If you’re anything like me and most of the planet, you binge-watched House of Cards on Netflix when they debuted the entire season (like they do) in February.

Confession: I’ve watched Seasons 1 and 2 three times. Once for each new season because this is a show you have to pay attention to. The smallest detail, especially on the part of Frank or his wife, can mean huge repercussions later.

Why are we so obsessed with Francis Underwood and his dirty doings? How is someone so amoral the protagonist of the story? To answer that, we have to talk about anti-heroes.

According to dictionary.com an anti-hero is:

a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.

That’s a place to start, but it doesn’t really explain how so many people can be fascinated by a character that is, essentially, a bad, unredeemed and never-to-be-redeemed person. For something a little closer to our purposes, I’ll add Writers Digest to the mix:

Antiheroes can be obnoxious, pitiful or charming, but they are always failed heroes or deeply flawed. Often riddled with paradoxical traits and qualities, they resemble real people more than any other type of fictional characters do, and they are increasingly popular these days in fiction, film and television.

Now that makes my brain get clicky. Obviously, they’re not heroes, but failed heroes. A failed hero does not arc, but chooses to continue handling whatever life throws at him in the same way, or worse ways. What I find most interesting is the notion that anti-heroes are the most realistic of fictional characters.

I hate to think that’s true. As someone who has worked in mental health for many years, I’ve seen my share of people who get it, where they’re making flawed choices, and completely turn it around. On the other hand, people who make the same mistakes are more common than not.

Does that mean anti-heroes lack self-awareness? Not the best of them. Definitely not Frank Underwood. I think one of the qualities that make him so much fun to watch is the deliberateness of his every move.

I’d love if you’d share your fave anti-heroes. I’m currently reading the House of Cards trilogy and the main character (who is British, not Southern) as well as the story are different enough to be enjoyable unto itself.

Tweet: House of Cards and Anti-heroes. Why are we so obsessed with Francis Underwood and his dirty doings? http://goo.gl/bTF1kc


image I’ve been building myself (okay, the internet isn’t helping) into a frenzy about the upcoming Veronica Mars movie. Okay, wait. Let me start at the beginning.

There was this show. I once wrote that it [the first season] was the “the most perfect season of television in the history of ever.”

There was this sarcastic, dark, twisty detective (also a teenage girl).

She was hilarious and vulnerable, loyal and jaded, wickedly clever and terribly isolated. The show also featured every best secondary and tertiary ever created and banter so good, you could cry. Yeah, I think that covers it.

This show was critically adored so, of course, it constantly struggled to stay on the air. It made it for three seasons (maybe in large part due to fan campaigns). And then, like all wonderful things in life, it ended.

I wish I were kidding when I tell you I walked around for a month singing Michelle Branch’s Goodbye to You and tearing up. I’m not ashamed at all of my frequently quoting dialogue in conversation to. this. day.

But, then something unheard of happened.

Since, hello? They couldn’t muster enough ratings to make it past three seasons, nobody in Hollywood said, “For purely sentimental reasons, here’s a couple million bucks. Go make a movie.” The creator of the show, Rob Thomas, started a Kickstarter campaign, broke a bunch of records, and raised the money in like ten hours.

Then, as far as I can tell, every single person came back for the movie (despite many of them going on to more success) and the movie was filmed over 28 days last summer. (Does this sound like a fairy tale to anyone else?) It will be released on 3.14.14.

I’m almost giddy with excitement. My season 1 DVDs arrived Friday to begin the obligatory rewatch before the movie premieres. To aid in this, Amazon has all the season DVDs on sale. (I’ll include links at the bottom.) It’s possible, I suppose, that Amazon is just making savvy and timely marketing choices, but I prefer to think of them as my considerate best friend. I’ve certainly purchased enough Kindles for them to want to stay on my good side.*

So, in closing, 2014 is the year I turn 40 and the year my fangirl dreams come true.

The movie’s first look trailer is included just below here, and I’m including some crunchy resources from all over the internet.

I was going to end with a VM quote, but I can’t pick one. Go watch this show. Now.



Linkage for you

*PS. Apparently, they’re also available to Amazon Prime members for free streaming.

Burn Notice. Love, love, love the characters. I’d watch Bruce Campbell clean out his gutters. And the story arcs like mad. Everything changes. I hate when writers are afraid to make changes because what they have works. In this moment.

But it can’t work forever. The nature of story is to change. Otherwise, it’s just a snapshot in time.

And, I think, it’s not that we need to write what’s hot or popular. We need to write what sets us on fire. I love me some crazy, whackadoo characters. Because people are messed up. We’re all messed up. That’s real to me.

To quote the show:

“Imagine that you’re holding onto two bottles and they drop on the floor. What happens? They both break. But it’s how they break that’s important, because you see, while one bottle crumbles into a pile of glass, the other shatters into a jagged-edged weapon. People just don’t break the same.

