The Art of Clutter

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There’s been a big shift toward minimalism in the last few years. Everywhere I look I see people simplifying their homes, switching to monochromatic schemes of black and white and grey, seeing my Instagram feed fill with pictures of elegant, bare-bones rooms. There have been a few times where I wished I was more drawn to minimalism – after all, the concept of ‘stuff’ seems so bourgeois today.

I never wish that for very long. I wasn’t made for minimalism. Growing up, I was always fascinated by clutter. Not Little Old Lady clutter – I knew the difference between curiosities and Precious Moments figurines – but real, interesting, story-filled, curiosity-cabinet clutter. One of my favorite books growing up was Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Eight Cousins,’ which I read far more frequently than Little Women or even Jo’s Boys, my other favorite.  The main reason I loved this book was Uncle Alec. I wanted to be Uncle Alec. He swooped into the story with his tales of travels, bringing foreign, exotic things to Rose, raising questions as often as he answered them. Between Uncle Alec and Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which from A Wrinkle in Time, I knew how – if not exactly what – I wanted to be when I grew up.

I knew I couldn’t live a minimal life and also surround myself with that cabinet of curiosities-slash-wizard vibe I wanted, so I gave up the thought and began the art of Collecting Things. I’m a very specific collector. I need items to mean something to me – they need to make me happy, remind me of something, or have a purpose. Just having ‘stuff’ isn’t my goal – filling my space with things I love, things that will make other people stop and look and wonder, that is the goal.

My room isn’t very large, but every time I walk into it, it’s like stepping into another world, or the mysterious wing of a different house. There are sixteen plants in this small space; three different strands of lights. The windowsills are lined with crystals. There are several piles of books by my bed. A large figure of the anterior view of a skull hangs from my wall next to a celestial chart. A strand of folded stars, made by women in India, hangs from my ceiling, as does a small dragon I adopted from a renaissance faire several years ago. My bookshelf (for I only have room for one in this room, the rest of my books are in a dozen boxes in the basement) is stacked not only with books, but a large cast-iron griffin I got at a curiosity store, a small faux-ivory box in which I keep my pipe tobacco, a pipe, a wooden gnome carved by a friend of mine, a jar of paper star from another friend, a tiny Totoro figurine, and more.

Belts, bags, jewelry, and masquerade masks also hang from my wall. My ‘office space,’ i.e. the side of the room where I work, is my favorite. The wall is strung with maps, keys, art prints from my favorite artists, a Carnival poster from my dad’s high school days, a painting of Big Ben by my little sister. The desk holds a letter tray, boxes of pencils and pens, an incense pot, a candle, a rat’s skull, jars of glitter and wax seals and feather pens, leather-bound notebooks and a wooden growler (surprisingly helpful for organizing other miscellany like paints, more jars, and a plastic skeleton’s foot) made by a wonderful craftsman from the local farmer’s market.

When people walk into my room – even if it’s a family member who has undoubtedly stood in this room hundreds of times – they stop and stare and look because there’s so much to see. Everything I keep is something I love. Something given to me, something discovered, something with a story.

It’s not always organized. It’s not always clean. It certainly doesn’t always look Instagram-worthy, and it definitely makes it harder to pack up whenever we move.

But it’s a lot more fun to unpack, too.

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Why I Love ‘The Last Jedi’

I’ll be honest – it’s taken me nine months to write this because I really didn’t want to. The reasons are twofold: one, I’m extremely emotionally attached to this movie and attacks against it feel way more personal than they should (Alexa play My Immortal) and also, I don’t want to devalue critic’s opinions of the movie. I get why people don’t like this movie. Whether you hate it because it Destroyed Your Childhood or because Rose and Finn’s subplot was kinda dumb, I do understand. I’m not here to change your mind, but instead to state why those who liked the movie DID like it (meaning: myself) and hopefully create better discussions on a small part of the Internet.

That said if you’re one of the people who harassed + bullied those involved in STARS FORBID making a movie you didn’t like, your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries and you have my disdain. mOVING ON

Before I continue, I want to get some things out of the way.

