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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: pop culture

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Today we are going to talk about something a bit different, but maybe this might inspire your fiction, because if the world changes guarantee you a writer was behind it ūüėČ .

As I was perusing Facebook Friday evening, I came across an article that gave me an odd reaction. It made me want to stand and cheer, yet at the same time, rail at the heavens for the unfairness of it all. Tim Gunn from Project Runway leveled his crosshairs on the fashion industry. OMG I so love him for doing it, too.

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A Plus-Sized Problem

According to Washington State University, there are over 100 million plus-sized women. The average woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18 and yet plus sizes are almost never represented in fashion and if they are, the clothes are…ridiculous.

Most are passive-aggressive jabs at overweight women.

I am no longer a plus size, but I still recall the day I finally had to venture into the plus-sized section at a department store. I remember sinking into a corner and crying. I had always loved clothes but these weren’t clothes.

They were punishment.

In ways I still have this problem. The misogynist attitude of the fashion industry is all around. I am no longer plus size, but I am not a human stick either. I’m a healthy size 8-10-12-14-16.

Women will get that joke ūüėČ .

And I have‚Ķoh dear, this is so embarrassing. I actually have‚ĶI can’t believe I am admitting this. I have *whispers* ‚Ķ..boobs.

I KNOW! Right? Who would have thought that women actually come equipped with BOOBS?

And sorry, no, even Barbie would be crying these days because her shirts would runch up over her bust every time she moved her arms.

The fashion industry is not interested in Barbie. She still has girl parts…and cleavage snacks.

Even the mannequins can’t keep up.

Help those with no voice!
Uh-oh. Who gave the mannequin boobs?

The fashion industry is failing to appreciate that most of the women who need clothes actually have hit puberty. Many of us have even had children (sort of necessary for the continuing survival of the human race and all) and we have hips.

And I get well-meaning advice that I should ignore what is being elevated at “beautiful”, but the problem is that this distorted sense of what is “beautiful” affects what I am able to buy.

Seriously???
Shoot me.
Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?
Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?

When I have a selection of 42 variations of skinny jeans and shirts that ride up over my bust-line? It makes it tough to buy clothes. Of course, then I catch $#!* for living in yoga pants but nothing frigging fits.

It’s yet another passive-aggressive jab at aging women.

Older women just let themselves go.

All my life I have struggled because I wasn’t “thin enough,” and now I am no longer “young enough.”

Oh dear GOD! The horror! Kristen please stop. First you tell us you are female and now you are getting old? We can’t take it!

I know. I am so sorry.

Where are the Women?

Why can’t I be in a fashion magazine too? A real fashion magazine just for ME and my grown-up gal pals?

A magazine that doesn’t have me standing with a frying pan grinning over “Skinny Fried Chicken?” Or laughing at salad. What the hell is so funny about SALAD?

Maybe a forty or fifty-something woman might have amazing legs and love shoes. We still love mascara and buy it. Some of us even look pretty good in it.

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We love hair! Some of us a little too much. We are called Texans ūüėõ .

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Do we all have to be fawning over laundry detergent or adult diapers? Or grinning at yogurt? No wonder women are terrified of getting older. We disappear! Why is it that the only over-60 woman featured on the cover of Vanity Fair in a bustier used to be a man? Why not a sexy cover with Jessica Lange? Why does Lange get a turtleneck (1996) and Jenner get a bustier (2015)?

I see all these magazines geared toward the thirty and younger crowd, but the industry is virtually silent when it comes to the largest population in the country.

The one that is AGING.

In fashion, it’s no challenge to design clothes that flatter a teenage underweight flat-chested giantess. There are no “obstacles” *wink, wink* to work around. No wrinkles or a wider middle from having children.

Is it because us older gals might actually pose a challenge? We might make them think creatively, beyond sticking a bird cage in an up-do or a lampshade on our a$$?

Same with the articles. Seems to me it is far simpler to advise a twenty-something who’s never been married about sex and dating, than a forty-five-year-old who is out-earning her male counterparts and has grandchildren and an elderly parent to take care of.

Dare we talk about the fifty-something woman who likes sexting her…husband?

Oh no, Kristen. You have just gone too far.

Yes, I Want to Be Like Barbie

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Untouched photo. I’m almost 43‚Ķand love shiny things.

