This podcast transcript was made by hand by Garlic Knitter, purveyor of fine traditionally sourced transcripts. Many thanks.
Here are the books we discuss:
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast! I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me this week is Carrie Sessarego, and if you’ve been saying SessaREEgo, like me, it turns out we’re wrong.
Carrie and I have a very wide-reaching conversation in which we talk about the books we love to re-read, the universes that we love, and also tree houses and movies.
The music that you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater. I’ll have information at the end of the podcast about who this is.
And this podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of Meljean Brook’s all-new e-serial, The Kraken King, a sexy steampunk adventure. First installment will be available April 15th, and the subtitle of the first installment is The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster, and I have a feeling like eight of you just stopped what you were doing and grabbed a pen so you could write that down. It’s like a catnip signal: Hoohoo hoo, hm, someone’s catnip has been triggered! So I hope if you pick that up, you will let me know how you liked it.
And now, on with the podcast!
Sarah: Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself? Tell everybody who you are!
Carrie: Okay, cool! My name is Carrie Sessarego, Carrie S. on Smart Bitches.
Sarah: I have been saying your last name wrong! SesSARego?
Carrie: Yeah, no one can say my last name.
Sarah: Sessarego. Is that, is that Italian?
Carrie: Yes! So, it should be SessaREYgo, and when I was in college, I decided I would tell everyone that that was how to say it, ‘cause –
Sarah: Oh, that must have been fun!
Carrie: It, it lasted 48 hours, and then I gave up –
Carrie: – because I –
Sarah: [Laughs more]
Carrie: Yeah, so, yeah, that’s, that’s, pronunciation is a victim of immigration.
Sarah: Yes, yes it is.
Sarah: So it’s Carrie Sessarego.
Sarah: Good to know! I should have cleared that up long ago. Anyway! Continue!
Carrie: So I do the geeky reviews on Smart Bitches, which I really love doing, and I have my own blog, Geek Girl in Love, and I just did my very first book!
Carrie: Woo! Pride, Prejudice and Popcorn, and I just finished the edits on my second book, which is called Love at Stake: Romance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Sarah: Oh, my.
Sarah: There’s plenty to talk about there. So what are you talking about in your book?
Carrie: My main thing in that book is that there’s a lot of relationships in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where fans are like, oh, that relationship is perfect! Of course they’re meant to be! But there’s also some where we go, what on earth were they thinking? Riley? I mean, come on. So when I looked at it by season, I realized that every season has a theme, and every romantic relationship moves things towards that theme. It reinforces that theme. Like with Buffy and Riley, poor Riley, nobody likes Riley, and that’s because Riley is completely wrong for Buffy, but Riley is perfect as a partner to illustrate the theme of season four, which is about trying new things and trying to change who you are and feeling like you’re left out and feeling like you’re out of place, so that you can see all that paralleled through her romance.
Sarah: Of course.
Carrie: So I go through every season and I try to work out all of the connections.
Sarah: I was always bummed that Seth Green left the series and his character wasn’t able to continue, because I loved him so much in that show. His role was just – it was, he was basically playing himself, now that I’ve seen a bunch of interviews with him, but I’m so sad that his role ended when it did.
Carrie: He had a pretty funny interview where he talked about why he left, ‘cause I was heartbroken that he left, and I thought they did a terrible job of writing him out. Like, that whole –
Sarah: Oh, yeah!
Carrie: It’s just like – it was, it was totally obvious that, like, the writer’s room just panicked, and they’re like, quick, invent a conflict suddenly! you know, and I just hated that. But he said in one interview that the problem with being a regular on that kind of show is that you have to go on set for, like, 14 to 16 hours a day, waiting and waiting and waiting for your one line, which is, “I think we should listen to Buffy.”
Sarah: Yeah, I can see where that would get tiresome.
Carrie: Yeah. And I have to say that I loved Tara, and in my dreams, Willow and Tara and Oz have a little, you know, a nice group marriage thing going on.
Sarah: That is a fanfic somewhere. Have you found it?
Carrie: Oh, I’m sure that it is. I am sure that there is fanfic of that, but I haven’t gone looking for it.
Carrie: Maybe I should write it, and that’s how I’ll make my millions. Yeah.
Sarah: Yes. See, the trick is, what you have to do is write a fanfic about a terribly popular couple –
Sarah: – and thinly disguise who it is –
Sarah: – add a lot of sex and crap, and profit! Very simple process!
Carrie: I have heard that works really well!
Sarah: Oh, it, it really does seem to.
Carrie: Yeah! Yeah.
Sarah: I was asked for recommendations this week by a reader who wanted to know if I could recommend some adventure romance, which is something that I like. It’s sort of a very close cousin to romantic suspense, which I don’t like, but with, with romantic adventure, there isn’t a lot of entrails, there aren’t a lot of children in peril or children being harmed for the emotional shock value. It’s more of a really, really fast road trip with a very specific stake that they’re trying to achieve, and I really like adventure romance, but this reader was also saying, but if you could find some lesbian adventure romance, that would just be amazing! And I was like, well, I know of the Cathy Pegau book. I’m not sure that counts as adventure, so I went online to see if I could find what was being recommended along with the Cathy Pegau book that you read.
Sarah: There is a, there is a book. It’s a fanfic, and it’s, I can’t even remember the title, because I don’t remember titles, because this is my problem, but it is basically –
Sarah: – it is contemporary Xena and Gabrielle fanfic with a hurricane.
