The oddity of (very) minor celebrity

Picture of us

Ben and I are (extremely) minor celebrities.

We’ve been on TV a couple times now, once on a game show where we won cash for complying with a talking ATM and the other time a reality TV series where we talked about watching TV.

When we were first on the game show we lived in Etobicoke and apparently everyone in Etobicoke saw the show because people were constantly coming up to us and saying: ‘you were on that show!’. We would smile and say ‘yup!’ because what else can you say to such an open ended statement?

And now that the reality show we were on is playing on repeat on every possible channel we’re getting a lot more recognition on the streets.

Being a celebrity, however minor, is weird.

Because people don’t really want to talk to you. They want to say something at you and then walk away. Some people even come up to us and start talking as though continuing a conversation we were just having, launching into something random like we’re the best of friends. Then, when we’re thoroughly confused, squinting at them like we’re trying to see them better, they smile and say ‘I saw you on TV last night’.

They want to wave at you too, we’ve had some of that. But surprisingly no random stranger ever wants to, you know, have a conversation.

I’ve never fully understood the appeal of talking to celebrities. Sure I’ve had my moments as a kid, starstruck and hugging Drew Barrymore or Kurt Browning (woot woot professional figure skating), but as I got older I started to realize the people we see on TV are just people and I don’t really have much to say to people unless I know them or am forced into a socializing situation with them. 

So I guess that explains why people don’t say much besides ‘you’re on TV’ when they see us. Because ultimately we’re people and unless they’re planning to actually try to befriend us, we are strangers and they don’t really have anything to say to strangers.

But it begs the question of why they even bother to talk to us in the first place. Sure some people tell us they like the show, or that we’re funny, and the other day we had some kids who wanted us to do a shout out to them if we were ever on the show again (hi Adrian!). But some people don’t say anything about it, they just point out the fact that they recognize us and leave it awkwardly hanging after that.

So why do they do it? Is it just for a story to tell? Like are they going home and talking to their friends about how they saw those wacky kids from the TV? It seems unlikely, but possible. Or is it just a knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone vaguely and distantly familiar. Like that person across from you on the subway who you know you know from somewhere and you smile at just to be sure you’re not being rude? Do people feel it’s the polite thing to do to offer recognition to the recognizable?

It doesn’t bother me, it’s just kind of weird sometimes and fascinating (because humans are always fascinating to me).

And ours is only a very minor celebrity. I can’t even begin to imagine the strangeness or the disconnectedness of actually being famous.


The People’s Couch


Ever wonder what Ben and I do when we aren’t making awesome videos or writing like mad?

We watch TV.

Obviously that’s not all we do, but we do it enough that someone decided to put us on a reality TV show for it!

If you want to take a peek into our living room while we watch TV and see what we have to say about storytelling, life, the universe and everything you can catch the premiere of ‘The People’s Couch‘ on Bravo at 8:30pm on July 13th.

Tune in while we tune in and hopefully we can make you smile, laugh or think!


Bisexuality is not a fiction

ImageI’m bisexual.

I’ve known it since I was a teenager and it’s been fun.  It’s also been a bit confusing.  Nobody ever told me to make a choice, but I remember telling my parents and they just sort of laughed it off.  I think the words they used were ‘it’s a phase’.  That’s pretty much the only time anyone has really challenged my sexuality, and it was a pretty weak challenge at that, but everywhere you turn in the media people seem to have some interesting stereotypes about us bi folks.  There’s the idea that we are all big slut cakes (and some of us are, but so are some gay and straight people), there’s the idea that we are cheaters and there’s the thought that we ought to just make up our mind, that it’s just a phase.  It’s not.  It’s just who I am.  I am sexually attracted to both men and women and it’s pretty equal.  I chose to marry a man, because I fell in love with a man, but that doesn’t make me straight, it just makes me a married bi chick.

I’ve recently finished a writing book called ‘What it means to be a man’ in which Ben and I have discussions about our sexuality, gender and other issues around those topics.  Our conversations are mixed with a story of another couple (closely resembling us) who are forced to deal with issues of sexuality, love and gender in their relationship.  There’s a whole section in the book in which I discuss my thoughts on my bisexuality, so I won’t get into that too much here, but what I do want to talk about is bisexuality in fiction, especially in TV (as I don’t have much of a frame of reference for books with bi characters – if you know of any let me know).

I had plans to write this post awhile back and was even more inspired after reading this article, which gives a pretty comprehensive look at bisexuality in TV and how it’s progressing.

Warning: Spoilers for Orange is the New Black & Buffy ahead!

