Author Archives: Evan

#Justice4Revian: The State of Asian Contestants on The Bachelor

As I write this #BachelorNation, millions of viewers strong, is wrapping up the second episode of the 23rd season of The Bachelor. Having said that, let’s cut to the chase: I’m watching The Bachelor again (though I have not resurrected my meme instagram account)! In all seriousness, the actual chase being cut to is this: there’s a Chinese girl on Colton’s season!

As a quick aside, there have been other Asian women on The Bachelor, and vastly more than the number of Asian men on sister show The Bachelorette. Those contestants, mentioned in past race-related Bachelor posts, have (to my knowledge) all been mixed race (and always with one white parent). All of a sudden here we are, 17 years after the show has premiered, and we have Revian Chang.

Similar to past topics only cursorily mentioned, the Facebook group subtle asian traits is entirely deserving of its own blog post. Putting that aside for now, it’s the following post on that page that brought the news to my attention:

revian

For the uninitiated, “ABG” stands for “Asian Baby Girl”, which Urban Dictionary helpfully defines as a “Cute asian girl looks like aecinira on twitch.” Which is helpful to some readers, probably. The post was edited soon afterwards to reveal the reason for the title of this post: Revian never made it past the first night.

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Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:

brooke

The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

This caused a minor hubbub and then faded away, as all news does. Fast-forward to exactly a week ago, when the Pottermore Twitter page decided to unearth this particular trivia tidbit to an internet that had somehow managed to survive the hellscape that 2018 wrought.

Among the many, many “Tweetus Deletus” gifs was one response that both roasts this (very bad) piece of worldbuilding and helps set us back on topic:

Van Arendonk is clearly addressing the stomach-turning topic at hand, but this was far from the first time that the author had chosen to elaborate on her universe after the Harry Potter series had wrapped up. A decade before the original “Chamber Pot of Secrets” debacle Rowling announced during a Q&A at Carnegie Hall that she “always thought Dumbledore was gay.” She went on to explain that the character had fallen in love with wizard Hitler-stand-in Grindelwald, which turned out about as well as you would expect. At the time of this writing that remains the full extent of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s coming out.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been opportunities to depict him as having been actively romantically involved with other men. Last November’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald featured both the genocidal sorcerer and school headmaster as young (by comparison) men, with many fans assuming this was the time period that Rowling had been referring to.

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Dumbledore and Grindelwald as (actually) young men.

The screenshot above is from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, not from the aforementioned Fantastic Beasts sequel. As many fans have noted, the two wizards actually share no scenes with one another. If only they had taken Jude Law, the actor portraying him, at face value when he said several months prior to the film’s release that: “(they’re) not going to reveal everything all at once.” Potterheads would discover that this meant no references, explicit or otherwise, to his being attracted to men. Currently the film series’ is slated for release on November 20, 2020.

“We’re All LGBT+ Now”

This past Monday lore-starved Overwatch fans were surprised by the delivery of “Bastet”, a short story penned by lead writer Michael Chu that progressed the game’s treacle-slow narrative, the kind of rare occasion that results in the generation of dozens of “i owe you my life” memes. Although it focused on 60-year-old Egyptian sniper Ana Amari, what really set the internet ablaze was a conversation she has with her fellow vigilante-in-hiding Jack Morrison, AKA Soldier: 76.

anajack

Illustration by Arnold Tsang.

After finding a photograph that he’s been keeping all of these years, she brings up the young man he has his arm around, asking about what could have been.

“Vincent deserved a happier life than the one I could give him.” Jack sighed. “We both knew that I could never put anything above my duty. Everything I fought for was to protect people like him… That’s the sacrifice I made.”

“Relationships don’t work out so well for us, do they?” Ana said, unconsciously running her thumb over where her wedding ring used to be.

Given an earlier passage that highlights his inability to convince Ana that he’s pleased about Vincent’s present marital status (happily married), it doesn’t take much to arrive at the conclusion that he’s gay, or at the very least was romantically involved with a man. Some might read them as simply being very good friends, which, I mean, c’mon.

While this may seem like the dictionary definition of storytelling, this falls more in line with Rowling’s approach when Chu, after waiting a few hours for people to have read the story, took to Twitter to respond to what is very likely a deluge of tweets demanding confirmation:

Faithful readers (I’m “back”, did you miss me?) will remember when I briefly mentioned a similar coming out story in December 2016, touching on an Overwatch comic called “Reflections” which featured face-of-the-game Tracer kissing another woman named Emily. As he did earlier this week Chu once again came forward on Twitter to clarify for fans who might have been confused about their relationship.

