My Interview with Ashley Eckstein (and how to judo-throw your fandom into a career)

Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe.

I've got a theory. I think most people have a secret wish when it comes to meeting their favorite celebrity. Whether it's at a convention, or by happenstance on the street, many people rehearse just such a scenario in their minds.

In fact, in our entertainment-obsessed culture, I think a lot of hopes and emotions are tangled up in our fandoms in really complex psychological ways.

FYI, I'm not judging you for that. That would be a pretty serious pot/kettle situation.

In fact, as a former spaz in recovery, I think I can help you learn how to translate those feelings. By answering four simple questions, you can learn how to judo-throw your fangirl prowess into a career doing what you love.

Did you know that if you have passion for a fandom, you can channel some of that energy into a related career? How do I know? I've done it.


Marilyn Monroe's Journey to Blonde (and how it reflected the male gaze)

Monroe in 1948, when she was still
relatively unknown.
Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe as the most iconic blonde in film history. But how many people know the journey she took to get there? What we don't know about celebrities, like Marilyn, can pose a real problem.

I learned a lot of what follows from my favorite podcast, "You Must Remember This", which is currently running a series of episodes titled "Dead Blondes". The topic brings context to many of the women who, ironically, still symbolize glamour (something very different than beauty) as something aspirational.

It also sheds light on the juxtaposition of many of their harsh and untimely deaths...which are not at all unrelated to their carefully constructed images.

For better or worse, I spent my entire childhood watching hours and hours of classic film. One memorable summer, sometime in the early nineties, my oldest sister made it a point to rent classics from the library every weekend. She used VCR to VCR editing to dub her own private collection. (Video piracy. Shocking, I know.)

That was the year I saw my first Marilyn Monroe movie, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". (On Netflix now.)

We were more of an Audrey Hepburn/Judy Garland household. All I knew about Marilyn was what I heard over conversations at the dinner table. How Madonna copied her in the video for the song "Material Girl". How she was beautiful and tragic. Like so many others, I knew Marilyn's image (via Andy Warhol's art) long before I knew the identity attached to it.

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" surprised me. Monroe was smarter, funnier and far more talented than I was expecting. Her character and performance very directly addressed her image. She was as much a reflection of the desires of American men as she was anything else.

I hope this blog does two things:

1. Convinces you to listen to "You Must Remember This" and watch one of the classic movies it deconstructs.

2. Makes you think twice about who you idolize, why and how you came to idolize them.

Stop Number One: The photo below is of Marilyn Monroe in 1944. It was taken years after she was first surrendered to an orphanage, years after she was passed from guardian to guardian and just a few years after marrying the son of a neighbor at the age of 16...yet again for the purposes of transferring legal guardianship.

This was when she worked in a factory during World War II.


MegaCon, Deep Field & MST3K

Hey Nerds,

It's been a busy week for me work-wise. So I wanted to share a few geeky inspirations that have been carrying me through.

1. I got my Megacon ticket yesterday! Huzzah! Are you going? I train for Megacon like normies train for sportsballing or Ninja Warrior. By that time, my first comic will be complete and my second comic will be live on the interwebs!

2. My husband recently introduced me to a 20-minute original symphony composed by Eric Whiteacre. His inspiration? Many of the images from the Hubble telescope. It's quite beautiful and really takes off around the 12:00 mark.

3. MST3K returned to Netflix yesterday in honor of their upcoming reboot. Naturally, our first pick was "Space Mutiny". A movie so bad, I used to show it to my creative writing students so we could break it down and talk about what not to do when writing a script. 

Roll Fizzlebeef is my favorite alternate name for David Ryder. Are you ready for the new MST3K series? (I am!)

How's by you, intenet?


Happy Anniversary, Buffy!

Did you know I wrote a free 12 week creative writing course centered around Buffy? You do now! If you're a writer or an aspiring writer, what could be better than an excuse to watch Buffy for 12 weeks in a row? Nothing. Nothing, I tell you.

And now for a Buffy Gif party!


Thank You, Robert Osborne

I'm very sad to hear of the passing of Robert Osborne. Like so many others, I grew up watching him on TCM.

We couldn't get cable in rural Indiana in the late eighties and early nineties, so my aunt from Louisiana sent us VHS after VHS of Osborne's movie marathons. Using his signature voice and his extensive knowledge, he taught me all about Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth and so many others.

I have a special affinity for anyone who takes the time to teach, curate or entertain. Osborne did all three simultaneously for years and years. He's one of the biggest reasons why classic film has become such a significant part of my life. I even minored in film studies in college. Those courses felt like an extension of my childhood. There wasn't a single classmate of mine who didn't know and love Osborne too.

All those years spent studying with Osborne, then later in college, eventually turned me from a fan to a writer. I spent years as a professional film critic. I've sold two screenplays, made a few short films. So much of that is because of what he, and my professors, taught me. Not just facts, but how to analyze film. How film can impact the world. What film teaches us about time, place and culture.

Thank you for everything, sir. Godspeed.

Here's TCM's memoriam page.


Talk About A Cult Classic...

I'm obsessed with documentaries. I love how they can reveal and dismantle carefully constructed artifice. Some of my favorites are "Roger and Me", "Young at Heart" and "American Movie".

Documentaries are frequently ignored by "Coming Soon" and "New Release" pages on movie sites everywhere. So it's important to keep an eye on your local arthouse or independent cinema. Mine is The Enzian. Do you know yours?

So I wanted to take a minute to issue a friendly reminder, Louis Theroux's latest documentary "My Scientology Movie" releases in the U.S. on March 10th...

P.S. Brilliant use of "Brazil", don't you think?


Happy Saturday

Here's a fantastic edit of some classic Esther Williams moments...


It's March

Go slay some metaphorical vampires!

I'm Talking Trek for Fangirl Blog

Read it here or check out the excerpt below:

"As my rewatch began to unfold, I noticed an unexpected side effect, a healing, calming feeling. 

For every lighthearted episode – “Data’s Day”, anything with Q – I’m finding even more that don’t shy away from serious cultural commentaries. 

Star Trek has always imagined a better future, but it’s never asked us to buy into one where problems don’t exist. Instead, it shows the problems and how diplomacy, compassion and intelligence can solve them."

P.S. Here's some super nerdy Next Gen fanfiction I wrote. I always wanted a follow-up to the Moriarty episodes where a Holodeck Sherlock showed up instead of Data fulfilling the role.