Ben and I recently started watching ‘Orange is the New Black’ (great show) and the main character (Piper Chapman), it seems, is bisexual.  Although, the sad fact is, as bi as she clearly is (sexually attracted to both men and women), they just won’t say the word.  They call her a former lesbian (even though she still fucks women) and in one episode they vaguely alluded to a ‘sliding scale’ of sexuality, but not once have we heard the word ‘bisexual’.  I suppose it might have something to do with the image of bisexuality in a lot of people’s minds, it seems as though it’s a bit tainted.  When bisexuality is mentioned I suspect a lot of people think of those chicks in clubs making out with each other to please the men-folk (I was one of those chicks once upon a time and let me tell you it wasn’t just about the men).  It seems as though bisexuality is either taken lightly (it’s just a phase) or heavily (all bi folks are cheaters and sluts) and there is no happy medium, no place in the general population’s mind where the bi-folk of the world can live and have meaningful, deep, even monogamous relationships with both men and women.  So in light of all that I guess it’s not hard to imagine that the word itself holds a stigma that writers might be afraid of bringing to their story.  Maybe they feel labeling Piper bisexual would make her less legitimate?  Maybe it would make people less likely to sympathize with her?

Unfortunately for them, I think the exact opposite is true.  I think this struggle with sexual identity (her having to choose to be either gay or straight) cheapens the actual struggle of the deeper issue, love.

By not allowing for her to embrace her bisexuality, the writers are keeping her character’s sexuality front and centre and distracting from the actual issue, her choice between two loves.  The gender is irrelevant, but what they offer to her, who they are and what they mean to her is not.  By keeping the audience in the land of the polarized, black or white sexuality, we are not quite allowed to get over the gender/sexuality issue and dive deep into the actual relationships.  Now I’d like to think that most people are educated on different types of sexuality and that most people believe bisexuality is really a thing and not just a crazy unicorn dragon sexuality that is mythical and unreal, but I think it’s unlikely that’s true.  So instead of making a statement that bisexuality is real and that Piper’s feelings for both her potential mates are equality legitimate, the general population has to wade through the distracting question of ‘is she gay or not?’ before they get to the actual reality of her situation, the actual issue, being in love with two people at the same time.

I’ve seen this issue arise before.  Recently, Ben and I watched all of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (another fantastic show) and there was a character on it named Willow.  Willow was a witch who fell in love with a dude named Oz and then later a woman named Tara.  As soon as Willow fell in love with Tara, she started calling herself a lesbian.  When Oz came back for an episode or two after he and Willow had broken up, it was clear that Willow still had feelings for Oz, but she was in the ‘lesbian’ camp now, so what’s a girl gonna do?  To me, it felt as though this label of lesbianism that Willow stuck to herself took away from all the history between her and Oz and it made me mad.  It made me feel as though Willow was trying to delete her past, push aside her feelings and forget that she had experienced real love with a man.  It made her relationship with Oz feel trivial when I thought it was quite powerful.  I found it disturbing that she locked herself so firmly into the role of lesbian that she didn’t leave room for the part of herself that was clearly open to loving men.  I think that this is perhaps an illustration of a symptom of the problem of not really understanding, or embracing bisexuality.  The idea that people are being forced to choose one side or another without being allowed the possibility that they could have both is really just sad.

These are just two examples of poor representations of bisexual characters, but I suspect there’s more out there.  In this world of boxes, I think people are so obsessed with choosing one or the other that they might repress the idea of both.

So how do we combat this misunderstanding of bisexuality?  Same as any other misunderstandings are fought.  Exposure and education.  Bisexual isn’t a bad word, it’s okay to say and actually pretty fun to be.  Most of the time my protagonists in my novels are bisexual and I tend to try to make my fictional relationships more about the relationship itself than the sexuality, because I think that’s the thing that matters most.  I want the love to be the thing that matters most.  Even if it’s unconventional, love is love.

I’d love to see more examples of well represented bisexual characters in books and on TV.

Any suggestions on where I can find some?


You can’t spell Urban Fantasy without exposition


I used to think I liked Urban Fantasy, but now I’m not so sure.

I like the concept.  A world of magic and mystery just beneath our own, adventures in the city where mythical creatures come to life and secrets unravel.  It all sounds so exciting in theory.

So I’ve been reading some Urban Fantasy of late, because I thought I had written an Urban Fantasy novel.  A girl hitchiking from Toronto to California, encountering subtle magic and finding the magic in herself, sounds pretty UF right?  Apparently not.  I am missing one important factor in my novel to make it Urban Fantasy it seems, exposition.

Whether it’s Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, Doyce Testerman’s ‘Hidden Things’ or TV’s ‘Lost Girl’, they all share one important feature, massive amounts of exposition.  I have to admit I had to put down American Gods because it was too obvious for my tastes, I like my magic subtle.  What possessed me to finish Hidden Things I can’t say as it was pretty unbearable, but I did get it from the library which provides a magic motivator for me to get through it as it won’t stick around forever.  In terms of Lost Girl we gave up on it in the second season as we felt they were treating us like morons by explaining every last bit of what was going on.

