June-July

This summer has been a doozy. Heat waves, incredible drought.

It’s also the summer I’m on anti anxiety and anti depressants and let me tell you: wow.

After work, I would be so exhausted I would simply collapse in bed and nap for a few hours. That still sometimes happens, but generally I feel I have more energy, and I’m less likely to turn to tv binging or food to self medicate instead.

I’m excited about writing, including attempting to launch a freelance career as an editor. I don’t know if it will work out but the key word is try-try-try.

As such, I’m thinking about pursuing a hybrid career and have been watching a lot of the Courtney Project on youtube. My first two novels I think would do better via traditional publishing, but there’s some weird stuff I’d like to write that I think would be better served self-publishing.

I’m very excited to see where my writing career goes. I feel sky’s the limit, and I don’t feel that way very often. The fact I do feel that way is remarkable considering how many rejections I’ve received, but hey. Rejections are part of being a writer.

Writing Update

I submitted a short story for the first time in a few years and my first non fiction pitch.

Both were rejected, but that’s just part of the experience.

I didn’t think I was going to get into submitting short stories again–I’m still not sure if it’s something I want to do regularly–but it provided a brain break from editing my novel.

I’ve never edited a novel before so I’m having difficulties getting over that hurdle.

We’ll see what happens next.

Writing Update

I’ve been regularly reviewing The Bad Batch with Big Shiny Robot, which has been a lot of fun.

I submitted a short story to an anthology.

I submitted a pitch for a non fiction article, which is a first for me.

It’s odd, but also quite good, to have two things out for submission, and hopefully a third and fourth as well.

Imposter Syndrome And How To Deal

What Is Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome comes up a lot for writers. For those who may not know,

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.[2] While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally.

Wikipedia

Moving forward, I’ll be using the term established writer to indicate someone who has consistent publishing credentials and non established writer to indicate someone who doesn’t.

In my own writing group, I have seen established writers discuss their Imposter Syndrome (sometimes by name, sometimes by symptom). I actually hear more self doubt from established writers than I do from the new writers in our group, which makes sense based on the definition above.

The Answers

Though I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s feeling or internal distress, I do wish established writers would take more care in how they discuss their Imposter Syndrome, especially in a public or widely open space (such as a writing group) where unestablished writers may feel the need to validate established writers. That is not inherently wrong. One of the great things about a writing community is how writers can support each other beyond the words put down on the page. But there is a line, and if an established writer establishes a pattern of talking about their Imposter Syndrome with an expectation of validation, that is taking advantage of certain boundaries, where other participants may feel the need to put forth the emotional labor of validation without necessarily consenting to that because they may feel they have no other choice in order to remain true to the purpose of the group, which is supporting other writers.

Questions about imposter syndrome come up a lot in contexts like writing conventions as well. I’ve heard various answers (two common ones that I’ll address later), but one that I’ve yet to hear is that people who struggle with Imposter Syndrome should speak to a therapist regarding it.

That’s it. That’s the answer. Talk to a therapist.

For those who don’t have the funds to do so, there are online resources that can help. The wiki link actually goes into some detail. Internet searching how to manage imposter syndrome brings up a plethora of links with guides as well.

I attended a writing conference, where the keynote speaker was a widely well known author and the inevitable question about Imposter Syndrome popped up.

Two answers were given:

  1. Channel the confidence of a mediocre white man
  2. The con man theory — which is basically just Imposter Syndrome under a new name since it relies on the idea that the person suffering from Imposter Syndrome is grifting those around them.

These are actually the most common answers I’ve heard. I’m sure there are others but these are the two I’m focusing on.

Confidence of a Mediocre White Man

As a white nonbinary lesbian, this does not speak to me. When I learned about feminism, it was presented as equality with white men, essentially gaining the equal opportunity to oppress communities alongside white men without impunity. You can read more about white feminism here.

