The importance of image; or why I don’t watch English-speaking videos with subtitles

Why I think dialogues in films are not as important as people may want to believe. Cinema is mainly a visual media, let’s focus more on the image and what it can tell.

When I was living in Vancouver, my flatmate was watching about everything with subtitles, even though everything he was watching was in English, which is his mother tongue. He mainly did that because of a combination of problems: the annoyingly poorly balanced sound tracks in movies (speech too low vs sound effects too loud) and the fact that our house was next to a very busy road. In the end, it was pretty much impossible to understand a film without subtitles, and I had to do it too, although I really don’t like it.

See, a few years ago, I had this talk with a friend who couldn’t watch an English-speaking film without subtitle, not because he couldn’t understand English well (he was pretty good at it actually), but because he couldn’t accept to watch a film and not understand 100% of dialogues. I understand his point, but I sadly think it’s a way too common belief that speech is more important than image in movie.

For my part, I started watching English-speaking films without subtitles in the early 2000’s. Back then, it was about improving my English listening skills. If I wasn’t reading, I was more focused on the speech, and therefore more akin to understand what actors were saying and get used to the language. Long story short, it really helped a lot (1). But as I got better at understanding English, well, there was no point in putting back subtitles anymore.

And I remembered what my Mom was saying about her never watching movies with subtitles. She doesn’t watch film in English, she watches the French-dubbed versions. But she made a very good point at not reading subtitle: “I can’t focus on both the image and the subtitles”. And I think that’s the whole point.

Now, my Mom is not a cinephile. She just enjoys a movie every now and then. But it’s true for everyone. Cinema is mainly a visual media. For years, films could even tell a story without a single line of dialogue, because there wasn’t sound on it yet. So filmmakers used a lot of visual cues to convey various plots and emotions, because it wasn’t possible to break the film pace every five seconds with dialogue screens.

dialogue

So now, we have countless ways to tell a story visually but still, a lot of people don’t realise it. If it’s not in dialogue, it’s like it’s not explained at all. That’s pretty much why fool-proofed movies tend to over-explain the plot in dialogues even though everything is quite always obvious in context. Just look at how hardly-audible dialogues in Interstellar were perceived by a large part of the audience. Another great example is when Mel Gibson wanted to screen The Passion without subtitles, which would have been a great idea, since the audience most likely to go watch the film already knew the story and how it ends (spoiler: Jesus dies on a cross). But of course, this didn’t happen, because the film would have completely flopped at the box office.

People take for granted that every single bit of dialogue must be understandable, when image and sound design are equally or more important to understand the film. When I see movies that try to be visually clever, instead of using trendy shots, get trashed because they are too contemplative/hardly understandable/pretentious/boring (check the appropriate answer for your case), it really explains why there are much less films like that anymore, and also why I don’t watch that many films anymore. (2)

When you focus too much on dialogues, and therefore on subtitles, it’s the same amount of attention you don’t give to image and sound (4), and so you lose way more information than you think you get by being overly attentive to dialogues. I always feel that when I tell people I don’t watch films with subtitles, they think I’m being pretentious. I’m not. I maybe understand give or take 90% of dialogues in any given film (even in French-speaking films, there are always mumbled or covered lines that are hardly understandable), but I just enjoy and understand the movies better if I’m not distracted by subtitles. Once I even watched a movie in a language I didn’t know at all and I understood the plot.

Of course I wouldn’t recommend to watch an entire movie without subtitle if you don’t understand the language, especially the ones that have really well-crafted dialogues (Tarantino’s films, for example, are enjoyable because of dialogues). But if you understand at least 60% (rule of thumb here), I feel like it’s worth giving it a shot.

So, I hate to admit, but turns out my Mom was right all along.

 

(1) In the same way, watching Japanese animation with English subtitles has helped my English-reading skills a lot. If you want to learn some language, these are actually very good exercises to consolidate your knowledge. But you need some level of proficiency first.

(2) And still, in the end, they are the films that get to be remembered and studied in schools.

(3) And don’t get me started on multitasking. There is no such thing. It’s actually task switching. And in case of subtitles, you have to move your gaze to the text, so you can’t in any way watch the image and the subtitles at the same time, especially in theatre (we can talk about the 2° field of view for accurate vision later).

(4) Obviously I don’t recommend it. I was just curious about a particular film and couldn’t find the subtitles. I lost a lot of information in the process, but I still enjoyed watching the film.

The sweet (and gloomy) feeling of having nothing to lose

Sometimes a dream takes you somewhere you wouldn’t have expected. This is a story of a girl who was deeply moved by her saddest dream ever.