Sarah: And the cover is a palm tree, so all I can think of is, oh, yeah, the Xena/Gabrielle fanfic with the tree!
Sarah: Adventure lesbians in a tree. This is how I’m going to make my money. Who wouldn’t want to read adventure lesbians in a tree?
Carrie: Right, yeah, I would totally read that.
Carrie: Yeah. And they could, like, build a tree house, and you know, like, like, Xena and Gabrielle and the Buffy show, they had sort of a symbiotic thing going on, and the two shows sometimes would refer to each other –
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Carrie: – so I think we could expand this. I think there could be, like, a whole network of tree houses. So there could be, like, Xena and Gabrielle are, like, one couple, and then Willow and Oz and Tara are another little tree house home –
Carrie: Right? I mean, I think you could work with this!
Sarah: Somewhere –
Sarah: Somewhere a film producer is listening to this and has just driven off the road while searching for a pen and pencil to write down the tree houses of love.
Carrie: Right. Ooh, and it could be a musical! I mean, they’ve already written it, and they could be all [sings], there’s a place –
Carrie: – somewhere a place – [normal voice] I think we’ve got it, yeah. That would sound better if I didn’t have a cold. And it wasn’t nine in the morning where I am. But yeah! Like, I, I think we need to do this! Absolutely.
Sarah: I mean, there is not enough tree house romance to begin with – in any genre!
Carrie: That’s true!
Sarah: You know, there’s not enough tree houses.
Carrie: I think that that’s pretty much a true statement no matter what you add on to it. There’s not enough tree house adventure, there’s not enough tree house romance, there’s just not enough tree houses.
Sarah: It’s true. There’s just not enough, and there should be more.
Carrie: Yeah, George of the Jungle has a good tree house.
Carrie: Who would not want to live in that tree house? It’s, it’s, it’s the bomb! It’s the best.
Sarah: Now, I’m wondering, if there’s tree house romance, would this have to be, like, dystopian apocalypse, where, you know, people have to live in the trees for a reason? What viable reason could there be for a couple to live in a tree?
Sarah: Oh, good point, zombies can’t climb trees.
Carrie: Zombies can’t climb trees! In fact, they, they, the whole idea, like, platform houses is a big post-zombie-apocalypse thing. But, but then they’re not, they’re usually, because it’s apocalypse, they’re usually not, like, cushy tree houses. But they could be! In fact, in, in the book version of World War Z, the, the good version, they’re, they, like, basically recreate, like, this nice little suburb town, but they do it all up on stilts.
Sarah: Ha ha! See?
Carrie: Right, so –
Sarah: There’s potential here!
Carrie: I mean, technically, those aren’t tree houses. They’re not built in trees.
Sarah: Right, technically.
Carrie: But The Forest of Hands and Teeth had a lot of tree houses, because they lived in this little village, and so the village, like, they built stuff up on stilts, and some of the stuff, I think, was actually in trees.
Sarah: You know, I am telling you, I think that you and I are now going to see an enormous uptick in the idea of tree house romances.
Carrie: Well, and they should feel free to send the check for, you know, the –
Sarah: The percentage of royalties?
Carrie: There’s some kind of percentage of royalties we get from that, right?
Sarah: Probably? I hope so.
Carrie: Right! Yeah, so I’d, I’d appreciated that, yeah.
Sarah: Hey, yeah. And, and now it’s going to be like the, the shorthand, instead of, you know, and they fight crime, is in a tree.
Carrie: In a tree, yeah, yeah.
Sarah: Vampire, vampire, what do you call those guys that cut up the cadavers for the city, mortificial – Coroner, coroner is the word I’m looking for! Vampire coroner in a tree.
Carrie: In a tree!
Carrie: Everything’s better with trees.
Carrie: You know, it’s like everything’s better with sharks. Everything’s better with trees.
Sarah: Of course!
Sarah: I love how we’ve solved all of publishing’s problems with revenue in, like, 10 minutes.
Carrie: Yeah, yeah!
Sarah: We’ve saved some trees.
Carrie: You know, and then I think, gosh, I don’t know if I can really write fiction, and then I’m like, my God, we’ve just written it now!
Sarah: It’s in a tree! Just, just – Transcribed, this will be a book!
Carrie: Once upon a time, there were these people –
Together: – in a tree.
Carrie: I hope everyone has, like, my mailing address so that the checks can find me easily, and that’s then done.
Sarah: Of course, and, and the dump truck of money will back right up to your porch –
Sarah: – and drop it.
Carrie: I may have to, like, invest in tax shelters. Ooh! Which I could do in a tree!
Sarah: [Laughs] A tree that totally tax shelters!
Carrie: [Laughs] Because everything’s better in a tree. We’ve established that, yeah.
Sarah: Totally! All right, well. Now many authors have turned off the podcast so that they can go write something in a tree.
Sarah: Like, next year, there’s going to be, like, a whole tree category in the DABWAHA.
Carrie: Okay, well, I have two words for you authors: Mosquito netting.
Carrie: Like, there’s a downside to trees.
Sarah: Yes, this is true, and I’m allergic to everything that bites –
Sarah: – so I’m, I’m all about mosquito nets and bug spray.
Carrie: Citronella candles provide ambience and, you know, other helpful things. You know who needs to have the tree houses – [laughs] – Remember that person who did the dinosaur erotica?
