Transformation: My First Tattoo

This weekend I got my first tattoo. This was no impulse body-modification trip to the tattoo shop after too many drinks. I made plans ahead of time with my friend, Dan, to go get tattoos together. Not only did we schedule our sessions a few weeks in advance, but we were both getting tattoos we had contemplated for nearly two decades.

Like myself, Dan is experiencing a time of growth and transition. I won’t go into the details of Dan’s journey, because it isn’t my place to do so. But I will say that his current path has allowed me to gain a treasured friend who is a constant source of strength and inspiration. He insists on showing me a good time when we’re together, and in many ways has gently nudged me to become an even better version of myself. This includes transforming my body through exercise, healthier eating, and now ink.

Dan lives in Pittsburgh, and had gotten his first tattoo from the same artist at Armature Tattoo Co.. First of all, it’s a beautiful shop with lots of interesting artwork on the walls (there’s a mixed media portrait of H. H. Holmes) and on the skin of the four tattoo artists – two men and two women. The shop is well lit, clean, and full of positive energy. I felt comfortable and welcome right away.

Originally, Dan was supposed to get tattooed on Friday night and I was supposed to get tattooed on Saturday night. But when we arrived, the tattoo artist, Jessi, talked to Dan about the fact that his tattoo would need a bit more time for layout and she wanted to suggest some changes to the original design. That meant I was going first. In hindsight, I’m glad things worked out that way, because I didn’t have time to build up any extra fears about getting tattooed. For years, people have been trying to explain what it feels like, but the only way you’re ever going to know is to get one yourself.

Did it hurt? Well, sure. But nothing like I anticipated. I’ve heard people compare getting tattooed to giving birth. Of course, these people have been men who have zero fucking clue what it feels like to have a period, much less the pain associated with labor. I don’t know what that feels like either, because I had a C-section when my son was born. However, I do know what an epidural feels like and the tattoo needle is nowhere near as large a gauge as an epidural needle that gets inserted into the base of your spine.

needle-gauge

To be honest, it was less painful than some of the dental work I’ve had done, and I chose a fleshy part of my body for my first tattoo. There’s quite a bit of blackwork, which was more painful than the line work, but in the hands of a skilled tattoo artist who also has a knack for interesting conversation, the experience was actually pleasant. What really surprised me was the fact that there were certain areas of my skin that felt pleasure in the midst of the pain. My emotional response wavered between joy and catharsis. And, even though the pain wasn’t overly taxing and my session only lasted about 45 minutes, I felt slightly fatigued. I wondered if it was a chemical reaction to continuous pain, regardless of how low-level it was. I mean, was adrenaline being released into my bloodstream in small doses? According to an article on tophealthnews.net, “This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Get A Tattoo!,” I was:

When needles penetrate your body, this is a form of trauma and your body responds in kind. Your Sympathetic Nervous System kicks your fight-or-flight response into gear in response to the pain. The result is a rush of adrenaline.

And, that weird emotional feeling I experienced was probably caused by the release of endorphins.

Endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers, are also released. These chemicals come directly from the brain, flooding your body. When those endorphins are released, it’s a heady feeling that is sort of intense yet relaxing at the same time.

While fascinating, I wanted to talk less about the science of body chemistry in relation to getting tattooed, and more about why I decided to do it at this point in my life. And, why I chose the image that now decorates my skin.

Like I said, I am not Dan’s publicist, so if you want to know the story behind his tattoo(s), you’ll have to ask him. But, I can show you his before and after pictures from Saturday evening.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s a big fucking tattoo.” And, you’d be right. This first stage of Dan’s tattoo, an artistic spin on Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, took just over 3 hours, and two snacks from the coffee shop up the street, to complete. He has at least one more session to add details to this back piece, but possibly more sessions depending on how detailed he wants the final version to be.

During his 3-hour session, we made jokes about Francis Dolarhyde, the fictional serial killer from Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, since the character has an enormous back piece taken from William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon Paintings. We debated about watching Red Dragon, but settled for the first few episodes of season 1 of “Hannibal”.

So, now that you’re super impressed, and potentially creeped out about Dan’s tattoo, let’s talk about mine.

first-tattoo

I first saw the image in a book of essays that deconstruct the various versions of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, aptly titled The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, edited by Jack Zipes. The book is dedicated to the late Angela Carter, one of my writing heroes who happened to write one of my favorite stories about werewolves, “The Company of Wolves.” If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest that you do. She is famous for her versions of fairy tales, rewritten with an adult audience in mind. If you’re looking for something new to read, and think you might enjoy some erotic literary fairy tales, I’d suggest stopping by your local library and picking up a copy of her collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

I found Zipes’ book in the library at Hull University. I was studying abroad through an exchange program during my junior year of college, and lived in Hull, England for a year. While I was there, I started becoming more interested in myths, legends, fairy tales and folktales. About the same time I found Zipes book, I also was introduced to The Morphology of the Folktale, by V. Propp. The next thing I knew I was writing all these papers about rape narratives, and cannibalism, and other sexual taboos in fairy tales. That was nearly 25 years ago.

In that time, the meaning of the image has changed for me. When I first saw the drawing in Zipes’ book, I simply saw a woman being held by a werewolf. Sexy, right? I mean, vampires have their sex appeal, but there’s something deliciously primal about werewolves. Not only is the woman being embraced, rather than ravished in the image, but she appears to be happy about it. In fact, it looked as if she had found peace in his arms.

The original artwork was done by Catherine Orenstein (1990), who later wrote Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. If you’ve ever read any of my other blog posts, you know that I have a special place in my heart for monsters. In fact, monsters can be extremely sexy. Werewolves embody the aspect of the psyche where our signals sometimes get crossed — fighting, fucking and eating all seem to serve the same purpose in the mind of the werewolf — pleasure-seeking at any cost. And the cost may be your life. But in Orenstein’s image, there’s something different happening. The woman isn’t just being held by the werewolf, she’s accepting it in all of its monstrous glory. If she is in fact accepting the werewolf, that also looks a lot like a shadow or darkness itself, brings to mind the idea of making peace with the darker parts of ourselves. Making peace with our demons.

This isn’t my first attempt at transformation in my life. I’ve been trying to reshape myself since I was 12 years old. Weight gain, loss, and regain has been a constant pattern in my life. A few years ago after I gave birth to my son, I lost 70 pounds on Weight Watchers. During one of my meetings I described myself as having a beast that lives inside me that wants to eat all the time. And, sometimes it gets out and loses control. Not unlike a werewolf. It was at this point that I searched for Orenstein’s drawing, because it had a new meaning. I considered getting it tattooed on my body then, but for some reason never went through with it. That was almost ten years ago.

me-tattoo

Back in April I rejoined WW, and since then I have lost 30 pounds. I’m proud of myself for doing that. And, I have made a commitment to myself to continue my journey. I am learning to accept myself — fat, wrinkles, white hair, and all. And, I am relearning what my body is capable of doing. I started running using the C25K app on my phone. I forgive myself when the scale goes in the opposite direction and shows a gain rather than a loss. I am not perfect. I never will be. And, I’m beginning to understand why that’s so fucking amazing. I love my demons. I embrace them. Make peace with them. And by doing so, I am learning to love myself. Now, when I look at the drawing, I see a woman accepting herself. And now is a perfect time for my skin, the skin I am becoming more comfortable in each day, to tell that story. This tattoo is a reminder of my strength. The progress I’ve made. And the journey yet to come. Of course, there will be days when I still do battle with my darkness, but now I’m going to own it and show it some love.

Advertisements

Self-Reflection: 2016’s Shit Show

Remember how last week I was all like “I’m gonna blog every day in December and bullshit, bullshit, bullshit…”? Well, it is December 9 and I haven’t written a new post since last week. To be honest, I feel a bit hung-over. Not only do I feel like a zombie as I slog through my day job, maintain my household as a single parent, recover from NaNoWriMo, and gear up for the holidays, but 2016 has been a confusing and soul-sucking year so far. Over the past few years, I have had some monumentally shitty things happen to me, but in the grand scale, I feel like I’m on par with most people. Shitty things happen to people all the time. I don’t think I’m any worse off than others, and I certainly don’t view myself as a special snowflake that deserves extra attention or sympathy. At the end of 2014 and 2015, I invited both years to fuck off to make way for the coming year. I feel like I owe 2014 and 2015 a heart-felt apology, because despite all the improvements I experienced in my personal life – better health habits, better self-care, more creative projects completed, and better friendships cultivated – 2016 was a colossal shit show. Or, the year that was a dumpster fire.

20-trump-dumpster-fire-w710-h473-2x

At the beginning of 2016, I was doing really well. I felt better about myself and the world in general. I was feeling stronger. More confident. I decided to take better care of myself and took action to lay the groundwork to do so. I was beginning to appreciate my own company after months of grieving, perhaps ironically, the loss of a toxic relationship. And then, 2016 said, “I think you’re feeling too good about yourself. What can I do to fuck that up royally, and maintain a consistent flow of complete fuckery to keep things interesting?”