The world is obsessed with giving young girls role models, which is awesome. They need dolls that aren’t all about fashion, that are astronauts and police officers and doctors. GREAT! They need different body types. The New York Times was all gaga over Mattel creating dolls of different shapes and sizes and heights and ethnicities.

Okay, fashion industry. Could you take a hint from a DOLL company? Yes, I want to be like Barbie. She is finally allowed to be short, tall, fluffy, skinny, busty, or even have glasses. Maybe one day she will even be allowed to grow old (Hey, I can dream, right?).

We don’t grow out of needing role models.

Would women be Botoxing and cutting on themselves until they resembled a missing cast member of The Muppets if they had a healthy selection of women who were aging well to model after?

Most of us have no frigging clue how we are supposed to look for our age. We are surrounded by teenagers or models Photoshopped to resemble wrinkle-free teenagers. We are sold anti-aging serums by models who aren’t old enough to be using the product.

Hollywood will keep casting Jason Statham as an action hero until they have to use CGI to conceal his walker and orthopedic shoes, but what about Lucy Lawless? Why do we have Rocky XVI but no remake of Xena?

You want to see BEAUTIFUL women of all ages? Check out my Pinterest board Old Women Dressing and Behaving Badly.

MORE is Less

Want a good laugh? Peruse the magazines that are supposed to be speaking to mature women. Initially I was excited about MORE Magazine, because it was supposed to fill that gap and give women over 30 their own fashion magazine.

Unfortunately, when I picked up a print copy (among their first), I was crushed to realize it was just a Good Housekeeping retread. Lots of pictures of gardens and decorating and food and the only articles with actual older models revolved around how we could look younger and thinner.

I’m not kidding. And it hasn’t changed.

Check out the on-line Beauty Section. All kinds of articles about how to braid hair!¬†Aaaand it’s just a bunch of twenty-year-olds with braids. ALL the articles have young models…unless you count the article about how to reverse aging naturally.

Bite me, More Magazine. Just bite me. Because anyone old enough to buy a house no longer wears braids.

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And O Magazine offers more of the same. Articles about all the best plastic surgery or how to dress around my “problem” of being too short or too busty.

Why is it MY problem and not the fashion industry’s problem?

Industry in Crisis

But then magazines complain,¬†“No one is buying magazines anymore and the Internet and Pinterest and¬†whine whine whine‚Ķ” Retailers complain and are closing stores at a record pace (I.e. Macy’s).

Is it the economy? Or are department stores and malls now ghost towns because retailers have nothing to offer us. They are all clamoring for the attention of the group with the lowest disposable income who are on Instagram instead of at the mall?

Tim Gunn is baffled at why designers are ignoring plus-sized women, and a potential 20+ BILLION dollar industry, but I am even more perplexed why they are ignoring women over 40.

And for those of us over 40 who are plus-sized? We…are…doomed.

We older women (all sizes) need more than the three currently available looks: Tragic Pole Dancer, DMV Employee and Woman at Church Who Brings Casseroles.

But it IS Changing

Part of why I wrote this blog is I saw THIS over the weekend and I am now madly, deeply in love with H&M. I want to be HER when I grow up.

OMG! YES!
OMG! YES!

H&M is also featuring a 60 year old swimsuit model!!!! Because apparently someone has figured out that women over 30 still wear SWIMSUITS! I am hoping this marks a meaningful shift because aging is a gift denied to many. If we take care of ourselves, we will spend DECADES being considered “old” unless we change things.

I want to be in love with my older face and older body. I want to embrace the curves I earned with bringing a son into the world. Pregnancy didn’t “wreck my figure,” it evolved it.

I want to enjoy my laugh lines not be attacking them with needles and lasers. I want to be able to look up to more women like Gillean McLeod who show me I will one day still be beautiful, just a different kind of beautiful.

Above everything, I want little girls to grow up and one day have permission to be women & to love being WOMEN.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel invisible? Are you excited about what H&M is doing? Would you love a Xena remake with Lucy? Would you love more fashion models who were mature women? Do you struggle with cleavage snacks? Are they considered calorie-free?

Can you think of some stories or characters who give us grown-up women heroes? I miss Golden Girls, personally. Hey, erotica authors. Y’all could give new meaning to “Hot Flash” ūüėÄ .