She can do what she wants. Until a few days ago, she was still working full time so that one day, she could retire and spend her final days in peace and harmony. What a dream. But she never wanted that, did she. Looks like life took care of it for her. This very morning she went to her office and handed off her resignation letter. Now she is free of any engagement. She can do everything she ever wanted to do, planning for the future doesn’t mean anything to her anymore.

Right now she is diving in euphoria. She has so many things she wants to do. But so little time. She is sitting on the grass in a downtown park, reading a book she’s been months on since it’s pretty boring but she doesn’t want to give it up until she reaches the end. And she’s expecting him.

[…]

Sitting next to her, he realises her light and cheery attitude is fading away. She didn’t tell him why she was such in a good mood, but he now knows everything she plans to do, and he is not sure if he should support her no questions asked. She starts shivering.

[…]

She said it. It is weird to say it out loud. “It’s only when you say it that it becomes real”. She doesn’t know where she heard that but it doesn’t matter. She starts crying. Her head falls heavy on his shoulder. The pain outweighs the euphoria. It is still there, inside of her, hidden behind a mountain of sadness. The sadness will erode, she knows it. But right now, she has to take it in, feel every part of it. Only after she accepts her inescapable fate will she be able to live her short life to the fullest.

[…]

She opens her eyes, They’re wet from the tears she shed during the night. She doesn’t move. Just lying there, she tries to understand what has just happened, and why this dream felt so real. Her first reaction is to regret she isn’t really living that dream. She wished she could have a good reason to leave her work and do whatever she wants. She knows it is a sad story that would end in a dramatic way, but she’d rather have that than an eventless life of struggling and being tired all the time.

[…]

She takes her breakfast, but it’s difficult. She has to go through the motion. Her livelihood depends on it. But it’s hard. Still she drinks her apple juice and gets ready for the day.

[…]

It’s the middle of the afternoon. She was too tired to go on with her work, so she sat on the living room sofa and started strumming chords on her guitar. The dream is still in her head. She realises it’s the first time a feeling from a dream sticks with her for such a long time, but she doesn’t know how to process it.

[…]

Several days have passed. She is playing her guitar absentmindedly while watching a film. The credits are rolling. She is lying on the sofa with the guitar laid her chest, and her eyes are stuck on the screen.

She sits up, put some stupid but funny show on the TV. Then she opens the laptop on the coffee table and starts writing this piece.

Empathy and Identification in Video Games

What do people mean when they say they “identify” with a character? I argue that most of a time, it’s empathy, and identification comes with customisation, but I may be wrong, hey!

I had this very interesting conversation with a friend over the announcements around Cyberpunk 2077 at E3. CD Project Red (the developer and editor) said that the game will be played in first person because it makes the game more immersive, or personal (1), and also because it was necessary due to the augmentations. So I assume that, like in Deux Ex, visual implants have an impact on how you see the world, and therefore makes it necessary to see through the character’s eyes.

cyberpunk-2077

But in my opinion (2), it is also helps a lot to feel like you’re the character. To identify. I think the word “Identification” have been used for about anything that goes beyond its meaning. When you talk about your identity, it’s something that’s in you, in your own personality, so you can’t identify to everything just because the story is well told or the character is well crafted. That’s where empathy comes in. When your best friend tells you about something very sad that happens to them, and as a result, you feel sad too, it’s because of your empathy for that person. You know them and you understand what they’re going through, so you end up feeling the same way as they do. But you don’t suddenly identify to them just because you feel sad when they tell you about their sad story.

And I really think it’s the same thing for any work of fiction. When you watch a film and you feel all that’s happening to a character, you don’t say at the end of a film “Oh my god! I was Tony Stark for 2 hours and a half”. You’ll be more likely to say something along the line of “Wow, Me too I’d feel devastated if I realised I could have stopped Starlord before he did anything stupid” (3). And it’s no different in video games.

