Super Flemish Superhero Portraits

Photographer Sacha Goldberger re-imagined superheroes and characters from popular science fiction and fairy tales in the Northern Renaissance style. His Super Flemish portraits marry art history with pop culture in a playful way.

Sacha Goldberger Superman

Sacha Goldberger.

Sacha Goldberger R2D2

Sacha Goldberger.

Sacha Goldberger Alice in Wonderland

Sacha Goldberger.

Visit Mr. Goldberger’s website for more portraits.

Because why not have a little fun with your art!

Most Children’s Books Are Still about White Boys?

In her blog post published in Huffington Post, writer Soraya Chemaly cites a 2011 Florida State University (FSU) study that found 100 years of gender bias in children’s books. The FSU team analyzed nearly 6,000 books published from 1900 to 2000 – which makes it the most comprehensive study of 20th century children’s books ever undertaken in the U.S. – and found clear bias towards men and boys as lead characters. The post gives some core findings from the study:

“A girl’s imagination and literary life would be a stark and barren place if she didn’t learn early on to read books about boys, put herself in boys’ shoes and enjoy them. As with other aspects of socially sanctioned behavior, children’s ability to cross-gender empathize is a one-way street — girls have to do it and boys learn not to. People are married to enduring ideas about ‘otherness’ when it comes to masculinity and a big part of being a ‘real boy’ is disdaining stories, books, movies, and games … about girls.”

“Researcher Isabelle Cherney found that half of boys ages 5-13 picked ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ toys equally… unless they were being watched. They were especially concerned about what their fathers would think of them if they saw them. Over time, boys’ interests in toys and media become more rigidly masculinized, whereas girls’ stay relatively open-ended and flexible. Think of the implications of storytelling on that pattern and what it means for social skills development, adaptability, work-life issues and more.”

Ms. Chemaly argues that media that distorts reality in this way hurts everyone. She says:

“Boys aren’t responsible for the perpetuation of media injustices or their effects. The problem is not boys, but cultural habits that disproportionately favor them.”

“As children grow up, girls’ media marginalization becomes more acute and racialized. We seem incapable and unwilling to deeply consider the societal effects of dysfunctional, stereotype-plagued media. Without fail, when I talk or write about this and focus on girls, the first response I get is ‘What about the boy crisis?’ It’s remarkable. So, what about the boys who are over-represented in media as valued and worthy, albeit, too often, hyper-masculinized? I think that while benefits can accrue to them as a class, by imparting a sense of confidence and entitlement, the effects on individual boys can be awful.”

Ms. Chemaly’s final point is golden:

“We are a storytelling species, and symbolic representation and visibility are crucially important to the way we structure society. Exposing children to diversity in media encourages them to learn about people who are “different” and to understand why that difference isn’t the foundation of hierarchy, but community.”

Because a person’s genitals do not determine their behavior, their upbringing does. Because we’re not just girls and boys or women and men, we’re people.

An Epic LEGO Rendering of an Epic Poem

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey was to retold by VirtuaLUG – in LEGO blocks. Their incredible 300-square-foot layout features numerous scenes from Odysseus’ 10-year adventure. The scenes include but are by no means limited to:

Circe’s Island:

Circe’s Island by Millie McKenzie

Circe’s Island. By Millie McKenzie; image via The Brothers Brick.

Hades:

Hall of Hades by Lee Jones, Leo J. and Adam Reed Tucker

Hall of Hades. By Lee Jones, Leo J. and Adam Reed Tucker; image via The Brothers Brick.

Mount Olympus:

Mount Olympus by Bart Larrow

Mount Olympus. By Bart Larrow; image via The Brothers Brick.

Found via The Brothers Brick.

Kudos! This is such a creative, epic version of the poem beautifully and imaginatively rendered. Because “toy” is such a restrictive descriptor for LEGOs. Because old stuff need not be stuffy.

Bookish Benches in London

In London, benches celebrating landmark books were unveiled in July 2014. These fifty benches are a part of Books About Town, a literacy campaign by Wild In Art and the National Literacy Trust.

London Bench War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo; image vie BBC America.

London Bench The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis; image vie BBC America.

London Bench The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; image vie BBC America.

All images via BBC America.

Because public spaces can inspire and uplift. Because stories and books matter!

Author: Representation Matters

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives voice to Nigerian and American life, telling stories about moral responsibility, the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race, and love and hatred. I was struck by two quotes attributed to her:

Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieChimamanda Ngozi AdichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie quotes from nneckbone on Tumblr.

Because stereotyping in media hurts real people. Because representation matters.

Military Man Writing Romance

When introducing his book Breach Zone, author Myke Cole writes about his recent experience with the romance genre:

“When I first got my book deal and moved to New York City, I was eager to launch my life as a writer. I spend the majority of my time in the intensely conservative institutions of law enforcement and the military, and I was looking forward to forging deeper into a social circle that was progressive and diverse.

When a friend hit town and asked me to meet her at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference in Times Square, I threw on my Chuck Taylors (hey, I live in Brooklyn), and jumped on the subway over there. I rode the escalator up, wondering what the crowd would look like. I’ve pretty much lived my whole live in SF/F conventions, but this was my first time ever going to a gathering of romance writers and fans.

I crested the escalator and my jaw dropped open. There were thousands of people on the con floor.

And not a single male.

Not one.

When my friend and I took our seats, I asked her why this was. “There have to be some men writing in this genre,” I said. “Not many,” she answered, “and the ones that are writing category romance do so under female pseudonyms.”

So much for diversity. I hit the ceiling. It was wrong when fantasy writers like C.S. Freidman, Andre Norton and Robin Hobb had to choose deliberately ambigious pseudonyms because women weren’t supposed to write fantasy, and it was wrong that men should do the same for romance. I resolved then and there to change it. I was going to be the first male category romance writer to publish a work in the genre under his own name.

I went on this same tear with a friend of mine who had been an editor for Harlequin, one of the major romance imprints. “That’s all well and good,” she said, “but you can’t just waltz into a genre you know nothing about and expect to be successful. You need to learn your trade. You have a lot of reading to do.”

Good advice. I took it. I read and read and read and still do read romance. I was amazed at how central character was to the genre, how these seemingly plotless stories were pulled along by agendas clashing, how transporting it was to see protagonists fleshed out until they felt like real people.

I was in awe of the skill involved. I felt sure I could never equal it.”

Mr. Cole’s previous career involved being a secu­rity con­tractor, gov­ern­ment civilian and mil­i­tary officer. Surely a soldier isn’t “supposed” to write a romance? He continues:

“[…] I realized that all that reading in the romance genre had percolated into my brain, flowed unconsciously into my story.

BREACH ZONE is a war story, absolutely.

But it is also a love story.

And it is so soso much better for it.”

[Apologies for the lengthy quote; I merely wanted to do justice to Mr. Cole. The whole post is available on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog.]

Because you never should confine people to stereotypes on the basis of their career – or gender.