Interviewed: Leslie Wibberley, Writer/Author in Poco
Wise Nug #1:
- Don’t be afraid to get your work out there, to keep trying, to send your work to publishing companies. “What’s the worse thing that could happen? You don’t get published? News flash – you’re already not published.” Don’t give up; have confidence and keep trying.
Fear is the only thing holding you back; if you never try, nothing will happen. If you try, you’re leaving yourself open to possibility.
Wise Nug #2:
- Careers, especially authorship and writing, is 20% skill and talent and 80% timing and luck. Be persistent and don’t give in; challenge yourself to get rejected as many times as possible because it means you’re trying instead of letting the work rot in a file somewhere.
Getting rejected many times isn’t failure; it’s a sign of effort and persistence.
Wise Nug #3:
- “YOUR MISSION IS TO DESTROY YOUR ADVERBS!!!” – Adverbs, especially after ‘said’, pull your reader out of the story and is distracting
- Get your butt in your chair and write. Write and write and don’t stop writing. Use the opportunities your age gives you to write as much as you can.
- Get as much experience with your passion as you can. Practice for your profession. Don’t just work toward the career you want, work in the career now.
Continued practice is the path to success; it takes hard work and effort, not just passion, to be successful.
The most effective medium for telling the ‘Harrison Bergeron’ narrative is Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron, compared to Chandler Tuttle’s film adaption, 2081, because the text uses mood and expanded moments to cause a jarring, freaky suspense and impactful atmosphere. A brief synopsis of the narrative: the government uses handicaps to make everyone in society equal in every way. Harrison Bergeron, George and Hazel’s genius athletic son, is imprisoned by the government and escapes, taking off his handicaps on live television and dancing with a ballerina before getting shot by the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers. George and Hazel forget about watching their son die on TV and continue their day like normal.
The first reason why the text is more effective than the film was how it handles Hazel. In the novel, Hazel watches the television with George and instantly forgets she saw her son die onscreen. In the film, however, it focuses more on George’s reaction, having Hazel wash the dishes and miss the Harrison scene. The film then gives Hazel’s reaction dialogue to George in a swapped ending. Having Hazel react in the novel gives the story a deeper meaning, as having someone who is deemed having “perfectly average intelligence” and no handicaps like George still forget her son and his death is even more chilling. It tells how the average intelligence of this world isn’t the same as our current levels, but rather below, giving the government more control and the ‘equality’ a deeper complexity (1). Novel Hazel has tears on her cheeks but can’t remember why after Harrison gets shot, stating “I forget. (…) Something real sad on television. (…) It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind” (5). In the film, it’s George who has these lines. Hazel viewing Harrison’s death in the novel gives us a second perspective to George. We have two people, one handicapped and the other of completely average intelligence, watch their son die on television and both forgetting, shedding some light on the dark truths of the ‘equality’ in this world and how much ‘handicaps’ and ‘averages’ affect this society.
The second reason why the text tells the story in a more effective way is through the portrayal of Harrison. In the book, Harrison is taken away by the government at age fourteen, proven by the line, “it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away” (1). Later in the story, on the day Harrison escapes prison and appears at the theatre, the reporter/ballerina states, “Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen (…) has just escaped from jail”, proving that Harrison was held by the government for under a year and is fourteen during the events of the theatre (including the dance and getting shot) (3). In the film, Harrison himself states he was tortured in prison for many years, indicating he is not fourteen like the text. The text adds a layer of sympathy and harsh unease at what the government does and is willing to do. While older film Harrison being tortured for years still generates sympathy, younger novel Harrison is mercilessly shot. He is just fourteen, yet the Handicapper General didn’t give a second thought about killing him instantly. It also explains why in the movie Harrison makes a big speech and uses a fake bomb threat covering a broadcast system while the younger and more ‘innocent’/’child’ novel Harrison yells “I am the Emperor! (…) Everybody must do what I say at once!” (3).