What makes 2016 a shit show? Here’s my Calendar of 2016’s Dick Moves that kept me emotionally unbalanced from beginning to end.

January – November 2016

January 10: David Bowie Dies

January 14: Severus Snape Dies

April 21: Prince Dies

June 24: Britain Votes to Leave EU

July 7: Huffington Post Reports 194 Black People Killed by Police

August 28: Willy Wonka Dies

November 7: Leonard Cohen Dies

November 8: Donald Trump Wins the 2016 US Election

November 18: Sharon Jones Dies

And here we are, almost two weeks from Christmas Eve. The holidays are quickly approaching and it’s time for some self-reflection before 2017 shows up. I’m not going to get into New Year’s resolutions just yet, but I do want to take a closer look at some of the things that did go right this year that don’t require additional grieving. Happiness is totally still a thing and within your reach.

Self-love became a priority.

After several years of feeling like I had almost no control over where my life was headed, and feeling like a prisoner in my own mind and body, I made a decision to take my life back. I had been making strides in the right direction since 2012 and 2013, but then I got sidetracked by things that weren’t good for me. Namely, a 15-month toxic relationship that made my self-esteem drop to an all-time low. After 3 months of therapy, I found the courage to walk away from that relationship in June of 2015. It took several months of slowly weaning myself away from that emotionally destructive situation, but after 21 months of therapy and a lot of personal growth, I feel like a new person. Not quite my old self, but perhaps a better version of her.

Through therapy and LOTS of self-reflection, I made some decisions to change my life for the better. One of the first things I did was disable my OKCupid and FetLife accounts. There was too much noise coming from both of those accounts, and because of the nature of the relationship I was in, I was attracting a lot of people I didn’t really want to meet. And, even if I wanted to meet them, I wasn’t in any emotionally safe state to put myself out there and open myself up to new wounds. Second, I started spending a lot of time by myself. On purpose. And then I listened to my inner voice until it started saying nice things about me. Third, I rejoined Weight Watchers for like, I don’t know, the millionth time in my life. The difference this time was that I was only doing it for me. I didn’t have a special occasion or person that I was working toward. I wanted to lost weight and become healthier to impress myself. Crazy idea, right? So, in April I joined Weight Watchers, made a commitment to attend meetings, or at least weigh-in every week, which I have, and I’ve lost 30 lbs. In the process of making better choices and evaluating my habits, I started getting up at 5:00 AM and going for walks at least 3 times a week. A few weeks back, I decided to ramp up my walking and began using the Couch to 5K program to increase my activity and try running. I’m not pushing myself or condemning myself when I can’t keep up with the program. I simply tell myself, “Hey, maybe you can’t run as far as you’d like right now, but you’re making progress and you’re out here in the dark and the cold making an effort to improve your life.” Positive self-talk actually works. Who knew?

So, aside from feeling better and losing 30 lbs., I also made a decision that I would start trusting people again. When people I didn’t know very well showed an interest in getting to know me better, rather than building a wall around myself, I opened myself up and let them in. Was it scary? Fuck yeah! Is it still scary? A lot of the time, yes. But allowing those people into my life has taught me some things or reminded me of some things I forgot about myself. Good things. And now, I have a few more really cool friends who care about what happens to me and look forward to spending time with me. Without imposing any weird or destructive expectations. They’re genuinely good people. Genuinely good people I love.

I cleaned my bedroom and clothes closet.

This may not seem like a big deal, but my bedroom had become a constant source of stress for me, because it was a dumping ground for everything that I didn’t feel like getting rid of or putting away. Between donating clothing and throwing away items that were no longer of use to me, I purged 13 garbage bags worth of burden out of my life. And, since I was steadily losing weight, I got rid of a lot of my plus-sized clothing. Last year at this time I was wearing a women’s 2XL winter coat. This year I’m wearing a women’s large. It’s not a plus-sized coat. It buttons without being tight. I’m calling that a win. I found boxes of smaller-sized clothing that I hadn’t worn since the last time I lost a lot of weight. I’m glad I kept them, because I have great taste in clothing. Jeans, sweaters, dresses, shirts, and of course, coats.

Writing became a priority (again).

This year I have written more than 250 haiku poems. Three of which were selected from publication in a new feminist literary magazine. Hopefully, I’ll have more concrete details soon. I wrote nearly 42,000 words during NaNoWriMo last month and have gotten close to completing my second full-length novel. And, I’m working on a short story for an anthology set in a RPG world. So, I’ve been keeping busy with creative projects. But, as always, I feel like I should be doing more.

My child made me a prouder parent.

My son has a full plate this year with Kung Fu, basketball, STEM club at school, and he’s learning to play the viola. His grades are great, he’s reading above his grade level, and he’s becoming an interesting individual with quirky personality traits that I love and hate simultaneously. We don’t always get along, but it’s just the two of us. As a single parent, I understand that sometimes I have to carry the burden of misplaced animosity and negative feelings that might not actually have anything to do with me. It’s just one of the many services I provide as a responsible adult.

I’m sure there are other things I could talk about, like how much fun I’ve been having lately visiting with friends and trying new things, but maybe I’ll save that for another post…that may or may not get written this month.

Okay, so maybe 2016 hasn’t been a complete shit show, but hey, it ain’t over yet.

While you’re thinking about your own year in review and planning your New Year’s resolutions while getting ready for the holidays, you can make this lovely dumpster fire ornament for your Christmas tree or Hanukah bush.

Top 10 Haunted Holiday Movies

There is a time-honored tradition in Britain of gathering around the fireplace at Christmas to tell ghost stories. In fact, one of the most famous ghost stories of all time is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A few years ago, BBC Radio 4 featured a series of 20th century vampire stories read by David Tennant. In my opinion, there’s no better Christmas treat than listening to Doctor Who read vampire stories.

peter

Vampire hunters: sexier than vampires? Discuss.

As a long-time fan of ghost stories and horror fiction in general, and a writer of dark speculative fiction, December is one of my favorite times of year (aside from Halloween) to watch scary movies. Let’s face it, any time of year is a good time to watch horror movies, but there’s something about this time of year that brings out the desire to contemplate the supernatural. Maybe it’s because winter is the metaphorical death of the year, or maybe it has something to do with the veil between worlds being thinnest on the Solstice, or maybe the long dark nights cause our imaginations to run wild with inherited fears of hungry wolves lurking at the edge of the woods.

company-of-wolves

Whatever the reason, it has become a tradition in my house to watch horror-themed (or at the very least black comedy) movies this time of year. I mean, sure, we watch the classics too – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and The Year Without a Santa Claus – which, if I’m not mistaken all have some form of monster or element of dark magic. That’s right, dark magic. No one is going to convince me that the black top hat that brings Frosty to life doesn’t contain black magic.

grinch

So, rather than trotting out a tired old list of holiday classics, I thought I’d share my top 10 picks for holiday films that make you laugh uncomfortably, raise the spirits, and possibly the hairs at the back of your neck. Whether you prefer suicide humor, serial killers, demonic possession, mental illness, or just a good old-fashioned ghost story, my list has something for everyone.

  1. Black Christmas (1974): If you hate sorority girls and love serial killers, then this is the holiday film for you.

black-christmas-pic-1

  1. Gremlins (1984): A traveling salesman buys his son the worst Christmas present EVER.

gremlins

  1. Scrooged (1988): A modern retelling of A Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray. What more do you need to know?

scrooged-1-1000

  1. Better Off Dead (1985): One of the funniest movies about teen suicide you’ll ever see. Happy holidays!

better-off-dead

  1. The Conjuring 2 (2016): Just in case you weren’t sure, The Conjuring 2 is totally a Christmas movie.

the-conjuring-2

  1. Krampus (2015): Want the kids to stop acting like sugar-fueled psychos before the holidays? Skip “Elf on the Shelf,” and show them this movie.

krampus

  1. 12 Monkeys (1995): A time traveler is sent to the past to prevent the release of a deadly virus and gets a stay at a mental institution for his troubles. Holly jolly!