Obviously, we’re restricting the topic to games that put you in control of a single character that is identified and has a background. In this kind of games, most of the time you follow a character that has a pre-defined background and you don’t get much freedom to shape the character. Games like Uncharted, The Last of Us or Tomb Raider fall in that category. You can often choose the skills you want to develop, but ultimately, the story goes in one direction, and you have no other choice but to be passive in the light of what happens to the character. It’s a developer’s choice, when they want to tell a story but don’t want you to mess with the storyline while still having fun. And in many of those games, you play in third person. Meaning that the “camera” is positioned behind the character and lets you swing around. It’s usually a good way to see the character and/in the environment, and apparently it’s something that players love, seeing how they disagreed with CD Projekt Red’s decision to have Cyberpunk 2077 played in first person.

rainbow-six-siege-screenshot-6

But it’s not always the case. For example, Deus Ex is played in first person, probably for the reason stated above, but the character is defined by the developer with development limited to skills. And in the other hand, Mass Effect lets you customise your character entirely (which includes the background to some extent), but is played in third person. At the very extreme, every competitive shooter (Overwatch, Rainbow 6: Siege or, my personal favourite, Insurgency) is played in first person and we couldn’t care less about the characters (4).

So, despite what I told my friend this morning, I don’t think the choice of a first or third person depends on the degree of identification. It’s mostly down to what the developer wants to focus on in terms of immersive experience and gameplay or what audience they’re aiming at. I still think that having the camera behind the character puts a barrier, but it’s a very personal feeling. Which is weird, because I never had any problem identifying with the characters I created for Fallout 1 and 2 (pictured below).

fallout 2 chosen one

And that’s were I think the difference lies: in the degree of customisation. A character will be more like you (and therefore identifyable) if you made it like you. Or if you made it like you’d wish to be. With my psychologist in France, we used to talk about how character customisation may help understand how we identified. Specifically, when I talked about video games, I told her that when I was creating a character from scratch, most of the time, the gender I chose didn’t have any consequence in the character arc (5). That’s when she pointed out that if I can craft out my character the way I want, even though there won’t be any consequences (6), then it reinforces the identification with the character, because the character will be even closer to who I am, or who I want to be.  And (in my case at least), it was totally right; I always made a female character because I couldn’t identify with a male character, even before I accepted the fact that I was transgender. If the way you customise your character didn’t matter in the game, why would you do it? In the end, it’s a way to let the player feel more like they’re into the game and identify with the character. But really identify, in the sense that you are the character. How you would react in the same situation, not just experiencing their story?

To conclude, I obviously don’t think people bullshit when they say they identify to a character. I am just saying that what they’re actually experiencing is empathy, but they can truly identify only when they have the opportunity to shape the character the way they want. But of course, when I’m in a conversation, I’ll still talk about identification, because I’m not a pretentious asshole who think she is better than every one else (7).

 

 

(1) “The first-person point of view is there so you can see things happening up close, and so you can really interact with things in a visceral manner. with the game world.” http://ca.ign.com/articles/2018/06/12/e3-2018-cyberpunk-2077-cd-projekt-addresses-first-person-backlash

(2) And I really want to stress that it’s a personal opinion, I am not trying to impose it on anyone, just to have a discussion about it.

(3) It’s not a spoiler, I didn’t say that Spiderman dies.

(4) Overwatch and Rainbow 6: Siege made backgrounds for their characters but even though a player may choose a character considering their background, they only use the character’s skill set in game. The point is to win the game, not chitchat about the character’s narrative.

(5) Except a few cases like the first 2 Fallout, where each gender has some different but symmetrical effect. For example, a woman’s charisma will work better on someone attracted to women.

(6) And even when it does, I usually stick to a character that feels more like me. For example, when the game encourages making a strong fighter, I keep making a clever one and skip the strength attribute, because I prefer getting away with a clever word than a bullet in the face, even though it’s more challenging.

(7) But I am, obviously.

“Do you believe I see a woman when I look at you?” – How self-perception is stronger than the view of others

Sometimes, you want to talk about a film that hasn’t been released yet, because you put a lot of faith in it. So in this post, I will be talking about Girl, by Lukas Dhont, and why it is important to me that it doesn’t disappoint.

It’s that time in the year when people rush to the South of France to watch tons of films that won’t be released before 6 months. Well, tons of privileged people, since the Cannes Film Festival is the only festival in the world that doesn’t accept self-paying visitors. Nevermind that, there are still very interesting films being shown there, and even though I can’t attend (never been even once), I still follow what’s happening, thanks to Alicia Malone‘s tweetline (1).

And one of her tweets particularly caught my eye:

Obviously (if you know enough about me), I was instantly interested about this film, Girl, directed by Lukas Dhont, and apparently, the French newspaper LeMonde also saw the film and gave their few cents on it. And now I am totally hooked. I know I have to wait until October to watch it in theatre, and I don’t usually review a prospect of a film, but there is a good reason I am hopeful: this is not a movie about transphobia (2). Most movie about transgender people deal with the hardship of being transgender because of other people being total assholes. This film is different. There is no debate about transgender people. We exist, it’s a fact, and in this story, every one is accepting of the trans girl. The family is loving, everybody is willing to help or at least they behave around her like she’s a totally normal girl.