The final reason the novel tells a more effective version of the narrative is through how the government as a whole and Diana Moon Glampers & the Harrison Death scene is portrayed. The film adds a subplot about how Harrison plants a fake bomb to cover up the fact he planted a device to broadcast the signal of the theatre cameras to the rest of the world even after the government cuts the signal. Harrison’s plan is to reveal the government’s controlling and corruption, and he succeeds after he is shot by Diana with the cameras rolling life, with Diana turning to camera in shock that she was caught. This doesn’t end up going anywhere as George and (presumably) the rest of society immediately forgets the event anyway, and the government is free to continue. Unlike the film government’s (attempted) covering up of the event and the shooting of Harrison and the ballerina, the novel poses a more frightening plot: the government never cuts the signal, having the entire event, dance, and shooting broadcasted live on television. The blackout afterward can be seen as either a delayed signal cut or a television tube burnout in the Bergeron household. Novel government and specifically Diana Moon Glampers doesn’t care about being seen because they are so confident society will forget. They know that everyone is so ‘brainwashed’ and ‘equal’ that no matter what happens they will forget, so why waste money and effort into cutting the signal. There is no one to oppose the government, and so little of a threat that the novel government doesn’t even see any reason to cover up their actions. In my opinion, this is more terrifying than the film’s ‘government tries to cover up event but is foiled by rebellious Harrison’, although that was a nice addition to Harrison’s character.
In conclusion, Kurt Vonnegut’s text, Harrison Bergeron, was more effective at demonstrating the ‘Harrison Bergeron’ narrative than Chandler Tuttle’s film, 2081, because the novel held a deeper insight into the world of the story and the insidious government that could do whatever they wanted without covering it up because their ‘equal’ citizens would just forget anyway. The terror of the government is deeper in the novel because whatever they have done between our current time and the setting of the story, it’s enough that they have no concern that they will be ‘caught’ and therefore don’t cover up their corruption simply because there literally is no one that we see (other than Harrison, who is now dead) who would/could stand up to them because everyone is equal and everyone forgets. It doesn’t matter if the person has a handicap or not, every single person forgets, and the government is free to commit as many crimes as it wants, including shooting a fourteen-year-old because he was a genius and an athlete that they couldn’t contain. Diana holds so much more power in the novel, and is a more ruthless and frightening semi-dictator that casts the narrative into a deeper level of creepiness and terror of what life in an ‘equal’ society could possibly look like on the negative scale.
“These things have so much to do with who you are, and there’s this idea that these are themes that should not be shared with kids, but everyone shares stories about love and attraction with kids. So many stories for kids are about love, and it really makes a difference to hear stories about how someone like you can be loved and if you don’t hear those stories it will change who you are. It’s very important to me that we speak to kids about consent and we speak to kids about identity and that we speak to kids about so much. I want to feel like I exist and I want everyone else who wants to feel that way to feel that way too.” – Rebecca Sugar
For my 2018 Eminent Person I chose Rebecca Sugar. Rebecca Sugar recently came out as a non-binary woman. I haven’t been able to find the exact pronouns to use as the internet seems to vary (though she/her and they/them are what Rebecca Sugar has said before on Twitter), so for the purpose of this blog post I will be using ‘they/them’ to avoid mis-labelling. I apologize if I accidentally use the incorrect grammar; I don’t want to offend anyone.
Rebecca Sugar is the first female/non-binary independent creator/director of an animated cartoon series on the popular television channel Cartoon Network, the first in a 21 year history. As a scriptwriter/storyboarder/songwriter/director/creator, they have worked and are currently working on many ‘children’/family series with huge advancements on the topics of feminism, sexism, LGBTQ+ representation and relationships, mental health, family issues, and growing up, all topics and lessons currently not well-represented in children’s media. They were a storyboard revisionist on the cartoon ‘Adventure Time’ and heavily influenced the very recent romantic relationship between two of the show’s female characters, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, before leaving to focus on their own show, ‘Steven Universe’. Through Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar is making a huge impact on the world of media and children’s cartooning though the representation of topics and teachings that kids haven’t been able to learn; for example, showing positive LGBTQ+ teachings or having the main character, Steven, be different from the stereotypical male hero and showing kids a more self-positive and relatable character than the typical social expectations that issue standards. In addition, the show is heavily dominated by female characters and non-gendered female-orientated characters that question society’s views on females in media and real life in a positive way and teaches better role-modeling for female viewers. Rebecca Sugar also adds content for very underrepresented topics in children’s media such as mental illness (depression), family issues (a single father/poly-raising family, showing not-perfect/nuclear/traditional families, etc.), and the topic of growing up and maturing through somewhat forced experiences as it follows the journey of a character that has to deal with some heavy truths and self-to-family issues that really expresses Rebecca’s non-traditional, original, ‘rule-changing’ teachings in media. They are a creative problem solver that doesn’t give up on their beliefs, values, and passions, no matter what society thinks or tries to mold them and their show into. Rebecca Sugar had their show threatened to be canceled for showing LGBTQ+ content, but they and their amazing team pushed through and continued with their work with the support of their viewers and Cartoon Network. Rebecca Sugar also pushed through the obstacle of certain content being censored in other countries, and thought their way out of problems to ensure that everyone could have an equal learning at a young age of the importance of acceptance and lessons outside society’s restricted standards.