A really good visual of this also was in a recent episode of New Amsterdam when Dr Goodwin tried to solve systemic racism at the hospital. He gathered the top paid doctors, white men and women, to see if they would cut their salary to address pay imbalances to their Black peers. Lauren Bloom’s response was to get back to her when they talked about pay discrepancies based on gender, even though only white people of various genders were already in that room. Her salary was greater than Floyd’s, a Black surgeon, top of his field, but she did not care about that.

Real life proof of this can also be seen in the hype when that white woman, ceo of Bumblr, became the first female billionaire. Yay. Feminism.

I know this sound bite of channeling the confidence of a mediocre white man isn’t supposed to be drawn to the conclusion that I have drawn it towards–and yet, as a white person myself, I feel this is the only logical place for it to end. The confidence of mediocre white men is what created the Joss Whedons of this world, and I know that I, as a white nonbinary lesbian, can just as easily become a Joss Whedon myself simply because I am a member of an oppressor class. Though I cannot change my whiteness, I can choose not to align myself with white masculinity, and I don’t think the confidence of a mediocre white man can be separated from said man’s whiteness.

Pretend You’re a Con Man

Like I said earlier, this is basically just imposter syndrome repackaged. Even if it wasn’t, I have to question if self deception or pretend is the right answer.

I do think there is a place for fake it until you make it, but I don’t think it should be the end all, be all. Imposter syndrome is created from legitimate issues regarding the self. This brings me once again to therapy, or self driven research to practice healthier and more positive thought processes.

What truly frustrates me about the con man approach is that it encourages hiding and putting away the Imposter.

The Imposter Inside You

When I thought I had IBS, I did a ton of research on it, trying to find ways to manage it. One site, I wish I remembered which one, posited that I had to address my situation mentally: you are going to be uncomfortable, don’t resist the discomfort and the pain.

I know this is hardly a new philosophy, but sitting on the toilet, gut in agony, it was new to me.

I’ve since attempted to extend this thought process towards the rest of my life.

The Imposter inside you needs kindness and compassion, not tricks designed to hand wave it away. What you need to tell the Imposter within you, who is also you the Writer, will depend on who you are, and what you need. But don’t hide it away under a grift or channel it into someone you don’t want to be.

I need to tell my imposter it’s okay I don’t write every day because I am busy managing an OCD flareup. That it’s okay I’m struggling editing my 90k word draft because I’ve never done it before. Of course I’m still struggling. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing. This is my first time, after all, but I will learn from it as long as I keep trying.

I tell my imposter I know they’re just the whisper of self doubt built up by years of everyone expecting perfection and great things from me during my childhood, instead of acknowledging that I was a child, and that sometimes I will fail, and that failure is natural, it’s okay, it’s the best way to learn. I still remember me as a child, dressed in my best dress because they wanted to look and feel nice, but became rigid with embarrassment while Mom yelled at them because they had made a mistake. Their brain looped with shame that they had failed while wearing their best dress, and why did they choose to wear it when they were so undeserving to look nice when they weren’t nice on the inside? Is it any surprise that that child secluded themselves in the caves of their heart, only to grow into the Imposter?

That kid deserved a hug, and so I hug my imposter, and tell them that it will be okay. We will get there together.

And I go to therapy.

Celebrating Wins

My writing journey has been slower than I would like (this is entirely my own fault — becoming an expert at self sabotage can do that), but one of the things I started doing was celebrating my writing wins in a really tangible way.

I decided to start celebrating whenever I sold something. DO NOT DO THIS. You can’t control if something sells. You can control finishing it, you can control submitting it, but you cannot control selling it. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t celebrate selling something (in fact, do!) but I do not recommend celebrating only this part of the journey.

There are so many specific parts of the journey worth celebrating: drafting, writing (even if it’s just a few words a day), finishing something, submitting something, and yes, selling something.

I don’t do well finding ways to celebrate smaller wins, such as successfully writing for a day or even submitting something (though I do need to figure out something that works well for me), but I did determine on a celebration ritual for finishing something that really, really speaks to me.