ONE: This movie isn’t perfect. NO movie is perfect. (Except maybe Pride & Prejudice & Zombies DON’T @ ME) I’m not here to ignore the flaws or claim the movie doesn’t have any.

TWO: Entertainment is a subjective medium. I can (and will) lay out the big reasons why I find this movie amazing and you can disagree with every single one of them and neither of us is necessarily wrong. Go watch a movie you DO like!

THREE: If you’re saying Mirriam why are u bothering 2 wRITE this POST we know u love the movie and we hate it why r u wasting ur TiME –  I’ve been asked. Repeatedly. And I figure if nine months can make a baby, it’s probably long enough for me to have some emotional distance between myself and making a list about why I liked it, so here we are.

REASONS WHY I LOVE THE LAST JEDI

(in no particular order)

  • It doesn’t play by the numbers. The Force Awakens closely mirrored A New Hope in both story structure and feel, while remaining different enough to shoot the sequel in a new direction. While I loved The Force Awakens, I’m glad they veered off from the paint-by-numbers formula. The formula was needed to re-draw Star Wars fans into the new era, but they needed something different and fresh to keep it going. So yes, everything about the new movie was polarizing because it was different – and that doesn’t mean it was all perfect – and that’s something I enormously appreciate.
  • I appreciate that they took Hux’s near-nonexistent role in the first movie and dared to actually make him funny. He was more or less superfluous in the first film and here he still kinda is, but at least they gave him the role of comic relief. And on that subject,
  • I appreciate the humor in this movie. Granted, it’s more outright than in most of the previous Star Wars films – Poe Dameron messing with Hux, Rey reaching out with her hand instead of her feelings, Finn walking around in a leaking medical bodysuit. If this isn’t your kind of humor, that’s fine – but I liked the humor in this movie. It could very easily have taken itself too seriously – and in some ways it did (i.e. Finn and Rose’s subplot) but it chose to keep its sense of humor intact, which it needed to keep it from being a Serious Sci-Fi Melodrama. (Also if you have a problem with the humor in this movie but love the humor in the original trilogy – arguably more slapstick and On the Nose even than this movie – I’m a little baffled, but okay.)
  • It delved into the concept of Gray Jedi, something myself and many Star Wars fans have been wanting to see more of for years (and years). The concept of stark white/dark and good/evil worked well in the original trilogy, but you can’t simply stay there with ongoing trilogies and while the prequel trilogy tried its best to kinda diverge from that, it was…um, muddy. (I still love them. But they are a mess.) Good and evil really exist and light/dark symbolism is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t all there is and the exploration of that more conflicted center comes heavily into play with both Rey and Kylo Ren, and I find it exhilarating. It’s exactly the kind of conflicted, complicated topic I want to see being discussed, and this movie dives unapologetically into that arena.
  • This movie also doesn’t back away from the reality of war in that good people will mess up and do bad things, and situations aren’t always as clean and simple as we want them to be. Poe disobeys orders and gets a lot of people killed. He’s not an evil guy by any means – he was doing what he thought was right, and he was wrong. This movie looks at this theme a lot, and again, it’s something I highly appreciate seeing and experiencing. This movie doesn’t take the easy way out with its decision-making. The good guys don’t always make the good decisions, and the bad guys don’t always act like bad guys. Heck, the good guys don’t always feel like good guys and the bad guys don’t always feel like bad guys. And even though I agree, Finn and Rose’s subplot is hardly riveting, I don’t even mind that in the end it comes to no fruition – because sometimes life doesn’t. Just because the heroes set out to accomplish something doesn’t mean it’s going to work or make a difference. You can call this a storytelling flaw and it might be, but since it fit with the overall theme of the movie in that hey, war is messy and life is complicated, I don’t mind it that much.
  • This was also the first time I’ve liked Yoda ever in any Star Wars movie (don’t talk to me about the lone Wars I don’t like the animation style and so never got into them I KNOW, I KNOW, SUPPOSEDLY THEY’RE AMAZING)
  • Luke. I know quite a few people who feel Luke’s character arc here was in complete opposition to his earlier arcs, but I completely, and respectfully, disagree. (YES, EVEN WITH MARK HAMILL.) Looking at the progression of Luke’s character arc, his position in this movie seems completely reasonable to me. We want our heroes to remain unchanged by time, but that simply isn’t the way life works. And given Luke’s past and the mistakes he’s made – and the fact he’s a Skywalker and Skywalker Blood Means Drama™ – the role in which we find him here makes complete sense to me. He nearly gave into the temptation of the dark side after fighting against it his entire life, and his momentary weakness set off a chain reaction that destroyed basically his life’s work and crumbled the entire foundation of his life. I mean I could be wrong, but if you had similar experiences, you’d probably be tempted to hole up on a dark planet in the middle of nowhere with your creepy blue milk aliens and wallow in your own guilt. The whole first movie was about searching for Luke, and people were disappointed to find him shut off from the Force and playing hermit – but what was the alternative? That he was in hiding for fear of his life? Luke has never been a coward. In fact, one can clearly see that his life choice have been anything but easy. Every decision Luke makes in this movie is a hard one. The decision to help Rey? Hard. The decision to help the rebels? Hard. The decision to face the nephew he drove away? Hard. Even the decision to shut himself off from his identity (Luke the Jedi Master) and the family he loved were incredibly difficult decisions made from the enormity of disillusionment and guilt, and I don’t think we can blame Luke for doing what he thought was best. The other alternatives – he was moping (which he kind of was, BUT THAT’S ONLY A LITTLE OF THE REASON) or was being held captive – don’t work either, as one just makes him pathetic and the other….also just makes him pathetic. This was the only path that made sense, and I personally love it. (Also Mark Hamill’s’s acting in this movie was amazing.)