Personally, I chose Rebecca Sugar because they are affecting the world in a way, job/career, and topic that I hold close to my heart: family animated cartooning, script writing/storyboarding/directing creator, and LGBTQ+/Feminism/Sexism support, action, and representation/teaching. Rebecca Sugar is currently making a difference in the world at a young age (starting their career at 22 and is currently 31) impacting a younger generation (and older generations), including my generation. Because of the amazing representation of a widespread of topics, I enjoy Steven Universe a lot and find it very inspiring. I think it holds a lot of knowledge that is really important to teach younger kids; knowledge that hasn’t been giving to them because of society’s limitations on children’s media and learning. I want to be able to write something readers can connect to and find a part of themselves in, whether that be a cause they believe in or a comfort knowing they are not alone with the struggles they have to deal with that might not be considered social ‘norms’. My wish is for people to learn acceptance of everyone, especially themselves, and I believe Rebecca Sugar has set and is setting society further down that path by teaching the younger generations the topics currently outside society’s ‘outdated traditions’ through Steven Universe. There are currently a couple of barriers between Rebecca Sugar and my self: identified gender and a mix of different sources with varying and little information about Rebecca Sugar. Despite that, I want to shine a light on this eminent person who is currently impacting the world and some of the amazing advancements they’ve made in the world of children’s media and learning. To do that, I’ll have to be as creative and good at problem solving as Rebecca Sugar; I can do more in depth research on Steven Universe as well as reviews and other critics on the series, and I can watch interviews and panels with Rebecca Sugar to hear their voice and get firsthand information on this amazing eminent person.
Reminisce (verb) – To indulge in an enjoyable recollection of past events
Surreptitiously (adverb) – In a way that attempt to avoid notice or attention; secretly
Artless (adjective) – Natural and simple; without skill or finesse
Meticulous (adjective) – Overly careful about small details
Pedantic (adjective) – Having only ‘book learning’ or factual knowledge
Gambolled (verb) – To run or jump around playfully
Amalgamate (verb) – Combine or unite to form one organization or structure
Lackluster (adjective) – Uninspired or uninspiring
Mar (verb) – Impair the quality of; to spoil
Pretext (noun) – An excuse given that is not the real reason
Incessant (adjective) – Continuing without pause or interruption
Lugubrious (adjective) – Looking or sounding sad or dismal
Assuasive (adjective) – Soothing, calming
Self-effacing (adjective) – Not claiming attention to oneself; retiring and modest
Unctuous (adjective) – Excessively flattering; oily
Aru struggles to fit in at her private middle school. She wants “wants to be noticed. But she kept getting noticed for all the wrong reasons”, revealing she fears being seen as someone who lies to avoid being judged by others for being different (10). I’m not impressed by how Aru handles being accused of lying by three of her classmates, but I can’t say that I or anyone else around her age wouldn’t have done the same. Aru doesn’t want to be revealed as a liar and an outcast, so (in her opinion), her only options are to “1) She could hope the universe might take pity on her and allow her to burst into flames before homeroom, or 2) She could change her name, grow a beard, and move away. Or, to avoid the situation entirely… She could show them something impossible” (8). This reveals that Aru is extremely worried how others perceive her, and would rather act under panic and pressure to do something she knows is wrong/impossible because it promised that “maybe she wouldn’t have to hide behind her stories because her own life would finally be enough” (15).