And that’s getting tattoos thematically appropriate for whatever I finished.

So let’s start!

The very first story I ever sold was “You An Accidental Astronaut.”

I signed the contract on November 1st, 2015. I got my celebratory tattoo on October 15th 2017. It is NEVER too late to celebrate.

The second story I sold was We Lilies of the Valley, which was accepted in November of 2016. Yes, those dates are right! I sold a second story before I even celebrated my first one!

And listen,

A facebook entry from November 15th 2016 from my personal facebook shows a screenshot from September 27th 2016 with the text, "Another rejection today. I'm wondering if I should submit to shimmer since they close in three days but I am not sure if it's their thing" The post from November says, "Excited to announce that one of my short stories was picked up by Shimmer magazine! https://www.shimmerzine.com. I'm very excited to work with them! They publish great pieces. Also, see the post I mentioned on sep 27. Don't self reject!"

You would think after a story like that I’d celebrate my win, right? No! I didn’t get my celebratory tattoo for We Lilies Of The Valley about midway through the Covid Pandemic.

So here are the tattoos:

A tattoo of an astronaut, reaching with their hand, is on the top shoulder. A watercolor effect of a galaxy in purples and teals serves as the background. Below the first astronaut, is a second astronaut reaching in a similar pose. Yellow flowers with purple centers are in the shape of a crescent moon are behind the astronaut. A faint background of purples and teals tie the two images together.

The top astronaut on the shoulder was for “You An Accidental Astronaut” by Brandon Bopko.

The astronaut below was for “We Lilies of the Valley” by Lindsey Ercanbrack. Yes, I know those aren’t lilies. I chose orchids over lilies because it fit the story better.

Also during the pandemic, I chose to get a tattoo for a short story that I loved but haven’t sold. This is about the time I shifted to celebrating finished drafts as opposed to sold drafts because I really, really loved this story, and I wanted to celebrate it.

(spiders cw)

A spider with purple and cold dangles from a web along the bicep. The web is attached to a flying saucer with teal lights on the shoulder.

This art is also done by Lindsey Ercanbrack.

(the colors on this are actually more vibrant than what is showing up here)

I actually probably need to change this short story into a novel or novella, at which point I’ll add to this tattoo with something thematically appropriate.

(gore cw)

In May of 2021, I got a tattoo to celebrate the completion of my zombie novella. I don’t actually have a solid date for when I completed this since it’s been “done” a few times now, but I started this story before I even sold my first short stories. So, it’s been more than five years, and each time I revisit it as I grow as a writer, I see things that need to be changed. But I think it’s for real done–after I put in those edits from the sensitivity read.

A skeleton hand holds a golf puck between two fingers. A zombie eye, with entrails of blood, sits on top of the puck.

This was also done by Lindsey Ercanbrack. The reference I gave her was designed by Micaela Brody (yes, it’s the image on the side of this blog!)

I’m very happy with these tattoos, and I do intend to continue the tradition. I need two more for the novel drafts I finished in late 2020, and I have ideas for a short series I intend to self publish.

Which writing wins do you celebrate, and how do you celebrate them?

Salt & Sage Books A Review

Sometime before 2016 I reached a point of fed-up-ness with The Walking Dead I decided to write my own zombie story for NaNoWriMo of that year. I wish I could remember the exact moment, but when I reviewed the TWD seasons, there were simply too many times I reached that point to accurately pin point a specific year, and I wasn’t using the NaNoWriMo site at the time.

Needless to say, I have been working on my zombie novella for five or more years. It used to be just a hair beneath 50k words. Then I edited it ruthlessly to a smidge under 40k words.

Around this time, #ownvoices was becoming popular and I took a long hard look at my story which stars an Iranian woman, a Jewish woman, two Black siblings, and a white woman who is the main character’s antagonist.

As a reminder, I am white.

