molton and Sikes 225). Thus, her shadow or negative side is in service to the demons. Madame Dorothea, who doesn’t realize a demon has taken her over, is the perfect embodiment of this archetype. Clary seeks out Madame Dorothea for guidance, but Dorothea is a false guide. She is a conduit between the real world and that of dreams and the deep unconscious – it’s no accident that Clary takes the feminine cup from her house.

“A woman’s self-nurture includes an invitation for her to explore and integrate all four of the types into her awareness and understanding, one by one, over time” (Molton and Sikes 295). If she integrates all four types into her personality, she can use them as tools at need. Thus the Divine Child Clary is not clearly any of these types, but she tries each on at various moments as she decides who she wants to become. Mystic Clary receives visions from angels and scribes runes, Mother Clary offers to take Max shopping and cradles Simon as he lies dying. She is Hetaera Clary around Jace and Amazon Clary around the demons. The Shadow, in Jung’s psychology, is “aspects of oneself which are considered by the ego to be undesirable or not useful and are therefore relegated to the dark” (Estés 85). However, the heroine will need to explore these aspects to understand the emotions she refuses to confront in herself.

Clary lacks a wise female mentor or a romantic role model who’s happily in love – Isabelle the Amazon and Jocelyn the Good Mother are only half the archetypes. However, by looking deep within, and listening to the wisdom of Jace, Magnus, Simon, and Luke, Clary manages to become a lover and mystic by the end of the trilogy, saving Jace and the world together with heart and spirit combined. By the third book, and especially the second trilogy, she becomes a nurturer for Simon, a lover for Jace, an amazon warrior who can battle Sebastian, and a seer who dreams with the angels.

 

The Double

The Double is a same-sex friend or companion. Like Frodo and Sam or Don Quixote and Sancho, this is a partner with opposite knowledge and abilities. This double can unlock the creative process and inspire the hero to great heights.

The negative side of the partner is the competitor. Jessamine and Tessa or Clary and Isabelle spend time as both friends and enemies. When they are on the same team, their contrasting skills and outlooks prove an invaluable partnership. When they argue, the Double’s cruelty can spur the heroine to make daring choices and grow from the experience. “The competitor presents a challenge to overcome and thus provides an image of oneself to grow into” (M. Walker 51).

Isabelle is the story’s Amazon, for whom “relationship with a man is through a role of being competitor or that of a comrade and rival who makes no personal demands” (Molton and Sikes 208). Isabelle has only platonic relationships with the boys of the story until the final pages of the third book, when she grows closer to Simon. She is a model for Clary of strength and independence but also their dark side: the Shadow Amazon may spend all her time trying to prove her toughness and superiority but is in fact insecure and displays anger and over-competitiveness. “Socially she can become a social hyena, and at home a jealous fury. She takes little time for a social life. Her relationships are mostly impersonal” (Molton and Sikes 189).

Isabelle goes to Magnus’s party dressed all in silver “like a moon goddess” (Bones 208). To Clary, she’s all Clary isn’t – she’s taller and dresses older and much cooler and more elegantly. Isabelle uses her beauty “like a whip,” while Clary doesn’t know she’s beautiful (Bones 324). Isabelle always makes Clary feel scruffy – wearing Isabelle’s clothes, at the Institute, Clary feels her shortness and lack of cleavage more than ever. In Lost Souls, Clary wishes she were like Isabelle, “so aware of your own feminine power you could wield it as a weapon” (244). “The double often appears with an aura of beauty, youth, and perfection or near-perfection” (M. Walker 49). She’s all the heroine aspires to be, and thus a spur for growth and change.

Isabelle’s room is black with gold and hot pink. Inside, the tables are covered in makeup bottles, vanilla perfume, glitter, and sequins. Filled with beautiful clothes and weapons, it reflects Isabelle – and all Clary isn’t. Her room is orange, a cheerful, androgynous color. Clary usually wears braids, jeans, and plain shirts, while Isabelle wears sexy, dangerous black, white, red, and silver – goddess colors. Above it all shines her red pendent, like a fierce heart.

The ruby at Isabelle’s throat pulses “like the beat of a distant heart” and warns her of danger (Fallen Angels 342). If the heroine has talismans of perception that make her stronger, Isabelle has already completed that journey. When bestowing the necklace on Isabelle’s ancestress, Will says, “It will help keep you safe which is how I want you, and help you be a warrior, which is what you want” (Clockwork Princess 252). When her mother or grandmother passed it on, she offered it to Isabelle with similar sentiments. Its inscription reads, “True love cannot die,” offering another stage for both Isabelle and Clary to reach in time.

However, as Clary puts on Isabelle’s borrowed dress, she takes steps toward becoming a Shadowhunter, dark, powerful, and dangerous. Isabelle dresses Clary in a black spaghetti strap dress with fishnets and boots so that Clary looks “fairly badass” (Bones 210). She even offers Clary a thigh sheath. Isabelle puts Clary’s hair up in an elegant swirl, and Clary finds herself remembering her romantic dream of dancing with Jace and Simon at an Idris ball. Under Isabelle’s ministrations, Clary is suddenly grown up and alluring.

             

Feminine Magic

In the first book, she follows receiving Magnus’s book with questing for and finding her mother’s Mortal Cup. “Raziel’s Cup, in which he mixed the blood of the angels and the blood of men and gave of this mixture to a man to drink and created the first Shadowhunter” is a grail of sorts (Bones 346). As Cassandra Clare comments:

The Cup draws from all sorts of Cup legends – the Grail legend, for one, though it’s not meant to be the Grail. It also draws from the imagery of the Tarot card class of Cups. The Cup is also a symbol of faith, and Shadowhunters are all about faith. (“Interview: Cassandra Clare”)

Grail symbolism goes back for millennia: The top of the chalice is open to spiritual matters, the bottom is grounded in earth (Cirlot 43).

This cup has been hidden in Clary’s mother’s craft, her painted tarot cards. “Jocelyn clearly wanted only one person to be able to find the Cup, and that is Clary, and Clary alone” (Bones 329). The grail symbolizes the quest and is a source of illumination. Losing the grail is like losing one’s inner ties (Cirlot 121). The cup is also a feminine symbol – it’s no accident that Clary is the one to draw it from the Tarot deck where her mother hid it. The feminine is generally hidden in stories: Arthur has Excalibur but must quest across the world for the grail’s elusive power.

The cup, as a universal symbol of the mother-element, water, reflects the womb-vessel, and later, the chalice of resurrection, “the female-symbolic bowl of life-giving blood.” As for its feminine characteristics, the Grail dispenses both material food and spiritual solace. It preserves youth and maintains life. It heals knights wounded in battle. It radiates light and a sweet fragrance; it rejoices the troubled heart. In all these ways it is a source of solace and spirituality, elevating man above the animal and toward the divine. It is the guiding symbol, the anima, for which man quests. (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 58).

In this series, the cup gives birth to Shadowhunters, though Sebastian and Lilith seek to corrupt it and create a race of demonic Shadowhunters through evil birth magic in the second trilogy.

However, Clary must discover that her mother had the Cup’s power all along, as has Clary – it’s been waiting in her house all this time, like the ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet, waiting for the heroine to call it forth. “Men may quest for the grail, but each woman already bears the feminine deep within, and only needs evoke it” (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 58). Drawing it from the tarot deck indicates Clary is claiming her feminine strength.

The Ace of Cups or “love card” has a rayed sun. Madame Dorothea warns her that love can be terrible and powerful. The suns and rubies decorating the golden cup represent the heroic principle – the heir inheriting the throne. As Clary claims the card, she is taking on her role as Shadowhunter and Chosen One. The sun represents courage, passion, and creative energy, all traits Clary is known for. In tarot, on the positive side, it means glory, spirituality, and illumination, all gifts Clary needs to beat Valentine. On the negative side it is vanity and unrealistic idealism (Cirlot 317-320). These latter traits show up as the teens are overconfident when fighting the demon in Dorothea and Alec is severely wounded.

