There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. Once enrolled, everybody finds their one “extra-curricular activity”, commit 4 years worth of free time towards it, and never speak or it again post-graduation. For some, it's heavy drinking and drug use. For others, “sexual experimentation”. For me, it was writing and directing plays. I figured I had my whole life to make campy sci-fi horror films with queer overtones. It couldn't hurt, I thought, to cut my teeth on that ancient live action medium, the disappointed grandfather of film and television, and if you can't see where this foreshadowing is headed, then let me cook you dinner sometime because I'm guessing you struggle with frozen dinner directions.

I wasn't terrible at it. In fact, I thought I was rather good as far as auteurs go, but I lacked the most important of all the academic artist's tools: the ability to compromise and negotiate with faculty and other people who's wants/needs were considered more important than mine. My first serious production, Conquering Neptune, a dadaist space opera about a team of astronauts who succumb to space dementia while marooned on the planet Neptune, was rejected three seperate times. This fact becomes exponentially more pathetic when you realize that during this back and forth “aproval process”, I already had a cast, props, a score which I had composed myself, and a band, all waiting on me, the writer, to get my head out of my ass long enough to bite the bullet and rewrite the script to the nice professor man's specs so they request the appropriate amount of time off from work. But I was not to be swayed. This was college. This was my time to be reckless and fight for my perceived “right” to be obnoxious and subversive. I may have been the fool for not seeing a futile battle when I saw it, but the even bigger fool turned out to assuming that college professors were above editing naughty language and sexual themes in the first place.

The inky red condescension lurking about the margins of my first “final draft” indicated that the script was rejected for the use of “problematic language”. Hopefully, this was a reference to a moment where a character called another a “f-g” or made a race joke. I say “hopefully” because the dramatis personnae included a martian character, who the others would give wacky nicknames to, being unable to pronounce his real name. There was underlining or crossing out or any singling of what exactly it was that offended them so. I can only speculate, though I try not to, because if I turn out to be wrong it only strengthens my resolve to be complicated and unyielding. At the time, I believed such language was essential to the script and integrity of the play: after all, it was a farcical congratulations to the triumph of bigotry and prejudice in the face of horrible odds: even stranded on a remote fucking planet millions of miles away from Earth, people will find a reason not to cooperate.

My play ends with everyone dying. There's no redemption to be had. And I think therein lied my problem: nobody learned a lesson about how harmful words can be. Gran Torino exists for no other purpose than to let Clint Eastwood show off just how many slurs for Asian people he knows, but because he learns that's it not okay to judge people based on their race in the end, and befriends the Hmong next door and dies to protect them, it's okay. It's okay to illicit giggles from doofy hipster kids who've never heard the word “g—k” spoken aloud as long as there's some lesson, even if only the character learns it as the audience remains blissfully ignorant. But when Quintin Tarantino uses the “n word” in Pulp Fiction, suddenly he's a racist. Garth Ennis' The Boys, a comic series about a gay slur-spouting sociopath who blackmails superheroes with evidence of their homosexual relationships, was nominated for a fucking GLAAD award, because Garth Ennis had the foresight to add a line or two about how it's more hypocritical to call people out on problematic language and then be prejudiced again than it is to just use problematic language. But you'd have to put your head next to an artillery cannon and deafen yourself to drown out the complaints The Sopranos got for its too realistic for comfort depiction of homophobia. At some point, we as a society must accept that we can't have our cake and send it to sensitivity too. Not everyone learns their lesson. Not everyone gets their comeuppence. Years and years after queers have their human rights restored, people will still go on gay activist websites and call everyone a pedophile. The sooner you come to terms with that fact, the sooner you will be able to really apply yourself to the fights you can win. I can't do anything about the radfem who calls me a mutilated man invading her space. I can, however, beat the shit out of the guy who throws a slurpee at me. Pick your battles.

Wow, I'm..disturbed... today. I guess having my play script rejected a few years ago has hit me harder than I thought.

After receiving the rejection, I took a couple days to tinker with the script, and found that I liked it just the way it was, played Dragon's Lair and drank Mountain Dew all night, and re-submitted it with the disclaimer that I would give my actors the choice whether to say the dialogue as is or to edit it to better fit their diverse sensibilities. I waited for response. During that time, I had to replace four actors because I could not give them a definite, concrete schedule. But it will all be worth it, I thought, when the faculty relents and gives me the artistic freedom I so deserve. Little did she know, said the narrator who occupies my brain but doesn't pay rent, what fuckery awaited her in the art department lobby.

My second script was rejected for depicting “violence against women”. The aforementioned “violence” was the end, in which the astronauts mistake the people of the rescue mission for aliens, and die in the ensuing ray gun melee. Everyone meets the same grisly, terrifying fate played for inappropriate laughter. If you can find something “misogynistic” about that, when many cultures believing that dying together is the ultimate expression and test of camraderie, then I would plead for you to write a book about how you managed to free up that much of your time to devote to such mental acrobatics. I struggle to find enough time to exercise every day, and I'm practically unemployed.