I struggled for several years on whether or not I should tell this story or if I should edit everyone to be more or less ambiguous. People who know me might remember various self imposed deadlines to self publish the novella, only for each of them to pass by without it seeing the light of day.

I chose these characters for a reason. I had just gotten to know my brother’s girlfriend (now wife) when I first drafted the story, and she immigrated to the United States from Iran when she was young. She helped me with the Farsi that appears in the novella. I wanted a Jewish character because I was tired of Christianity saturating everything. It was also important to have two Black characters simply because the genre historically can be very antiblack, even though one of the earliest zombie films makes this precise point (Night of the Living Dead).

When crafting these characters, I did as much research as I could. I listened to bloggers share how their experiences are portrayed. Researched the no-nos. But I wanted to do more than avoid the easy pitfalls.

I extended this level of care to all the characters, but for my Jewish character, I specifically wanted her to be recognizable as Jewish without explicitly calling her Jewish in the text. The reason I did this is because I didn’t want to have an “easy out.” I didn’t want to fall in the trap of the main character observing her friend’s Jewishness and leaving it at that.

I was hesitant to do a sensitivity reading because I knew that a sensitivity editor can provide only their perspective, and I didn’t want to fall into the pitfall of looking at one sensitivity edit as the source of truth. My ideal scenario would have been multiple sensitivity edits for the various characters. Though my financial circumstance is more secure now than it was when I started this novella, I knew that to get the amount of perspective I needed for my novella would cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Eventually, I decided removing these characters’ identities for my own comfort was not the right course of action for me (I know there are some people who will disagree with me, and I’m okay with that). I would rather make a mistake trying than stay in a safe zone that would inevitably perpetuate a focus on whiteness, which was one of the things that had frustrated me about TWD in the first place. I decided I would go for a sensitivity edit.

I researched sensitivity readers. I wanted to procure an editor from an established company of some sort as opposed to finding someone on a social media site like twitter. My main reason is that I wanted to be protected if something went wrong.

I stumbled across Salt & Sage Books. My initial inquiry email was answered quickly, and even when I delayed a full month or so in my response, they were kind and welcoming, picking up as if I hadn’t nearly ghosted them (which hadn’t been my intention, but what is time in the middle of a pandemic). They guided me through the beginning process, I chose an editor who had listed “Jewish” as one of their top areas of expertise, and I waited excitedly for my sensitivity read to come back.

When it did, the sensitivity editor told me there was no Jewish content in my story, spent the majority of the time discussing the lesbian romance, and provided very constructive feedback regarding the depth and believability of the characters.

Worse, the character the editor had interpreted as Jewish wasn’t supposed to be the Jewish character in the novella.

I was shocked. Numb to my core. I hadn’t actually read the novella again before I sent it out and my entire brain was trying to remember what I HAD written. Surely, I had put Jewish content in there–hadn’t I done all that research?

I dived back into novella and found multiple specific examples that countered the conclusions the sensitivity editor had drawn. These were facts contained in one or two sentences throughout the novel, and would not have been subject to interpretation.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that writers who couldn’t work with editors got around since the circles are small, and I didn’t want that to happen, especially since I’m still trying to get my foot in the door. Originally my shock had been about my inability to write, but after I had gone through my novella, I began to wonder if my novella had not been read carefully by the editor I had chosen.

I decided to write Salt & Sage books with my feedback. I spent about three days drafting the email. Had a friend look it over to make sure I didn’t sound unreasonable.

I clicked “send” and I waited.

Salt & Sage responded back in several business days and ultimately agreed with me that I had not received a sensitivity read that met their QA levels. Their tone was validating, and when my original email raised questions regarding their QA processes, they assured me they did have one but they would need my permission to proceed. They offered me several methods of resolution, which included a partial refund or a chance to try again. I opted to try again, and they helped me find a second Sensitivity Reader, whom I asked to verify if their Jewish knowledge would match the Jewish character in my story. They assured me again this second read would be free of charge.