Sarah: Oh, yes, Ravished by the Triceratops.
Carrie: Well, so, so, the humans –
Sarah: Need to get up in the tree.
Carrie: – have to live, see, in trees!
Sarah: Yes, but if they live in the tree, they won’t get ravished, and there won’t be any book.
Carrie: Well, no, they come down to forage, and then they get ravished, but at night they go sleep –
Sarah: Yes, forage, fornicate, tree, yeah.
Carrie: Right. You know. Why did I even go there? [Laughs]
Sarah: Because once you’ve seen Ravished by the, or ravaged or whatever it was, by the Triceratops, you can’t un-see it.
Carrie: You can’t.
Sarah: It’s like a permanent element of your brain. It’s like when you learn to cook and you learn how to do a particular technique or use a particular spice, you –
Sarah: – you just gravitate towards it, because it is so useful.
Sarah: This is your brain on triceratops.
Carrie: Apparently, there’s a whole ‘nother line about Bigfoot.
Sarah: Yes, there’s Yeti and Bigfoot, and then Redheadedgirl actually is on Twitter right now yelling at someone who has alerted the universe to Loch Ness monster erotica.
Sarah: He, I don’t think he can be in a tree.
Sarah: Gravity would make that very difficult.
Carrie: But you could live in a tree. Well, I mean, screw the tree house, you’re at Loch Ness, you live in the castle. I mean, that’s kind of a given.
Sarah: Maybe your castle could be in a tree.
Sarah: Yes, castles in a tree. [Laughs]
Carrie: I think this is going to be, like, the wave of the future.
Sarah: Well, of course.
Carrie: Just remember the mosquito netting, authors. You heard it here first.
Sarah: Yes, mosquito nettings and bug spray, for the love of God!
Carrie: Yeah. No spiders.
Sarah: [Laughs] No, no, thank you. So, what are the books that led you to reading romance?
Carrie: Well, actually, one of the big things that led me to reading romance was your site, but I can’t remember how I found it. I mean, I, I read a lot of things that now I think of as romance but that weren’t shelved as romance, so, like, you know, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I read some things like that, but I read Bridget Jones’s Diary, which is not romance, but I really liked it. I think it’s hilarious. I thought, oh, well, okay – this was like when chick-lit was just coming out, and I thought, well, maybe I like chick-lit, because I like this book, so I’ll try a couple other things that are shelved as chick-lit, ‘cause this book was really funny. Well, somehow that led me to – it turned out that I don’t like chick-lit. I also don’t like the, the expression “chick-lit,” and so that’s, like, a whole ‘nother rant.
Sarah: I’m not a fan of it either.
Carrie: Right. There are many directions I could go from this point in the conversation, but since your question was how I found romance, I’ll, I’ll follow that trail, which was that while I was trying to find out if I liked anything else that was on the same shelf as Bridget Jones’s Diary, I found Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, and that was it. Like, I’m crazy about that book. I love that book. So then I had to read everything by her, and then somehow in the course of that, I don’t know if I was just, like, Googling good romance or what, but when I found your site and I realized that romance could be good, like, it could be smart and it could be funny and it could be literate and it could be all these other great things, you know, that was it.
Sarah: So what are the books that you most frequently re-read?
Carrie: Well, I read Bet Me a lot. And Bet Me is one of those books that, like, I’ll just, like, pick up and grab if I have, like, 30 seconds to read something, and I’ll go, oh, I’m going to read the dinner party scene from Bet Me. I re-read Jennifer Crusie, like, all the time. I have – [laughs] I’m such a nutbag. So, I have this little pantry, you know, like – I live in California, so we’re supposed to have, like, our emergency supply –
Sarah: Of course, yeah.
Carrie: Right, so I have a copy of Bet Me with the food and the water, because, you know, you have to have something to read, right? In the rubble? But what if I’m trapped for days? You know, so, I’ve got, like, Bet Me and Jane Eyre and The Hobbit, and if I have to rebuild Western civilization, I figure I can do it with, with, with that. And I have a bunch of Jennifer Crusie books in the trunk of my car, because sometimes you, like, have a flat tire and you have to wait, you know, for AAA, and you have to have something to read!
Sarah: Oh, of course.
Carrie: Right! And you don’t want anything heavy, ‘cause you’re stressing out, you know, about your tire, so yeah. So, I re-read Jennifer Crusie a lot. I have a pretty big list of things that I read a lot. I read Jane Eyre a lot. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I probably read that about once a year.
Sarah: Do you notice something different in the books when you re-read them? Like, I re-, recently re-read Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and John Mayer, and – John Mayer? Bob Mayer! John Mayer sings songs –
Carrie: Bob Mayer.
Sarah: – Bob Mayer writes words. There’s two different Mayers, clearly.
Sarah: Wow. My brain is also in a tree. It was interesting, because the first time I read it, I was just completely in love with it, and I remembered the specifics of so many scenes, especially all the scenes in which Agnes is cooking, because-
Sarah: – the food preparation is described in a way that, it fits the scene, it’s not gratuitous, but I remember the sequence of what she was doing while something was happening, and the food was tied so closely to emotion that I remembered so much of it, and also wanted to eat pancakes.