And I know they do this crap to the men, too just differently. But if it makes the guys feel better, check out this Japanese runway model who is ALMOST EIGHTY! Hubby was ecstatic.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the other NEW classes below! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 16th

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term ‚Äúantagonist‚ÄĚ can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

 

 

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Mads Mikkelsen in “Hannibal”

Hubby and I¬†are now careening through¬†Hannibal, which is some of the most amazing writing I’ve ever seen. I would have never believed any actor could even rival Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but…? Mads Mikkelsen might actually be¬†better.¬†I don’t know if I have ever felt so conflicted about a character. Hannibal is a stone-cold killer, but then I catch myself rooting for him?

Wait‚Ķno, he’s the BAD GUY. Right?

I’m so confused *head desk*

Yet, this series is such a prime example of why series are superlative storytelling. Instead of containing a character like Lecter to 90-120 minutes, we now have what no movie can offer‚ĶTIME. This allows for a layering, a depth, an exploration we always craved, even if we weren’t entirely aware of it at the time.

I find it harder to make snap judgements (like I do in a movie) because just about the moment I am horrified by Lecter, he has another scene where he is kind, compassionate, supportive (um, psychopath?) and I’m back being conflicted.

Much like that guy I dated when I was 21 ūüėČ .

Right about the time I was sure he was a jerk I never wanted to talk to again, he’d show that side I’d fallen for and I’d give another chance.

So yes, the writers of this show are master manipulators and play (at least my feelings) like a violin. They keep pushing buttons, enticing our innate human curiosity to understand WHY? Like a dangerous snake that fascinates us, we are staring, tapping at the glass and enamored (conveniently forgetting the snake just ate a cute little mouse earlier).

For me, this series is more than superior storytelling. In ways, the writers have done a masterful job of placing the viewer in the role of those who deal with psychopaths. It’s like being on a roller coaster, experiencing the thrill of near-death but without the real danger. And isn’t that what superb writing is all about? Offering a slice of danger for the audience to experience and explore from safety?

Series Are Taking OVER

I refuse to watch any show that doesn’t have at least two seasons complete, namely because, if I¬†like a new show? Apparently it spells its¬†DEATH for the new show.¬†Thus, I don’t like getting too attached. I wait, then inhale an entire season a day.

Don’t judge. I know you do it too O_o.

I feel that series,¬†complex series, are actually the way of the future (and have felt this way since roughly 2004). There’s a fantastic book that explains why, called¬†Everything That’s Bad for You is Good¬†(and I strongly recommend it). In a nutshell, popular opinion seems to be that, as a society, we are getting DUMBER, spiraling toward an Idiocracy.

In the face of Honey Boo-Boo and¬†The Bachelor, it’s tough to argue. But those shows are mindless brain junk food, and thus we’re comparing apples to oranges when we place them next to Breaking Bad¬†or¬†Walking Dead. Those other shows aren’t¬†storytelling.¬†Don’t tell¬†The Real Harpies Housewives of the OC.

*shivers*
*shivers*

From Big Screen to Small Screen

When I was a kid, all the best actors (acting) were on the big screen. To see an actor go from movies to television was a clear sign she needed to stop doing drugs fire her agent her career was likely over. Television equaled death. Now? We see the opposite.

I’ve all but given up on most movies. They bore me into a coma. Most are abysmally predictable or just showing off CGI skills instead of telling a great story. My opinion? Television is now where we are seeing the most successful stories and the most talent (been that way for a while).

But Again, Why IS That?

Audiences, despite what people might want to believe, have become far more sophisticated. If we had a time-machine and could transport an avid TV fan of Gilligan’s Island to 2014 and sit him in front of¬†Game of Thrones? His head would explode.

Boom.

Ugly.

Anyone got a squeegee?

Modern audiences love a complex plot, numerous story lines, and obscure references. We want a large cast to fall in love with or hate. 

We watch certain movies/shows over and over because there are jokes, innuendo or backstory we missed. Seinfeld is a great example. Every episode had its own plot and humor, but if one hadn’t watched¬†the other shows there were a lot of jokes one simply would NOT get.

Shows like Seinfeld were revolutionary this way. It had never been done before. I Love Lucy was all contained to each episode. Every episode stood alone.