12-monkeys

  1. Edward Scissorhands (1990): A Frankenstein-like man with scissors for hands has his heart broken after leaving the safety of his home to mingle with monstrous suburbanites.

edward

  1. The Polar Express (2004): Children are stolen from their homes and taken on a terrifying train ride to the North Pole.

polar-express

  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): A heart-warming tale about cultural appropriation gone wrong.

nightmare_before_christmas

Save

Holly Fucking Jolly, December Has Arrived

c-startrees

On this first day of December 2016, I’m feeling a bit dazed. How the Hell is it December 1 already? I mean, Christmas is 24 days away…if you celebrate that holiday. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, here are some other dates that might interest you:

Yule/Winter Solstice: December 21
Hanukkah: December 25 (ends January 1)
Kwanzaa: December 26 (ends January 1)

Whatever Winter celebrations you partake in, there is usually some level of preparation needed in order for these tradition-filled holidays to happen. I don’t know what your role or level of involvement is in the planning and execution of the upcoming holiday season, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m a single mom, I work full-time, I’m a freelance writer working toward becoming a published fiction writer, and I have sole custody of my child. I am the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and most importantly, I am Santa Claus. And possibly Krampus.

krampus

While I prepare for the holidays – I celebrate a few this month – I intend to keep writing. That means making time to write, which is no small task this time of year. Between the manic house cleaning, cookie baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping gifts, writing Christmas cards, and visiting friends and family, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time to sit alone and write. Typically, I would put everything I just mentioned ahead of my writing, but not this year. This year I am going to make writing a priority, and I will be updating my blog on a daily basis…at least that’s my goal. Each day I will talk about my writing process, holiday preparations, and most likely the extra stress that comes with being a single parent during the “most wonderful time of the year.”

So, I encourage you to share your own holiday delights and traumas in the comments section of my blog and we can support each other to make it through yet another holiday season in order to welcome the new year. Holly fucking jolly!

Save

Save

5 Things I Learned Writing a Novel During NaNoWriMo 2016

Today is the last day of November 2016. It is day 30 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This year I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo with the intent of “winning” – writing 50,000 words within 30 days. SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t accomplish my writing goal. I was 8,905 words short of reaching that goal. But, I did manage to write 41,095 words in one month.

This wasn’t the first time I attempted to participate in the annual writing challenge, but this was the first time I nearly reached my goal. During the 30-day writing extravaganza, I learned a few things about myself, my writing process, and how I work under a strict deadline. I don’t know if what I learned will help you, but the lessons I gained this year will help me “win” NaNoWriMo 2017.

  1. You Have to Write Every Day. It doesn’t matter how many words you write each day, but you need to put words on the page so that you can update your word count daily. Whether you write 50 words, 1,667 words (the recommended number of words prescribed by NaNoWriMo to achieve the 50,000-word goal), or 6,000 words, you need to update your word count EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. How do I know this? Because I didn’t write every day, and I believe that is one of the main reasons why I didn’t reach my 50,000-word goal.
  2. Perfection Cannot Be Your Goal. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. In order to do so, you have to be willing to turn off your inner editor. Just get words on paper. It doesn’t matter how shitty those words are, because once you’re done writing them at the end of November, you’ll need to go back and edit those words. In the immortal words of Chuck Wendig, “Writing is when we make the words. Editing is when we make the words less shitty.” I’m not going to lie, I wrote my share of shitty words. In January I plan to edit and revise and write the missing pieces and edit some more.
  3. Connect with a Writing Community. Belonging to a community of writers can not only provide the support and encouragement you need to keep writing, but it can also make you a better writer. If you belong to a writing community and are lucky enough to have other writer friends participating in NaNoWriMo, you can support each other and cheer each other’s successes each day of the process. And, if you want to get competitive, you can give each other writing challenges in order to reach your daily, weekly, and eventually monthly goal. Writing is typically a solitary pursuit, but that doesn’t mean you have quarantine yourself during the month of November in order to reach your goal. Join a NaNoWriMo writing group and get the support and encouragement you need to keep going.
  4. Make Time to Write. If you don’t already have a time of day scheduled for writing, you should figure out when you are most productive and make an effort to write at the same time every day. Life can be busy. I’m a single mom who works full-time, and I also make an effort to have a satisfying social life. I’m no June Cleaver when it comes to housework, but I try to make my house clean enough to avoid a visit from Children and Youth Services. I often struggle to find time to write. My days start early and end late, and as you can imagine, there’s a lot that has to get done between 5:00 AM when my alarm goes off and 10:00 PM (if I’m lucky) when I turn off the lights and travel to Dream Land. If I am not selfish about making time for myself to write, guess what? I don’t write. And, unfortunately that happens a lot in my life. Take my advice. Be a dick if you have to, and make time for your writing.
  5. Be Kind to Yourself. Sometimes when we set big goals for ourselves, we fail. Failing after trying to reach a goal is still better than never trying in the first place. Am I disappointed that I didn’t reach my 50,000-word goal? Well, sure. But I wrote 41,095 words in a month. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and now I know that I can write more than 40,000 words in a month. In fact, now that I know why I didn’t reach my goal, I’m pretty sure I can also reach 50,000 words in a month, which I plan to do next year when I participate in NaNoWriMo 2017.

Wait, can I add this blog post to my final word count?

Battling Our Demons: Fighting the Influence of Evil

The other day, while looking through some of my folders of old writing and abandoned projects, I stumbled across an essay I wrote back in May 2015 for my Readings in the Genre: Contemporary Mysteries course at Seton Hill University as part of my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program. Of late, I’ve used this blog as a way of kick starting myself into writing on a more regular basis; something I struggle with on an almost pathological level. My friends will tell you that I’m writing all the time. This year, since February I have written a total of 27 blog posts about fictional characters I find sexually appealing, and since around May, I’ve written over 120 haiku poems. I’ve drafted chapters in a novel I’m writing, and I’ve written a few short pieces of fiction here and there. So yeah, I guess I have been writing. But, I don’t feel like I’m writing enough.

And, although I had a short story published in an anthology back in November 2014, I haven’t been able to sell my first novel, Invisible Chains, acquire an agent, or get any other bites on the poetry I’ve been submitting. I currently have poetry out to three publishers and I’ll be submitting three short stories within the next month to different publishers. I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 in the hopes of completing that second novel I mentioned, A Marriage Made in Hell. I WILL finish the first draft of Marriage by November 30, come Hell of high water.

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading some of my writing that doesn’t involve lewd comments about my favorite fictions characters, read on…

demons

Battling Our Demons: Fighting the Influence of Evil in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

In his famous study on human behavior, Beyond Good and Evil, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche warns us to take care to not be influenced by the intrinsic and often seductive nature of darkness when confronting our demons. He proposes, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you” (Section 146). Sage advice, but is it possible to confront Evil and not be somehow changed by it? Can you keep company with monsters without becoming like them? This is the dilemma faced by both Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark and Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Each character must face her demons. Tempted as they may be, each character still manages to avoid becoming Evil.

Evil can be a very subjective concept. Each of us defines it a little differently based on our own personal experiences, but we can usually agree on the difference between “right” and “wrong.” The mystery genre uses this dichotomy as one of its central themes or plot points, and while an amateur sleuth or police inspector may be driven to solve a crime in order to uphold the law, at the heart of most mysteries is the desire for Good to win out over Evil. “Crime fiction in general, and detective fiction in particular, is about confronting and taming the monstrous. It is a literature of containment, a narrative that ‘makes safe’” (Plain 3). The battle between Good and Evil has been fought in fiction since before written communication. In the oral tradition, people told tales of epic battles between men and monsters – Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh. With the advent of writing, the popularity of monster tales never waned – The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Inferno. Monsters have always been with us. They are creatures of myth and legend, and they often stand in as metaphors for the less palatable human behaviors and emotions. Judith Halberstam suggests in her book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters that even though our desire for stories about monsters and villains never seems to fade, the appearance of those monsters evolves to meet cultural needs. She says, “The body that scares and appalls changes over time, as do the individual characteristics that add up to monstrosity, as do the preferred interpretations of monstrosity” (8). Monsters change as our society changes, and the monsters of our current fiction, which is especially true in the mystery genre, tend to be humans more so than the beasts of Homer and Dante’s creations.