The hardship is elsewhere. It’s internal. Even though people offer their help and support, we can’t move onward if we don’t acknowledge that this help is honest. It is best shown in this snippet of the movie:

At some point, the psychiatrist asks “Do you believe I see a woman when I look at you?” And he has to pull the answer out of her mouth. “No”. She says it so timidly. And for a good reason. It’s hard to tell someone you don’t believe them when they show the much needed support. And if we don’t believe it, it’s because we don’t see it ourselves. Therefore it seems impossible that other people see something about us that we only dreamt of for so long.

To me, it touches so close to home. I moved to Canada in January 2017, introducing to everyone as Élise, but people I was meeting randomly would obviously not see me as a woman. It took months of hormone therapy (I started in May 2017) and laser beard removal (since September 2016) before I could see any significant change. Since I never really enjoyed doing make-up that much or dressing overly feminine or girly, it didn’t help to be gendered correctly on a regular basis. That took time, and I saw it happen, first occasionally, then more frequently, until this month. Now It happens every single time. It downed on me last week in a bar where a group of guys on a bachelor party didn’t think twice about my gender. One even did a really corny move in my back, thinking I didn’t see. I can’t tell if they knew I was transgender, but if they did, they surely hid it very well.

But the switch really happened this weekend. I went with a friend to look at swimsuits. I haven’t done any scuba diving for 3 years and I miss it so much it drives me crazy. I had to go to the store, to build up the courage (wearing a push-up bra helped too). When I arrived at the swimwear corner, the saleswoman instantly greeted me with a “Madam” and asked me what I was looking for, and offered me to try some on. I switched. I stopped being afraid.

It was like learning a new language. You struggle for a long time with the idea that you’ll ever be able to speak fluently. And one day, it just happens. You feel it inside of you. You’re thinking in your new language and people understand when you speak. It’s what happened to me that day. I knew I was passing. Maybe not 100%. Maybe not if I stay in a conversation for such a long time that people get from the way I speak and behave that I’m trans, but it doesn’t matter. People gender me correctly at the introduction, and that’s 99% of the work.

For a long time, I felt like this young dancer in Girl. I couldn’t see what people were seeing. But now I can, and it’s such a wonderful feeling. I may be scared again, occasionally, but I know that most of the time, I can do it confidently.

On a side note, I love the interaction between the father and the daughter in this clip, it sounds so realistic:

So, Girl, please be as wonderful as people say. We need it.

 

(1) You can also read my review of her book Backward and in Heels.

(2) And I don’t mean film about transphobia are not interesting. They are, and they need to exist, at least as long as transphobia is a thing. But I wish we could have transgender characters in movies where they’re not here just to talk about transphobia. There are trans people out there living − almost − normal lives. Please talk about them or include them in your stories like it’s normal. That’s what we need. On this note, if you haven’t yet, you should definitely watch A Fantastic Woman (La Mujer Fantastica, by Sebastian Lelio).

High-tech to low-tech: How I changed the way I use technology

It all started with my camera. Or should I say “re-started”. Because in the past few years, I had progressively removed from my life every thing that came in consumables to replace them by de-materialised content. But I realised that by making it more convenient and easy, it caused all these activities to take way too much of my life (some more than others). When I was taking my DSLR around, I was taking so many photos it was cutting the pleasure out of visiting the places I was travelling to.

It all started with my camera. Or should I say “re-started”. Because in the past few years, I had progressively removed from my life every thing that came in consumables to replace them by de-materialised content: digital photography (from compact to DSLR), portable music (MP3 players, then directly on phones), e-readers. But I realised that by making it more convenient and easy, it caused all these activities to take way too much of my life (some more than others). When I was taking my DSLR around, I was taking so many photos it was cutting the pleasure out of visiting the places I was travelling to.

That’s why, in 2013, I decided to go to Korea for a few weeks and not take my camera. And obviously, what should have happened, happened: I was missing taking photos. A friend suggested to buy a disposable camera (I didn’t even know it still existed), and shoot. And although it was an expensive alternative to DSLR, it gave me a sense of challenge, since I had to adapt to the − huge − limitations of the camera. But it didn’t prevent me from taking night time photos:

Concert

And I loved it!

So it didn’t take much for me to switch and buy a used SLR and going chemical. I’m still doing film photography, and not ready to stop.