The greatest comedic writing out there is great primarily because of the obscure¬†wink-wink-nod-nods to other iconic movies. For instance, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Scary Movie 5. But if you aren’t a horror fan, it won’t be nearly as funny. Same with¬†Tropic Thunder.¬†One has to have seen¬†Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Tears of the Sun¬†etc. in order to understand the movie and “get” the jokes.

The Simpsons, South Park and Pixar employ a similar tactic by threading pop culture references into the stories.

Finding Nemo has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. Now, The Spawn has loved this movie since he was two. There is a level of humor that renders a toddler a quivering puddle of giggles. But, at a¬†higher level¬†what adult hasn’t lost it in the Shark AA¬†Fishaholics meeting scenes? A toddler has no concept of a Twelve-Step Program, and yet as adults? WE GET the reference and so it launches the humor over the top.

These factors are why many of these movies (or series) are worth buying. We see something new every time we watch. We peel back a new layer, spot a new subplot, finally “get” that double entendre. We can rewatch¬†Battlestar Galactica with a fresh set of eyes and¬†see new territory.¬†

Modern audiences are growing increasingly sophisticated and they long for the mental challenge of keeping up. One can watch BSG and have to recall some detail from ten episodes earlier. We LOVE the mental challenge and this is why the big screen won’t last for the adult audience. The main factor working against movies is TIME.

Most people are pushing it to sit through a three hour movie. A screenwriter, director can only do so much plot or character development in three hours or less. Compare this to a TV series with a hundred hours. We have the time to get to know more characters, more backstory, more subplots and our brains crave the challenge.

How does George R.R. Martin use Twitter?

¬†He has 140 characters and everyone DIES¬†ūüėÄ . *bada bump snare*

Ah the Setback

Every setback is an opportunity for an even greater comeback. This is largely why series are becoming HUGE. With a series there is, bluntly, more time and more opportunities to 1) generate love and affection for a wide cast of characters and then 2) torture them then 3) wait for the comeback. Some of the finest series out there will wind your nerves so tightly you feel like you need a drink and a Xanax to get to sleep.

WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

Is Starbuck alive? Dead? Is she real? A Cylon? Ok, I can sleep WHEN I’M DEAD *clicks for “Next Episode”*

The same urges that drive viewers to lose an entire weekend or night of sleep dying to find out what happens on a show (or video game *cough* Gears of War) is the same phenomena that is driving series and novellas to greater popularity.

Fiction is the opposite of functional sanity. Normal human beings seek to maintain peace and healthy relationships. We are NOT NORMAL (in case no one has yet broken the news to you). Our job as good great epic writers is to maim, torture, crush and kill. We are emotional, deeply empathetic, loving and caring creatures…but we writers are also kinda psycho.

To write great stories, we have to channel some sadism. The relationship between author and audience is actually pretty toxic, but it’s the only “toxic” relationship that’s GOOD for people. We throw a rock in sanity and readers want more. In fact they punish us if we are too sane ;).

Being crazy and dysfunctional is our JOB. Conflict and problems are the heart and soul of stories. Of course, unlike psychopaths in life? Writers offer resolution and closure.

Yet, in the meantime?

Find that shiny thing. Get the protagonist sooooooooo close they almost…have….can…touch…..the edges……..

….and then SMASH IT. SMASH IT, KILL IT….BUUUUURRRRRNNNN IT!

Original image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins
Original image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

Your readers will hate you, but it’s good for them. Do NOT protect your characters. Screw up their lives more than a meth-addicted multi-personality mother-in-law. Your characters NEED a crucible.

No one wakes up and thinks, “Gee, maybe I have a pride problem. I should totally work on that.” NO! Instead of that promotion they¬†know¬†is in the bag, they get FIRED. Worse, they get blackballed. Worse, they have to apply for food stamps.

Worse, the person at the food stamp office is the very person they were horrifically RUDE to and now they¬†need¬†this person’s mercy. Do they get it? NO! ARE YOU HIGH? STOP BEING A SOFTIE. Do you want to be a WRITER? Then lose that soul and sense of decency (for a bit).

Take the food stamps away! Get them a job at McDonalds and they get fired from THAT TOO. IN THE RAIN!

Run over that character with an emotional panel van, then back over them, then run over them and repeat until they are a pile of GOO.