 

Facing Death

In the first book, Clary follows Jace to Valentine’s stronghold on Roosevelt Island. This ancient Shadowhunter fortress bears the Circle’s symbol on the floors – it is Valentine’s stronghold. In many tales, the heroine ventures from her place of power, like the Little Mermaid’s magical ocean, into the patriarchal castle where she is powerless. As Clary explores, the very building oppresses her. The weapons won’t pull free of the walls, and the rooms are thick with dark shadows and the screams of the forsaken. Worst of all, her mother is chained to a bed helpless and unconscious.

This withdrawal and magical sleep is a time for the woman to adjust to new roles and new situations. “Women and artists know instinctively that there are times in life where we must be unreachable, times when we must insist that those around us, especially those nearest and dearest, remain at a distance if anything significant is to develop inside us,” explains Joan Gould, author of the fairytale analysis Spinning Straw into Gold. (98).

Clary falls asleep or faints several significant times in the series, the first being when she is poisoned and awakes three days later in the Institute. Literally overnight, she has become a Shadowhunter. Metaphorically, she needs time to absorb this change, this entry into a new world, thus the sleep state. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White have similar withdrawals during their own stories. Jocelyn enters the coma herself as a defense mechanism. She awakens to find her own world has changed – Clary is a Shadowhunter and Jocelyn must return to Idris and face the path she thought she’d left forever.

Spiritual gifts are just as important as the physical. Clary’s greatest runes are created in moments of love and classically feminine emotion. At the second book’s climax, the world falls away and she pours all her power, love, and hope, and rage into an Opening rune. Her pure love and desperation tear apart the patriarchal stronghold of Valentine’s ship with all his demons in it. They fall into the purifying feminine ocean, with magical Nixies waiting to save them all (as Jace has called the feminine powers of the cavalry to the rescue). As she falls into the dark ocean in a near-death, she sees a nixie come for her and imagines it is her mother, source of protective feminine power. “Water evokes the deep feminine, interconnectivity and flexibility. It offers a chance to let go, to let intuition and nature buoy the woman forward” (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 63). Before the Council in the third book, Clary feels intimidated. However, she gazes out at Simon and thinks of Jace. Knowing their love and faith in her, she draws a new rune. She creates an illusion of everyone’s loved one – she feels love so she can create it in turn.

Clary’s journey to Jace’s childhood home is a different kind of descent. It is another of Valentine’s strongholds, but this one is hidden underground, the place of initiation. Further, the angel waiting below is the source of Clary’s feminine magic – dreams, prophetic visions, and runes. This place stands on the threshold, blending science and magic, Valentine’s cruel experiments with the inexplicable miracle of a true angel. Clary and Jace together free the angel and decipher its message, returning to the world above with a new understanding.

At the climax of the third book, Clary risks her life to save Jace and stop Valentine. However, Valentine is too powerful for her: Clary is incapacitated and robbed of her voice when Jace arrives, confronts Valentine, and dies. The silenced heroine is common in myths and fairytales, from the story of Echo to The Six Swans and more:

Fairytales show silent, virtuous maids like Cinderella and the little mermaid, who never complain of their vicious treatment, and even more silent, virtuous but dead mothers. Contrasted with this are the vocal witches and stepmothers giving orders. (Frankel, From Girl to Goddess 22)

This theme is found throughout the world, from sleeping princesses to gagged and enchanted questing girls. Disturbingly, this best reflects the real status of women through history: illiterate and confined to cleaning and childbearing. Valentine binds and silences his daughter, then dismisses her as a helpless sacrifice who can do nothing to stop him. The rune Clary carves is tiny, unlike the great binding rune or Mark of Cain. At the height of Valentine’s master plan, he is defeated by his neglected, bound, ignored daughter, who scribbles a single word. This too is the heroine’s journey, often the path of silently knitting coats of nettles or keeping faith for seven years to rescue loved ones and bring an end to evil.

Clary comes to understand Valentine, and even sympathizes a bit with the man who honestly mourns Jace as she does. By watching him, Clary understands how to defeat him with his own runes when he won’t look for a quiet act of desperation. Valentine’s misogyny has made him dismiss her as a threat, just as he once dismissed a pregnant, despairing Jocelyn. This narrow thinking proves his downfall. Further, she makes a wiser choice than he does when Raziel offers her a boon: Valentine chose death, she chooses life.

Like Clary’s other great moments, this one springs from emotion. Jace’s death gives her the clue she needs, for, as she reflects, “there was so much power in a name (Glass 489). As with the rune she draws for the Council, she thinks of Jace and realizes he’d be disappointed if she stopped fighting. When the Angel Raziel offers her anything in the world, Clary once more relies on love and asks for the only person she truly wants: Jace. Her love brings him back to life in one of the heroine’s classic quests. She’s succeeding with the “deep magic” of Narnia or the brave desperation of Katniss and her berries – the older, quieter wisdom the powerful tyrant has discounted.

She ends the trilogy strong enough in herself to face down the all-powerful matriarch, the fairy queen, and refuse her offer of a favor. Further, Simon points out Clary’s strong enough to defend herself with a variety of weapons. By defeating Valentine the Patriarch, Clary can usher in a better world with peace between Downworlders and Shadowhunters. With the lessons she’s learned, she demands that her mother marry Luke and treasure the love in her life, just as Clary has brought Jace back from the dead.

 

Lilith Rises

Changed by her adventure, the heroine realizes that her father is not the omnipotent god in whom she had once completely believed. She has her own power now and her own success. In this moment, the heroine realizes that she need not depend on her father, or men at all, to rescue and protect her. She is the heroine, equally as valid as the hero.

Often, this encounter takes place in the middle of the epic quest, before descending into the final conflict with the witch. Though a resting place, it is also a revelation. By returning home, the heroine can see how far she has evolved. Beauty visits her family and chooses between magic and the mundane. Dorothy returns to the Wizard but discovers him a humbug. Cinderella returns from the magical world of the ball. Now she must cater to her stepsisters and pretend that she is the same person. Her night of glamour is over. Yet, she finds that the status quo no longer fits her, if indeed, it ever did. She is a different person more suited to the prince’s world than her own. (Frankel, Girl to Goddess 104).

The two trilogies fit together as the two halves of Clary’s heroine’s journey – on the first, she faces the patriarch, Valentine. Her second, deadlier adversary will be the Dark Mother, Lilith. The first trilogy is about beating Valentine and the patriarchal Council, both too rigid with their desire for order. The second trilogy is more concerned with the spirituality of Clary’s power as she quests to become lover and mystic, the one who can stand by Jace through the darkest of evils and harness the angels’ power.

However, her first adventure has taught her a great deal. She begins the second trilogy having fully integrated into Jace’s world of the supernatural. She trains in fighting and is fully committed to her new boyfriend. Isabelle and Jocelyn have integrated the lover archetype into themselves, reflecting Clary’s happiness with Jace. Magnus and Alec are equally blissful. All is well in the Shadowhunters’ world.

The second series reflects a shift from male power to female: Robert Lightwood abandons his family. Magnus and Alec quarrel constantly, and Magnus finally leaves the cause. The Council drifts, uncertain how to rule in this new world. Luke is wounded critically, as Jocelyn was in the previous trilogy. Simon loses his godlike power. Jace is possessed and kidnapped.