But it wasn’t the end of it. It recently leaked over other “hobbies”. Despite my e-reader, I always kept a foot in the paperback world, because there is always some time I go to a book store, browse around and decide to take something, although I could just write down the title (in my phone) and buy the e-book online. But I don’t. Because somehow, I still want to be able to just buy a book on a whim, because I liked a cover, and not after I spent an hour browsing the web for reviews, reading the author’s bio on Wikipedia, and doing a pros and cons list that takes another hour. The other day I bought a book just because someone (I didn’t even know) told me it was a good book. And I loved it. I want to be surprised like this. It doesn’t happen online.

And more recently, I started a vinyl disc collection. It’s still small, and since I moved to Montréal, I don’t have a turntable anymore, but I want to have more of these. When I listen to music on my phone, it’s mostly to make the commute less boring; when I listen to music from the computer, it’s while doing something else. But if I need to get up every 18 min to turn a LP around, I better listen and enjoy the music!

ironmaiden.jpg_large

And that’s the whole point: to enjoy.

Whether it’s reading a book, doing photography, or listening to music, even watching a movie, I don’t enjoy it as much as when I have to go out of my ways to do it.

I don’t enjoy the low-tech because it’s more convenient. I enjoy it because it’s not.

And I find it funny that it took a week without my smartphone to realise why I was doing what I was doing.

I am not going to lie. The smartphone is freaking useful. Possibilities are endless. Writing down an appointment (and getting a reminder), having your whole address book handy, even if you change your phone, plus all the small apps dedicated to your town or the services you use, are the many things that make the smartphone a very handy and almost indispensable tool in the pocket. Unless there is an apocalypse, I won’t be getting rid of mine anytime soon. I don’t either want to buy a new one when mine will be really busted, unless there is a really fair and environmentally viable alternative to what is done today

But right now, my choice to go back to low tech isn’t even ecological (it still nice to have ecology on your side though). It’s a behaviour-related choice. It’s about separating what I like the most from the noisy digital world, and doing the effort that will make it worth. My enjoyment is proportional to the effort I take to achieve it.

 

Good things about a busted smartphone (after a in-depth experience of living with a flip-phone for 24 hours)

My super smartphone hasn’t dealt well with a full day of walking in the minus 11 weather of Montréal, QC, decided that it had enough of it and didn’t even wait until its battery was totally down to give me the finger. So unless the phone Magician downtown operates his magic to resuscitate it and bring me back in my “relatively” comfortable situation, here are some reasons why it may be a good thing to have a busted smartphone

My super smartphone (to not mistake with a supersmart phone) hasn’t dealt well with a full day of walking in the minus 11 weather of Montréal, QC, decided that it had enough of it and didn’t even wait until its battery was totally down to give me the finger (figuratively, but it quite literally shut off seeing my face not 2 seconds before I plugged it in). So unless the phone Magician downtown operates his magic to resuscitate it and bring me back in my “relatively” comfortable situation, here are some reasons why it may be a good thing to have a busted smartphone (after a full day of leaving in the world with peasants my awesome peers). Let’s get to it.

  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #1: I am gonna read more books to make up for lost online time and boring commute (I don’t commute to work, but some times I have to take the metro to go downtown, if only to go to the smartphone Magician).
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #2: I don’t get lonely and depressed just because I get less than 10 social notifications a day.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #3: I get to feel like I am a student from 2002 again with a nice and shiny flip-phone (which is finally sync’ed with my childish behaviour and my boob size. The universe is in phase once again).
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #4: I don’t get to text my crush all the time and annoy them too much, when I have to hit “7” four times to make a “S”. It’s probably too late to think about that though but it can help in damage control.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #5: There is a slot for an SD Card on the flip-phone, but it will only read the music from the internal memory, which means I get to listen to the beautiful voice of people making transphobic comments at me in the street. Jk, that one sucks.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #6: I can get up right away after my bell rings without spending an hour or so looking at what you people have posted on Twitter.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #7: I will have the pleasure to actually discover what my ringtone is tomorrow when it wakes me up.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #8: I had to disgrace my laptop with Facebook (I don’t have Facebook, this is a myth, don’t ask, shhh!) to receive my messages on my apartment hunt and I’m enlightened by it’s delicious notification sound that I’m too tired to remove (help! I’m getting crazy)
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #9: It’s the perfect occasion to make a clickbait article.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #10: And it ends on a 10.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #11: Jk. You’ll never see the end.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #12: Writing this article is the most fun time I had since the music improv match last week (I didn’t compete, it wouldn’t have been fun for anyone).
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #13: I don’t have to worry about making a relevant feature picture for this article (or any later article as long as my smartphone is busted).
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #14: I’m going crazy, which may explain #12.
  • Good thing about writing an article about a busted smartphone #15: I get to change the rules by #15.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #16: Do you know there is a link to my Twitter feed in the lower right? Everybody who retweet won’t probably have read it after #5.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #17: By now, everyone must think I’m drunk or both or high, but I’m knot.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #18: After my camera, my books and my music player, it’s yet another of my devices that’s going back low-tech.
  • Good thing about a busted smartphone #19: I can mess with people’s love of round number by stopping right before #20.