Gee, I wonder why people feel nervous around writers? ūüėÄ

Ah, but once that character has withstood the tests‚Ķyou as Author God then can give them a new shiny and a better shiny. Show them they shiny they wanted in the beginning was Fool’s Gold and let them earn the real deal.

And your readers will then forgive you for the torture.

And now you know why writers are on the list of professions psychopaths gravitate to‚Ķ.oooooh, chew on THAT ūüėÄ .

Sam Rockwell in "Seven Psychopaths"
Sam Rockwell in “Seven Psychopaths”

Series are simply becoming more popular because there is an increased demand for entertainment and people are spoiled with a lot of variety. Humans are also masochists. Fiction shows us our ugliness, but unlike life? There is a resolution.

Writers are a strange breed of magicians. Humanity has always relied on us to do what it cannot. Others might be in the world, but writers¬†notice¬†the world. We reverse-engineer life and boil it down to its marrow. It’s the difference between the regular person who enjoys a glass of wine versus the author who can tell you (in detail) WHY you enjoyed it.

It’s the notes of dark cherry with licorice and a hint of spice…

We also start the hard conversations that people didn’t even know were there.

For instance, when watching Hannibal, Hubby and I got into a long debate about how society needs a certain percentage of psychopaths. Contrary to popular belief, not all psychopaths are ruthless killers. Many are very successful because they gravitate to careers that reward those who can make tough decisions even when under extreme pressure (pressure that would likely cave more emotional types).

Psychopaths are devoid of natural human emotion, and for me? That can be okay. I do NOT want my surgeon getting emotional. I want him to do his JOB.

And this is a WHOLE other blog, but it shows how a series has the power to dive deeper into human dialogues (which is a HUGE part of their appeal).

***Btw, if you are interested in learning how to write a series, I am teaching my Antagonist Class (details below) where I show you how to generate tension on any scale from short-story to epic series.

What are your thoughts? Are you too easy on your characters? Do you have a tough time taking away the shiny? What TV series do you love and why? Are you losing interest in the big screen, too? What are some of your favorite characters from a series and that you might never have known intimately if it were a movie (um, SPIKE)?

Do you agree/disagree that publishing is now favoring the series? Are you a series-gorger, too? Do you kill new shows if you like them? Are you simultaneously horrified and fascinated by characters like Dr. Lecter?

Do you think writers have to have a touch of psychopathy? Come on, our browser history is already evidence against us ūüôā . I have to be careful in restaurants.¬†He has to die. I know he is really nice, but he needs to die, only they can’t find the body right away and it has to look like natural causes. *notices restaurant suddenly quiet* *turns* *nervous laugh*¬†I’m a writer…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MARCH, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am finally back teaching and offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form ūüėÄ .

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

Meet the "Facelessbook Friends"
Age and Invisibility

Back when I was in sales, we had a saying, “Say it once. Say it twice. Say it three times. Say it four times. Say it five times and they will believe.” Traditional marketing has hinged on this tenet for generations. The more people see product, an idea, etc. the better chance it will become “sticky” and meld into the collective consciousness.

This is also the foundation of any dictatorship, a concept those of us in political science called a “Cult of personality.”¬†Propaganda is powerful.

Last post, I blogged about how seemingly innocent ads and blogs are anything but. Yes, I agree, some 20-something telling women over thirty they shouldn’t wear sparkles or eyeshadow shouldn’t affect how I feel about myself and frankly? It doesn’t.

She can go pound sand.

The problem is when an idea or attitude becomes SO pervasive that it translates into a socioeconomic or cultural reality. These snipes, jabs, “jokes” and stereotypes seep in and eventually forge the norm. Let’s explore a couple modern examples.

Blondes are Stupid/Slutty

He's a FRENCH MODEL...
He’s a FRENCH MODEL…

When I bought a red Honda Civic years ago, I never noticed how many there were until I drove one. Thus, being a blonde, I tend to notice how we are portrayed in the media probably more than others. I will NEVER do business with State Farm because of some of their commercials.

In one commercial, there is an African American male documenting a fender-bender on his smart phone while the blonde waits for her date she found on the Internet (because everything you read on the Internet is true). She found a “French model”, who turns out to be a giant doofy phony she saucers off with extra proud of her “find.”

Try reversing this and making a person of color look that stupid and we’d have march on D.C.