By contrast, Isabelle is gaining confidence. When Clary loses Jace, Isabelle, her strong female side, grows even stronger and becomes “her staunchest defender” (Lost Souls 12). Isabelle marches her protectively past the glaring Shadowhunters and accompanies her to bargain with the treacherous fairy queen. This time, Clary must confront her without Jace’s clever tongue. When Jace is taken from her, Clary turns all her energy toward getting him back. However, with Isabelle and the fairy queen as allies, she’s coming from a stronger position, with her feminine energies marshaled. Clary also begins wearing the fairy queen’s silver bell rather than Jace’s ring around her neck. She’s seeking feminine power without her boyfriend. Camille replaces the weaker Raphael as another selfish yet strong female, glowing with power. Maia takes a larger role. Clary herself has been trained in battling demons, and she becomes strong enough for a physical battle with Sebastian.

However, Clary struggles with her rune powers because she hasn’t yet explored her dark side, only the lighter side of her nature that mastered physical power over Valentine’s ship, Valentine’s summoning circle, and the hierarchical Clave. Clary has not delved into the mystical feminine side of her abilities. In City of Fallen Angels, she finally tries. However, her first foray into the dark side terrifies her: She revives a Shadowhunter from the dead and is horrified at his agony. Luke warns her that she needs to train and not only use her power for big moments: He comments, “Think of Magnus: His power is a part of him. You seem to think of yours as separate from you. Something that happens to you. It’s not. It’s a tool you need to learn to use” (Fallen Angels 137).

This is good advice modern psychologists would agree with: Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves explains, “We find that by opening the door to the shadow realm a little, and letting out various elements a few at a time, relating to them, finding use for them, negotiating, we can reduce being surprised by shadow sneak attacks and unexpected explosions” (236). The Shadow is all one’s buried or rejected impulses – rage, selfishness, misbehavior. However, a Shadow is also a force of strength and motivator for growth – it has positive qualities to teach the too polite, too-repressed Chosen One. But Clary has only begun exploring this side of herself. To understand her dark side, Clary will need to face the Dark Mother.

Lilith is the powerful mother to the reborn Jonathan, and to the race of dark Shadowhunters that follow. As she shows in City of Fallen Angels, she will do anything, even kill, to protect her unnatural child. This is a lesson that Clary, future mother to Shadowhunter children, must learn. Her mother cannot teach her the lesson. Estés says that to defend her unnatural child, the mother needs fierce qualities such as fearlessness, vehemence, and fearsomeness (176). Jocelyn, however loving, backed away from raising a Shadowhunter child and instead robbed Clary of her powers, forcing her to grow up “normal” in the mundane world. To learn how to fight and kill to protect her dangerous, powerful future child, to keep her child safe to the exclusion of everything, Clary must learn from Lilith.

She is the strong shadow of femininity, all Clary isn’t. She tells Jace: “I am not a man. I have no male pride for you to trick me with, and I am not interested in single combat. That is merely a weakness of your sex, not mine. I am a woman. I will use any weapon and all weapons to get what I want” (Fallen Angels 371). Ironically, this is the lesson Jace has tried to teach Clary in combat: to be ruthless, pitiless, clever and determined.

Lilith plots to resurrect Sebastian, keeping him in a glass coffin like Snow White’s. She adds, “As Jonathan Shadowhunter led the first Nephilim, so shall this Jonathan lead the new race that I intend to create” (Fallen Angels 331). Clary may think she has nothing in common with this dark mother, but Lilith reveals the truth: Clary’s reviving Jace has let Lilith revive Sebastian: “Thinking you could be the only people in the world who could have their dead loved one back, and that there would be no consequences. That is what you thought, isn’t it, both of you? Fools” (Fallen Angels 385). Clary and Jace have been living in a world in which their love only affects them, but it matters to their families, as the next book will reveal. Clary has played with the power of death, not merely life, and she didn’t understand the gravity of the consequences. Now she is learning them, directly from the dark goddess of the series. Being able to speak with the dead and conjure angels is useless until she can harness her power and understand how to control it.

Clary is dragged into Lilith’s temple in City of Fallen Angels. The words on her altar reference Proverbs from the Bible, describing the woman who forsakes God, as Lilith has:

For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. (Proverbs 2:18-19)

Inside, all is the dark reversal of the Shadowhunters’ blessed Institute: Clary reads an evil book of runes and is revolted. She also takes an athame, a sacrificial knife used to summon demons as it’s described, and marks it into a Shadowhunter blade, turning Lilith’s dark magic into a source of light.

Lilith’s temple is a place of terror, with dead and dying perversions of childbirth all around. This stronghold is the dark side of love: obsession, torture, singlemindedness. However, facing this is a part of growing up: Clary, Isabelle, and Maia all must accept that there’s no ideal, perfect love – that their boyfriends can sin and even do unforgiveable acts. All three enter Lilith’s temple to save their loved ones and discover that they can indeed forgive their men. The innermost cave is a place of total truth with all illusions burned away. By accepting this lesson, all these couples can grow and find a real love, accepting the other person’s all-too-human flaws. Clary uses trickery and love once more to write on Jace with his father’s dagger and Lilith’s rune on his heart. Her rune power and force of love save her, along with cleverness – Simon, Clary’s creation and appointed warrior, also uses all three to destroy Lilith.

 

Jace as Destroyer

In the new trilogy, Jace and Clary are finally allowed to be together. In fact, he becomes her occasional weapons tutor and Shadowhunter partner as well as boyfriend. Clary decides that they are soulmates, eternally, perfectly in love. She gives up her mundane world for his, and might even have given up her mother if the laws weren’t in chaos. They spend training sessions making out, and Clary neglects her friends to stare moonily at her boyfriend. He’s taking over her entire world, so much that the old her is in danger of vanishing. The journey involves finding balance between the daylight world and the magical world that represents the subconscious. However, Clary is giving up on all aspects of her former life to spend her days with Shadowhunters. She’s acting like Twilight’s Bella Swan, who offers to give up parents, Jacob’s friendship, college, children, her soul, and her sanity just to be with Edward.

Jocelyn points out that the universe has thrown so many obstacles at their love, from the brother-sister relationship to Jace’s possession that “the two of you are not meant to be together” (Lost Souls 122). The strong feminine voice in Clary’s life, missing from the first trilogy, has returned, and is trying to protect Clary from being completely subsumed in the new relationship. “You love him so much. It scares me,” she worries, voicing the defensive fears inside Clary herself (Fallen Angels 288). Clary hasn’t yet found her identity – she’s hiding from her rune powers and hasn’t decided who she wants to be, aside from Jace’s perfect girlfriend and Shadowhunter partner. As such, the new her could easily become lost.

“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for Jace,” Clary insists (Lost Souls 142). Simon must point out how destructive this philosophy is: He would do almost anything for Clary. But he wouldn’t kill innocents or destroy the world. Evil Jace might ask her to do all that and more. In fact, that is what Jace asks, and Clary must make her choice. Describing Jace’s possession, the author adds:

Jace is in this place where he needs to be saved. But he’s not really Jace anymore. So the question is, how much would you do for love? And what if you have to do an immoral thing for a moral reason because you love someone so much? At what point do you have to stop trying to save this person because it’s bad for the world in general, even if you love them very much. That’s the central tension that kind of rips up the characters in Lost Souls. The group that wants to save him more than anything else, and the group that is willing to sacrifice him for the greater good. (Brissey, “Cassandra Clare talks ‘Clockwork Prince’”)

“When a woman is attempting to avoid the facts of her own devastations, her night dreams will shout warnings to her” such as “flee,” or even “go for the kill,” explains Estés (54).

Clary struggles to commit to Jace completely. Their brother-sister barrier is gone. However, when she considers making love with Jace, he takes the Herondale knife and stabs her with it. These are Jace’s nightmares, but they are directed by the dark feminine presence of the story. If all characters are aspects of Clary, Lilith is the cruel Shadow but also Clary’s fierceness, determined to stop Jace from taking her over. The dreams she sends reveal Jace as a killer who could tear Clary to pieces. In the next book, his predatory side is even more pronounced, as he tries to make her drink a demon’s blood “for her own good.” Evil Jace is the Predator without disguise or apology.