I used to know my personality, but now I can’t get my head around it

I have had a discussion with a new friend I made in Montréal, who told me she went to a speed dating event and it was a lot of fun. So she suggested I should go to one and I rapidly replied I couldn’t attend such an event, not because I don’t like the concept (I did say it was a weird concept, but hey, don’t you agree?), but because I’m just unable to do so.

I have had a discussion with a new friend I made in Montréal, who told me she went to a speed dating event and it was a lot of fun. So she suggested I should go to one and I rapidly replied I couldn’t attend such an event, not because I don’t like the concept (I did say it was a weird concept, but hey, don’t you agree?), but because I’m just unable to do so. Problem is, I couldn’t explain why in short sentences. I mentioned it had to do with anxiety and fear, but these feelings are only the result of something deeper.

Introversion

I am an introverted person. I have always been. It’s not the result of dysphoria, depression or any condition I may be in. It’s not a problem either. We can’t state that enough. Introversion is not something to be ashamed of, to try to conceal or beat yourself out of it, even if modern western societies are custom-made for extroverted people. It’s just a type of personality, and it’s a spectrum (like everything with personality). You may be very extroverted, very introverted, or somewhere in between. As soon as you figure out where you are in the spectrum, it’s easier to know what to look for in your social life.

For my part, I’m super introverted. I won’t say that I have one leg over the edge, but I’m pretty sure I fall outside the standard deviation. It took time for me to realise that, although, to be honest, it was painfully obvious. Socially, it has a huge implications. I can’t maintain a lot of relationships simultaneously, because I need to be deeply invested in the ones I have. If I don’t have deep relationships, I can go into depression. It has been a real struggle when I was living in Vancouver, since it was a real challenge to make any connection, let alone meaningful ones (and thanks Ashley and Bria for being there, you’ve made every moment spent with you worth it).

But one thing really changed since last year. You know it: I started a gender transition, and whereas before transition, I could easily judge how to position myself around people, now I am totally lost. And it was even worse in Vancouver, where people are really good at treating you with some kind of benevolent hypocrisy.

Making relationships through a different gender

It would be a lie to say that by observing how women live and by talking with them for years, I could be prepared to what was going to happen to me. But it is not even relevant, since people don’t behave around me like I’m a woman anyway. Of course, some try, because they want to be respectful, but in the end, they just behave like I am transgender. I know there is a difference because I spent many nights alone at bars and I have yet to get a free drink.

So not only I am not sure how people would react to me if they were seeing me as a woman, but it’s totally impossible to know how anyone would react out of the blue seeing that I am transgender (most people still only see a man with long hair). I don’t know if the person will be open-minded or a heartless bigot. Then, when I find a person who is nice enough to actually want to pursue a conversation, I realise that I don’t even know how I will react.

Neurocognitive studies have showed that mimicry and empathy are innate features helping people connect and share emotions. But I lost both to some extend. I used to be very good at understanding people and adapt to them when needed, but in the past year, I had to force myself to act differently, to erase years of conditioning, which caused interferences when interacting with people. Since I was around 20, I started to reinforce habits to counteract my dysphoric feelings (or however I thought about it back then), which caused me to become a person I really didn’t like. Now I feel stuck with those habits, and although I am working at erasing them from my behaviour, they tend to come back when I start feeling confident or close to someone. And it scares the hell out of me.

Dating with the fear of showing the wrong side of me

I stated above that we have as many sides as we have relationships, because we adapt our behaviour to our interlocutor, but it’s more like tweaking our personality to make our interaction seamless with one another (and we generally have a threshold until which we accept to malleable, after what we have an opposite reaction).

In that regard, I now have two sides of my personality: the shy woman who tries to get by in her new situation, and the douchy man who is getting murdered and left behind in a ditch, but who tends to make himself remembered at the worst moment, when things are getting serious. And my fear is just that. Having G. come in and reclaim the attention. And it happens. Often. If I am with a friend, after some time I go back again to the way I used to talk. If I end up in a party with many people, which happened a few days ago, I will have reactions that I totally hate because it reminds me of the person I used to be (1).