In addition to that, a Blizzard representative provided a statement to IGN, which has to at least be on par with comments made on the head writer’s personal (his bio says: “Opinions are my own. Unreliable narrator.”) Twitter account.

“Tracer is a lesbian on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are.”

The narrative of Overwatch deserves a multi-part series of blog posts in and of itself given the varying opinions on the rate, method, and quality of its delivery, but all I’ll say right now is that there is no readily apparent progressing story within the game itself. Gameplay consists primarily of six-player teams going head-to-head to (violently) accomplish objectives, and both heroes and villains can be chosen regardless of whether or not they would ever canonically team up. There is a seasonal event which thus far has provided a way of playing through past missions, but as far as “current events” that take place in Overwatch‘s present nothing currently exists.

That said, there are details within the game that provide evidence of both Soldier: 76 and Tracer’s respective same-sex relationships.

sprays

The Soldier: 76 spray “Jack and Vincent” and the Tracer spray “Emily”

As seen above, there are sprays unique to each character which depict significant others, both past and present. When playing on the King’s Row (London, where “Reflections” partially takes place) map Tracer has the chance to utter one of several voice lines, one in particular being “Wonder if I have time to visit Emily? … No, better stay focused…” Another has her responding to an invitation from another character asking about her and her girlfriend.

It’s a far cry from seeing these relationships play out in-game, or have any kind of significant impact, but these acknowledgements are there.

When Did It Happen? (And a Lot More How)

Without having seen any evidence to the contrary, both J.K. Rowling and Michael Chu are straight, as both have spouses of the opposite sex (the latter was married just last October). To be clear, I firmly believe that anyone can write for any character (the time and effort and sensitivity needed varies). It does bear mentioning, however, that their personal orientations mean that neither are writing their respective stories from a place of personal experience. I should also state that I’m choosing to think the best of them.

In other words, I have no intention of entertaining the idea that either writer, to use a few buzzwords, lazily shoehorned in LGBT+ characters into their work in order to pander to the SJWs (my thoughts on that last word here). The alternative is to consider their intentions to be pure, which begs the question of what their intentions were, exactly.

A straightforward response would be that they’re simply providing backstory, fleshing out characters that their respective fanbases already know and love. The differences to highlight would be the way that Harry Potter and Overwatch told, and continues to tell, their stories, as well as when these characters came out relative to their creation.

dumbt

Dumbledore, as portrayed by Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Albus Dumbledore was first introduced in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) over 20 years ago in 1997. The film adaptation of that book was released in 2001, with sequels and corresponding movies dropping in subsequent years. With Pottermore still a twinkle in Rowling’s eye (limited registration began in 2011), books and film were the author’s primary means of crafting her universe.

To simplify things, Dumbledore was “born” in 1997 and “came out” in 2007. This event also took place 91 days after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the septilogy, was published. At that point there were still three films left to be made, with the seventh being split into two parts, though none followed up on the knowledge that Rowling had shared.

As far as its timeline is concerned, the Overwatch beta, open to a limited few in order to test the game before its wide release, began on October 27, 2015. The game was officially released on May 24, 2016. Tracer “came out” in December 2016 and Soldier: 76 did the same just this month (January 2019).

As mentioned, and for better or for worse, there is no currently existing, consistent, effective in-game storytelling in Overwatch. That said, the game’s narrative has, since its announcement at Blizzcon 2014, taken the form of cinematics (as seen below), comics, and most recently, with “Bastet”, short stories.

Overwatch also launched with a website that provides for each hero, in addition to their abilities and difficulty level, a short bio (here’s Symmetra’s, one of my personal favourites). From the beginning the team behind the first-person shooter has taken a multimedia approach to worldbuilding, though admittedly not on a schedule that many appreciate. As an online game Overwatch also continues to be patched with content (typically in the form of new maps and heroes) and as such has no easily discernible “end date.” This is a story that continues to be told.


Both Harry Potter and Overwatch are reigning champions in their own right, having amassed awards, accolades, and millions of faithful fans. A number of those fans identify as being LGBT+, or haven’t yet. They have family members or loved ones who are members of the LGBT+ community, or who don’t yet know any at all, possibly even as a personal choice. The point is that queer stories matter and have always mattered. The fact that these two fanbases are able to see gay characters in beloved media is a very special thing.