Sarah: But when I re-read it, I noticed so many different things, and there were some parts that were just as good and other parts that just didn’t work for me anymore, and I was fascinated by how much I saw differently when I re-read it. If you re-read it so often, and on a regular basis, do you notice something different every time, or is it sort of like visiting something that’s very familiar and awesome every time you visit?
Carrie: Well, it’s kind of both. It’s like, yes, it’s very familiar and it’s very awesome, but also, there’s this, also this one new thing. And it’s, I notice it – sometimes with Jennifer Crusie books, especially when she started trying break out of doing just romance, a lot of the books, like, that she wrote, like, with Bob Mayer, I didn’t like so much the first time I read them, because I expected something different in terms of tone, so when I read it again and I kind of knew what it was going to be like, then I could appreciate it more, and I liked it more. There’s a lot of books that I started reading really, really young. Like, I mentioned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was, like, 12. So when I read it now as a – ahem – middle-aged adult, it’s, it’s very different experience than reading it at 12. I bring other things to the book, I have a bigger context for what’s happening in the book, my thoughts about politics and history and feminism have changed since I was 12, thank goodness, and –
Sarah: You don’t say.
Carrie: Well, yeah.
Carrie: I, I admit, I’ve actually grown. So, you know – [coughs]
Sarah: I’d like to think I have. I know exactly what you mean.
Carrie: Excuse me. So, so, yeah. So, like, that definitely is a big thing for me, that a lot of times my perspective on the world around me has changed since the last time I read the book. Or this stuff will come up that I’m like, oh, that’s really funny, and somehow I never noticed it. I just had to read, re-read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and there’s a part where a character says, what are you doing? And the response is, oh, pottering, pottering. Well, I’d read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, like, 147 million times, but for some reason, this time, on this reading, that was the, like, the funniest line I had ever heard in my whole entire life.
Carrie: And I’ve used that line, like, every day since then.
Carrie: And I don’t know why on this time around that particular line got me. It was a different line that got me last time, so it’s, you know, I definitely notice new stuff.
Sarah: Maybe your autobiography will be Pottering in a Tree.
Carrie: In a tree, yeah. By the ocean, ‘cause everything is better with ocean, too.
Sarah: What are the favorite worlds that you visited in your books? ‘Cause you read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, which is not a genre that has really ever grabbed my interest. I’m, I understand what’s awesome about it for the people that like it, but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite do the same things for my brain. What are the worlds that you’ve most enjoyed visiting in the books that you’ve read?
Carrie: Like, places I would like to hang out in?
Sarah: Either. Fascinating but get me the hell out of here or sure, I’ll move in next week.
Carrie: Well, Middle Earth, which, you know, you can go to New Zealand in real life, but I, but I haven’t, but I would like to. I mean, Middle Earth is the big one. You know, what’s funny about me and science fiction is, like, like, this very moment is the first time I’ve ever used Skype. I’m not really that into technology, so some science fiction worl-, a lot of science fiction worlds to me are really fascinating to, to watch, but I don’t feel like I would have a place there. I don’t really want to go there. The world of Firefly is not necessarily a world I would want to live in, a universe that I would want to live in, but it’s a universe that I could picture myself living in, because Firefly allows for people to be imperfect. I feel like I could go there. That’s a place I go a lot. For me, it’s less about the location and more about the characters. I don’t feel particularly drawn to Sunnydale, but the people in Buffy are, like, you know, I, I won’t be surprised if I run into Oz at the grocery store. I would be a little surprised, but not as much as you would think, ‘cause I would be like, well, of course he’s this real guy.
Sarah: Of course!
Carrie: Of course I would run into him, and then we’d all go hang out, like, I know them, they’re my friends. Like, it’s more like I go to groups of people than to a place.
Sarah: Jane and I were recording a podcast where we were talking about the world in Shannon Stacey’s contemporaries and how rural New Hampshire and rural Maine are so well drawn that we fully believe there’s a bunch of Kowalskis in both places, and if we go to those states, we’ll meet them, ‘cause they’re there.
Carrie: Yeah. Oh, another place that’s really real for me is the, the World of Two Moons in Elfquest, and, and that’s also another place where the, the place itself, the setting feels really real.
Carrie: And I, like – and, and there’s trees, and the elves sleep in the trees. There you go, we’re back to trees. It’s a theme.
Sarah: So, worlds with trees, all good.
Carrie: Yeah. Trees are a plus.
Sarah: Of course.
Carrie: So, yeah, so, like, so I could totally, like, picture going there. And I have no desire to live in the world of Saga, which is totally, you know, devastated by war and messed up –
Carrie: – but it’s a fascinating place to visit, because it’s so rich, and there’s so much happening off the page, and it’s all so insane, like, you know, you kind of wonder, well, if I went over here, what would I see? You know, you kind of feel like if you just peek up above the cover of the book while you’re reading it, you might see, like, a whole ‘nother scene that’s not even in the book just playing out, because it’s, it’s obviously a universe that extends beyond the story that’s being told.
Sarah: Of course. But are they in a tree?
Carrie: There are – ooh, ooh, ooh!
Carrie: They have another thing. I am not kidding. They have a spaceship that is like a tree spaceship. They actually say the line, you’re going to try to ram that missile with a plant?
Carrie: Yeah. That’s an actual line, and it makes total, logical sense in the context –
Sarah: Well, of course it does!
Carrie: – of the comic.
Sarah: What books or authors have you discovered recently that you wish more people would read? What books are you really excited about?