  • This movie also took the unimportant hang-ups from the first movie (WHO ARE REY’S PARENTS?? WHO IS SNOKE REALLY??) and said ‘Hey. Hey. These aren’t important. Focus on what IS important, okay? Please?’ and I think that was brilliant
  • This movie flips the usual story upside-down. Our hero, Rey, starts out as a hard-knock orphan with passion and wide-eyed idealism and slowly becomes more and more jaded the more she realize life isn’t always as easy or simple as she thought it would be off Jakku, and our antagonist Kylo is constantly being tempted and seduced by the light side of the Force. He is being tempted away from evil the entire series, and it brings both of their character arcs into a BEAUTIFUL meeting in the middle that threatens to go the way of Luke and Vader but instead spins off into something entirely different. Looking at Rey and Kylo from a typical storytelling standpoint, Kylo has the hero’s backstory and Rey – well, she has the villain’s. And speaking of Kylo,
  • Kylo Ren is one of my favorite fictional characters of all-time. I’ve heard every ‘he’s whiny + weak’ argument available, but I disagree and even wrote a whole blog post on that after The Force Awakens came out (and subsequently had to write one about Rey because she was also getting dragged through the – er, sand, and I love her as well). In this movie we see much more of Kylo and there’s even more to discuss, and I can’t go into all of it here, but I’ll cover some of it. Kylo Ren is a character unlike anything we have seen in previous Star Wars movies. He’s a Dynasty character – both a Solo and a Skywalker, but instead of being the Golden Boy, he’s a tormented emotional drama queen with more power than we’ve ever seen in an individual, and in this movie he chooses to do several things with that power. a) he uses it to talk to his space girlfriend and genuinely bond with her b) he uses it to fight alongside his space girlfriend in THE BEST SCENE IN STAR WARS HISTORY FOR SO MANY REASONS YOU CAN FIGHT ME, c) he murders the abusive Snoke not for himself, but because his space girlfriend is in pain, and then d) offers to burn everything to the ground so his new best friend can be Somebody instead of nobody. I’ve seen people argue that when he tells Rey ‘You’re nothing. But not to me,’ he’s trying to manipulate her, but everything about the way this scene is shot, framed, and acted indicates he is completely genuine in his feelings for her. Snoke even derides Kylo and Rey for thinking the force bond was theirs, shocking them both, but we can also see the bond they had in The Force Awakens, supposedly before Snoke was actively manipulating it. We see extreme emotion on all sides of the spectrum from Kylo, from surprising tenderness to raging temper tantrums, but nothing about him makes him less redeemable than Anakin was as Darth Vader. If anything, Kylo’s arc is just the more extreme version of Vader’s, but we still see Ben inside him, just as Luke still sensed Anakin in Vader. Oh, and while you can argue that Kylo was lying about Rey’s parentage, nothing seems to suggest that to me (and he is innocent of that until proven guilty) – he never once lied to Rey, unlike everyone else.
  • I’m a sucker for stories about redemption, and BOY HOWDY if that ain’t what The Last Jedi is and what the final trilogy installment is shaping up to also be. Furthermore, this movie isn’t just about redemption, but about what happens when you stop believing in redemption. In the original trilogy Luke was always willing to believe in the possible redemption of the most evil people, including his father, the Ultimate Murdering Space Wizard. Here, we see what happens when that resolve, that belief in redemption, flickers – it causes catastrophe. Luke had the ability to recognize that the dark side was ravaging his nephew and in a moment of weakness, he stopped hoping he could change that. Rey, however, still does believe in redemption, and – exactly like Luke in the original trilogy – throws herself into danger believing she can turn the bad guy around. Which she…doesn’t, exactly, but I would hardly call it a failed attempt. Her plan doesn’t work out, of course – at least, not yet – but I believe the events of this movie will play heavily into the next, as otherwise the set-ups for Rey and Kylo’s character arcs would fall flat and they have DEFINITELY not done that so far. In a heavy-handed On the Nose moment, Rose tells Finn they won’t win by destroying what they hate, but saving what they love and while it was a little *cough* blunt, that encapsulates the theme of this movie and even the entire trilogy. Luke momentarily forgot the truth of that statement, and it cost him and the galaxy a whole, whole lot.
  • The symbolism for the scene where Kylo destroys his mask is another thread that winds its way throughout the entire movie. This movie destroys the concept of masks, either real or simply the false way we view our heroes and villains – as purely Good or purely Evil. This movie is all about staring a very specific question in the face – what do heroes really look like?
  • This movie is also about mistakes, and I’m here for it. Everyone messes up. Rose and Finn trust the wrong guy and he screws them over. Rey makes a naive but wrong decision and has to admit she’s been lying to herself. Poe makes…a lot of mistakes with disastrous consequences. Kylo is suffering from the mistake of killing his father, which leads him to refuse to kill his mother. Luke made a mistake so horrible that the only way to atone for it was to sacrifice his own life.