Later, he asks to put a binding rune on her, but it ends up being a rune of coercion: ‘Something darker that spoke of control and submission, of loss and darkness” (Fallen Angels 305). All this is the dark side of love, and it frightens her. Clary swoons like Sleeping Beauty confronted with the spindle’s prick (a metaphor for sex, as the rune of total commitment is). The powerful feminine inside Clary is raging against her giving up her identity completely. Once again, Jace is revealed as the Predator, his rune selfish and coercive. With Lilith’s mark on him, Jace becomes a stranger. “Like a recording of him, she thought, all the tones and patterns of his voice there, but the life that animated it gone” (Fallen Angels 336). “Now the naive self has knowledge about a killing force loose within the psyche,” Estés explains (55).

Clearly, Simon was right to warn her that she needs to reprioritize. “Today, it is generally understood that the romantic and spiritual man-god – the male ideal worthy of a woman’s self-sacrifice and worship, for whom she is expected to set aside herself and her life – simply does not exist” (Pearson and Pope 35). This is the lesson Clary must learn – that overpowering love is wonderful, but she cannot sacrifice the world for Jace. Only if she sees him as an equal partner, not her golden angel, can they have a real relationship.

 

Blurred Morality

In City of Lost Souls, Clary comes to realize the world isn’t as black and white as she’d envisioned. With Jace in danger, she would break any rule, betray any loyalty to get him back.

First, she bargains with the fairy queen and steals magic rings from the Institute. After, she keeps the rings for herself. In Venice she happily steals a gondola with Jace and tries fairy drugs. This is Clary dipping into her Shadow, just to try it out. It’s more delightful than she’d expected to ignore her mother’s chiding and her own knowledge of consequences.

Jace, flirting with her, urges her to abandon all control. She sees that Jace has given up his principles and only lives for the moment now – and is happier without ethics. This makes her question her own rules. Together they kill a demon and steal its possessions, and for the first time she feels the rush and joy of fighting. The silvery adamas they had bargained for is darkened as she is, its pure angelic silver marred by her blood. She puts on the dress Sebastian brings her – black lace and beads. In it, her eyes are smudged with “dark shadow” and she has “a certain toughness” (Lost Souls 300). She remembers wearing Isabelle’s dress in book one and taking her first steps into the demon world as she enters an even darker realm this time.

Jace guides her into the Bone Chandelier and references the quote “Easy is the decent into hell.” There, a black-winged angel drips strings of garnets like blood. The gruesome bone chandelier dominates, sprinkling the room with silvery fairy drugs. Under its light, Clary gives in to temptation. She makes out with Jace and drinks the drugs, discarding her good girl role.

When Clary turns into her own evil twin, dressing provocatively and slipping into a demon party (as she did in City of Bones), she’s allowing her Shadow to take over – all the impulses she’s always buried, all the sexy, provocative, bad girl impulses she never allows to surface. With the catalyst of various Shadows – Sebastian and Isabelle, who both offer her sexy dresses, Clary feels her unacknowledged, unexplored bad girl side pushing through. And she revels in it. Campbell describes facing this Shadow as “destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life” (8). Allowing the Shadow out, learning its lessons and acknowledging its place in the day to day world is the process of being human.

In Lost Souls, Jace must contend with his Shadow of evil Jace: Clary must contend with Sebastian. He tells her that he needs Jace “But in his heart he’s not like me. You are” (Lost Souls 358). Sebastian even holds up hands like Jocelyn’s and talks about painting. In fact, he represents her buried side: all the seething emotions, power, and desire to lash out people keep hidden under their skins. Sebastian tells her unpleasant truths, pointing out that Jocelyn isn’t as wonderful as Clary always thought: She betrayed her husband, lied for months, and arranged the slaughter of all their friends. “She stole your memories. Have you forgiven her?” he adds, like the angry voice deep inside Clary (Lost Souls 358). He points out Clary too has the potential for evil – she killed their father and doesn’t mourn what she’s done.

As she tries on his lifestyle like the black dress, she finds herself seeing Sebastian’s side, acting on the dark voice that whispers within her. Under the drugs’ influence, she finds herself liking Sebastian. She’s become her own evil twin there in the club, as she thinks of him as her brother and can’t recall why she should fear him. Side by side, they gaze into a pool, and Sebastian tells her how much they share. “You have a dark heart in you, Valentine’s daughter…You just won’t admit it” (Lost Souls 316).

In one of her posted deleted scenes, Clare shows Sebastian’s thought process.

Clarissa was Father’s real daughter too, and who knew what strange brew the combination of Father’s blood and Heaven’s power had formed to run through Clarissa’s veins? She might not be very different from himself.

Jonathan dreamed of a girl standing in the sea with hair like scarlet smoke coiling over her shoulders, winding and unwinding in the untameable wind. Everything was stormy darkness, and in the raging sea were pieces of wreckage that had once been a boat and bodies floating facedown. She looked down on them with cool green eyes and was not afraid.

Clarissa had done that – wreaked destruction like he would have. In the dream, he was proud of her. His little sister. (“City of Glass: A Dark Transformation.”)

He shares her prophetic dreams and also her longing for someone like him, someone who will understand his unique powers. On some level, he respects her and cares for her as Valentine does not.

Talking with Sebastian, Clary comes to realize he isn’t all evil either – he genuinely likes her and Jace, and wants them to be a family. He tells her, “You can’t go back. You’ve already thrown your lot in with Jace. You might as well do it wholeheartedly” (Lost Souls 257). Fighting beside him, she discovers the high of battle, and it makes her feel invincible. “Amazing that it had taken fighting alongside Sebastian of all people to flip the switch inside her that seemed to turn her Shadowhunter instincts on” (Lost Souls 298). By abandoning her good self, she’s embraced the fighter side of her heritage. The gold ring of responsibility, link to her mission and family back home, is her only tether.

After she parties all night, tries fairy drugs, and nearly gives in to Jace, her ring vanishes. Like Bluebeard’s wife, she’s done the forbidden and so been stained with its consequences: she can no longer reach her friends. Of course, cut off from them, she must choose for herself and find a way to save the world without outside help.

By trying to beat Sebastian, Clary must become him, resorting to dirty tricks she would never use under ordinary circumstances. However, pretending to be their ally is bringing her closer to their side. “You’re everything like me,” he hisses. “You infiltrated us. You faked friendship, faked caring” (Lost Souls 446). In the end, Clary realizes she’s come to understand Sebastian, an invaluable skill for their next encounter.

Though she is more comfortable with her dark side, Clary is still a warrior of the light, In the battle, Simon gives her the sword “and in that moment, she was no longer Clary, his friend since childhood, but a Shadowhunter, an avenging angel who belonged with that sword in her hand” (Lost Souls 485-486). The sword, named Glorious, was once given by the Archangel Michael to lead God’s chosen in battle. Clary accepts the sword to do just that.

Clary stabs Jace and Sebastian, and far off, the evil side of herself that has been allowed to whisper to her, screams in agony. It’s over. Clary has another near death as she crumples, feeling like she’s burning alive alongside Jace.

Looking at Jace, Clary realizes his evil Jace persona doesn’t love her, only an idealized picture of her. For fairytale heroines, the test is often to withstand pity – if the heroine turns from the path at every cry for help, she will never reach her goal. Clary’s task is to destroy the Predator taking over her life and ignore the maternal impulse that urges her to spare her lover pain. For Evil Jace to be broken apart and Good Jace to return, Clary must be ruthless. She summons the cruel, expedient side she’s learned from Sebastian, the side that would sacrifice a loved one to win a larger goal. With it, Clary stabs Jace with Glorious, burning away the false images and blurry glass through which each has been seeing the other.