The level of effort on their part to make this right really struck me. When I said I didn’t feel comfortable choosing another reader who listed Jewishness in their list of expertise, and asked them to decide who would be best based on the Jewish elements in my story, they did take that effort on themselves. The amount of effort I, as a customer, had to take in rectifying the experience was as minimal as sending additional sample pages and a clarification on what I needed.

I’m very happy to say that when I received the results of the second sensitivity read, it was exactly the feedback I was looking for. The first read was about two pages long, with a minimal paragraph devoted to the lack of Jewish aspects in my story. The second read was about six pages long, each page devoted to the Jewish content in my story with feedback on what I did right, and feedback on where I was edging a little close to some negative stereotypes. I also got some line edits back on my actual manuscript! Exciting!

If you are looking for a place to find a sensitivity reader, I do recommend Salt & Sage. I need to do a sensitivity read for the remaining characters in my novel, and I’ll be going to them as long as they have an editor who matches my needs.

My main takeaway in this experience? Ask clarifying questions. Make sure the editor you choose (even if it’s not with Salt & Sage) has the knowledge to match your character. I had assumed any editor that listed “Jewish” in their areas of expertise would recognize the Jewish aspects of my story, simply because I, as a Gentile, had done the research, and surely any Jewish content would be recognizable from that alone. Don’t make that assumption. I believe my key issue was I did not specify I needed an editor with some experience in practicing Judaism, and that points to my own ignorance, and why I needed the sensitivity read in the first place.

My day job entails customer service. I know that no company will get it right 100% of the time. Expecting that will set people up for failure. Was I disappointed that my first sensitivity read was such a bad experience? Of course. But I deal with bad first experiences every day, and I wanted to give Salt & Sage a chance to make it right. I’m so glad I did because they went above and beyond to do so — and that says more about a company than when things go right.

Review of my experience written with permission from Salt & Sage.

Changes

March has been hard for me. The 17th was the WFH anniversary for my day job. As I’ve said before, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to preserve my health. As someone who is single, whose really only social network was at work, it did not come without its side effects.

I relapsed into old coping habits. Ice cream every weekend, sometimes multiple pints. As I told a therapist, I eat my feelings — every single one. When one is in a constant state of stress from both pandemic and work, that’s a lot of feelings to eat, and eat I did.

I had low energy, and did not keep up with my boxing. There really is something about boxing with a group of other people, but no way was I going to go back to my gym, where masks were optional and the ventilation poor.

I also returned to my other go-to coping mechanism: binge watching television.

None of these things made me happy. None of these things helped me achieve my goal of being a writer, despite drafting two novel length works in the second half of 2020. I’m still editing the first one, and the first quarter of 2021 is almost over.

After some reading and light research, I realized that my lack of sleep was probably a culprit. For the first three months of the pandemic, insomnia was the bane of my existence. I ended up taking over the counter sleep aids every day for about six or seven months in an effort to sleep. And it worked, I guess.

When I discovered the long term side effects of consistent benadryl usage, I stopped, terrified the insomnia would return. It didn’t, but I still wasn’t allowing myself to get my eight hours of sleep. Another coping mechanism? Staying up late will delay the next day, even though I knew from experience it would only make it worse.

Didn’t seem to matter.

With the first dose of the vaccine (had my high BMI to thank for that, I think), it kick started my brain into realizing that I had to make some changes.

The first change I’m finally doing after talking and talking about it? Seeing a therapist. I’m still in the early stages of that, so I don’t know how that will go or if I will need to keep looking for one with whom I’ll click. The main order of business is how to learn to healthily regulate and express my emotions without relying on my unhealthy, non goal achieving coping mechanisms.

The second change was uninstalling various apps on my phone–Tumblr to be specific. I caught myself scrolling Tumblr hours on my phone, delaying bed time, delaying getting up and going on a walk, delaying writing, delaying reading.