I could go on with the smaller reasons why I really love this movie, but this post is pretty long as it is and I’ll spare you the minor details. You don’t have to like The Last Jedi or appreciate what Rian Johnson did with the Star Wars universe, and that’s fine. But I do, on both counts, and hopefully this helped explain at least part of why it means so much to me, both as a lifelong Star Wars fan and a storyteller.

If you have any comments, questions, or disagreements, keep it all civil (as I know you will) and let the discussions commence!

How to Twist a Plot (and how to not)

There have only been two plot twists in the world to blow me over. (The plot twist in Ted Dekker’s ‘THR3E,’ experienced when I was fifteen, and the plot twist in Teen Wolf season 3 when I was nineteen.) Those two plot twists have stuck with me like no others. It’s not because I’m some Super Predicting Genius who automatically knows every plot twist before they happen. It’s only because most plot twists just aren’t surprising – and I realized why yesterday.

I was thinking about the Attolia series – a series which many of my friends praise as being the most plot-twisty and surprising books they’ve ever read – and why the plot twists in these books have yet to actually surprise me. The major plot twist in The Queen of Attolia didn’t surprise me. It wasn’t shocking. I wasn’t delighted.

That’s not to say it was badly written (not at all) or the plot twist wasn’t a good plot element (it was), but plot twists should shock and awe. They should have you gasping in surprise and thinking about them for days, if not weeks. They should be ones you remember.

So, I wondered, why have I only ever been truly, wonderfully surprised by two plot twists in the History of Ever? I turned this question over and over until finally the answer fell out, and like any good sporadic blogger I had to share it with you.