Jace is broken down with the sword and burned by heavenly fire until the evil shatters. After he returns to life, he and Clary begin a more balanced relationship. They discuss their priorities and agree to trust each other in the future. There will be further trials as Clary explores her darker nature and faces death, together with the world’s end, one last time, but she and Jace will approach the quest from a more honest and united place.

 

City of Heavenly Fire

Once more, the women grow ascendant as Tessa and Emma’s stories blend with the main narrative. Maia takes over Luke’s pack and controlled, expedient Rafael and maddened Maureen are replaces by a cleverer vampire, Lily. By book’s end, Meliorn is no longer the fairies representative, and a woman has taken his place. Jia, leader of the Shadowhunters, is cold but fair. Tessa fills Idris with weapons from the Spiral Labyrinth that can block the fairies’ advances, swaddling the city in her protection. All the Shadowhunters team up to defend it, even the children within the Citadel. The Iron Sisters emerge from their Citadel to defend Jace because of the heavenly fire within him and chase off Sebastian himself.

Further, their battle against Sebastian and the demon realm cannot be won by force of arms. Even Jace’s heavenly fire cannot best the other in a straightforward attack, and Jace, impulse and passion, lacks the knowledge of how to wield it. In the demonic realm of Edom, Sebastian taunts him with an image of guilt and Jace lashes out, almost destroying himself with the fire. It is Clary who scrawls protective runes on herself and walks directly into the flames, guiding his fire safely into her own sword, which only lights up at its true bearer, herself.

Along with the fairy rings and her drawing magic, Clary gains a sword at last, generally a masculine icon. Sword seller Diana Wrayburn (destined to be Emma’s trainer in the next series) offers her one of gold and obsidian with a blade of black silver. It’s a match to Sebastian’s light-bringer sword Phaesphoros. Hers is Heosphoros, dawn-bringer. The dawn of course symbolizes hope along with youth and newness—an end to the darkness that’s lingered for so long. Diana tells her, “If you flinch from it, you give it power over you…Take it, and cut your brother’s throat with it, and take back the honor of your blood” (Heavenly Fire 147).

Later, Clary tells her mother, “I need to find a way to be partly a Morganstern and to have that be all right, not to pretend that I’m someone else” (Heavenly Fire 219). She’s seeking identity and owning the darkness within her. Sebastian comes to her and emphasizes that demons are only the flip side of angels – that both are chosen for greatness and that Clary has the capacity for both within her.

When Luke, her mother, Magnus, and Raphael are taken, she and her best friends – Jace, Simon, Alec, and Isabelle, travel to Edom to save them. It’s a dark reflection of Idris – the geography is the same, but it was taken over by demons long ago. There, Clary and Jace find romance by a lake, protected all around with silvery Shadowhunter runes – a moment of beauty and consummation before the battle to come.

In Sebastian’s stronghold, the darkest place of all, Clary opens a Portal so Jace can snatch and use Jonathan Shadowhunter’s weapon, the skeptron and destroy all the demons “like an avenging angel” (Heavenly Fire 557). However, Sebastian is hers to conquer. He offers to save her world, breaking the link between realms so he can no longer attack it, if she will rule by his side. “Ever since you discovered the Shadow World, haven’t you secretly wanted to be a hero? To be the most special of a special people? In out own way we each with to be the hero of our kind” (Heavenly Fire 589). He reminds her that this way she can save her own world yet have an excuse to embrace her own darkness. She agrees and when she kisses him to seal their bargain, she stabs him with her blade, containing heaven’s fire.

He dies slowly, purged of the demon’s blood and returning to the man who might have been her brother. He gives them the  Infernal Cup and Jace smashes it, destroying the Endarkened. Their world is saved. There are still trials and sacrifices as Clary and her friends make it home, as they discover the Shadowhunters want vengeance more than mercy and set up the conflicts that will follow. Nonetheless, the book ends with Jocelyn and Luke’s wedding at last, as they celebrate a return to life and hope with new chances for alliance and family.

 

If you enjoyed this, it’s a trimmed-down excerpt from the guide book Myths and Motifs of The Mortal Instruments, available in paperback, ebook, and Kindle Unlimited. http://www.amazon.com/Motifs-Instruments-Valerie-Estelle-Frankel-ebook/dp/B00ED8FCA8  Along with Clary’s journey, it traces Jace’s. Simon’s, and Tessa’s, plus lore of angels and demons and other background on Clare’s beloved books.

 

 

Works Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.

Brissey, Breia. “Cassandra Clare Talks ‘Clockwork Prince’ and Reveals What’s Next for her Infernal Devices, Mortal Instruments Series” EW.com’s Shelf Life 8 Dec. 2011. http://shelflife.ew.com/2011/12/08/cassandra-clare-clockwork-prince-infernal-devices.

Cashdan, Sheldon. The Witch Must Die. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Cirlot, J. E. A Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Dover Publications, 2002.

Clare, Cassandra. City of Ashes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

–. City of Bones. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

–. City of Fallen Angels. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

–. City of Glass. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

–. City of Heavenly Fire. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

–. City of Lost Souls. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

–. Clockwork Angel. USA: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010.

–. Clockwork Prince. USA: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011.

–. Clockwork Princess. USA: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.

–. “Interview: Cassandra Clare.” The Reader’s Quill. 6 Nov 2008. http://www.readersquill.com/2008/11/interview-cassandra-clare.html.

Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

Frankel, Valerie Estelle. Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2012.

–. From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2010.

Molton, Mary Dian and Lucy Anne Sikes. Four Eternal Women: Toni Wolff Revisited – A Study in Opposites. Carmel, CA: Fisher King Press, 2011.

Pearson, Carol and Katherine Pope. The Female Hero in American and British Literature. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1981.

Walker, Mitchell. “The Double: Same-Sex Inner Helper.” Mirrors of the Self: Archetypal Images that Shape Your Life. Ed. Christine Downing. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. 48-52.

 

 

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Rebooting A New Hope — the Catch of Force Awakens

Most of us have seen the Original Trilogy so many times, it’s taken on a life of its own in our memories. Beyond the fact that we can all quote Yoda from memory, there’s also the weird distortion that happens when every single cute moment has become a T-shirt or a meme. You’ve probably attended a Star Wars wedding. The Force Awakens is as much a sequel to our collective memory of those films as it is to the films themselves.

In that context, a lot of The Force Awakens is about revisiting the big ideas of the Original Trilogy through the eyes of a new, younger set of characters, and rediscovering them. There’s no way to strip away the cultural baggage that’s accrued to the first three Star Wars films, and get at the essence of what they actually were—so instead, this film aims to connect to that collective miasma of shared ideas, while making it all new again (Anders)

Fan-service and shout-outs to the original movies are constant. To some extent this is acknowledging this world’s history – legends of Luke and Han, with the Millennium Falcon or Darth Vader’s skull as souvenirs of the earlier adventures. Other callbacks continue the original aesthetic – use of scale to emphasize the vastness of planets and ships beside personal fliers and tiny individuals.  The Force Awakens specifically offers the grungy looking “used future” rather than the shiny CGI droids and intricate costumes of the Old Republic. Nonetheless, technology has both aged and advanced, in small, subtle ways that feel believable, such as X-wing upgrades and the mobile BB-8. There’s the feel of Old Star Wars, from the designs to the vanished racist aliens, cloying children, pod races, painful dialogue, and midichlorians of the prequels. Instead, humor and camaraderie are central, to the point of lots of hugging.

“If we got intoxicated by the nostalgia of what we were doing, the movie was gonna suck,” Abrams admitted (“Director J.J. Abrams” 66). It’s a risk the film frequently takes. In particular, he has recycled the entire plot. Plans hidden in a droid, a Death Star equivalent, three young heroes who mirror the original ones out to save the galaxy.

