Tag: writing

A Cinnamon Roll Who Wants to Kill You

No Comments
Catra practices her 'Take Down Shadow-Weaver' touch.

Last night, Multiclass Geek finished watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and, on completing it, asked, “So why do you like Catra so much? You said she was a cinnamon roll! But she’s the villain!”

Well, yes, she is. And by the end of the series, Catra does some very cruel stuff. But like Adora herself, I still love Catra and hold out hope for a redemption arc, and I think it’s worth talking about why. I’ve mentioned before the parallels between Catra and my own Leona Lioness, and honestly it wasn’t until I watched She-Ra that I understood why Leona resonated so strongly for so many of my readers.

Catra is all about the way pain twists you and leads you to make dumb mistakes– and then committing to them even when you realize what a dumb mistake it is.

Having lived her life in a never-ending series of no-win situations, Catra is a survivor of a very specific kind of gaslighting abuse. Shadow Weaver explicitly states that Catra’s only purpose growing up was to be “Adora’s pet,” and this is underscored later by the way Shadow Weaver treats Catra’s successes as Force Captain as being irrelevant. What Catra thinks is “I have to jump twice as high to get half the recognition” (which is already an injustice to begin with), is actually “You will never get recognition because you are not the favorite.”

Catra finally realizes this when she says to Shadow Weaver “After all I’ve done for you, it’s still Adora that you want?” This line is the beginning of her deciding to take her own power; it’s also the moment when she shifts from feeling mostly sad and betrayed at Adora’s defection, to being straight-up wrathful.

Catra is every minority dealing with the reality of privilege. Catra is every red-headed stepchild. Catra is every younger sibling who has to get out from the shadow of their superstar older sister/brother. Catra is every kid who got beat up by a bully, and then was sent to detention for fighting.

So to answer why I refer to Catra as a cinnamon roll, I can only point to the amount of time Catra spends crying. She is deeply unhappy throughout the entire series, and even when she does smile it’s a mean “How does it feel, bitch?” kind of smirk. Her only experience of power and agency have come through being the victim of cruelty and injustice. Even Adora’s attempts at kindness had to be filtered through that. Catra’s been indoctrinated that there is no good or bad, only strong or weak, and you can tell on some level she doesn’t really believe it (hence the little moment of heartbreak when Scorpia describes her as being a great friend).

This poison in her mind makes her see Adora’s love and support as patronizing. Catra believes herself to be weak, and assumes Adora believes that as well, and so it makes perfect (if misguided) sense to resent that. Catra is the darkest version of Entrapta’s kitchen staff believing that they can’t do anything because they’re not princesses.

The entire society of Eternia is built on this “Princess/Not-a-Princess” hierarchy, which is presumably why Shadow Weaver (having been raised in Eternia’s biases herself) is so fixated on Adora. She-Ra is at the absolute top of that hierarchical heap, being the one that even the other princesses answer to. The only way to be “as good as” Adora, for Catra, is to become her opposite.

As I say, this puts her in a no-win situation. And she knows it, and she hates it, and she doesn’t see a way out of it.

So, this is why I love Catra, because I’ve lived in that no-win situation. I know how it feels, and I know how it hurts, and I want her to escape, because on my dark days I have to escape it again myself over and over again.

Categories: Gneechy Talk

Tags: ,

Laconipedantism

About 2/3 of the way through the opening sequence of Heathcliff/Cats and Company, Riff-Raff and Cleo randomly go zooming off in a bathtub.

It’s not a bathtub on wheels, there are no rockets or other means of propulsion. It’s just a friggin’ bathtub.

I mean, the cats living in a random James Bond-esque transforming Cadillac in a junkyard, didn’t bother me. But flying off in a random hover-bathtub? That bothered me.

Last night, I had a random dream in which I was watching a “behind the scenes” video about this series. I don’t know if this dream was based on a long-lost memory, or if it was my brain making stuff up, but it doesn’t really matter. In the dream, somebody my brain identified as one of the show-runners coined the term “laconipedantism.” “What that means,” he said, “is that our policy was to explain as little as possible, or with as few words as possible, or to just not explain things at all. ‘How does it work?’ We’re not going to tell you! What you see is what you get, deal with it.”

That struck me as a gutsy approach. I don’t know if I would always consider it a good approach, but it was a gutsy one. But as I started to think about it, I realized that lots of storytellers work this way. Sometimes, you even get Lampshaded Laconipedantism.

Even Kronk thinks it doesn't make sense!
Lampshaded Laconipedantism, or “We’re not gonna tell you! Neener-neener-neener!”

Obviously, cartoons have the most leeway for this kind of thing. Contemporary shows like The Amazing World of Gumball work entirely on this premise. But heck, the Marvel Cinematic Universe runs on this fuel, as does most fantasy literature. Star Trek and a lot of science fiction does a weird inverse, where it starts with “teleportation exists” and starts playing around with the ramifications of that, but it still can’t tell you how teleportation really works, just that it does.

Not every wild premise actually qualifies as laconipedantism, however. What makes it laconipedantism is the refusal of the artist to explain, address, or even acknowledge that there’s anything weird about it. Riff-Raff and Cleo go zooming off in a bathtub, man. Get over it. Done well, it creates a feeling of confidence in the work, even when it leads to headscratchy moments. Done poorly, it just becomes an incoherent mess, where the world makes no sense and the story falls apart.

Use with caution.

-The Gneech

Time For Something New

Okay, now the moving is pretty much dealt with (again and hopefully for the last time any time soon) and my AnthroCon prep is about as far as it can go until it comes time to actually put stuff into the car, it’s time to get back into the writing groove.

And, I think, time to come up with something new. I’ve got chunks of Brigid and Greg, I’ve got a giant blorp of Michael Macbeth, but honestly my brain wants a break from those. I want something new and different to think about.

What that is, I’m not sure yet. I periodically consider writing a fairly standard genre fantasy book, i.e. elves and wizards and things, but I would like to find a way to put a fresh spin on the idea so it’s not just “Howard McTolkienface and the Etcetera of Ditto.” I also want whatever it is to be a project I can have fun with. One of the things that I relished about Sky Pirates of Calypsitania was that Verity and Tanya were fun characters to write about, because of the chemistry between them. The fun was a bit hampered by the harrowing circumstances they lived through, of course… those poor gals are going to have some PTSD to deal with in the next book I suspect, assuming there is one.

A new thing would also come without baggage, or at least with different baggage. B&G and Michael Macbeth both suffer a bit from having a “what they should be like” thing I’m trying to stick to… a new project I could just open up and let it be its own thing. A lot of the stuff that’s been bothering me about my older ideas, can inform the direction I go with new ideas right from the start. I can also outline with a view towards writing 100,000 words, instead of coming up with yet another 60,000 word idea and then being stuck for another half a book to tack onto it. 😛

So I think for the next week or so, depending on how long the process takes, I’m going to simply play around with new ideas and brainstorm, figuring out what I want out of a book, what I would enjoy writing, and what I think would suit the market, and find something that covers that part of the venn diagram that intersects all three. As much as I like Sky Pirates, my discussions with professionals on the topic all suggest that it’s going to be a hard sell for a first novel. So I might have to tuck it into a drawer to pull out later once I’m already a name, so to speak.

-The Gneech