The Best Plot Twists Have Nothing To Do With What You Know

I’m going to spoil the first two books in the Attolia series for you, so if you haven’t read it yet proceed with caution. Let’s take a look at this twist. The main character in the series is Eugenides, or ‘Gen,’ a royal thief. His hands are relatively important to him. When he loses one of them, it sends him into a complete spiral and for the rest of the book he’s a mopey, depressed, obnoxious brat who refuses to leave his room. (Again, I’m not saying this is bad writing – this was written intentionally. He’s SUPPOSED to frustrate the heck out of us.) It isn’t until the end of the book that the author reveals Gen has actually been strategizing, planning, and carrying out enormous deeds in secret, and his bad attitude has been an act to fool the enemy.

It was the Big Reveal, but I felt incredibly….unimpressed. My reaction was more like “Ah. Okay. Sure,” than “WOWOWOW. WHAT,” and the reason for my lack of shock is this: the plot twist was completely within Gen’s character norm.

We know Gen by this point, so we’re aware that he’s clever, devious, cunning, scheming, a liar, and generally untrustworthy (to most). Also, the plotline of the first book had the same formula – the book shows you one side of the coin until the end, where it flips the coin and shows you the other side. We know Gen is irascible and moody, although he’s far moodier and more irascible in the second book.

So I wasn’t surprised when the big reveal in The Queen of Attolia was: Gen being himself.

And that, I realized, is why most ‘plot twists’ aren’t really plot twists at all. They’re just happenings. They can be good happenings and keep us entertained, but most plot twists don’t really twist the plot because they rely on a character basically being – well, in-character.

The same happens frequently with Loki. I love him as much as the next person, but every plot twist regarding Loki is fairly expected because he’s proven who he is over and over again. If a Mysterious Mentor Figure ‘dies,’ you can be pretty sure he’ll come back because he’s just that – mysterious. When the Rogue With a Heart of Gold leaves, you know he’ll return – because he has a heart of gold.

My two favorite plot twists did not rely on the personality of a certain character. They were an outside force, acting upon the plot in a way that was surprising because it was unexpected.

They went against the expected grain.

You know what – there will be spoilers all over this post because I’m going to talk about those plot twists. If you haven’t read THR3E or seen Teen Wolf and are planning on doing either of those things, you’ve been warned.

The plot twist in THR3E worked for (you guessed it) – three reasons.

One: They began at separate sides of the story. The novel opened with the hero on one side doing his thing and the villain on the other side doing his thing.

Two: You were already ‘Faked Out’ with a plot twist shortly before the true plot twist took place. You discover that one of the focal characters is actually the main character’s second self. That was fun, but it didn’t particularly blow me over.

Three: You discover at the very last moment that the main antagonist and villain is the main character’s third disassociated identity. The three separate characters about whom you’ve been reading are all the same person – but Dekker did an excellent job of setting up this plot twist. There was no evidence of the over-arching villain also being a second personality. When you read about the villain, there was nothing to indicate you already knew him. This third personality did not rely on the main character’s personality to spring the plot twist, he acted separately.

The aforementioned plot twist in Teen Wolf is still my favorite plot twist of all time, and it works for some of the same reasons. In fact, it’s a fairly similar plot twist, albeit approached differently. To set the stage very badly: for the mid-(third) season finale, the main characters – Scott, Stiles, and Allison – had to open themselves up to a dark dimension, the Nemeton, in order to save their parents from the Darach. They were warned there would be consequences, as opening yourself up to darkness in any form is a terrible idea. However, these ‘consequences’ were vague, unknowable, and the kids proceeded anyway. They saved their parents, achieved victory against the odds, and we got our happy(ish) mid-season finale.