The Force Awakens essentially retells the story of A New Hope, beat for beat. It inverts some things here, gender-flips some things there, and tweaks a few other things. But this is a movie about a child of mysterious parentage who grows up on a desert planet and proves essential to blowing up a massive, planet-destroying space station. Rewriting the Star Wars saga, this is not. Instead, it’s a bit of a remix. (VanDerWerff)

The similarities run deeper than that, even. If you lay A New Hope alongside The Force Awakens, Rey meets Han Solo roughly when Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, and her one-woman escape from the clutches of the First Order turns her into the imprisoned Leia and the Luke who rescues the princess all in one character. Rey’s story and Luke’s mirror each other almost exactly. (VanDerWerff)

Abrams has also brought back many of the emotional resonances. The conflict between father and son in this film is different from the one in Empire, yet startlingly similar. Like Luke, Rey seeks the truth of her parenthood and has (possibly) an evil relative in a mask tempting her to the Dark Side.

Abrams notes, “George Lucas told a story about everyman, everywoman characters who were nobodies who had to step up and become somebody. The idea that there would be a new crop of nobodies in the Star Wars universe who didn’t realize yet they would become somebody, that was a very powerful feeling” (“Director J.J. Abrams” 66). Some of the elements and characters are flipped, as Rey definitely doesn’t need a rescue, allowing the audience a moment of fun.

The visual message is clear: Don’t take anything at face value, because you’re never seeing the whole picture. Abrams loves to surprise and startle his audience, but he also goes into this movie with a laundry list of things that we’re expecting to see, because Star Wars. Instead of simply setting up expectations within the narrative and then playing off them, he’s in a position of having to play off our pre-existing expectations—so he gives us what we expect, but still tries to keep us off guard.

But at times, nostalgia definitely overwhelms storytelling, and at times the determination to give us the “greatest hits” of Star Wars is a little too ingratiating. (Anders)

Of course, a valid point is how derivative it all was the first time around. Even without this major commentary on how life works, it was still recycled storytelling. The heroic space melodrama appeared in Flash Gordon, also a story of a young hero mixing space and fantasy while rescuing his heroine from the Dark Lord. There’s a heavy dose of old radio dramas, too, where superheroes flew into space in great genre mash-ups. The plot is pure hero’s journey as everyone has noticed – King Arthur in space. The other stories follow this as well. Critic Chris Taylor notes: “Spoiler alert: Every Star Wars trilogy is going to follow the arc of the hero’s journey. As did every work of fiction from Gilgamesh to The Hunger Games. As will all the spin-off Star Wars movies” (Taylor).

The original trilogy is also derivative within itself as films one and three have Death Stars, and Luke finishes the fight Darth began with Obi-Wan. In Empire, Luke must choose between the bigger picture and saving Leia and his friends, something the Emperor continues taunting him with in the third film. The prequels, too, are obsessed with the bonds of family and friendship while rehashing character appearances and massive nods to the series that will follow. Taylor adds:

The entire Star Wars series is intentionally derivative of itself. This goes back to The Empire Strikes Back, which reprised Luke’s Jedi training with Obi-Wan — using a creature who grew out of a version of the “Ben Kenobi” character in the third draft of “The Star Wars,” as it then was. The derivative version ended up being better, and darker, with Luke’s vision of facing Vader springing out of it.

Lucas learned a vital lesson: Keep iterating on the same ideas and you’ll strike gold….Say what you like about J.J. Abrams, but there is no greater imitator of George Lucas than George Lucas. (Taylor)

One could even argue that the repeated plot elements each time are commentary on human nature – each time the world is fixed, someone else must invent a new superweapon or try again with plans from the old one. As Gerry Canavan explains:

…while I can certainly understand the impulse to complain about The Force Awakens as derivative, I really think this is more repetition with a difference than mere or base or stupid repetition. One Death Star is a horror; two Death Stars and one Starkiller Base and whatever horrific murder innovation the First Order will come up with for Episode 9 is something more like the inexorable logic of history, grinding us all to dust. Likewise, it’s true that The Force Awakens hits many of the same story beats as the Original Trilogy, but almost always in ways that are worse: the death of Obi-Wan was sad but mysterious, suggestive of a world beyond death which the Jedi could access, while the death of The Force Awakens’s version of Obi-Wan is not only brutally material but visceral and permanent, as far as we have any reason to believe right now. The loss of Alderaan is sad, but the loss of what appears to be the entire institutional apparatus of the resurgent Republic is unthinkably devastating; aside from the loss of life it would take decades for the Galaxy to recover from such an event, even if they weren’t having to fight off the First Order while doing it. (Canavan)

True, but so far, the new film doesn’t have much identity to set it apart – if its scenes, shots, characters and plots mirror A New Hope so completely, viewers could really use a clue what this new story has to offer that’s different from the old one.

If you enjoyed this, it’s an excerpt from a longer book. We’re Home: Fandom, Fun, and Hidden Homages in Star Wars: The Force Awakenshttp://www.amazon.com/Were-Home-Fandom-Homages-Awakens-ebook/dp/B01A59W4XQ/ The book is for sale in paperback and ebook, free through Kindle Unlimited. Also, check out A Rey of Hope: Feminism, Symbolism and Hidden Gems in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
http://www.amazon.com/Rey-Hope-Feminism-Symbolism-Awakens-ebook/dp/B01A6OP99Q

 

Works Cited

Anders, Charlie Jane. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is the Most Fun I’ve Had at the Movies in Ages.” IO9, 16 Dec 2015. http://io9.gizmodo.com/star-wars-the-force-awakens-is-the-most-fun-ive-had-at-1748271186

Canavan, Gerry. “From “A New Hope” to no Hope at All: “Star Wars,” Tolkien and the Sinister and Depressing Reality of Expanded Universes.” Salon 24 Dec 2015.

http://www.salon.com/2015/12/24/from_a_new_hope_to_no_hope_at_all_star_wars_tolkien_and_the_sinister_and_depressing_reality_of_expanded_universes/

“Director J.J. Abrams.” People Special Star Wars: The Force Awakens Edition, Dec 2015. 66.

Taylor, Chris. “Questions for Anyone Who Calls Star Wars: The Force Awakens a ‘Remake’.” Mashable 23 Dec 2015. http://mashable.com/2015/12/23/force-awakens-is-no-remake/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link#Tz7esDdYusqD

VanDerWerff, Todd. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens: 5 Ways the New Movie Copies the Original Film.” Vox, 21 Dec. 2015. http://www.vox.com/2015/12/21/10632690/star-wars-the-force-awakens-spoilers-han-solo-new-hope

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Gender Subversions in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Luke Skywalker has vanished.
In his absence, the sinister
FIRST ORDER has risen
from the ashes of the Empire
and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi,
has been destroyed.

With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE.
She is desperate to find her
brother Luke and gain his
help in restoring peace and
justice to the galaxy.

Leia has sent her most daring
pilot on a secret mission
to Jakku, where an old ally
has discovered a clue to
Luke’s whereabouts . . .

 

In itself this title sequence more than provides the exposition. It sets up a new kind of story with a shift in who gets to be front and center.

Luke is gone. In fact, he won’t be the hero-leader of the story at all. All of the other characters will make a new narrative and show what they have to contribute, front and center. The second paragraph introduces “General Leia Organa” – no longer Princess Leia and not Mrs. Leia Solo either. She is the active one as she organizes the search, while Luke remains passive, waiting to be found. In fact, Luke doesn’t have a single line in the film, only waiting as active Rey sets out to find him, much as Princess Leia waited the first time around. “Leia is in need of finding in A New Hope, so Luke is in need of finding in The Force Awakens” (VanDerWerff). In the book, Rey’s thoughts provide a fun callback to this switchover:

His hair and beard were white, and his countenance was haunted. He did not speak, nor did she.

Remembering, Rey reached into her pack and removed his Lightsaber. Taking several steps forward, she held it out to him. An offer. A plea. The galaxy’s only hope.