And since I am not stupid, I know it will happen during a date, and I just can’t take the chance.

A quick note on speed-dating

So, take all of that, the introversion, the transitioning, and the morphing personality, shake it thoroughly and splash it all on my face, and you will have an idea of how I will behave if I was thrown into the pit with countless women, as open-minded or inclusive as they may be. I think I would end up with a panic attack/nervous breakdown. I had some for less than that, some of which are even recorded on this website.

In these circumstances, speed dating is really not an option for me right now. It’s doesn’t help that I’m a very casual person, and going to a highly codified type of event is not really for my taste, even just for fun. I am much rather the kind of girl who like to meet up in a cool bar with some finger food and a drink, and have a chill and fun conversation. Maybe I will look very traditional by saying that I am rather looking at developing a friendship that can expand to something bigger, than jumping straight into bed.

I should make a topic about it, but long story short, I need to build a trusting relationship before going any further, and from what you’ve just read about my personality, I am sure you understand by now that I can’t get to trust someone enough in 5 min to think ahead.

That’s it for now, but since you diligently read until here, I will share with you the song I was listening to while I was finishing writing this article:

 


(1) OMG! I even did a quick mansplaning (transplaining?) on someone who is 10 times smarter (at least) than I am. I’m so ashamed of that. When I realised a moment later, I wished life as we know it stopped. Yes, I’m over-dramatic like that.

Quick note: First Year Out, by Sabrina Symington

Today, I want to talk about this graphic novel that hits so close to home, since it’s about gender transition. It’s called First Year Out, A Transition Story, and as the title states, it narrates about a year in the life of Lily, a trans woman, right after she comes out.

Today, I want to talk about this graphic novel that hits so close to home, since it’s about gender transition. It’s called First Year Out, A Transition Story, and as the title states, it narrates about a year in the life of Lily, a trans woman, right after she comes out.

First year out

It is important to note that it is “a” transition story. She doesn’t mean it to depict the life of every trans woman, since we all go though very different things. So this story is mostly about herself, and also includes bits of stories that happened to her friends or other trans women she knows. Personally, I relate so much to a lot of things that are depicted in this book that I felt I had written it at times. But also, it made me cry a lot, since I felt close to the main character, but also because it doesn’t shy away from the hardship of being transgender, while staying positive all along.

I really encourage every one to read First Year Out. It’s definitely an interesting story, and it shouldn’t be confined in the small circle of the LGBTQ community. It would also support this rising artist to make a name for herself, and draw more amazing graphic novels in the future. I can’t wait for the next one.

On the side note, when reading First Year Out, you can see that the drawing style gets sharper and more precise toward the end, and Sabrina would tell you it’s because the making spanned over a period of a year (or more?) and obviously the style would definitely change. Personally, I was so absorbed by the story that I didn’t notice, but I like to think that the change in style unconsciously represents the change of state of Lily as she finds peace in her life. Since I pulled the “unconscious” string, she can’t deny, right?

Quick note: The Hate U Give/Seven Seconds

Crime against African-American people in America is a hot topic, so hot that many works of fictions are made on the subject. I am no expert, far from it, but I’m always interested in filling some of the blank in my own knowledge, to complement the limited information that we get in the press.

Crime against African-American people in America is a hot topic, so hot that many works of fictions are made on the subject. I am no expert, far from it, but I’m always interested in filling some of the blank in my own knowledge, to complement the limited information that we get in the press. So recently, I have read and watched back to back two works on the subject, that are very different, both in terms of media and treatment.

Williamson Starr

The first one was The Hate U Give, first novel from Angie Thomas. It follows Starr, a high school girl who witnesses the murder of her friend by a policeman. She tries to avoid having to talk about it publicly or even give a witness account of the event until she can’t take it anymore and comes to realise that her silence is making it worse for her friend’s memory.

Then I followed with Seven Seconds, a Netflix show created by Veena Sud (The Killing US) about a cop who accidentally kills a young boy on his bike, but leaves him for dead until he is found by a passerby hours later. In this one, the story follows all the protagonists. It focuses on the prosecutor, KJ Harper, but also shows the perspective of the cops, the family and the witness.

seven-seconds-netflix

First, let’s focus on what make them stand apart. The first obvious thing is the type of crime: while The Hate U Give depicts a cop who shoots a kid because he thought he was armed (which becomes his line of defence), in Seven Seconds, it starts with an accident (texting and driving), but becomes a conspiracy of four officers (the first cop is helped by his colleagues) to cover the crime.