Stories tell the truth. Maybe that’s what this story says to me, and it says it beautifully.

Want More on Burn Notice and Storytelling?

Try the Popcorn Dialogues: Burn Notice.

The nature of story is to change. Otherwise, it’s just a snapshot in time. ~ Click to Tweet

I’m not going to advocate Gossip Girl as anything more than mindless fun. Except…

It’s the characters.

I began watching Gossip Girl The weekend of July 13th. It’s eighteen days later and, despite working full time, writing, critting in a couple of marathon sessions for my CP, and just generally rearing children, I have managed to watch nearly five full seasons

This show has flaws:

  • Writing that often serves the needs of the plot rather than the organic growth of the characters.
  • Reversals in feelings and character consistency are another, but those happen more in characters that are, quite frankly, rather flaky.
  • Characters whose moral compass sometimes spins wildly with disastrous results.

And all that makes it soapy fun, which, as I’ve established, I’m totally fine with.

But, at the end of my four or five episodes day, I care about the characters. Some I like. Some I love like damn and whoa.

Blair & Chuck

Oh, what a wreck these two are. I’m not sure they deserve anyone or any amount of happiness. They’re so incredibly flawed, but that’s the easy part. They could’ve quickly been written off as one-dimensional villains. But, no. They’re redeemable. I understand what motivates them.

They have pleasures in life that anyone can identify with, like Blair’s passion for old movies and Chuck, a man who received about as much nurturing as a kitten whose mother tried to eat it, who is quietly devoted to his dog.

But, I didn’t truly become enamored with these characters until they fell in love with one another. And, here, with these on-the-surface terrible people I saw a thoughtfully written, consuming, passionate affair for the ages play out. This is the real thing. This is that magic something, lightning in a bottle, that writers hope to capture.

Even when a show isn’t brilliant, we can still learn from what works. ~ Click to Tweet

You know I posted about watching good TV to become a better writer? This isn’t like that.

I had this major day-job thing going on the last few months, and I’ve been relieving stress by watching television. Specifically, soapy drama. Private Practice, the new Dallas. Which led me and my incredibly awesome daughter who enjoys the same odd things I do to old Dallas.

We’re on Season 2. And it’s… wow. It’s so bad it’s good. Like how everyone used to love to hate J.R. Amiright?

There are these “Oh, no, he did NOT!” moments, and “Disco [dancing] is creepy…” moments, and “They’re playing dramatic music, so we’ll know something dramatic is happening.” moments. Then there are the moments where my daughter looks at me like… that was really wrong/offensive/racist/sexist.

And I don’t really know what to say. Except, yes. Things were really like that three decades ago. Yes, Miss Ellie did advise that violent man if he had issues with his wife cheating he should go home and take it out on her. Yes, the white woman Sue Ellen was going to buy a baby from did say that if her situation weren’t so bad, she wouldn’t have to live with people (in an apartment building) that “weren’t [her] kind.”  You know what she meant because they showed lots of people of different races lazing about outside and they played music that kind of reminded me of Sanford and Son (which my grandfather used to watch and we only had one TV and three channels back then, people). Yes, “forced seduction” was a thing, and, yes, she did just totally get overwhelmed by lust when he practically raped her and gave in at the last second.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m enjoying tripping through the 80’s with my kid. I’m enjoying the cheesefest of awesome. It’s my guilty pleasure. But, it’s also a slice of culture. And that’s interesting, too.

Glee. Just…Glee. I’ve posted in the past about watching great shows to improve your writing (and because they’re awesome and we love good stories). I’ve been a fairly long-standing fan of Ryan Murphy (and later Brad Falchuk). The Shield, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story. Good shows. Great characters.

But, Glee. I’ve watched it on Netflix and my becoming enamored with it started one boring, cold Saturday morning. I turned it on. I gasped. I laughed. I called to my teenage daughter to get in there because I was watching the best television show I’d ever seen and she had to see it.

I’ve fallen in love with the characters because they’re so not perfect. They make mistakes, they’re human and flawed. But they’re real and they grow, so I care about them. And, I think I’ve learned from this show, antagonist or protagonist, what matters is to make your characters realistic, to have strengths and flaws, to make them stretch and grow into more than they were when they began.

Aside from being a writer, from the perspective of being someone who messes up and deals with the fact that sometimes life sucks, from the perspective of a parent of a child who has been bullied and is a minority, I love that this show is about loving the “loser” that we all are. I don’t know who coined the phrase “let your freak flag fly,” but I live by it and I wish that in finding the things about ourselves that make us unique and special (and unicorns), we’d learn to embrace those things in other people.

Since these are the last episodes of the last season ever, and since I’ve been a loyal viewer for the last five years, enduring both dull flashbacks and funky flash forwards and everything in between, could you do me one small favor?  Could you try, in future episodes, to make the other 41 minutes less of a chore to watch and actually let things happen in the story as opposed to waiting until the last two minutes?  K, thanks.