Like Sookie and Lisbeth, we sometimes find ourselves in less than ideal situations and come face to face with monsters. For some of us, the monsters we must face are people we thought we could trust who later betray us, or worse, cause physical as well as psychological damage in the form of abuse, rape, and ultimately murder. In her essay, “Vivid Villains,” Sandra Scoppettone tells us that “the nature of the villain, and how absorbing a character he or she is, will affect the flavor of the whole rest of the story” (86). The nature of the villain should definitely determine the nature of the protagonist. Whether we’re talking about a serial killer, someone seeking revenge, or jilted lover who commits a crime of passion, as we gain a better understanding of human psychology, we also understand that we are the monsters represented in the fiction we read. Darkness lurks within all of us, but for most people, it will continue to lie dormant until some violent act or traumatic experience awakens the beast within. The real challenge then for any protagonist facing such a worthy opponent, as Nietzsche warns, is to avoid becoming a monster. Sookie and Lisbeth are sexualized others who both fall victim to violence at the hands of human monsters.

rapacerevenge

“Forty-six percent of women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man” (Larsson 139). In his novel The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson wishes to make it very clear to his reader that violence against women is a cultural reality in Sweden, and to most Swedish women, much like his protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, the threat of violence, sexual or otherwise, is an expectation if not an inevitability. Lisbeth is a ward of the state and becomes the victim of rape at the hands of a man assigned to her case. She is an adult, but due to her designation based on a history of aberrant behavior as a youth, she is treated like a child, mentally deficient, and then taken advantage of due to her abuser’s belief that she is somehow stupid. While Lisbeth has experienced quite a bit of emotional and psychological trauma, some of which is not revealed to us, she is far from stupid, and definitely not mentally ill. In fact, she is uncannily smart and more than capable of looking out for herself, except at the hands of the sadistic monster Advokat Nils Bjurman. Over the course of several meetings, Bjurman makes it very clear to Salander that she is at his mercy if she would like access to her bank accounts. Each encounter with Bjurman becomes more and more inappropriate until he forces Salander to perform oral sex on him in his office. Larsson reinforces his point about the violent nature of Swedish society by making Salander another statistic. “In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status” (249). Later, when Salander seeks revenge for this assault, Bjurman restrains and rapes her at his apartment. It is this second act of violence that pushes her to her limits and flips a switch that begins her own transformation. She falls prey to the desire to do monstrous things herself. “Bjurman felt cold terror piercing his chest and lost his composure. He tugged at his handcuffs…He could do nothing to resist when Salander bent over and placed the anal plug between his buttocks” (282). Salander reverses the tables on Bjurman. She assaults and humiliates him much like he did to her. She attempts to restore balance through an act of revenge, pushing her closer to the edge of the abyss. Lisbeth unleashes her darkness to reclaim her power and walks a fine line that could easily transform her into a monster worse than Bjurman. She threatens Bjurman with blackmail and bodily harm to prevent him from hurting her again—an act of self-preservation. By marking him, she hopes to save other women from becoming his victims. Justice is served.

On the surface, Sookie Stackhouse and Lisbeth Salander couldn’t be more different as protagonists go, but when you take a closer look at these two strong female characters, you’ll begin to notice some commonalities. First, they are both amateur sleuths with unique abilities that allow them to have access to information others aren’t privy to in the narrative. Salander’s abilities are half-heartedly explained through the eyes of Salander’s lover, Mikael Blomkvist, who assumes that the young hacker has a form of Asperger’s. Since Sookie’s world has paranormal elements, she has the benefit of being able to hear other people’s thoughts. Calling this ability a benefit is debatable, as Sookie herself sees it as a handicap.

Second, both women often find themselves at the mercy of men who threaten them with violence. Or, at the very least, objectify them sexually. Although they come from very different cultural backgrounds, they both have “zero social status” (249) in the economy of sexuality and gender equality. In Dead Until Dark, a serial killer targets young women who seek out vampires as sexual partners. Sookie not only shares this in common with the victims, but she also fits the profile with her high school education and minimum wage job.

sookiebill

Monsters exist in Sookie’s world – vampires, weres, and shifters – all of which can be quite dangerous. In fact, her boyfriend is a vampire. Despite the fact that there is trend in fiction romanticizing relationships between vampires and humans, vampires are still monsters. Even if they don’t kill you outright, there is always the chance that things might get out of hand, and a moment of passion may end with the human’s funeral. Even if the vampire poses no direct threat to his partner, the secret lives of vampires seem to be violent by nature – ancient enemies, unresolved love affairs, power struggles with other supernatural beings. All of this adds up to danger for any human who meddles in the affairs of monsters, much less falls in love with them.

Sookie could literally become a monster if she continues to drink vampire blood. Bill Compton gives Sookie his blood several times to speed up the healing process. But when Sookie is recovering in the hospital after her encounter with the serial killer, she refuses to accept Bill’s blood for fear of losing her human qualities. “‘I’ll heal you,’ he offered. ‘Let me give you some blood.’ I remembered the way my hair had lightened, remembered that I was almost twice as strong as I’d ever been. I shook my head” (Harris 310). Sookie resists the urge to become monstrous by refusing to act like one. Sookie reclaims her power by maintaining her humanness.

Sookie and Lisbeth are victims of violent crimes. Both women fight back to protect themselves. They are survivors and each play an important role in vanquishing the monster, or at the very least, identifying the villain. They both realize there are too many villains in the world to fight. Even though they have temporarily restored the balance in their worlds, they know the fight between Good and Evil will continue. Not only externally, but internally as well. Each time you gaze into the abyss, the abyss changes you. So, to answer my earlier question, is it possible to associate with monsters and not become Evil? Yes, but only if you remain vigilant to protect your humanity, and in Salander’s case, the humanity of others.

Works Cited

Halberstam, Judith. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. Print.

Harris, Charlaine. Dead Until Dark. New York: Ace Books, 2009. Print

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2009. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good & Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New York: Vintage Books Edition, 1989. Print.

Plain, Gill. Twentieth Century Crime Fiction: Gender, Sexuality and the Body. New York: Routledge, 2014. Kindle.

Scoppetone, Sandra. “Vivid Villains.” Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America. Ed. Sue Grafton. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2002. 86-90. Print.

Save

Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck: Will Graham

I’ve mentioned several times before in this series that I have a special place in my heart for the insane – or, at least, the people society deems insane. Some people I have cared deeply about throughout my life suffered or continue to suffer with mental illness and the stigma that comes along with these often-misunderstood medical conditions.

My father made a living as a mental health professional. He cared a lot about his clients, and sometimes developed strong attachments to them. I’m aware that there are ethical issues associated with client/therapist relationships that cross the boundaries established by the profession. Despite his role as therapist and healer, he was only human and felt deep sorrow when one of his clients relapsed and hurt themselves or someone else. More than once, my dad received phone calls about the death of a client at his/her own hands. I remember one client’s suicide very well, because my dad cried when he hung up the phone and slipped into a deep depression that lasted months. He felt responsible for that man’s death. He believed that he had somehow failed. My dad was really good at what he did, but he felt too much to be able to distance himself from the very real struggles his clients faced. He cared too much.

Caring too much sounds absurd to people who don’t understand what that can be like. When you feel things so strongly that you can’t seem to separate yourself from the grief experienced by others around you, people you’ve never met, people who died long before you were born, any form of suffering that you can empathize with creates a sense of the suffering inside you. When therapists who have a strong sense of empathy cross boundaries with their clients, sometimes inappropriate or even dangerous things happen, placing both client and therapist in jeopardy.

An excellent fictional example of this kind of situation is the relationship between Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Bryan Fuller’s television adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, “Hannibal”. Dr. Lecter is a psychiatrist and Will is a profiler for the FBI. Both work under Jack Crawford, the director of the BAU, who investigates serial murders. Will has a unique set of mental quirks (illness) that gives him a nearly supernatural level of empathy, which enables him to place himself in the minds of serial killers and recreate their actions and thoughts while examining grisly crime scenes. Will solves serial murders and puts serial killers behind bars…unless they end up dead. Which happens quite a bit on “Hannibal”. If Will doesn’t kill them, Dr. Lecter will, or they end up killing themselves. Although Jack has asked Dr. Lecter to observe Will to keep track of his fragile mental state as he investigates one horrific murder after another, he never officially becomes Will’s psychiatrist. In fact, they become friends. Well, they become connected by a series of unfortunate events that blur the boundaries and behaviors between them, and a bond of sorts is formed. Friends? Colleagues? Murder husbands? You decide.

Crazy Is As Crazy Does: Will Graham

unstable

However you choose to define the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, it is a cluster fuck of lies, deceit, manipulation, murder-spree fantasies, and some occasional inappropriate touching. From where I’m sitting, I see a lot of sexual tension between two men who are intellectually turned on by each other in a submissive/dominant dance of morally questionable professional encounters that ultimately lead to serious injury – mentally and physically.

lecter-deceit

I think I made it abundantly clear how I feel about Dr. Lecter in an earlier post, but now it’s Will’s turn. Thomas Harris wrote him as an exceptionally strong character that rivals the serial-killing monsters in Red Dragon, and Hugh Dancy has taken this character to whole new level of psychosis.

psychoanalyze

There is beauty and pain in his gift of empathy, he is gloriously crazy, and his insight and intellect, as well as his extreme awkwardness make him very appealing to this long-time nerd fetishist.

crazy-will

I often make passes at men who wear glasses.

I don’t know about you, but the smarter a man is, the hotter he becomes in my opinion. Will is a successful criminal profiler, but due to his delicate psychological make-up, it is safer for him to share his wisdom and experience in a classroom rather than in the field.

hot-prof-2

Intellectual hotness.

But, Jack Crawford convinces him (against Will’s better judgement and Alana Bloom’s recommendations) to leave the safety of the classroom and return to the field where his expertise can have a positive outcome in solving crimes and catching serial murderers.

antlers

I have a collection of bloody antlers just like this at home.