Then, Angie Thomas is so focused on her main character (who narrates the story) that every one else serves her narrative. In that regard, it takes a lot from coming-of-age stories, but on top of teenage feelings, family troubles and the discovery of adulthood, her friend is shot dead in front of her eyes. Nevertheless, the other characters are not accessory, they have deep personalities and reasonably lead Starr in her path. Veena Sud’s story is at the complete opposite. It wants to show everyone’s side. Not so you can empathise with the killer, but to understand everyone’s motivation.

Now, in the end, both stories have huge similarities. They both showcase the death of a young black boy who has links in the drug rings, which is used by the media to steer the public opinion, and the family tries to disprove it, both stories keeping the suspense on the matter until the end. They also show that cops can get out of killing black people pretty easily, even when evidence of wrongdoing is staggering, and the novel and the show keep realistic about it. The verdicts are neither over-dramatic or optimistic, they only reflect the current situation.

But that’s not where they draw the biggest interest. Their main feature is that they both show a tormented character who feels helpless and with the help of a few people, will rise to the challenge and help the cause. Starr is still a teenager, and the choices she makes will echo all her life and define her. Her story ends with the discovery of who she want to be, and it could only have happened because of the choices she made with or against the good will of her friends and family. In Seven Seconds, KJ has hit the glass ceiling, is haunted by a past investigation, and she gets to investigate this death that has no hope of leading to a conviction. As she gets discouraged and then supported by the only policeman who actually gives a crap (and serves as a comic relief), she has to face barriers and obstacles to uncover the truth. In the end, even if she doesn’t really win (nobody does, seeing their faces), she gains the respect of her peers, and most importantly, her own.

So, are they worth reading/watching? Definitely. The Hate U Give brought me several times to tears. It’s very powerful, and I was staying late at night to finish it. It is also refreshing to see that it is full of humour despite the serious subject. Seven Seconds is also good. Being 10 episodes, it trails sometimes, mainly because of the mother-uncle’s ark, which tends to be sloppy, and some moments at the end when it goes over the top. But the series is so well played by Clare-Hope Ashitey, and even though it didn’t create the same effect than Angie Thomas’ novel, I still recommend it because it’s a really important story and it makes a lot of efforts to remain honest, especially by keeping the human side of all characters.

Review: Backward and in Heels

I wanted to kick off my first book review on this website with a non-fiction that I have read recently. Backward and in Heels is an essay written by film critic and journalist Alicia Malone, who went into book worming and film archaeology to dig some of the most influential women who worked in films throughout its short history.

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Backward and in Heels

I wanted to kick off my first book review on this website with a non-fiction that I have read recently. Backward and in Heels is an essay written by film critic and journalist Alicia Malone, who went into book worming and film archaeology to dig some of the most influential women who worked in films throughout its short history. All of the women who appear in that book have had so much impact on the film industry, that it’s hard to understand how some of them are almost forgotten now. So that’s the objective of Alicia Malone: to give back the credit to these wonderful people who made history but where left behind.

It’s gonna be short because I actually don’t have much thing to say on the content. It’s a deeply researched document that used multiple sources such as essays, interviews, and of course films to report these stories as best as she could, gathering details of there lives that gives them depth. Bibliographical sources are listed at the end of the book, and somehow, I kinda regret that they’re not directly referenced, in more details, in the text, but I have the sense that the author didn’t want to give a feeling that her essay was too academical, so it wouldn’t scare away people interested in the subject.

Aside from the biographies, it goes into the issue of the representation of women working on films before and now, and how the mainstream industry has an implicit close door policy when it comes to hiring female directors. And despite the current trend in putting high-budget production in the hand of amazing female directors, the ratio is still unbelievably unbalanced toward men (spoiler: it’s been about 12% women for ages). So she interviewed current essayists who launched huge projects to really go to the bottom of this, compiling data over thousands of films, and statistics are astounding, showing that this ratio is not the result of a lack of interest by women in this field, but the consequence of an unfair an blatantly sexist selection along the way that undermines the will and spirit of women to make a career in film. As the saying goes (quoted from the book): “Men are hired on expectations, women are hired on experience”

So, if you’re interested in stories around cinema history, and the role of women in the industry, I can only recommend that book. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll realise how much we lack a women’s presence in this huge industry. But it’s also empowering and showing women that they can make their place in films despite the adversity, and that they have allies already installed who are making their best efforts to have a more balanced workforce.