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It’s the blonde mother who can’t figure out that Benadryl has single serving portable doses for when Junior is sneezing at the park. The brunette mom rolls her eyes at the blonde mother struggling with a spoon and a bottle.

Or the blonde who can’t figure out teeth-whitening strips. The brunette obviously knows there is the Aquafresh whitening tray (because apparently whitening strips are super advanced technology beyond a blonde woman’s mental capabilities.)

It’s the birth control pills the blonde is too dumb to figure out and on and on. Now that I’ve pointed this out, I’m fairly sure you will see it, too.

In film we’re often portrayed as sluts, morons, home wreckers and villains. I had one author I really enjoyed, but by the third book I read where the blonde was the evil tramp? I was done. Stereotypes= Lazy Writing.

And one might say, “Oh, Kristen, just brush it off. It shouldn’t affect how you feel about yourself.” Here is the thing. It doesn’t. I love being blonde. I’m Norwegian and embrace how I look and am secure in who I am. BUT, it impacts how others view ME.

 

Case in point, years ago I had a chemist approach me to ghost write a HIGHLY technical book. Why? I have a very strong science background and at the time was a technical writer for firearms, defense, and computer companies.

Anyway, we are in the middle of a critique session when his wife barges in and calls me everything under the sun, certain I was having an affair with her husband even though EVERY interaction I’d had with this person was via copied e-mails and in a large group (um, because I’m a professional and no, not THAT kind of “professional”).

She was certain because of my appearance I couldn’t be a “real” writer, especially NOT a high-tech writer.

Really. I wish I was making this up.

When I was in the business world, I’d come up with a new idea or strategy and no one would make a sound. Then the man sitting next to me would repeat what I’d just said and suddenly it was GENIUS!

One of my cousins, also a natural blonde, and as gorgeous as any supermodel, eventually dyed her hair brown because she found people listened to her ideas and took her more seriously as a brunette. Her career had slammed to a halt as a blonde, then suddenly took off when she changed hair color.

Thus, tell me again how pop culture has no impact on perception. What are we telling blonde little girls about who they will grow to be? Don’t get me wrong, the jokes make me laugh, but when it’s ALL jokes? Eventually, I’m not laughing.

One of the main reasons I LOVED “Frozen”? It was the first time in generations Disney had a blonde that wasn’t asleep waiting for a kiss or for a man to figure out her shoe size so she could get on with her life.

Media and Men

If I had a dollar for every commercial that implies grown men are idiots, I’d be writing this blog on a beach somewhere. Apparently, according to television, men are incapable of feeding themselves, watching kids, grocery shopping, and they need help from mommy when calling in a car accident. Mom, wife, girlfriend, kids and even the dog has a higher IQ than a grown man.

Here’s an infuriating enlightening compilation of what I’m talking about…

I feel the past 25 years has Homer-Simpsonized men. If a man is over thirty, he’s incompetent and needs mom or wife-as-mom. He’s not even smart enough to order a pizza on his own (another commercial that sent me fuming).

Show me a strong, assured handsome older man? I’ll show you an E.D. commercial‚Ķwith a man sailing off in a boat alone. WTH?

Huh? Wow, apparently older men can’t even think to pack a WOMAN on the trip. Should have called mom first.

As the mother of a boy, I think these media/cultural images are dangerous. I’ve had my own dealings with schools punishing Spawn for what 25 years ago was simply, “being a little boy.” Boys are loud, rambunctious, have a lot of energy and many times, aren’t going to behave like girls unless medicated. As in sit still and be quiet for hours at a time.

I was once called up to school because Spawn was playing Zombie on the playground (age 4).

Me: Was he biting anyone?

Administrator: No.

Me: Was he touching or grabbing anyone or hurting them?

Administrator: No.

Me: Well, then what was he doing?

Administrator: Moaning and wandering around with a blank stare.

Me: Well, sounds like every DMV employee I’ve ever met, so what is the problem?

Administrator: He just…likes zombies.¬†We also think he lacks imagination and he refuses to answer to his name. He will only answer to Zombie-Robot.

Me: I think I need some air.

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And NOW we unschool.

Culture Crisis

Even though society (in REALITY) has changed, why aren’t commercials reflecting this? We now live in a world where both parents work more often than not, and yet the majority of commercials still portray Mom as the one in charge, cooking, cleaning, etc.