Carrie: Ohhh! Okay, I just read a book called Static, and now I can’t remember the name of the author, but I wrote a review, so when you publish it, the name of the author will be there and everyone will know about it. And Static is this little, you know, eBook novella. I can’t remember if it’s a novella or a short novel, but it’s not super long, so it’s one of those things that I think kind of flies under the radar, but it was a really fascinating look at gender issues, and I like finding things like that that I think maybe not a lot of people know about. Oh, and I just finished reading a little bit of the comic Sex Criminals, and that was one where I just want to, like, run around going, you have no idea how good this is!
Carrie: Like, oh, my gosh, it is so good. And that is a comic book series –
Carrie: – and, yeah, and in fact, April is kind of a big month, because April has the, another collected edition of Saga coming out, and it has a collected edition of Sex Criminals, so I can catch up, because now I’m behind, so now I don’t know how things are going. I only read the first three issues of the comic. But yeah, like, that was one where I had that feeling like, sometimes you read a book, and you’re like, oh, yeah, I’ll, I’ll write a positive review, this is good. And sometimes you read something, and you’re just really, like, I just want to start grabbing people and going, but read this right now!
Sarah: [Laughs] When I was in Australia last year, one of the other international guests was Matt Fraction, and I was on a panel with him, and I was, I was on a panel with Matt Fraction and a Scottish author whose name has completely flown out of my brain and Justine Larbalestier, and Justine Larbalestier’s married to Scott Westerfeld, so we’re all hanging out before the panel, and I’m sitting here, like, trying to very low-key crap my pants, because these are all really impressive writers, oh, my God! Matt Fraction is a really cool dude. He’s a really cool dude, and I’m so curious about this series, because you have said how, how fascinating and challenging it is and how it sort of, like, it gives you what I call Brain Jiffy Pop, when your brain just sort of goes pf-pf-pf-pf-pf-pf-pf-pf-pf with all these ideas. I love Brain Jiffy Pop.
Carrie: Oh, yeah. That’s a cool expression; I like that. Yeah.
Sarah: Brain Jiffy Pop? Oh, yeah.
Carrie: Yeah. You know, especially because the first is – if you’re not really into science fiction, I think that you would still like the first few issues of Sex Criminals. I don’t know where they’re going to go with the story, and it clearly has all kinds of, like, crazy science fictional stuff that’s going to come up –
Carrie: – but the first three issues really deal a lot with back story, and they deal a lot with how people discover their sexuality in a way that’s not exploitative. It’s, it’s, you know – and one thing that Matt Fraction said in an interview was that when they drew the, the main female character, whose name suddenly escapes me, they purposely based her on a friend so that they wouldn’t have some kind of temptation to go for some sort of –
Carrie: – titillation. They – and it’s not that there’s not sexy times in the story –
Carrie: – and that they don’t embrace the joy of sex, but they didn’t want to just go for, like, you know, here’s her boobs. You know –
Carrie: They wanted to go for, she’s a person, and this person goes through this experience and is influenced in these ways, and these are how she thinks about things. I mean, they did a really, really good job with that. And yeah, I, I haven’t met him, but I read some interviews and they, both of the guys – I can’t remember the other guy’s name now. I can never remember names, but they both seem really, really cool to, like, hang out with.
Sarah: There is a really good episode of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour at NPR, and in the episode that was released on, the Friday, March 14th episode, they talk about nudity, and one of the points that Linda Holmes makes is there’s no male equivalent to the boob. So, like, everyone has genitals in the front, which are not shown –
Sarah: – and everyone has a butt, and, you know, as they pointed out, you’ll see butts on primetime television. I remember butts all over NYPD Blue.
Sarah: I think I saw Jimmy Smits’s butt more times than I saw my husband’s butt that year.
Sarah: He was, his butt was all over NYPD Blue. It was just nothing but Smits butt –
Sarah: – but there is no male equivalent to breasts, and that is sort of a line and a hurdle that female actresses have to deal with that male actresses don’t, because who the hell cares if a guy has his shirt off? It’s totally fine! No one’s going to stare, whereas breasts are these things that you’re supposed to cover up, and they were pointing out how you can tell, particularly in some HBO and cable dramas where they have a lot more leeway with nudity that there’s no reason for the female actress to be topless except for titillation.
Sarah: Whereas the male actors have the choice not to do a nudity scene and can say, because of who they are, don’t want to do it, and that’s fine, the female actress has to weigh her decision about nudity against her career because it’s much more expected that she show up and show her breasts. Whereas, if you look at something like Girls, which I have never seen but have read a lot about –
Sarah: – the nudity is doing something totally different some of the time, and it’s not always about portraying titillation and physical perfection. It’s nudity communicating intimacy and nudity communicating a comfort level with friends and things like that.
Sarah: It’s fascinating because one of the things that I, like, even today, we’re talking on, on Smart Bitches, we’re talking about all of the male chests and how extremely muscular they are, and they make me tired just looking at them –
Sarah: We see a lot of male chest, and we see a lot of boobs or sides of boobs or boobs in tank tops on covers –
Sarah: – but we see an enormous amount – no pun intended – of male chest.
Sarah: But it is overtly sexualized, all this chest.
Sarah: And I’m trying to think, is there another place where male chest is as sexualized as on a romance cover? Like, on the romance cover, that’s the male boobs. And he doesn’t even have a face, he’s got a chin and some nipples and some abs and a waistline, and we’re done now.