All this sets the scene for a far different Star Wars universe, one that’s been changing for a while:

There has been a noticeable increase of prominent women in Star Wars; most notably with Ahsoka and Ventress in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Hera and Sabine in Star Wars Rebels. But in these cartoons they are still supporting players in Anakin and Ezra’s stories. They are most certainly included, even at times emphasized, and in the case of Ahsoka receive a great amount of development, but they are never the character who’s central to the story. (Moran)

Certainly, there have been strong women in Star Wars (well, two of them) with more in the less-popular television shows and novelizations. However, women’s roles in the franchise have always been sidelined. Certainly, Leia was bold and powerful in her time: When attacked by Stormtroopers in her first scene, the senator in modest white with giant hair buns snatches a blaster. She even shoots first. Unleashing her powerful tongue while imprisoned by the Empire, she mocks them all with “Darth Vader, only you could be so bold,” “Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board,” and the memorable, “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

Billie Lourd says, “When I noticed the movie for the first time, I noticed my mom was not only as confident and strong as the men, she was one of the most confident characters in the entire film. It made me realize women are just as powerful as men and that we can truly do anything they can (if not more)” (“Billie Lourd,” 52).

While Han Solo shirks responsibility and Luke Skywalker fumbles around with his evolving, boyish perception of the hero, Leia gets things done. When her own rescue goes awry, she grabs the blaster herself and finds a way out. She’s not just a princess but a radical fighting for freedom under a tyrannical empire.

“She had contempt for and worked with men, and I liked that,” Fisher says. “There was something human about her. It showed that she could do whatever she needed to do, and if she could do that, then everybody could do it. People identified with her. She’s like a superhero.” (Woerner, “Women”)

Nonetheless, she’s the goal of the story for Luke – the princess needing rescue, not the hero growing in power. Of course, her most problematic moment is watching her lie there on display in her gold bikini to please Jabba and the male audience. (In Leia’s prequel book to The Force Awakens, she refuses “a two-piece brown swimsuit adorned with gold braid” and insists on dressing more modestly in a joking homage) (Castellucci 132). Her romance is less problematic, conducted between fellow fighters basically equal in power (most of the time she outranks Han but they’re on his ship and neither intimidates the other).

Meanwhile, she values her fighting ability and perception but uses neither to become a Jedi knight. J.J. Abrams notes that he, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and even George Lucas had discussed this issue together but decided against it:

It was a great question, and one we talked about quite a bit even with Carrie [Fisher]. If there is ‘another’ why not take advantage of this natural Force strength this character had? And one of the answers was that it was simply a choice she made, that her decision to run the rebellion and ultimately this Resistance, and consider herself a General as opposed to a Jedi, it was simply a choice that she took. Not that there isn’t any regret that should could have and didn’t. But clearly we’ve seen and we do again, she is clearly Force strong. (Abrams, “Why Didn’t”)

In the new story, she leads the Resistance, but only behind the scenes.

Like Leia, Padmé starts strong but then fades away, literally. On Tatooine she proves able to explore the desert world and take care of herself, though she only makes feeble protests at Qui-Gon’s high-handedness. Episode two, the queen fights for her life in a gladiator pit, but also has her clothing artistically slashed through the revealing white fabric. A great deal of time is spent lounging in gorgeous, impractical outfits while Anakin protects her from scary killers. The third is the worst:

Amidala gives up everything, including the will to live, when the love of her life (Anakin Skywalker) turns to evil. She physically dies of a broken heart while cry-birthing Luke and Leia Skywalker. Padmé doesn’t even get the glory of living on as a political martyr; her whole story is swept under the rug so Darth Vader can take the stage. (Woerner, “Women”)

All this is why Rey is such a shakeup. Obviously, she’s completely strong and capable in every scene. In fact, Star Wars not only makes big strides at putting a female front and center, but also at not dwelling on it. No one calls her “princess” or implies she’s too sheltered – which she isn’t. In fact, she’s the first female character growing up outside of privilege – scavenger rather than ruler or senator. “She feels very modern,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy says of Rey. “I think she will be relevant to audiences today, she embodies that sense of self-reliance and independence. I think that’s who she is” (Woerner, “Women”).

Yet it isn’t until she meets Finn (John Boyega) where we get to relish watching her defy gender stereotypes. Within minutes of screen time, she disarms Finn with her spear, hides them both from stormtroopers, rescues him — no more hand-holding! — and flies the Millennium Falcon. Just like that, Finn is forced to abandon those quaint, traditional gender-role ideas that were programmed into him since birth by the dictatorial First Order. (If only Earth could adapt as quickly.) (Sperling)

On their first meeting, Finn strides in to rescue her, only to see her outfight all the goons attacking her without any help. Working on the Falcon, Finn is helpless with tools and Rey must direct him in another gender-flip. When he infiltrates the Starkiller Base to rescue her, he finds she’s already saved herself. Likewise, when he takes on Ren with a lightsaber, Rey is the one to win the duel, then save Finn after. The only one Finn actually rescues is the male Poe.

“I hope Rey will be something of a girl power figure,” Ridley says proudly. “She will have some impact in a girl power-y way. She’s brave and she’s vulnerable and she’s so nuanced … She doesn’t have to be one thing to embody a woman in a film. It just so happens she’s a woman but she transcends gender. She’s going to speak to men and women.” (Howard)

There are other flips on traditional gender roles. Though it’s kept family friendly, Kylo Ren violates Rey’s mind, and she fights back, violating his in response and reclaiming her power. She reveals him as a scared little boy playing Vader-dress-up rather than a real supervillain.

Rey thus stands out as a shining role model. One critic relates:

 Leaving the theater, my girls felt as empowered as their brother usually does after seeing one of the many blockbusters built for him. They never commented on how pretty Rey is. They never had to flinch because Rey was a sexual object to some man in power. They just felt strong. Equal. I can only imagine how the film will feel to girls in parts of the world where women are not allowed control over their own bodies or hearts or minds. Imagine a generation of both sexes, growing up believing that girls are powerful. Imagine the force of a billion girls realizing that, one day, they can rule the galaxy. (Sperling)

Another noticeable change is how the women suddenly appear everywhere. Maz and Leia ensure that Rey isn’t the only woman in the galaxy – a problem Leia always had.

The rest of the women in the Star Wars prequels and originals were sidelined to cantina bar stools or Coruscant hallways, banished as background players or imprisoned dancers, with the occasional exception of a Mon Mothma cameo (“Many Bothans died…”). This list becomes only more frustrating when compiled with deleted scenes from Return of the Jedi that revealed footage of multiple female rebel pilots attacking the Death Star. Sadly, most of the lady rebels wound up on the cutting-room floor, save for one pilot whose small line was dubbed over with the voice of a man in the finished film. (Woerner, “Women”)

This time, “Abrams acknowledges the past while fashioning his own pluralistic future filled with a female hero, female generals, and even Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), the galaxy’s first female villain,” added Marlow Stern in The Daily Beast. She concludes: “In this Star Wars, the Force that awakens is woman” (Howard). On Jakku, the first villager who pulls out a blaster to defend them all from Stormtroopers is a woman. Female faces casually appear with Jess the fighter pilot, Rebellion Doctor Kalonia, and some of the aliens on Jakku and Maz’s bar. There’s K-T, the pink companion for R2-D2. Even Leia’s biographer droid Peazy has a female voice. Niima Base itself is named for “old Niima the Hutt herself” (Fry, Rey’s Survival Guide). Carrie Fisher jokes, “It’s good to have a little help. I liked being the only one when I was 19…now I need some backup” (Breznican, “The Force Awakens” 84).