Why are dads absentee in reality? I ask why are they absentee in advertising? I was SO thrilled that Cheerios took this on with their new campaign #HowToDad, which portrays a WONDERFUL example of a husband AND father. It made me want to stand and cheer! Why can’t we have more of these kinds of commercials?

Writers Create the Future

Writing forges culture and attitudes, meaning words and images are POWERFUL. If our pop culture keeps implying anyone over 30 is irrelevant (stupid, incompetent, lazy, invisible), guess what happens?

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We are facing a CRISIS in this country. Age discrimination is RAMPANT.

If we can’t see it, we can’t BE it. What does the strong, confident sexy over-30, 40, 50 + person (male or female) LOOK like? What does a great husband, confident and capable father look like? There are a lot of single fathers. Who is speaking for THEM?

We “older folks” are the group with the most spending power, yet how much marketing is directed to those groups who need our credit card to make a purchase? And this affects products created and offered. I would LOVE to dress chic, but when Target offers 15 versions of skinny jeans and super-short shorts in the Misses section? I’m limited what I can buy.

I’m a professional. I can’t wear micro-minis and short shorts and be taken seriously (or be comfortable for that matter).

This means I live in t-shirts and yoga pants, reinforcing the stereotype that women over 30 just don’t care what we look like. It’s a double-bind for ALL of us.

Men AND women.

I can’t say much about this, but right now there is a LARGE group of people suing a BIG company because this company essentially wholesale got rid of anyone over 40 (mostly men) and replaced them with 20-somethings out of college.

There was NO concern for the years of experience these older workers had, the relationships with customers they’d spent years cultivating. They were old, ergo irrelevant and replaceable‚Ķwhich turned out to be a bad move because the newbies required so much training and had no industry experience. This meant they made a LOT of COSTLY mistakes.

Work had to be redone and redone…and redone when the older workers had ten times the output and projects/orders done correctly the FIRST time. So did the company really save money?

Thus, when people say, “Brush it off.” “Move on.” “It shouldn’t affect how you feel about yourself.”

This is true.

The problem is that we’ve been “nice” so long that now we’re seeing these stereotypes become cultural and economic realities.¬†Yeah, sure, I can feel great about how I look and I like a good self-deprecating joke or three. But I kinda like being EMPLOYED, too.

A Country Without a Heart has No Brain

My degree was in Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. Often when you study third and fourth world countries, what you find is that women aren’t valued. This means a country only has access to less than half of their workforce and intellectual/creative reservoirs (since women typically outnumber men).

The Western World likes to believe it’s “evolved” but we’re seeing major shrinkage in population sizes with each generation while simultaneously mothballing the more mature workers/contributors. If the population over 30 or 40+ vastly outnumbers the young? And we fail to value the more mature generations?

You see where the logic is headed.

Youth is beautiful and wonderful and I LOVE young people. Work with them all the time. They are our future. But I think this is why it is incumbent on those of us in the older generations to speak up. Sure, we can take a joke. But it seems that we are BECOMING the joke, and that’s uncool.

Many of you reading this are writers. Embrace the power you have. Writers are responsible for more social change than any legislation ever passed.

We have the power to change hearts and minds, but we have to confront. We have to write companies and tell them we won’t buy from them because they don’t represent us, or they are demeaning us. We should support companies who value us. Money has a LOT of power as well.

Support companies who empower you. I refuse to purchase anything from a company that can’t respect me as a person. We can be funny without being demeaning and cruel. And if their ad people can’t? Hire better writers. Advertise to make us laugh, but not at our expense (Hello, CHEERIOS ad? Funny and awesome).

This one made me get tears! What a PRO-BOY commercial!

So I am going to go buy some Cheerios ūüėÄ ¬†and support the great, wonderful fathers, friends, dads and MEN out there along with the gals.

But first, I have to go do a 3-D rendering of this tooth-whitening strip. I’ve already gotten three stuck in my hair ūüėõ . I’m all for gal-power, but we are in this together. We are not alone ;).

What are your thoughts? Do you get tired of being the butt of the joke? Have you seen pop culture impact how you are treated as a person? What are some positive ads, commercials, images that you think we need to see more of? How could Madison Avenue do a better job of speaking to us? And MEN, speak up! We love hearing from you, too!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

***January’s Winner is Nolan White. Please send your 5,000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com and CONGRATULATIONS!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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