Will Graham is an incredibly fuckable fictional character, despite the fact that his friend and colleague, Alana Bloom, thinks a relationship with him is too risky. Initially, when Will shows an interest in becoming more than friends with Alana and she turns him down, I was angry. I mean, if I worked with someone as intellectually creepy and hot as Will Graham, I’d probably be making not-so-subtle hints about my interest in him.

alanawill-1

Seriously. What the hell is she waiting for?

But, in retrospect, I realize that I have more in common with Alana than I’d readily like to admit. Alana spends a lot of time inside her own head. I do too. She tends to overthink things. Ditto. In fact, she thinks herself right out of potentially pleasurable and possibly ideal situations, like entering a romantic relationship with Will Graham. Sure, he’s cute and sweet, but he’s also kind of unstable and may require a lot of care giving in the long run. So, she rejects him. He doesn’t take it well, but respects her decision and doesn’t continue to push the issue. He occasionally makes snide comments, but then acts like an adult and treats their relationship as strictly professional.

too-unstable

We’ve all made the mistake of choosing the wrong guy before.

Seeking refuge from the pain of unrequited love, Will dives back into his work. Because Will enters the minds of the killers he profiles, the field work begins to take its toll. With each episode, Will gets a little stranger, his bond with Dr. Lecter grows tighter, and heads in a weird direction.

wills-design

In Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, Lecter is behind bars and the relationship between him and Will is mostly speculative. We know that Will worked with Lecter to solve a crime, and later discovered that Lecter himself was a serial killer. Will nearly loses his life at the hands of Lecter, but ultimately is the one who puts him behind bars. In “Hannibal,” we see Bryan Fuller’s vision of their relationship prior to Lecter getting caught. Fuller’s artistic vision creates not only some of the most beautiful murder tableau, food porn, and uncomfortable interpersonal interactions, but also adds a level of competition between Will and Hannibal that slowly becomes a homoerotic murder fantasy man crush. (It’s totally a thing.)

colleagues

Before.

end-season-2

After.

And don’t get me started about the visual references to David Lynch’s body of work (that’s a different conversation for another day).

ear

Yep. That’s a human ear alright.

While watching the first season, I questioned not only my theories about Fuller’s references to David Lynch’s work, but also the homoerotic nature of Will and Hannibal’s relationship.

smell-me

Yeah, I’m just imaging…wait.

ladder-porn

I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one in the Hannibal fandom (Fannibals) who saw what I was seeing. The sexual nature of their relationship became clearer with each episode. Social media (Tumblr, Deviant Art, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook) provided an outlet for fans who wanted to explore the possibilities of that relationship even further, and coined the term Hannigram. “Hannibal” has some of the most creative, twisted and hilarious fans. If you ever find yourself bored and want to entertain yourself, just Google Hannigram and let the good times roll.

boner-alert

I know, right?

relationship

Disturbing, yet somehow hilarious.

innuendos

This is the humorous side, but there is a darker and more sexually-charged side of the fandom as well.

bit-me

As far as fan art goes, the Hannigram inspired work found on social media may cause you to blush or shift in your seat a bit. Given the nature of the fiction it is drawing its inspiration from, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neither should it surprise you just how closely violence, eating, and sex are related. But, what might disturb you about that connection is how titillating it can be when presented to us in a gloriously perverse artistic expression through such mediums as film or literature.

hot

But it is. And so is this.

dont-lie

And, especially this.

the-end

I mean, that’s like a total effing Romeo & Juliet ending! I know I’m not imaging that. But ironically, it takes Will the longest to catch on to that aspect of his relationship with Hannibal.

yes

I mean, even the tabloids alluded to the weird and kinky nature of their relationship.

murder-husbands

Any way you look at it, Will Graham is clearly Hannibal’s object of desire. The lines between his murder fantasies and his contracted work with the FBI to observe Will’s behavior blur while the empathetic profiler spirals deeper into mental illness. And while we feel sympathy for Will, the bizarre elements of the fiction lend themselves to even more disturbing humor. Let’s face it, Fannibals are sick, twisted, clever perverts. And I love them dearly.

platonic

Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck: Dimitri Belikov

Last night I finished reading the first book in the Vampire Academy series. Truth be told, I had been meaning to read this YA Paranormal Romance series for quite some time but completely forgot about it until I watched the film adaptation on Netflix a few months ago. The movie was silly and entertaining, but there were also some really good romantic elements that caught me by surprise. And, hey, more importantly? VAMPIRES!

tumblr_static_vampire-academy_header__index

I loved the protagonist, Rose Hathaway, a seventeen-year-old dhampir who is training to become a guardian to protect her best friend Lissa, a member of the Moroi royalty. She’s funny, street smart, a wise ass, rebellious, constantly questions authority, sex positive, and knows how to look after herself and the people she cares about. If Rose had been one of my classmates in high school, I think we would have been friends. At least until we got into an argument over a guy, because she and I have similar taste in men.

Heroes Can Be Hotter Than Villains: Dimitri Belikov

BioPic

If you’ve read my blog series before, you know that I have a thing for monsters. I mean, duh! My blog is called Girl Meets Monster. I like monsters. No. REALLY like monsters. But sometimes, the people who hunt them can be just as hot and heartbreaking.

For some reason that I’m not entirely in touch with (I’m working through this with my therapist) I am psychologically predisposed to lust after villains and other fictional characters with questionable motives for the things they do. But, every once in a while I fall madly in love with a fictional character with a strong moral compass. It helps if that character is a badass-fighting machine, stunningly gorgeous with an accent, and played by sexy as Hell actors. Dimitri Belikov is definitely one of these characters.

OMG

Like I said, I enjoyed the movie and found it a little silly, but the relationship between Rose and Dimitri is an interesting one. As a former teenaged girl who constantly had the hots for her older teachers and mentors, I have nothing but sympathy for this pair who have a lot of obstacles to overcome beyond their seven year age difference. At 24, Dimitri is a full-fledged adult with a life-threatening job that requires him to not only be in peak physical condition, but also mentally focused on his responsibilities as a guardian committed to protecting the Moroi royalty in their three-tiered society of vampires. His job is really important and he takes it very seriously.

Swearing

Rose on the other hand, is a seventeen-year-old fledgling who is learning how to be a guardian. She understands how important her role will be, but she’s still trying to enjoy her youth. When she begins to respect Dimitri (and desire him) she wants nothing more than to become the best guardian she can be. Yes, she is motivated to do so in order to protect Lissa, but she is also seeking the approval of her mentor.

I found Dimitri relatively attractive when I watched the movie, but I completely fell for him while reading the book. He became hotter and hotter each time I turned a page. He’s emotionally stable even though his life hasn’t been a picnic. He’s killed people. He was raised without a full-time father figure due to the weird circumstances of biology and social norms in their world. He watched his mother be abused and sexualized by his mostly absent biological father, until one day he’d had enough and beat the crap out of the Moroi asshat who took advantage of his mother for years. He grieves the loss of someone he was supposed to be protecting. And, he develops an inappropriate infatuation with one of his students. An infatuation he continually denies, because he knows that it’s wrong. I don’t know about you, but a chaste male character who remains chaste because he is unable to have the object of his affection due to the fact that he believes it to be morally objectionable really turns me on.

No, seriously. That is hot. Especially if that character reads books and does lots of push-ups to distract himself from fucking the brains out of an under-aged girl who is practically begging for it.

Combat is hot

Today’s lesson: Hand to hand combat with sexy Russian men is super fucking hot.

It doesn’t help that they are constantly in situations where they have to either touch each other or fight for their lives. Rose understands the consequences of being attracted to her mentor, and although she wants him to reciprocate her feelings, she also doesn’t want him to lose his job for inappropriate behavior. But, neither of them is able to deny their feelings for each other forever. They try to keep their feelings a secret, which they manage to do until someone notices their attraction to each other and uses their emotional connection against them through magic.

Magic Spell

Dimitri: “I love your dress…let’s burn it.”

Even under the influence of magic, Dimitri is able to momentarily come to his senses and recognize that while his desires are being met, he still knows that his actions are wrong. Yes, the teen-aged girl he fantasizes about did show up in his room while he was in bed and throw herself at him, but he respects her enough and takes his position too seriously to allow either of them to make a mistake that could ruin their lives. Or, complicate their situation further.

I don’t know what the future holds for Dimitri Belikov and Rose Hathaway, but I’m dying to find out (and not so secretly hoping they get naked with each other). I’m going to pick up a copy of Frostbite from the library ASAP. And, the first chance I get, I’m rewatching Vampire Academy. Something tells me now that I know more about his personality and dark past, Dimitri will be three times hotter and my inner teen queen…hell, my middle-aged woman hormones will be raging out of control. As a teen I probably would have been a little too timid to really enjoy his company. Now? I’d make Dimitri beg for mercy.

Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck: Magneto

Over the weekend I went to see X-men: Apocalypse. I enjoyed the movie. In fact, as I usually do when watching Marvel movies, I experienced some catharsis. Marvel’s heroes and villains have always had a powerful effect on my psyche, and more often than not, when I see a movie featuring these amazing characters I cry. Laugh if you need to, but Marvel characters tend to experience some heavy-duty tragedy in their fictional lives, which makes them interesting, believable, and deserving of our empathy. Like regular old people such as you and me, they react to this tragedy in a multitude of ways. Some of them channel those negative feelings into helping others, while some take their pain and channel it into seeking revenge.

I don’t condone the choice to take revenge for the pain and suffering that people (fictitious or real) have experienced in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the desire to do so. Revenge always seems like it’s going to be satisfying and it tempts us into believing that making our enemies pay for the hurt they’ve caused will somehow heal us. Unfortunately, for most people, revenge only causes more pain and turns people into the villains they hate so much.

A Heartbreaking Villain: Magneto

tumblr_maw6xzKqYQ1rp3ztlo1_500
Erik Lehnsherr is a tragic character. His story line is riddled with black moments. Born Jewish in Germany, he survived the Holocaust, but his family didn’t. In the comics, we are told that he not only survived, but also was later made to work in the death camp at Auschwitz to remove the dead bodies of his fellow Jews who were murdered in the gas chambers. The Nazis persecuted him for being a Jew, and then because of his mutant ability, he was hunted and threatened by people who feared him, which put other people he loved in danger. His daughter Anya died at the hands of an angry mob after people witnessed his mutant power. His wife, pregnant with twins, left him because she was devastated by the loss of their daughter and frightened by his power. To say that Erik is emotionally damaged by the terrible things that happened to him and his loved ones would be an understatement.

Little-erik

When I was first introduced to Magneto as a kid, I didn’t understand why he was viewed as a villain. In fact, Stan Lee has been quoted to say that he never intended for Magneto to be seen as a villain. Inspired by the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, he envisioned Magneto as the Malcolm X to Professor X’s Martin Luther King Jr. – two men fighting for the same cause, but with different ideologies. Each man wishes to protect mutants from persecution and violence, but Magneto prefers to be proactive and confront the enemies of mutantkind BEFORE they can hurt his brothers and sisters. Charles Xavier has chosen to walk a more peaceful path, and never gives up hope that mutants and humans can live peacefully together. However, he also understands that the path he’s chosen is dangerous and trains his students so that they are ready to fight when the war against mutants ends up on their doorstep. He’s hopeful, but not an idiot.

x-men-first-class-trailer

Our tax dollars at work.

The common struggle that initially unites these two men is compromised by their opposing views on how to deal with the threat of humanity. Magneto has witnessed the evil of humankind time and time again. His trust for humans will only extend so far, because he is always waiting for them to disappoint him. If we were to diagnose Erik with a psychological disorder, I think it would be safe to say that he suffers from PTSD after the atrocities he witnessed in Nazi Germany, which has contributed to his trust issues and difficulty maintaining relationships, romantic or otherwise. Intimacy can be a real challenge when you ultimately trust no one.

bcc8a59646b552bb3f706666c3e00ec6

They need more on-screen smooch time.

Because, even the people Erik has loved and attempted to trust have either abandoned him, or given him a reason to turn on them. Or his paranoia leads him to betray them before they can betray him. His agenda, to punish those who threaten him and his mutant brethren, has destroyed more relationships than healed them. His pursuit of revenge alienates him from friends and family, potentially making him one of the loneliest villains in the Marvel universe.

tumblr_inline_nn85fxEftb1tsjqc4_500

What? That there should be scenes of both of you naked? That’s totally what I was thinking.

There’s a lot of ground to cover with Magneto seeing as how he appeared in the first X-men comic in 1963. Since there’s so much material to pull from, I’m going to cheat a little and only focus on the films that he’s appeared in. Yes, I’m fully aware that these films deviate from the original storylines that appeared in the comics, but since amazing actors have portrayed him on screen, I’m going to focus on them for the purposes of this blog post. I’m sticking to the films mainly because while Magneto has always been an inspiring character in print, it’s Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of him that stirs my heart (and loins) the most.

Magneto, played by Ian McKellen, first appeared on film in X-men (2000). McKellen did an amazing job of conveying the complexity of the character, as well as his cleverness, his power, his skills at manipulation, and his single-minded determination to stop all threats to mutant life. No matter what. McKellen reprised the role several times, including his appearance in X-men: Days of Future Past in which he plays the older Magneto and Michael Fassbender the younger Magneto.

2

The sassier side of Magneto.

When we were given an in-depth peek into Magneto’s origin story in X-men: First Class (2011), Michael Fassbender had the unique opportunity to convey the raw emotional turmoil and rage-inspired violence that labeled this misunderstood character a villain. Not to mention the fact that he also brought Magneto to a level of sexiness that pairs well with James McAvoy’s equally sexy Charles Xavier. Maybe it’s the costuming from the 1960’s that reminded me of some of my favorite spies played by gorgeous British actors, or maybe it’s just the fact that Michael Fassbender is simply one of the sexiest men alive. At any rate, I have no complaints about the casting.

x-men-first-class-photo-michael-fassbender4

Speaking of fantastic casting choices, when I saw X-men: Days of Future Past, my head nearly exploded when Evan Peters took on the role of Quicksilver, Magneto’s son. He was amazing, and his scenes were by far some of my favorites in both Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. Evan Peters stole my heart in the American Horror Story series, and he’s definitely on that list of actors who portray monsters in such a way to make me lust after them. I’m not one of those women who considers marrying serial killers on death row, but I do fantasize about fictional characters who commit similar acts of horror.

I think anyone would find it difficult to argue against Magneto’s complexity, or the fact that he is a damaged soul. And, even though he makes a lot of terrible decisions, I often find myself cheering him on. Humans do terrible things to each other, but those horrific acts become even worse when targeted at people who don’t look like them or share their cultural beliefs. You’d have to be an idiot not to grasp that the battle between humans and mutants is an allegory for racism. The fact that Erik is a Jew who survived the Holocaust allows me to overlook some of his methods for dealing with his enemies.

tumblr_lmozjm5RW01qztabxo1_500

In fact, I applauded his mission to track down and kill former Nazis who associated with the man who exploited his power and turned him into a monster. However, his belief that mutants are superior to humans sounds an awful lot like the ideology of the Nazis. That’s not a coincidence. Ironic, yes. Coincidence, no. It’s one of the personality quirks that make him such an interesting character. His psyche was so damaged by his tormentors that he uses their ideas and methods to smite his enemies.

Erik_lehnsherr_xmen_first_class_michael_fassbender

A friend of mine who also saw X-men: Apocalypse over the weekend was unable to accept Magneto’s actions in the film as redeemable. He’s right. A lot of people died because of his choices and the actions of the people he teamed up with to essentially destroy the world. Again, we were reminded that his pain and rage are his two biggest motivators. Does that excuse his actions? No. Do I still feel a kinship with him because of his pain and because he’s one of my favorite fictional characters? Of course I do. Is it true that each time I see Michael Fassbender in that role I want to help Magneto heal his pain any way I possibly can? Absolutely.

gallery-moviesx-men-apocalypse-michael-fassbender

Seriously. Look at this guy. You know you want to hug him. Kiss him. Handcuff him to a bed frame. Whatever it takes to distract him from making any more mistakes.

I’m not going to lie. A character with a backstory like his in the hands of a gorgeous actor like Fassbender is going to win my heart every single time. He is powerful, emotionally damaged, fighting for a cause I can get behind, and smoking hot. And he fucks up constantly and continually drives a wedge between himself and the people who care about him the most. In his efforts to protect mutants, he ultimately destroys all hope of uniting them on a common front. He becomes worse than the enemy he’s fighting. And, my heart breaks for him. There isn’t enough love in this world to heal Magneto, because he refuses to be healed. He isn’t redeemable because he doesn’t wish to be redeemed.

magneto-michael-fassbender-x-men-apocalypse

Let Magneto’s major flaw be a lesson for us all. You can’t heal your own pain by causing pain in others. But, that doesn’t make him any less deserving of our empathy and love. Magneto will always have a special place in my heart, in that dark corner I reserve for the justifiable villains, antiheroes and monsters. Always.

Fictional Characters I Would Totally Fuck: Lucifer

I have a confession to make. I love Lucifer. To some, this will come as no surprise, since many of my friends already know that I have a fondness for darkness. But I’m only drawn to it if there is a spark of light shining in that darkness. The promise of redemption. Evil, while intriguing, usually leaves a bad taste in my mouth — actually, it makes my guts churn and fills me with dread. True Evil (notice the capital E) is something I hope to never have to confront face-to-face. Just because someone has a reputation for being monstrous, doesn’t automatically make them Evil. Especially if they’ve been misrepresented since the beginning of time. Lucifer is only mentioned a few times in the Bible, but talk about a reputation. People have been blaming him for all the e(E)vil in the world since he made his fabled fall from Grace. Well, him and that bitch Eve.