Carrie: Yeah, the abs are, like, a big thing.
Sarah: Maybe, maybe abs are boobs. [Laughs]
Carrie: One thing where it comes up a lot is, like, if you look at superhero movies now. If you think about, like, when Christopher Reeve did Superman, right? He was fit, he was athletic, he was great, but if you compare his physique to Henry Cavill? Cavill? [trying different pronunciations] I don’t know.
Sarah: Cavill? Cavill? No idea.
Carrie: That guy.
Carrie: Like, that man is, like, sculpted out of Silly Putty, and I –
Carrie: – and like, I love the, I love the Marvel movies, right? So, like, in the Marvel movies, I worry about what message we’re sending boys now, because it hasn’t gotten better for women, okay. So, Scarlett Johansson still has to fit into the catsuit, which she had to be, for Avengers, she had to be sewn into, and she said every time she had to pick up her leg more than a couple degrees, all the inseams would rip –
Carrie: – and they’d have to call costuming to sew her back in.
Carrie: So we, we haven’t moved ahead there –
Sarah: Nope, sure haven’t.
Carrie: – but for men, like, they can’t do the Christopher Reeve thing anymore. They have to brutalize their bodies in a way that’s, it’s, it’s not like they’re fit; they’re not healthy. They have this extremely artificial diet and extremely artificial workout plan so that they can have the Thor physique and the Captain America physique –
Sarah: And the hypertrophied muscles.
Carrie: The hypertrophy muscle, the lot of bulk, and I, I, I worry about that.
Sarah: You need to listen to this podcast, because one of the things that they talk about in that episode – which I listen to when I walk the dogs, which is embarrassing when you’re doubled over in the middle of the street laughing, so I –
Sarah: – I presume that happens to people with our podcast, too, but, yeah, it happens to me when I’m listening – The, one of the other panelists is Glen Weldon, who wrote the biography of Superman that you read –
Carrie: Ooh, yeah, yeah!
Sarah: – and he was pointing out that when he was coming of age – and he’s a little bit older than I am. I’m 38; I think he’s in his later 40s, I think – he was saying that then, male objectivity started to show up, and the presentation of a perfect male muscular physique became more and more prominent, and if you look at how male physique has become more and more specific, it’s this style of abs, it’s this style of the muscle that runs from your hip to your groin, which is called the Adonis belt, but that’s not its actual name. You have to have this kind of deltoid definition –
Sarah: – and this kind of biceps definition. Like, in what profession, other than acting, bodybuilding, personal training, and modeling, does that physique happen?
Sarah: Like, I’m, I know there must be one, but I don’t know what it is. [Laughs] Oh, romance cover model! He’s got to have that too!
Carrie: There really isn’t! I mean, I think there are ways to be bulky, and I think there are ways to be lean, but the specific type of cut, cut yet bulky figure that you see on, like, Thor –
Carrie: He has a very specific diet plan and very specific regimen. It was, it’s interesting if you listen to somebody like – I got to hear several male stars talk about their superhero bodies, and Christian Bale talked about his body transformations, ‘cause he’s really famous for doing all this crazy stuff, and he actually did a, a, more of a similar look for that when he played Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, because he said that that character worked out out of narcissism, worked out to create a body that looked a certain way, regardless of functionality. He was playing, and Patrick Bateman is, you know, this psycho guy who’s a, I think he’s a stockbroker or something, so he doesn’t need to be all cut and ripped; he’s just really narcissistic and vain. When he bulked out to play Batman, he went in a totally different direction, because he said Batman doesn’t care how he looks. Batman cares about functionality.
Carrie: And it’s interesting, ‘cause I’ve heard him and Liev Schreiber and a couple other guys talking to, like, Terry Gross on NPR, and she’ll always ask them, are you going to maintain this physique when you’re done filming?
Sarah: And they’re all like, no. [Laughs]
Carrie: And the first thing they all do is laugh.
Sarah: Yeah, no. I saw, I saw a quote from Liam, Liam Hemsworth for Thor, or Chris Hemsworth, whichever Hemsworth it was.
Sarah: He was saying his muscles are a tool; it’s like part of his costume. It’s not him.
Carrie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and they’re not even practical for acting, ‘cause, like, Christian Bale was pointing out – and I think Liev Schreiber pointed this out too – there are very few roles where that look is useful for that look. It really limits what you can do. So basically, that look is the superhero look, and you can’t use it in any, you know, you can’t play this guy walking down the street –
Carrie: – with that level of mass.
Sarah: It’s like when you reach a level of development where you can’t strengthen your ar-, or you can’t straighten your arms.
Carrie: Right, yeah.
Sarah: That your, the tendon that holds your elbow closed is atrophied or compressed to a point where you’ll notice muscle, very muscular men can’t straighten their arms because that tendon doesn’t straighten out anymore.
Carrie: That’s why they have that weird posture.
Sarah: Yes, the, the curvy arms is –
Sarah: – a result of bodybuilding, and I don’t know, I have to ask my physical therapist which one it is, but basically you reach a point where that tendon doesn’t straighten out anymore.
Sarah: ‘Cause there’s muscles in the way. And these are the guys who looks like, who look like, you know, that, like, somebody has parked a Volkswagen Beetle under their arms.