The third change I want to implement is limiting my tv watching to the weekends. I tried to do that this week, but did not succeed due to, you guessed it, day job work stress.

But a new week is coming, and I want to challenge myself again. No television Mon-Friday. With no commute, it is easy for me to split up my days: 8 hours sleep, 8.5 hours work, 2 hours exercise, 2 hours write, 2 hours read. That leaves an hour and a half for various chores, including a commute when the time comes (my commute is less than hour there and back).

As I am struggling to wean myself off these coping mechanisms (the tv binge addiction and internet addiction are real), I’ve had to put my writing and reading in the back seat. Reading/writing, due to lack of energy, has been a real struggle anyway in my adulthood. I am prioritizing my physical health because I’ve noticed that exercise is a pretty sure way to keep insomnia at bay.

My greatest priority will be sleep, and making sure I get those 8 hours every day.

My second priority will be weaning myself off those unhealthy coping mechanisms, which makes this my official accountability post.

What goals are you trying to achieve in the upcoming months?

The So-Called Feminism of a Billionaire

I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz about Whitney Wolfe Herd who has recently entered the ranks of a billionaire. A lot of it has been contextualized as feminism but is it really feminist to hoard that many resources so one can call one’s self a billionaire?

Wielding capitalism in order to break the billionaire glass ceiling isn’t feminism. It’s just a woman allying with oppressive forces.

It’s worse when articles headline with the adjective “self-made.” Nice big fuck you to all the employees who actually work at the company or developed the software or provided the customer service.

Wonder what she’s paying them.

Wandavision

I’ve been fairly ambivalent towards Wandavision. The main draw for me was the interesting premise of the sitcom conceit. It felt meta in a way that wouldn’t be quite so tiresome as some of the other meta works I’ve seen in the past. I was curious as to what the premise and setting would lead towards.

Also, the MCU has a habit of taking itself too seriously, and I was hoping for a break from that.

That said, I came in with reservations, the primary ones being Elizabeth Olsen’s casting and that I’m just not a fan of her romance with Vision.

Spoilers ahead.

Wandavision doesn’t attempt to correct the mistakes of its predecessors. Even though there is an attempt at diversity, most of the story still revolves around a white nuclear family with super powers. It becomes particularly troubling as it’s gradually revealed that Wanda’s spell has essentially mind controlled individuals in the town to become characters in her personal sitcom. This is uncomfortable on its own, but feels especially so when the primary nods to diversity are towards the side characters…whose real selves are being controlled by a white woman….who is a whitewashed version of her comic origins.

Though Monica Rambeau was introduced in the story, a character who came back after the Snap only to discover that her mother is dead and the world is entirely different, she consistently takes a back seat when her own grief could have played against or in concert with Wanda’s.

Monica is very empathetic to Wanda’s loss because of Monica’s own loss, but it’s always done in a way that is very safe. Wanda is allowed to be complicated in her grief, but Monica is only allowed to be supportive. The end of the season finale made it clear we’ll be seeing Monica again. I hope she’ll have more of the stage in the next story.

Another disappointing part of the season for me was that they introduced Agatha, previously a nosy neighbor, as an antagonistic witch. This choice allowed Wanda’s role as the Scarlet Witch to be revealed, but I’m sure there could have been a way to accomplish that without going for a witchy antagonist to defeat.

But defeated Agatha is, and Wanda needs to make a choice regarding what to do with her. Agatha’s ultimate fate is to be “locked up” as the neighbor role she played in Wanda’s spell.

There are other antagonists of course — Hayward, who took over SWORD after Monica’s mother. However, even though Monica was the primary voice against Hayward, even though he took a legacy that was supposed to have been hers, it is not even Monica who gets to resolve that.

Darcy gets that moment of resolve by ramming into him with her truck while making a smug remark about prison.