How those characters come to be, however, is another matter entirely. In Rowling’s Wizarding World coming out is magical. Words are spoken and changes occur, but not all of them can be perceived by the eyes of the untrained and ordinary. In Overwatch coming out is the future. It’s both imminent and right now and, to paraphrase a scientist cautioning a young genetically enhanced gorilla, not accepting people at face value and daring to see yourselves reflected in them.

The 2017 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

As laid out in the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards, the purpose of these blog posts has been to provide a retrospective of the books read in the past year. Typically these have been written and published in January, but here we are. Better late than never, as I always say.

2017

This is the first of these awards to be written during my relatively new career in publishing. While I wouldn’t say I have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of what’s hot in the industry, I certainly have a healthier grasp of things, especially compared to past years when I had none whatsoever.

The other notable difference is that the list of books read has been censored in part, due to a number of the books having been unsolicited manuscripts that I was asked to read during my time as an Editorial Intern at Penguin Random House Canada. A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


zealot

ALMOST AS COMPLEX AS THEIR NAMESAKE

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Published 2013

Those who aren’t as familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis should know that “Aslan” is the name of the Judeo-Christian-God-stand-in of that author’s Narnia series. The lion is a complex figure, embodying a dichotomy of a being that is “isn’t safe” while also “good”. Aslan himself is a likewise complicated man, having been raised Muslim, converted to Christianity in his teens, then back to Islam, a faith he continues to practice, and did during the writing of this book. A fascinating fact for both believers and nonbelievers alike is his statement that whether or not he was the son of God, the Nazarene definitively performed miracles.

brother

SHOULD HAVE WON THE 2017 GILLER PRIZE

Brother by David Chariandy
Published 2017

One of many short, powerful works of fiction that I read this year, Brother is as unpretentious and beautiful a novel as you’re likely to find, and a worthy contender for Canada’s loftiest and most coveted literary prize. Shining a spotlight on Scarborough in the 90s, an area that I have (recently) shamefully joked about only “technically being Toronto”, this book would have served as a reminder of the real life stories that are overlooked and underheard.

The actual winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize was Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square, which I read the ARC of. Brother was longlisted. Continue reading

Creating Mum: Director Anne-Marie O’Connor and Actor Kate O’Donnell on Their Award-Winning Short Film

To say that the relationship between a child and parent is fraught with emotions, most of them far from easy to put into words, is putting it lightly. Yet this is the subject of Mum, a short film that captures a visit from a trans woman to her aging mother. Having already won a handful of accolades, it began screening as part of New Irish Shorts 3 at the Galway Film Fleadh just this past Thursday, July 13th.

Mum is the creation of many talented individuals, chief among them being director Anne-Marie O’Connor and actor and star Kate O’Donnell. In addition to being able to review the short film I was also offered an interview with the two of them that allowed me to gain a better understanding of how this particular work came to be.


First off, congratulations to the both of you on the awards that Mum has won so far, at both the London Independent Film Festival and Global Shorts. To springboard off of that into our first question, as it’s screened as part of “New Irish Shorts 3” at the Galway Film Fleadh, what helps to make this an Irish film outside of the talent involved?

O’Connor: The song that is played and sung throughout the short is Black Velvet Band. It was important to me for this to link the film as it was a song that Kate’s mum used to sing to her and a song that my dad used to sing to me as a child. And although geographically it isn’t set in Ireland, the relationship between Kate and her mum feels very Irish to me and in writing this I felt that Linda was second-generation Irish and that Kate was a product of that upbringing.

I noticed in the credits that Mum was created by the two of you, but that it was only written by Anne-Marie. Could you both go into some detail regarding the creative process?

O’Connor: Kate and I are good friends and have been for years, and as she’s a leading trans actor and activist I’ve always wanted to work with her creatively. We often discuss the way that transgender people are portrayed in film and TV (the fascination with the transition, the no-one-will-ever-love-me storyline, sex workers or outsiders) and wanted to make a short that didn’t fall into those familiar tropes, to have a transgender central character in a universal story.

So I met with Kate and I asked her what story she would tell if she could and it simply came from her saying she’d love to go home and paint her mum’s nails; something she used to do when she was younger but is impossible to do because her stepfather makes life difficult (he’s always been difficult, way before Kate transitioned!). And so we built the story around her own story. It was very important for both of us that Kate was acknowledged in the creative process. So that is why it is created by both of us.