Stiles, as a character, was always just short of three-dimensional. The plucky comic relief and loyal sidekick, he was a delightful character but also the Token Human; the Samwise Gamgee, the Robin to Scott’s Batman. Season 3b began focusing more on Stiles and working hard to add dimension to him – we see him struggle with PTSD from everything that’s happened previously. It’s hard to be plucky and comedic when you’re constantly being hit with hallucinations, panic attacks, and the fear you might have inherited the genetic issues that killed your mother. Not to mention both Scott and Allison are experiencing similar issues – it’s not just Stiles.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the plot, two Oni have entered Beacon Hills. The deadly Japanese spirits are searching for someone – nobody knows who, but they know that when they find that person, they’re going to kill them. Not only that, but the arrival of the Oni has also brought plenty of chaos – attacks, disappearances, and death. The Oni are the antagonists, with the teens fighting to keep them from killing anyone. The plot directs your focus as Teens vs. Oni, while Stiles’ struggles are easily chalked up to severe PTSD.

And then comes the moment. The Oni approach a terrified Stiles alone in a hallway. You know what’s been happening in town, you know the Oni are causing death somehow, and you know there’s a chance Stiles might actually die.

The Oni – incorporeal spirits so far impossible to kill – reach for Stiles. And Stiles, the Token Human, grabs the Oni’s fist in his. He stares at his hand, shocked. And then he looks at the Oni, and his expression changes from Astounded Stiles to something entirely different and you know suddenly and shockingly that the real villain the whole half-season has been Stiles, and the show has been misdirecting you. (And misdirecting you beautifully.) Turns out the Oni aren’t the real villains – they’re actually (more or less) the good guys, searching for the true cause of the destruction and death haunting Beacon Hills, aka the Nogitsune who has been fighting for control of Stiles’ mind.

(I even hunted around and found the little clip for you HERE. You’re welcome.)

This plot twist was so well done, and so beautifully built from the ground up, that I think I just stared at the screen in awed silence. I still want to throw a party when I think about it because it was just. so. good.

And it worked because it didn’t rely on Stiles’ personality whatsoever. It was an outside force acted upon the plot – not a twist derived from Who Stiles Is as a Person. It wasn’t Stiles Being Stiles. It was Stiles, being acted on by an outside force. That’s why it was a surprise.

And that, folks, is how you get a plot twist to surprise me. So sally forth, carry on, write your plot happenings, but also write true, grand, shocking Plot Twists. They’re a little extra work – but they’re so worth it.

Now riddle me this – what is YOUR favorite fictional plot twist of all time?

 

A Few Good Reasons to Watch ‘Trollhunters’

Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite show is Prison Break which is why when I began watching Trollhunters and said it tied with Prison Break as my favorite, it sent people into a kind of mild shock. Granted, it’s a Guillermo del Toro show, but it’s an animated show for kids – not my usual fare. To date, the only animated movies/shows I have raved about are either anime, Studio Ghibli, or Kubo and the Two Strings. I was recently asked to explain why I love Trollhunters so much, as those sad few I haven’t yet convinced to watch it are missing out (okay, I added that reasoning on my own but still). With that in mind, I thought I’d just write a list of reasons you should watch it, if saying ‘for my sake’ doesn’t really do the trick. (This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a handful of compelling reasons. I have loads more, just ask.)

• It has a vast range of three-dimensional characters who surprise you.  There are a handful of stereotypical characters, but they’re completely delightful; and most of the characters are far more complex than usually found in an animated family show. You have bad characters become good, deep or tragic backstories for characters who seemed simple, complicated decisions made by gray-area characters, and antagonistic characters making decisions for complicated reasons.

• It has a HUGE amount of characters I freaking adore. If you know me you’ll know this is rare – most shows have ONE character I adore; three at most. In this show I adore…let’s see. AARRRGH, Draal, Not!Enrique, Strickler, Angor Rot, Vendall – they are the characters I flat-out love to pieces, but I love probably fifteen (literally) others I like far more than normal.

• The animation is glorious. I mean glorious. If you’re expecting Dragonriders of Berk, you are very wrong. It’s at least three times as good.

• The humor is hilarious. There’s humor for little kids, and humor for adults; but for the most part the humor is straight-up hilarious for everyone. I laugh, my dad laughs, my mom laughs, my sister laughs – and we’re a very diverse group of people.