Sarah: You know, like – [laughs] that was from a description of the graphic novels of the Anita Blake series online.
Sarah: If you Google Anita Blake graphic novels, there is a whole series of reviews, just examining the art and the sexuality and the absolute horrific-ness of the drawings of these characters –
Sarah: – but Anita is drawn by some guy who likes to give women, like, a two-and-a-half-inch waist and then thighs that could, like, bench press a bus.
Carrie: The waist thing on women just, just, and the contortions, I just, I just can’t –
Sarah: Oh, that, you mean the pose to the back where they show you their butt and then they look over their shoulder?
Carrie: Oh, yeah, the Hawkeye, that, the butt pose.
Sarah: Yes, the butt pose.
Carrie: And are you familiar with the Hawkeye Initiative?
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Carrie: Oh, yes, I love the Hawkeye Initiative. So if you’re a podcast listener, the, the Hawkeye Initiative is they, they take cover poses from comics of women and then they try to draw a male figure in that position to illustrate the double standard between how women are posed and how men are posed.
Sarah: It’s true!
Carrie: Yes, and the most –
Sarah: If it’s not your boobs, it’s your butt.
Carrie: Well, no, I mean, the most famous example involves this sort of twisty thing they love to do that illustrates simultaneously your boobs and your butt, so both your boobs and your butt are pointing at the front, at the viewer, at the same time. Which in real life could only happen if your spine was broken in multiple places, and I, I can’t even, like, finish that sentence, but yeah, that’s, that’s, like, just crazy.
Sarah: There is a whole bunch of posters for the Divergent series where – I think it’s Shailene Woodley or Shailene Woodley [trying different pronunciations] – she is in the Scarlett pose. Back, butt, over the shoulder, and I’m looking at it, and I’m like, did you even, do you even look at the Internet? Like, are you aware of how we talk about this? Like, the minute I saw it I was like, oh, this is the Hawkeye project!
Sarah: Look, it’s her, it’s her butt! [Laughs] It’s horrible!
Carrie: I have to say, though, I’m getting a little girl-crush on Shailene Woodley, ‘cause she keeps saying these really cool things in interviews, and I didn’t have a big interest in seeing Divergent, and now I’m all excited.
Carrie: Yeah! Like, an interviewer said, so, like, you and Jennifer Lawrence, like, your character and Katniss, who would win in a fight? And she said, you know, I’m kind of over the whole girls fighting girls thing. I think that if my character met her character, we would say, hey, we’re both really strong women; let’s go get some stuff done. And I’m like, take my money!
Carrie: I will see this movie. Here, take it!
Sarah: Okay, that’s hysterical.
Carrie: Yeah. So I’m, now I’m kind of curious for how Divergent is. I read the first book, and I liked it, but I didn’t like it quite enough to continue on with the series.
Carrie: But I did think it was, it was good, and it was an interesting premise, so I’m interested to see how it plays out, plus, you know, Kate Winslet. I’m like, this extension of the idea that, like, there can be only one. There can be only one media darling at a time –
Carrie: – so for a while it was popular to love Anne Hathaway, and then it was popular to love Jennifer Lawrence, and that meant that we had to hate Anne Hathaway, and I’m like, you know what, I actually still like Anne Hathaway. I –
Sarah: I’ve never had a problem with Anne Hathaway.
Carrie: – break up with Anne Hathaway so I can like Jennifer Lawrence. I can like two people! It’s possible!
Sarah: Do you think that the, part of the backlash against Anne Hathaway, was that she was confident and good and knew she was?
Carrie: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I do.
Sarah: Because she really did not roll in with any doubt that her performance was extremely good, and even though no one disagreed with her, no one said that that performance wasn’t incredible for the number of minutes it was, there was no one saying, yeah, she didn’t really deserve it, ‘cause no, she did a great job, but the fact that I think that she acted like she knew she’d done a good job was part of the problem.
Carrie: Yeah, and she didn’t put up with any crap.
Carrie: You know, when people would be like, let’s talk about how, you know, people are taking photos of you and your dress, and she’s like, well, I think it’s kind of sad that we’re still having this conversation after I just did a movie about sex trafficking in the 1700s.
Sarah: And we live in an era where instead of deleting the picture, you sell it, because, you know, someone else in a vulnerable moment is, is profit for you. Like, eugh.
Sarah: Good point.
Carrie: Yeah. She’s like, it’s just another form of, of sexual exploitation of women, and it’s sad that we’re still dealing with that. Next question.
Sarah: Yep, exactly.
Sarah: And what bummed me out about that in particular was the number of women who were like, why isn’t she wearing underwear? That, she’s just must be some kind of a slut, and, and I was like, no, there are clothes in which there’s just no escaping panty lines –
Sarah: – and if it’s, if you are going to be in a very hot environment under strobe lights, under white lights where you’re getting your picture taken, it’s already Los Angeles, you go without, ‘cause, dude, it’s hot, and the last thing you want are really unattractive sweat stains and panty lines.
Carrie: Yeah, I hate to say it, but in the incredibly unlikely eventuality that I ever went to the Oscar ceremonies, I would be that person who goes, like, in pajamas.
Sarah: Do you remember that one year that Sharon Stone went to an awards ceremony, and she was wearing, like, a black turtleneck from the Gap with a big old skirt, and she looked awesome?
Carrie: [Laughs] That’s great!
Sarah: That’s what we’ll do; we’ll roll up in our jams, be like, hey!