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Mum: A Short Film Review

“Mum.”

It’s a term that elicits a broad range of emotions, with each of our respective childhoods affecting how we react to it. Who we were, growing up, is a significant factor. But what about instances when who we are now is worlds apart from the person we once were?

Having spent much of her career up to now working in television, Mum is Anne-Marie O’Connor’s first short film, and one that she created with the help of star Kate O’Donnell, a transgender actor. Her debut short focuses on a trans character of the same name whose visit home is derailed by the discovery that her mother is in very poor health.

Much like the director, O’Donnell’s limited experience is also in television, where she starred in an episode of the transgender romcom series Boy Meets Girl. As the character at the centre of this short film she delivers a performance that, while uneven at points, always feels painfully real. Continue reading

Girls: 2 Broke and One New – A Retrospective, A Eulogy, and An Announcement

Way back in early 2012 I posted a three-part series about two sitcoms that had premiered the previous fall. Covering 2 Broke Girls‘ and New Girl‘s respective casts, styles of humour, and approaches to race, these posts exist as a window into their first seasons as well as an unfortunate snapshot of some embarrassingly unrefined writing from yours truly [with some unrefined opinions as well, as my perspective on Morgan Freeman and Black History Month has certainly shifted since then].

All credit where it’s due, both have come a long way since their inceptions, and in generally positive ways. While not shying away from their trademark “classy-dirty” style of comedy, 2 Broke Girls eased off of the racist humour and began giving their secondary cast members more screen time and character development. New Girl had Hannah Simon’s Cece join the primary cast, with Damon Wayans Jr. even returning for a lengthy stint after his departure following the pilot. I feel fairly confident in saying that neither show every truly dipped in quality, which is saying a lot for the medium and genre they share. I would even go so far as to say that both managed to improve with each passing season.

Now, in 2017, there were a few weeks where the fate of these two sitcoms was in question. To address them consecutively…

2 Networkless Girls?

After months of reviews in which I mused on the future of the show I finally penned a post in April asking “Is 2 Broke Girls Cancelled?”. It has since garnered more comments than anything else on this blog. In it I catalogued what the creators and industry insiders had to say about its future, as well as my personal opinion as someone who has reviewed 101 episodes of the show. I felt like, as someone who stuck with 2 Broke Girls longer than the contributors to its very own wiki even did I was allowed some say.

It was Deadline that pulled back the curtain on the fact that CBS was airing a sitcom that was produced for Warner Bros. That same outlet also broke the news that the network had axed 2 Broke Girls. CBS scheduling director Kelly Kahl is quoted as saying that, as far as she knows:

“it was a creative decision more than anything else. It was not a show we own but we picked up (new comedy series Me, Myself & I and By The Book) from Warner Bros. So I don’t think it was a business decision, I think it was creatively we felt it was time.”

It’s noted that the show made Warner Bros. a very significant amount of money per episode. In spite of being a key players in their weekday lineup, CBS appears to be searching for something else they can wholly own, distribute, and profit from. Kahl even says in the same breath as “was not a show [they owned]” that it was “a creative decision”, but as with all art it comes down to profits. Continue reading

Is 2 Broke Girls Cancelled?

Here are the facts:

At the time of this writing 2 Broke Girls has not yet been renewed for its 7th Season.

Here are the numbers:

This past Wednesday the finale for Season 6 of 2 Broke Girls aired with a viewership of roughly 4.57 million. This is 70 thousand less than the preceding week, and bookends the steady, gradual decline that began back in February. It’s the smallest audience the sitcom has had, not only in what has been a poor season ratings-wise, but since it first began airing.

In other words, 2 Broke Girls is not doing well.

There’s no other way of putting it. Being critically panned doesn’t matter at all if people are watching, but all indicators point to this not being the case. Now granted, the numbers presented are via The Nielsen Company, and don’t account for any viewers who may choose to stream the show online, but they provide a fairly compelling picture all things considering.

Here’s what the creators have said:

Now pretty much every site out there covering this has quoted this one TVLine article, but given that Michelle Nader is the co-showrunner it’s about as close to the horse’s mouth as you can get. She made the statement that:

“This is not the end for these girls. We’re not finished and we don’t want to be finished and I don’t think the audience is finished. Obviously there’s no guarantee that we will be back, but we did not write the episode as a series finale.”

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