So what is it about Urban Fantasy that inspires people to hand hold and spell out absolutely everything?  Shouldn’t it be obvious to readers/watchers that magical creatures are coming to life without having to say it aloud?  Do we really need to explain the fundamental magical underpinnings of reality in all its convoluted detail?

It turns out I don’t really like Urban Fantasy all that much, I like Magic Realism.  Although the differences could be debated eternally, to me it’s about the obviousness of the magic and the use of magic as metaphor.  The magic in Urban Fantasy seems to take a front seat, becoming the star of the show, whereas with Magic Realism it becomes a part of the backdrop, an element mixed in to add flavour and metaphorical meaning to the world and the lives of the characters.  The magic in Magic Realism is typically accepted, without need for endless explanation and exposition, it just is.

I don’t want the magic of the universe to slap me in the face, proclaim its awesomeness and try to show me how clever and inventive it is.  I want it to support the cast or characters, add meaning, metaphor and a bit of mystery.  I want to fill in the blanks myself, not have some over-explain-y character do it for me.  I want to use my imagination to create the connections, to do the work.  I believe that sometimes there are things that are better left unsaid.

Another problem with exposition in books where mystery is a strong component is obscurity.  The balance of explanation and obscurity can be hard to strike without just being plain annoying.  For example, in Hidden Things the main character had a ‘guide’ to the world of magic, but there were many things that the guide refused to explain.  So we got part of the story and the rest was written off as ‘something unexplainable’ by the guide.  He obfuscated, confused and tried to act mysterious and because of this it simply came off as annoying.  You can’t have it both ways, you’re either explaining it all or you’re not, but to try and walk the line is just unbelievably obnoxious.

I don’t do exposition.  The magic in my novel just is.  It is only very occasionally remarked upon by the protagonist, but overall it’s just a part of the world, like traffic and streetlights and fresh cut grass.  This leads me to believe that my story is not actually fully Urban Fantasy, but Magic Realism with a hint of UF.  I’m certainly open to other interpretations though.

So at the end of the day I feel like all the exposition in UF ruins the mood for me.  I don’t want to know exactly how and why magic is there, sometimes it’s just enough that it is.  I’d love to read more UF with a Magic Realism slant, but I’m not entirely sure how to look for that.  I don’t want my hand held or some character yapping in my ear telling me about the veil between worlds or the hierarchy of gods, I don’t want all the secrets unravelled for me.

I haven’t read a load of UF, so I certainly can’t comment on every book out there, but there seems to be a growing trend in the things I’ve read and watched that I’d like to veer away from.

Have any suggestions for more Magic Realism based UF?  Think I’m dead wrong about exposition?  Let me know!


The Booth at the End


Ben and I watch quite a bit of TV and we struggle to find well-written shows.  Writing is so important it can really make or break a series.  As people who make videos/films ourselves, we take a particular interest in well-written TV (or in this case web TV) and there are a couple shows I love so much I think they bear mentioning here.

The Booth at the End is one of those (rare) awesome and extremely well written shows.

It is a two season (so far) web series created by Chris Kubasik (an outstanding writer who has also written other fantastic things including several RPGs – holy crap we want to play with him) and I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s one of my favourite shows of all time.  I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now and I am not sure I have seen anything better written in all my show-watching days.

The Booth at the End takes place entirely in a booth in a diner and revolves around the stories of multiple people who want things.  The premise is wonderfully simple, yet extraordinarily complex.  Because the whole show is entirely focused on conversations between ‘The Man’ (the person who essentially grants wishes to people who perform seemingly random tasks) and the people who desire things, it allows for a wonderfully intimate, psychologically intense story.

I also posit that this conversational storytelling style format allows for a fascinating psychological effect.  I recently read an article about the effects of reading fiction on the brain.  It indicates that the effect of reading stimulates the same parts of the brain that would activate as if you were doing the thing you were reading about.  For example, reading words related to smell would activate the olfactory cortex.  So essentially, if you read it, your brain thinks you’re doing it or at least responds as though you were.

So I believe there is a similar effect at play here, due to the fact that The Booth at the End is based entirely on characters telling stories.  Now I don’t have the ability to scientifically test this theory, but (if not actually activating the areas of the brain related to the stories being told) we are at the very least invited, through this format, to use our imaginations.  With this show we’re not being spoon fed images, we’re being forced to think and imagine and filter the stories through our own brains.

The Booth at the End is deeply moving, makes us question and allows us a space to think through our own choices and their consequences.  And for a web series, that’s pretty impressive.

As a writer, I have only a handful of writers I am completely impressed by and Chris Kubasik is definitely one of them.  If I can come even remotely close to the quality of writing in The Booth at the End at some point in my career, I will have created something amazing.

So here’s to you Chris.  You’ve made an outstanding piece of art and I hope you keep making it.  I’m dying to know what happens next and that’s not something I can say about very many things.

And to all of you out there who haven’t watched The Booth at the End.  Do so now.