Critical-Thinking

I recently finished watching the first season of Lucifer. Twice. Initially I was skeptical. I mean Lucifer is one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented fictional characters of all time. Yes, that’s right, I said fictional character. In fact, this particular character made his first appearance in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics in the late 1980’s. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there (cough, cough, Christians) who will read this and be angry that I’m referring to Lucifer (Satan, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, Lord of Lies, or whatever you’re most comfortable calling him) as a fictional character. But here’s the thing, I’m not a Christian. I’m not an atheist either. I believe in something, but I’m not exactly down with the concept of one all-powerful creator, especially not one as temperamental as the Judaeo-Christian god. If we’re to believe all the promises of damnation and hellfire, there’s no pleasing that guy. If Hell does exist, I’ll probably end up there. Not because I’m an inherently bad or cruel person, but I tend to question everything. Including the word of God. I’m an educated uppity Negro who believes in self-determinism and indulging in hedonistic pleasures. And, since the first overly judgmental Christian pointed a finger in my direction and deemed me a heathen, I’ve had a special place for Lucifer in my heart.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer with Wings

Is it just me, or did it get hot as Hell in here?

Sympathy for the Devil: Lucifer Morningstar

Before I start talking about my new TV boyfriend, Lucifer Morningstar, I’d like to talk a little bit about the mythical origins of Lucifer and why I – as well as many other people – find him so fascinating, and yes, deserving of our sympathy.

“But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?” – Mark Twain

Talk about a tragic character. He’s the original scapegoat. In his fascinating book, The Devil: A Biography, Peter Stanford looks at the role the Devil has played in shaping how people view evil and how our perception of evil has evolved over time.

In the modern mind it [evil] is located within each individual — what Jung called our “shadow.” Historically, the tendency was to place it [evil] outside — on the Devil, who exploited a weakness in the human makeup. Of the two placements, the contemporary option is harder to deal with since it imposes a responsibility on each and every individual. The traditional route, while emphasizing that God gave each man and woman free will — the capacity to choose right or wrong — did have the bonus of off-loading some of the burden onto an external force. That is why the Devil still attracts a following. He represents the easy option when we are confronted with evil. (6-7)

All of the world’s sins are blamed on him, and he must forever carry the burden of punishing the wicked – or anyone who doesn’t follow God’s commandments. Once one of God’s favorite angels, Lucifer was cast into Hell after refusing to follow God’s word to the last letter. Pride was his downfall. He exercised his free will and challenged his father’s authority. He rebelled.

12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Isaiah 14:12-14 (King James Version)

Free-Will

As a teenager, I developed an interest in Lucifer’s story even though I didn’t attend church. Maybe because I didn’t attend church. I drew parallels between his banishment to Hell and the punishment my friends received for expressing themselves honestly. I had friends who were kicked out of their houses because they could no longer conform to the expectations their families had established for them. I don’t know about you, but when I was a teen I rebelled. Most of us do. I dressed all in black (wait, I still do that), wore makeup that made me look dead, experimented with drugs, climbed into cars with strangers, flirted with married men, rode on the backs of motorcycles under the stars past midnight, made out with boys in leather jackets, read vintage smut and other banned books, watched lots of inappropriate foreign films, listened to loud rock and roll (1950’s – present), wrote poetry about killing people I hated, daydreamed of becoming a vampire or succubus, partied with drag queens, played with Ouija boards, read Tarot cards, and hung out with juvenile delinquents. Sounds fun, right? There were plenty of people willing to lead me down the primrose path. Oddly enough, none of them were Satan. No matter how badly they wanted to be.

Cheerleaders

Just to piss people off, or fuck with their heads, my friends and I declared an alliance with Satan and all things considered evil by mainstream culture. We’d shout, “Hail Satan!” and then giggle like schoolgirls. Because we were schoolgirls. Schoolgirls with a very dark sense of humor who were bored with mainstream ideals of good and evil. Let me tell you, we had a great time. If we had done any of those things prior to the latter part of the 20th century, we would have been labeled as witches (in some cases we were) and punished severely. None of us really made a pact with Satan, despite what some of our classmates and teachers thought. Being accused of practicing witchcraft and worshipping Satan only made us laugh, and oddly enough gave us a certain amount of power, independence, and individual voices. Wearing black lipstick to high school doesn’t make you a witch or Satan worshipper. It makes you a scapegoat. But if you stand up for yourself, speak up for your rights to wear whatever you want, and the rights of others to be different, that makes you a strong teen girl. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was becoming a black lipstick wearing feminist. An uppity Satan-loving Goth Negro.

Eartha Kitt as Cat-Woman

Role model.

It wasn’t always easy to wake up in the morning and be myself. Some days it was fucking horrible. Knowing that about myself, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Lucifer’s plight. I knew what it meant to be misunderstood, and feared or hated for being different. People shouted at my mother from a passing car when we walked down the street, “Nigger lover!”, because she was holding my hand. I was five. If there is a Hell, I hope every evil racist asshole who ever made me and my mom and dad feel afraid or feel bad about ourselves goes straight there and suffers the punishments of the damned for all eternity.

Aside from the fact that people treated my family like shit because we were ethnically mixed, I was always too heavy (fat), didn’t wear the right clothes (poor), liked to read for fun (nerd), talked too much (behavioral problems), and collected Star Wars figurines (um, those are for boys). I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point I decided, maybe not even consciously at first, that if people were going to see and treat me differently anyway, I might as well give them something interesting to look at.

New-Black

I wish I knew the exact moment when the light bulb in my brain switched to black light and I decided to give conformity the finger. I like to imagine I was born that way, but a very specific chain of events occurred to make me think it was perfectly acceptable for a seventeen-year-old girl to smoke pot in her bedroom and listen to the Velvet Underground while lying in bed with her older punk rock boyfriend.

Smoking-Crack-Satan

Before I fell under Tom Ellis’s spell as Lucifer, there were a few other devils who captured my heart (and mind) in film and television. He’s in good company. Although technically I’m talking about the same character, the way that different people portray and/or write about him makes this character fresh each time we encounter him in fiction. A purely evil Satan wouldn’t interest me, but a complex character who finds humor in our misery, can make fun of himself, and shed light onto the human condition in a way most of us can relate to, can provide hours of entertainment for me. He’s the ultimate antagonist who can inspire fear or sympathy, and more often than not, lust.

Hot-Lucifer

Sweet Baby Jesus!

In 1987 I went to the movie theater to see a film starring Lisa Bonet (Epiphany Proudfoot), Mickey Rourke (Harry Angel), and Robert De Niro (Louis Cypher). I wanted to see Angel Heart for two reasons: 1) it was set in New Orleans, and thanks to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, I had developed an infatuation with the city, which would eventually become a life-long love affair, and 2) I wanted to see an interracial couple having sex on screen. I may never be as tall and thin as Lisa Bonet, but at age 15 I viewed her as the closest physical representation I could see of myself on TV and in movies. And, she was starring in a movie about voodoo set in New Orleans having completely inappropriate blood-drenched sex with an older white man who is running from the devil. Seriously? The only thing that could have made this movie any better for me as a teen would be for her to somehow turn into a vampire. But hey, she’s a mambo, so I can’t complain. I would LOVE to talk about the intersectionality of racial, gender, and sexual politics in Angel Heart. And, someday I will. Today is not that day.

Today I’m talking about Lucifer, and in this particular case, Louis Cypher (say it aloud in a French accent). If you ever have a chance to pick up the novel this film is adapted from, Falling Angel (1978), by William Hjortsberg, you will be amused by how many parodies of Lucifer’s name one author can think up. And, it’s a great story.

Cover Art for Falling Angel

1996 Mass Market Cover

Robert De Niro’s Lucifer is handsome, charming, well-groomed, wears expensive suits, has a taste for unusual jewelry, manicures his nails into pristine points, and has the air of a mysterious European aristocrat. He’s also spooky and sexy, which is always a great combination of personality traits in my book. Louis Cypher hires a law firm, Macintosh and Winesap (get it?), to hire a private investigator, Harry Angel, to find a missing person. If you’ve never seen Angel Heart, shame on you. But just in case, I’ll be nice and won’t spoil it for you.

Louis-Cypher

‘Mephistopheles’ is such a mouthful in Manhattan, Johnny.

Needless to say, I love this film. I’ve owned various copies between 1987 and the present, and I come back to it from time to time when I need a pick me up. That’s right, devil-themed suspense films about voodoo cheer me up. What’s it to ya’?

De Niro’s Lucifer is a tough act to follow. He has so many quotable lines, and you can see he is clearly having fun in this role. I always liked Robert De Niro’s work, but this role gave him a whole new depth that made me fall a little bit in love with him. It was a long time before I saw another Devil quite so appealing.