I did join an abolition book club last summer, so I have been thinking about the role of prisons not just in real life but also how it’s portrayed in the media. Though I would not expect anything less from the MCU, prison is set forward as an acceptable part of society. Wanda takes it a step further by essentially forcing Agatha to live a life, to be a self, that is not her own in Westview, which had been cast as its own kind of prison through the disturbing motif of, we can’t leave.

It wasn’t okay for Wanda to do what she did, even if it was unintentional, and the story really seems to shy away from just owning that Wanda did That. Seemed strange to me because a couple scenes back Wanda proclaimed her difference from Agatha because she didn’t know what she was doing, then knowingly and deliberately imprisons Agatha in her sitcom character. Again, it feels that the writers don’t really want to own that Wanda is someone who does that now. Wanda gets to be judge and enforcer of what Agatha has done, and it seems very telling that the narrative makes Wanda exempt. After the spell is well and truly lifted, she walks amongst the people she’s hurt but she does not face them.

I don’t want to take away from character complexities. It’s great to have complicated characters who make choices–good, wrong, in between–and to have them experience the results of those choices in every conceivable messy way.

But Wanda doesn’t actually have to live with what she’s done. She walks away from Westview the same way she entered it: alone & grieving — except this time, she knows she’s the Scarlet Witch. Monica tells her that the townsfolk will never know what she gave up for them — and it rings so hollow. We know this is a spell that Wanda cast on accident out of her grief. We know that the townsfolk were robbed of their sense of self to serve in Wanda’s story. We know that, due to the battle between the two witches, their town is destroyed.

The townsfolk were not even given a choice of what they were to give up, but Wanda already lost Vision. Vision was not real, her children were not real — and I am not denying that they were not real to Wanda, but to contextualize Wanda giving up a fantasy life in favor of the very real lives of the townsfolk, and that they would never realize that amount of sacrifice — feels like it’s putting Wanda on a moral high ground she did not actually earn. It feels as if the hate and anger or whatever emotion the townsfolk may be feeling towards Wanda is not justified because if they knew what she sacrificed they would not feel that way. We do not actually hear from the townsfolk after Wanda releases them.

Monica is not even allowed to have complicated feelings about what happened to her — especially when she’s first introduced to the viewers as Wanda’s Geraldine. Her hair is not depicted in her natural hairstyle when viewers are first introduced to Monica as Monica and when she’s pulled into Wanda’s spell. Surely Monica would have feelings about that? The only instance is when Monica pushes back against Wanda and says the only lies she’s spoken are the lies Wanda made her speak, and that’s not enough for me.

After being assured that Monica doesn’t hate her (???), Wanda leaves the town people to clean up the mess she and Agatha created. In isolation, she reads from Agatha’s book. While the townsfolks get to put the wreckage of their lives back together, Wanda gets to learn more about her powers. And honestly–if the writers would own that, I don’t think I would have a problem. But the natural fallout of her relationships is portrayed as a non issue. Even when Agatha breaks the spell in their minds, the townsfolk speak with one voice. They are not individuals as they plead with Wanda.

This framework frustrated me so much because in addition to abolition I am also reading a lot about restorative justice, and it just does not sit right when no one in the story — no one — even suggests that maybe Wanda should stick around and help clean up her mess. None of the townsfolk characters are allowed to say, help us, or on the other hand, are allowed to say, get the fuck out you’ve caused enough damage.

That’s a problem for me, but it’s also been a problem that has plagued much of the MCU, despite Stark’s taskforce or whatever that was introduced in one of the films, and then paved the way towards the Spider-Man villain (don’t get me started).

Honestly, the writers should have focused on Wanda, Monica, and Agatha as agents of grief. Their names rhyme that is practically reason enough. Agatha ultimately rings hollow as a character because all she wants is to take power from the undeserving. Okay. Can we get a little something more interesting? If each of these characters had been given major themes of grief to navigate and resolve with, against, and outside each other, driving and opposing needs, then the choices they made would have been more significant, along with a more significant fallout. This would have made the overall narrative stronger, more resounding, and would have given me less of a headache.