To say I didn't take the second rejection well is understating, frankly. To say that I told the professor in question that I felt he was clinging to a job in academia to make up for a lack in talent and artistic understanding would be the truth and sort of embarrassing for me to admit now. But that's what happened. I took particular offense to this because at that moment, in the same department, there was a slasher film being produced by a number of students. A golden age “rise from the dead and kill a bunch of teenage girls who'd rather be left alone to play Mystery Date or drink malt liquor at the beach or whatever the director thinks teenagers do on the weekend” slasher film.I fear I can't delve too deep into how films like Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp profit from the psychosexual desire to punish women deemed “impure” inherent in the patriarchy. I'm so late to the feminist critique of slasher films party that I'm being mistaken for a cab driver. This horse is dead, Jim. However, I feel I would be doing you a disservice by not pointing out how mainstream society's approval of films depicting women being brutally murdered (the Friday night showing of Freddy Vs Jason wasn't an all-male audience, I'm just saying) can provide you with a clue as to why anti-abortion activists are so prone to expressing themselves through violence and not frustrating, ultimately unfruitful facebook activisim like the rest of us “well adjusted” folk. Yet it is not beyond me to understand why the faculty would allow such a movie to be made on campus with school resources; it's a professionally and marketablly viable career path. Isn't that what college is really for? Teaching how you to get a job with all that education? There's definitely more of a market out there for people who want to simulate stab wounds on a woman's naked body than there is for schmucks like me trying to bring space opera to live theatre. The guy behind making that student film now produces a web series comedy, I think. I haven't kept in touch, though I should. He still owes 10 bucks for a pizza we split three years ago. Jerk.

I lobbied my case to the faculty, and even read excerpts from the slasher film script that I stole from one of the cast, but to no avail. It was explained to me in no uncertain terms that the women in my play must come to no harm. If there was a ray gun fight at the end, they had to live. I asked if he thought that safeguarding an audience from a depiction of a women being injured wasn't somehow perpetuating the stereotype of women being fragile, delicate toys that must not be allowed to play with the boys lest they be broken, thus undoing all of the work we as artists were putting forth to envision a world free of needless prejudice and stereotype. He replied that if I felt that strongly about striking a woman, that perhaps I should get into hardcore S&M. I replied that it's actually BDSM, and I already am. He told me to rewrite my script again, and submit it to another professor.

If I had owned a camera phone back then, all of that might have been worth it. But it wasn't. I stewed for another week or so, debating the merits of giving in. I lost more actors, more musicians. The remaining rehearsal time that I had available wasn't enough to rehearse, and I was performing unsatisfactorily in my other classes to the point that my mother was getting letters from the school warning me that I was failing two courses, despite the fact that I was in my 20's and paying for college on my own. Moral of the story: if your professor asks for your address on the first day of class, give them your friend's dorm room number.

By the time I submitted it for the third (and hopefully) final time, I didn't care anymore. I knew the play was unperformable in the time and resource constraints given to me, and the only thing keeping me from a nervous breakdown was the hope that someone, at some point in this approval process, would find it in their busy busy day to tell me that my writing was good. If nobody was to ever see this performed, the least they could do is give me the peace of mind of knowing it was good enough to show in the first place.

My script was rejected for the third and final time, not because of language or violence against women, but for a scene in which one of the astronauts pleasures themselves with their ray gun. To this day I can't stand what was funnier: the look on his face when he said this, or the fact that I had already forgotten that such a scene took place, because throughout this whole story, AT NO POINT DID I MAKE A SINGLE FUCKING REWRITE TO THE SCRIPT.

I submitted the same script to the same team of professors, and each time, I received a different complaint, with no mention of previous grievances. This could be, of course, because I gave them fresh, clean copies each time, with no evidence of prior critiques. But I try to write that off as a fool's deduction, for if I was led to believe that the people tasked with my education were that absent-minded, I would have to go back to school and do it all over again out of fear that I had been taught wrong by accident.

That year and every after I cheered at pride rallies and let friends bum gum off me at gender equality workshops. I wrote essays on gender and met prominent people in the LGBT community who I pretend to know of or have read about because I think it makes me seem more interesting to be so aloof and oblique. All in hopes that one day, I will have accrued enough cred to earn the right to depict a woman being marooned on a distant planet without being labeled misogynist or homophobic. But alas, years later my bag is no heavier with tokens than before. Why, thou ask? Is it perhaps because the system of “see no evil, hear no evil” intended to blindfold society to its own inequities more often than not silences the tolerant and not the bigot? Or is it because my zest for campy horror and science fiction enables me to express a hatred and desire to cause women and queers harm that I wasn't even aware of? Make sense, world. Make. Sense.

Three years have passed since that winter of the astronaut pleasing herself with a ray gun. I am troubled not by actions of my past, but the indecision that awaits me in the future. Namely, I'm adapting Conuering Neptune for podcast, and pondering if it the slight betrayal of providing some sort of lesson or moral to my story will be worth the comfort of knowing that nobody would suspect me of phobia. Also, if true and unconditional equality of gender will mark the end of slasher films or, conversely, if a decrease in popularity or public approval of misogynistic slasher films will have any effect or influence on violence perpetrated against women in the meatspace. And finally, am I a woman dreaming she is a javelin thrower, or a javelin thrower dreaming they are a woman?

The answers to these questions (and many more, like “why did I wake up with an empty wine bottle on my pillow”) will have to wait until after I pick out my outfit for WonderCon.

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