One of the most lust-inspiring, yet unsettling portrayals of Lucifer is Viggo Mortensen’s in The Prophecy (1995). When I discovered this gem of a film I watched it over and over. I made my friends watch it with me over and over. It’s dark, it’s funny, it delves into the age old debate over good and evil, we see glimpses of the war in Heaven, Christopher Walken plays the archangel Gabriel and Viggo Mortensen is Lucifer. What’s not to like?

Viggo

Humans…and how I love you talking monkeys for this…know more about war and treachery of the spirit than any angel.

Mortensen, dressed in a black cassock like a priest and wearing black nail polish, is somehow simultaneously aloof, bored, insightful, petulant, mean, creepy and sensual. He’s attractive, yet repulsive, like a big piece of decadent dark chocolate cake dusted with arsenic. You’ll probably take a bite even though you know you’ll regret it later. He’s beautifully monstrous.

He inspires fear in the people who cross his path in the film, until his mantle of power and control slips and we are shown his desperation, a peek at his loneliness, cravenness, as he threatens to take the two main characters back to Hell with him. As we see the motivation behind his threats to drag them to Hell, his threats seem more like the pathetic attempts of a lonely drunk at last call looking for someone to go home with him. Physically appealing, but loathsome. Pitiful. But not exactly Evil.

Viggo was my favorite Lucifer until I met Peter Stormare’s Lucifer in Constantine (2005).

Constantine – Lucifer

Seriously, Stormare’s Lucifer is super fucking cool and spooky. When he shows up dressed in all white to collect John Constantine’s soul — in person — it’s like the Godfather showing up to collect an unpaid debt. Rather than ascending from Hell as we might expect, he enters this realm descending from an unseen portal above. His bare feet and the cuffs of his white suit are stained with something that looks a lot like tar. His eyes are red-rimmed, like he hasn’t slept in a very long time. Managing Hell is a full-time job after all. It’s open 24/7.

Stormare

Sonny, I’ve got a whole theme park full of red delights for you.

Aside from Tilda Swinton as Gabriel, Peter Stormare’s Lucifer is one of the best things Constantine has to offer. Actually, his portrayal of the Devil is one of the best I’ve seen and it invariably makes it onto top ten lists of all time best Devils in films. Ironically, the only bad casting choice in this film was Keanu Reeves as John Constantine.

After Stormare’s, my favorite Lucifer became Mark Pellegrino’s on Supernatural. Pellegrino first appeared as Nick/Lucifer in the 2009 episode, “Sympathy for the Devil,” in which a man with a tormented past, consumed by grief, with apparently nothing left to lose or live for, accepts a demon’s offer to become the vessel of Lucifer. That’s not an easy gig. Especially if you aren’t genetically predisposed to contain the soul of a deity. Nick is only a temporary skin suit, and we soon learn that Lucifer really has his sights set on Sam Winchester.

Supernatural-5x19-Hammer-of-the-gods-mark-pellegrino-16732609-1280-720

Michael turned on me. Called me a freak. A monster. And then he beat me down. All because I was different. Because I had a mind of my own.

Pellegrino’s Lucifer is a bit more complex than the previous ones I’ve mentioned. He’s an emotionally disturbed fallen angel who will never get over being banished to Hell by his father. The way he sees it, his family abandoned him and the psychological aftermath has made him into a sarcastic, spiteful, jealous asshole seeking vengeance in the form of world annihilation. He believes the only thing that will make him feel better is to start the Apocalypse. He hates humanity and wishes to destroy it to spite his father. Some angels support his efforts, while others think he’s acting like a spoiled jerk.

Gabriel

Don’t hold back, Gabriel, tell us how you really feel.

Like I said, Lucifer’s soul is slowly eroding his vessel (Nick) and is looking to take up permanent residence inside Sam’s skin. So, he tortures Sam psychologically by making himself invisible except to Sam in the hopes of driving him insane. Hilarity ensues.

Sam-Lucifer

Resting Bitch Face Championship Finale

I like Pellegrino’s Lucifer because he is hilarious, but also because when he explains why he does the things he does, no matter how atrocious, he’s very convincing. Does this Lucifer have any hope of redemption? Possibly, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Just because I agree with some of his arguments doesn’t mean I would blindly follow him to Hell. When it comes to charismatic figures, I reserve a certain amount disbelief. I’ve been lead down the primrose path by attractive men with compelling stories more often than I’d like to admit. It’s alluring and exciting for a while, but eventually the emotional roller coaster stops being fun. Especially if your sweetheart has apocalyptic aspirations.

Like I said, pulling off this character isn’t easy. If he’s portrayed as being nothing more than mindless evil, I’m not only bored, but insulted. If he’s portrayed as a simpering, child-like man who throws temper tantrums because he doesn’t get his way, then I’m probably only going to keep watching for the spectacle. Most people fail at portraying Lucifer, because they don’t fully grasp or appreciate his complexity. Tom Ellis is not one of those people.

Admittedly, even if he wasn’t hilarious, tall, dark and handsome, seductive, sensitive, sexy, well-dressed, sarcastic, and  yes, at times scary, the fact that he’s a bit geeky in an overly-educated way and has a British accent would have been enough to capture my attention. I mean, for Christ’s sake, look at him! I know what I’m about to say may offend some Whovians, but I don’t care. I think this man would make a fine Doctor. There. I said it. I’m not taking it back. I’d love to see him traveling through time and space in a blue Police Box…with a young woman of color as his companion…and at least one episode with  Captain Jack Harkness. Look, you have your fantasies about the Doctor, and I have mine.

Holy-Lucifer

Jesus, Mary, and Lucifer.

When we first meet this Lucifer, he seems pretty shallow. A rich handsome playboy driving an expensive car who buys his way out of bad situations. He owns a club in LA and has a reputation of being a ladies man. Initially, I wasn’t impressed.

Lucifer-Car

Yeah. Not feeling it.

Not until he began interacting with people and we had a chance to explore how he manages his relationships with them. Through certain relationships he begins to grow emotionally and each episode we see a little deeper into his soul. His personality is what makes him so fucking attractive. He’s taking a vacation from Hell, but the longer he stays on Earth and builds more friendships, he has even less of a desire to return to his job of torturing the damned. His allure is in his vulnerability, which he tries to hide and deny. Not only because he needs to maintain his reputation, but because he is afraid of this transformation and doesn’t understand it.

Lucifer-Hurt

Totally feeling it.

Over the course of the first season, Lucifer develops feelings for a police detective, Chloe Decker, and she develops feelings for him. Feelings he doesn’t understand, because he’s never felt that way about a woman. Aside from his confusion about his emotional state, their relationship is complicated by a long list of reasons why they can’t and probably shouldn’t become more than friends. They have some really heavy emotional scenes together, and each time they get a little closer, one of them pulls back out of fear.

In fact, he’s so freaked out about these new and confusing feelings, that he starts…seeing a therapist. I’ll give you three guesses to figure out how he pays for her services.

Although Lucifer is enjoying his time on Earth, there are a few people who really wish he’d go back to Hell.

Lucifer-Mazikeen

Even the Devil needs a BFF.

Mazikeen, or Maze, is a demon who has faithfully followed Lucifer since his fall from Grace. She’s his friend, sometime lover, bodyguard, and assassin. She’s having a good time on Earth, too. Well, most of the time. But as she sees him changing, becoming more sensitive to the plight of humanity, she advocates for returning to Hell so he can become his old devilish self again. His emotional attachments to humans terrify her, and yeah, makes her jealous.

But, the one character who pushes him to return to his duties of punishing the damned more than any other is his brother, Amenadiel, the archangel.

1x07-Wingman-Lucifer-and-Amenadiel-lucifer-fox-39369604-1500-1034

That is one good-looking family.

Despite Lucifer’s openness about being the Devil, the detective, Chloe, refuses to accept that he isn’t just an eccentric and overly-dramatic, but well-meaning nutcase. However, there are a few things she witnesses that make her question who he really is. But, like most sane and practical people, she keeps denying the proof that he’s telling the truth.

Chloe-Lucifer-Wings

Ironically, her daughter has no trouble believing he is who he says who he is.

Like-the-Devil

While this Lucifer is fun-loving, cynical, charming, likes to help people he cares about, and…I said sexy, didn’t I?…you still shouldn’t piss him off. Especially when it comes to people or things he’s emotionally attached to.

Lucifer-Taking-Back-Wings

Yeah, I’m absolutely smitten with Tom Ellis’s Lucifer. He’s everything I’m looking for in a convincing Devil. Smart, funny, emotionally damaged, but open to growth, and I said tall, dark and handsome, right? His body was made for suits (or nakedness), and his accent sends shivers through me.

Naked

Let’s make a deal.

If you haven’t watched the first season, treat yourself. Honestly, I’m probably going to watch it again. I’ll be fantasizing about Tom Ellis with a sonic screwdriver in his hand, and contemplating the fate of my immortal soul.

Soul

See you in Hell!