Carrie: Yeah. I’m like, it’s, what, it’s a long ceremony! I want to be comfortable!
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Carrie: It’s, like, four hours long, yeah.
Sarah: And the, at least at the Golden Globes, you’re seated at a table with dessert and liquor –
Sarah: – so you get sugar and, you get sugar-high and a little drunk.
Sarah: That would be awesome. I’d be all about that.
Carrie: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Carrie: I would love to go to the Golden Globes; that would be a blast.
Sarah: So one of the things you review for Smart Bitches are movies, which is awesome.
Sarah: What movies have you really enjoyed, and what are you looking forward to seeing?
Carrie: Well, obviously, I’m looking forward to seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier!
Carrie: I mean, I, I, and yes, I realize that that means that I’m continuing to feed into the industry which makes poor Chris Evans live off roasted chicken and broccoli for years –
Carrie: – and, and I’m like, no, really, I would like it better if you let him actually eat, you know, normally, but anyway. I’m very excited for that, and very excited for that particularly because supposedly Black Widow has a really good part in that movie.
Carrie: Scarlett Johansson has joked that it’s really Black Widow Also Starring Captain America. And then we’re, like, hitting Marvel season, and there’s a lot of Marvel stuff coming out that I’m, that I’m really excited about. This is just a really great time for the Marvel movies. However, you know, I join with many in saying that, yes, I’m excited about Guardians of the Galaxy, but why must the studios keep telling us that they can’t make a Wonder Woman movie because Wonder Woman is too complicated and hard to explain, but they can make a movie about a spacefaring raccoon? If they don’t give me Wonder Woman, I, I’m just going to have to go knock some heads together. I’m – yeah.
Sarah: Why don’t we do a Kickstarter for a movie about Wonder Woman in a tree?
Carrie: In a tree! And that would make sense, like, on her island, I think maybe some of them did live in trees.
Sarah: Right, of course, and that is going to make it easier for men to understand her, because we put her in a tree.
Carrie: Right. Yeah. Absolutely. There is a little buzz about maybe sometime we’ll have a Captain Marvel movie. We might have Captain Marvel before we have Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel is currently a she, and has been a she for a long, long time.
Carrie: Yes! So, that would also be very cool. I would accept a Captain Marvel movie in lieu of a Wonder Woman movie. I would also accept a Black Widow standalone movie. So, now we’re talking about movies I’m excited by, about seeing, that no one has actually filmed yet; we’re kind of back to that motif. The other movie I’m really looking forward to is Only Lovers Left Alive, which has Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, and it’s frustrating because, depending on where you live in the world, you may have seen this movie ages ago, you may be able to go see it right now, or you may live in my town and never get to see it until it comes out on DVD, like, 14 years from now, so –
Sarah: Oh, that sucks!
Carrie: It sucks. So, I’m just waiting with bated breath to find out if it’s going to show in my town, which is kind of odd, ‘cause my town is not that small, but for some reason there’s still – we don’t get very many independent movies, so I, I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve heard that movie is really good, and that’s one where Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are, are vampire lovers, and the fact that I have this massive embarrassing crush on Tom Hiddleston has nothing to do with how badly I want to see the movie – ahem –
Sarah: You know, you’re not alone in that crush, so there’s no shame.
Carrie: I know, there’s no shame. He’s great! He just seems like a great guy.
Sarah: And that’s all for this week’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Carrie as much as I did, ‘cause I had a lot of fun. And if you have ideas for things that you would like to read about in a tree, you should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. What types of genres would be instantly improved by having everything take place in tree houses? Or just having the majority of a plot relocated to a tree? We should, we should expand this. I think this has a great potential for profit. Right now there are probably, like, a whole bunch of editors just rolling their eyes, like, they have no idea why, they just started rolling their eyes because we’re all talking about this at this point.
The music that you’re listening to was provided Sassy Outwater. This is Caravan Palace, this track is called “Cotton Heads,” and it’s from their album Panic in the USA, and I’ll have links to various locations where you can buy their music.
And this podcast is brought to you by InterMix, publisher of Meljean Brook’s all new e-serial, The Kraken King. A former smuggler and thief, Ariq, better known as the Kraken King, doesn’t know what to make of the clever, mysterious woman he rescues from an airship besieged by marauders. Unsure if she’s a spy or a pawn in someone else’s game, Ariq isn’t about to let her out of his sight until he finds out. After escaping her fourth kidnapping attempt in a year, Zenobia Fox has learned to vigilantly guard her identity. While her brother Archimedes is notorious for his exploits, Zenobia has no adventures to call her own besides the stories she writes, but when she jumps at the chance to escape to the wilds of Australia and acquire research for her new story, Zenobia quickly discovers that the voyage will be far more adventurous than any fiction she could put to paper. This first installment will be available on April 15th wherever eBooks are sold.
Thank you again for listening. I love that our audience seems to grow with each new podcast, so if you’ve been enjoying them and listening to the music and listening to us talk about romance novels, thank you so much for subscribing and being a part of the podcast. If you have questions or suggestions, please email us at email@example.com, and we’ll be back next week with interviews, with Shauna Summers, another interview with Maya Banks, and then I’m going to hunt down some of the more reclusive Dear Author reviewers and see if they’ll talk to us too!
In the meantime, Jane and Carrie and I all wish you the very best of reading.