The internal conflict Aru is facing is the dilemma of decisions; should she admit she’s a liar and tell the truth about how she is different from her private school peers, or should she follow along with other small lies and hope for the best. What should she do if she does manage to get away with it; never lie again? Continue because she thinks she’ll be fine next time? This connects to the external conflicts she is currently facing; the accusation of being a liar in front of her class. If not pressed by her classmates and the fear of her values over her decisions, Aru wouldn’t be struggling with the conflict of doing something wrong vs. revealing her difference.
In the first third of the novel, Aru is (ironically, considering her lying habit) a very believable, realistic, and dynamically changing character She just wants to fit in and be accepted, but the social status and lifestyle differences between her and her peers makes her feel isolated, so she used lies as stories to look at a situation from a different angle and comfort herself. Imagination is a tool people of all ages have used to make themselves feel better and reflect and brighten the world they live in/want to live in. Aru doubts if she is a heroine or not because she is essentially fixing the mistake she made, and is starting to understand the difference and similarities between lying and imagination, and how both tools can be both good and bad. While doing something morally wrong to avoid being caught as a liar is not a good habit, it’s hard to argue that Aru is completely unjustified and made the wrong decision. You have to factor in she was in a state of panic, stress, and surprise, and that she was pressured by being confronted to tell the truth, which can be extremely difficult to do even with one small lie, and is especially difficult when it is multiple lies.
I, like so many other people, understand how hard it is sometimes to tell the truth and admit you were lying. Whether it be forgetting to brush your teeth or losing something important, we’ve all lied at one point of our lifes or another, getting absorbed in our imaginations and forgetting we have things we need to accomplish in the real world. The internal doubt and guilt it causes and the stressful situations being caught causes is something we all have to deal with in our lifes, and something we can only strive to be more justified and truth-oriented in the future, learning to deal with the consequences of our actions and learning the importance of how telling the truth might seem impossible but actually has a much better outcome than being caught in a lie. Aru is a very good reminder of how the world can deal a very powerful wake-up slap at any time, and that the consequences and damages of lying can be severe and not to be underestimated. When you’re caught in a lie, it’s hard to do much else then either lie again, find an excuse or solution that proves you weren’t lying, or the hardest, admitting the truth. I know that if I were in Aru’s situation, faced with the consequences of lying and the pressure and fear of admitting the truth to judgement peers, I would react similarly to Aru.
Overall, Aru is currently both a character one can emulate and a character that sets and example of what not to do. She sets up the external conflict of her quest with internal conflict of struggling with lying and guilt. It’s her own actions that causes a disaster that she has to fix. While lying is wrong and it sets a good example to see what the consequences to your actions is, the actually story of dealing with the consequences and feeling an entitled right to fix your mistakes and learn from them is a much better lesson and sets up Aru as a positive role model.
A single story is an incomplete viewing of a person, place, story, idea, event, or other; it does not tell the full story, and perpetuates single ideas to impressionable readers, viewers, and especially children. As we grow up, we are exposed to different ideas and areas, and we gain new knowledge about the world. Without that knowledge we can only make general inferences or assumptions on the true nature of an idea, place, people, etc., which leads to the creation of single stories. For example, Chimamanda Adichie shared a story about a time she wrote a novel based on her experiences growing up in Africa, and the novel was deemed ‘not ‘authentically African’’ by her professor because it didn’t fit the single story he knew of Africa. Single stories appear in our lives more often than we expect. They came from assumptions that a certain idea or topic is the same or varies slightly depending on the version of the single story. A single story, as Chimamanda Adichie beautifully stated, “creates stereotypes… and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story, become the only story.” Stereotypes speak only for some people; humans have different experiences and values, and our stories and uniqueness reflect those differences. It’s impossible to get ‘one story’ that tells the perspective of everyone, because everyone has a different perspective and life. Media and literature perspective and coverage influences society’s perspective of viewing different people, places, stories, events, and more through the lens of one main, single story idea split into multiple similar versions. People can be blinded/shielded from the full truth through bias or a single view without the complete knowledge of different experiences of different experiences around a similar topic, lifestyle, idea, or other. Only by doing more research and gaining new knowledge through multiple different experiences can we gain a better understanding of our surroundings (note that I said better, as saying you have the full, complete truth can just be another single story), and learn the importance of viewing the world without the single story lens.