• It’s squeaky clean without pulling punches. The show isn’t afraid to go surprisingly dark for a kids’ show, but it never goes anywhere I wouldn’t want my own children to watch it. Bad things happen to these kids. Characters we love are killed. Characters struggle with themselves and making good decisions, and even the heart-warming moments pack punches. This show actually makes me cry. Like a lot.

• The music is also excellent.

• The character design is beautiful. Granted, it’s not flat-out terrifying like the original book covers by the incredible artist Sean Andrew Murray,

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(I mean excuse me THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE BLINKY WITH TENTACLES ARMS /AND/ TENTACLE EYES I love it) but still, there are some stunning designs running around here.

• The show will surprise you. It does have the usual fantasy cliches; the ‘chosen one,’ the ‘darklands,’ the ‘dark lord seeking to rise again,’ etc. but it’s done in such a way I don’t even mind. It takes usual cliche characters (like Jim’s mom Barbara) and makes something great with them.

• Things are always happening in the background as well as the foreground

• The show is adorable.

• It will also break your heart.

• It’s so good. Please watch it. I’ve seen it four times and

• It gets better every time.

A Brief Guide to Mansplaining

It happens on a near-daily basis, both on the internet and out and about in daily life. I say something – anything, really; an opinion, a fact, a remark about a book or a comic character or a historical figure – and it happens. I think my knowledge of things must have some kind of scent, because it draws in a certain kind of creature called the Mansplainer.

Now, I didn’t notice the phenomenon of Mansplaining much in my teens. I was – well, a teenager, and assumed there were many things I didn’t know. However as an adult woman, I’ve become keenly aware of how much I really do know – and how much the average male does not want to believe I know.

For those of you who don’t know, Mansplaining is the particular activity many men have when a woman says words, and a man feels the need to either a) correct her b) take the subject matter and discuss it as though she knows very little about it and he knows everything, or c) ask why she feels the need to talk about a thing at all.

Not every man who Mansplains is a terrible person. Often I think they simply don’t realize it’s what they’re doing – but not only does it make them look insecure and small, it has the opposite effect of what they probably wanted. Instead of seeming like a Superior Intelligence, they look foolish. Instead of seeming well-educated or well-rounded, they come across as desperate and threatened.

Are they always desperate and threatened? Of course not. Like I said, I don’t think most Mansplainers even realize they’re doing it and if someone were to point this out, they might be horrified. It isn’t just ‘one type’ of man who does this, either. I see equal culprits from the public-schooled guys as I do from the homeschooled ones. One is a culture of beer-chugging horn-honking pick-up lines (or even suit-wearing despot types), and the other comes from the uber-Patriarchal ‘women are your lessers, you are the Man and therefore the Better Creation’ mindset.

Both are equally bad.  And here’s the thing – everyone does this at some point. I’ve done it before – and when I realized it, made amends. That’s the important part. Just because I know something more about a subject (or think I do) doesn’t give me leave to trample over someone else or make them look stupid in a public setting. It’s bad manners, it’s rude, and it makes the person doing it look like an idiot.

If you find yourself being Mansplained to, don’t roll over and take it, but don’t get nasty either. Gently, calmly assure the man doing the splaining that you do know what you’re talking about. (If you do NOT know what you’re talking about, then feel free to ask questions and learn more – turning away good lessons just because you don’t like the teacher is a mistake. But you should still point out the fact he’s being less than stellar.) If he insists he wasn’t doing anything and you’re overreacting (which happens, even when you’ve been extremely kind and subtle about how you feel), shrug, let out a deep breath, and tell him (kindly – again, you don’t want to stoop) that he’s assuming you’re stupid, you don’t appreciate it, and ask him not to do it again.

He probably will do it again, but next time you have a good base for saying ‘Hey, look, I asked you politely last time not to treat me like a moron,’ and you can have no qualms about letting him have it. (Kindly. Always kindly.)

If you find out YOU’RE the one doing the Mansplaining (even if you’re a woman. It happens) then just fortify yourself and apologize. Because in the immortal words of King Arthur,

Why have enemies when you could have friends?

Or, as my friend Lex added, when you could at least have not-enemies.