The Bechdel test (named for comic strip creator Alison Bechdel) insists that a film or show must meet the following criteria:

  1. It includes at least two women
  2. who have at least one conversation
  3. about something other than a man or men

This is not the only criteria for a feminist film, and it certainly has its flaws as a theory, yet it also emphasizes how many women in films take the role of sidekick or girlfriend whose only purpose is to aid the hero on his quest and worry about his problems. Famously, the first trilogy, with only Leia beside a few shots of Aunt Beru and Mon Mothma, does not pass, despite Leia’s strength.

The prequels, however, do, at least somewhat. Episode I has Padmé and Anakin’s mother, Shmi, discussing politics. Episode II watches Padmé and the queen discuss whether the Naboo people should leave the Republic. Episode III, however, does not pass, thanks to a lack of conversation between female characters.

More problematic is these heroines’ purpose in the stories: Leia is the inspiration for Luke and Han’s heroism as they fight to save the princess. Padmé, likewise, is the great catalyst of Anakin’s life, fueling his descent into evil. The women’s own desires are sublimated under the heroes’ struggles and the become only the Anima, the woman who guides the hero to understand his undeveloped feminine side.

Rey, meanwhile, makes her own choices and drives her own narrative. Han, Chewie, and BB-8 appear more to aid her story than their own. While Rey barely encounters Leia onscreen, Maz fills the role of mentor and aids her through the Bechdel issue.

Star Wars was always a boy’s thing, and a movie that dads could take their sons to. And although that is still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well,” Abrams said during a November appearance on “Good Morning America.” (Howard)

Maz and Older Leia’s roles certainly wave to the mothers as well as daughters. While Yoda is a power fighter in Attack of the Clones, Maz’s strength seems to derive from quietly surviving, observing, and advising, seeing much that others do not. She’s a grandmotherly figure in homespun, unusual in the galaxy and certainly unique to action films.

Maz is in many ways the new queen of the franchise: The symbols on the flags outside her castle include Boba Fett’s Mythosaur skull, Ziro the Hutt’s Black Sun tattoo, the Broken Horn from Star Wars: Rebels, pod racer insignia, and Hondo Ohnaka’s pirate symbol. There’s also the 501st Legion, international fan-based organization that builds and cosplays armor from the franchise. This subtly suggests that women, even grandmothers, can be fans too – this isn’t just a world for teen boys.

There’s also the return of Leia, no longer an action girl and young romantic heroine as she used to be, but a loving mother and wife (or at least conflicted ex-wife). Though she’s not a nineteen-year-old action heroine, she still gets moments of romance:

Leia: You know, as much as we fought, I always hated it when you left.

Han Solo: That’s why I did it, so that you’d miss me.

Leia: I do miss you.

In the novelization, she’s shown making more important choices, from sending a representative to plead with the Senate to determining her son’s future:

 “[Snoke] knew our child would be strong with the Force. That he was born with equal potential for good or evil.”

“You knew this from the beginning? Why didn’t you tell me?”

She sighed. “Many reasons. I was hoping that I was wrong, that it wasn’t true. I hoped I could sway him, turn him away from the dark side, without having to involve you.” A small smile appeared. “You had— you have— wonderful qualities, Han, but patience and understanding were never among them. I was afraid that your reactions would only drive him farther to the dark side. I thought I could shield him from Snoke’s influence and you from what was happening.”

Her voice dropped. “It’s clear now that I was wrong. Whether your involvement would have made a difference, we’ll never know.”

Along with her relationship with her rebellious son (described but not seen onscreen) she takes a motherly interest in Rey, the new romantic and action heroine. Of course, Rey is likely either her daughter or her niece – many viewers wondered if before Leia’s embrace and farewell, Leia imparted this information. She sends Rey off with “May the Force be with you,” symbolically passing the torch of adventuring to the next generation. As the mature princess and love interest, she’s another character unusual in this sort of film.

Another twist is that Phasma, the “Chrome Trooper” played by Gwendoline Christie, was originally designed as male.

After The Force Awakens unveiled its first cast photo, featuring only one new female character, online media outlets (including io9) criticized the male-dominated cast—and it turns out this was a major factor in their decision.

“Everything was happening simultaneously,” [writer Lawrence] Kasdan told Vulture. “When the idea came up to make Phasma female, it was instantaneous: Everyone just said, ‘Yes. That’s great.” (Lussier, “Gwendoline Christie”)

While this Stormtrooper captain role would generally be taken by a man, the more interesting fact is that she never removes her mask – only her long ponytail and voice identify her as female.

“What feels so modern about Captain Phasma is that we are used to forming our immediate relationships with female characters, conventionally, due to the way they are made flesh,” Christie told io9. “So for us to form our immediately and initial relationship with this character, who happens to be a female character, who happens to be Star Wars’ first female villain on screen, I felt that was really modern. That we respond to her through her character and her actions initially rather than the way she’s made flesh.” (Lussier, “Gwendoline Christie”)

Her appearance emphasizes that the Empire and its splinter groups have women (and perhaps have always had women no one has seen) Likewise, the First Order has seemingly shed the speciesist philosophies of the old Empire, since now their leader Snoke is an alien. In a universe where aliens represent people of color, this is a clear shift in the metaphor. No longer are the Aryan Nazis preying on the Wookies and other marginalized races.

More directly, people of color are now scattered through the universe, along with women. Casually in many scenes, there are more Blacks and Asians among the Resistance or in the gangs that board Han Solo’s ship. Leia’s second-in-command is the Asian Admiral Statura. With Poe (whose actor, Oscar Isaac, is Guatemalan), and Finn (John Boyega) front and center, the universe has a lots more diversity all of a sudden. Finn’s unmasking in fact suggests the Stormtroopers might be any race now, unlike their sameness in Attack of the Clones. Thus the universe is being rewritten in a way that allows fans of all races and genders to join in the fun.

Of course, there are still barriers to fight past onscreen. Helen O’Hara, provocative author of “Star Wars Hero Poe Dameron: Is Disney Brave Enough to Make him Gay?” writes: “The time would seem to be coming where we could and should have a hotshot X-wing pilot who happens to be gay.” She adds:

When reunited after believing one another dead, Poe runs towards Finn and throws himself into an embrace; if Finn were a woman, we’d be in little doubt that that was enough to signal interest. Should we doubt it just because they’re both men? The Force Awakens radically put a woman and a black man front-and-centre; why not add a gay man and complete a trifecta of the underrepresented?

Certainly, Poe and Finn are close, and Poe isn’t seen caring for Rey or any other woman onscreen or in his books. The actors played with the issue in an interview while leaving everything open:

“I think it’s very subtle romance that’s happening; you have to watch it a few times to see the little hints. At least I was playing romance; in the cockpit I was playing romance,” joked Oscar Isaac on Ellen the day before the movie came out.

Boyega agreed, “I was playing romance,” – though it wasn’t clear that he was talking about the same scene, or that he was any more serious.

Isaac finished by saying, “I won’t say with which character. It could be a droid.” (O’Hara)

If you enjoyed this, it’s an excerpt from a longer book. A Rey of Hope: Feminism, Symbolism and Hidden Gems in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
http://www.amazon.com/Rey-Hope-Feminism-Symbolism-Awakens-ebook/dp/B01A6OP99Q The book is for sale in paperback and ebook, free through Kindle Unlimited. Also, check out We’re Home: Fandom, Fun, and Hidden Homages in Star Wars: The Force Awakens http://www.amazon.com/Were-Home-Fandom-Homages-Awakens-ebook/dp/B01A59W4XQ/

 

Works Cited (Book)

 

Primary Sources
Aaron, Jason and John Cassaday. Star Wars 6: Skywalker Strikes, Part VI. New York: Marvel, 3 June 2015.

Aaron, Jason and Stuart Immonen. Star Wars 8: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon Part I. New York: Marvel, 19 Aug 2015.

—. Star Wars 11: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon Part IV. New York: Marvel, 4 Nov 2015.

—. Star Wars 12: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon Part V. New York: Marvel, 18 Nov 2015.

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