Little wonder we stumble in life.

Leave a comment

Things I Learned About Toxic Discourse

When you go online to “join the conversation,” you might find yourself a little lost how to begin. Some conversations online are constructive, but some aren’t. There are plenty of conversations that involve a toxic rhetoric.

There are a range of such conversations out there, so it’s no surprise that there are also conversations on that very topic online. Here’s what I’ve learned from these conversations so far.


This conversation tells you the basics of how to converse and what healthy and non-healthy conversations alike look like. Not only that, but it gives you a history of why we converse the way we do.

But look. As relevant as all this is, and it is, it also centres on American-style discourse, because of course Americans are the majority on the internet and because they are very influential globally. It’s a mindset that I myself have never felt as strongly, so I’ve always assumed that other non-Americans also don’t have as extreme a mindset as those Americans who share the Bush mentality.

Given this, I think it’s worth looking at how American media specifically is run.


Well, I would say non-Americans are harder to control because our media is far less jingoistic than America’s is. We don’t have exactly the same poisonous media, but we are still somewhat focused inwards; a lot of our big news stories, even if they happen overseas, is always focused on our nation’s citizens.

But, America does seem to be a special case, since their media does seem to be narrower and more extreme. I believe that a lot of their toxic discourse comes from keeping themselves in their own bubble and shunning those that exist outside it. Americans specifically, after all, seem to be the loudest voices when it comes to arguing over specific topics.


I know it isn’t just Americans that are the problem. It’s just that Americans specifically are more in the public eye than other Westerners, making their brand of discourse the more visible one. Because it carries more influence, both online and globally, their discourse becomes the voice of other Westerners, since we share much of the same culture, and thus prejudices, as Americans.

Take, for example, this conversation regarding gender roles in Western culture, as opposed to outside cultures.


And then there are those who take it as their mission to spread such toxic discourse, and test out those that would oppose them in order to find their weaknesses.


There are specific techniques they use, too.


There’s also a thing called ‘gaslighting,’ which is referenced quite a lot. A simple example:


However, I do have an example that talks about it at a bit more length. By examining media, the following example talks about gaslighting, as well as other concepts such as the “female gaze”. The purpose of adding this example is to compare a toxic relationship to a healthy one.

The purpose of these examples is seeing how to deal with toxic discourse when it arises, not only online but in real life.


Conversely, this next example shows a toxic discourse between female fans of Sherlock and its show runners, as well as providing a counterpoint to the above example’s female gaze, namely the much more common male gaze. It also demonstrates the toxic relationship between women and men in real life.


Slight addendum to this, regarding male and female fans:


You don’t have to go online to see all these cases; this is simply the setting many of us use to share our stories or spread our ideas. These ideas may be toxic, or like in these examples, they could spread awareness of these terrible discourses and how to circumvent them. That was my intention here.

I’ll leave you with one last example, which shows how you could react to toxic discourse with grace.



Leave a comment

Talk to Me

So my roommate is really fickle when it comes to watching TV; she’s constantly changing channels, and never settles on anything. I think she probably just likes the background noise; that’s what my mum did.

She was changing channels today, and this one program got to stay on the screen for a bit. And I got invested. Then she changed it.

This is my attempt to recreate and then continue the scene.

Michael stalked through the library, searching for his friend. He spotted him hidden behind a book, sitting at a desk right beside a bookshelf.

He sat down across from him, and lowered the book. There he was, all red lips and round soft cheeks and vulnerable eyes. “There you are,” said Michael with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.

Ethan looked scared, but Michael wasn’t going to let him get away now that he’d finally caught him. “I’m busy,” said Ethan. “Got studying to do.”

“No, you don’t,” said Michael. “Why did you run away back there? I got to talk to you.”

“I can’t talk. I’m sorry, I have to go.” He immediately got up and ran down the aisle and towards the exit.

Michael ran after him. He was stopped at the door.

“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind him and he turned around. A librarian stood behind his desk. “You’ll either have to check that book out with me or put it back where you found it.”

Michael lifted the red book in his hand. He’d forgotten he’d picked that up.

This was ridiculous. He had to hurry after Ethan or he’d get away again. He placed the book on the floor and slid it towards the desk. “There, I’ve put it away again,” he quipped. “I really don’t have time for this.”

He turned and ran out the door, hopefully not too late…

Outside was deserted. Down the hallway, he finally caught Ethan by the shoulder and pressed him against the nearest wall. There was a certain comfort in the solidity of his body.

“Stop running away. We need to talk about this.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. Really.”

The boy looked terrified. He’d really never experienced any of this before. “Please,” said Michael, “talk to me. I know there’s more to this than you’re letting on. Just tell me what you meant.”

“You know exactly what it meant. But it’s useless. The whole thing’s useless. It’ll never come to anything. It can’t.”

Ethan sounded like he was begging Michael for it to be impossible.

Michael didn’t have to ask Ethan why; he knew why. And he hated it. He hated that his father could do that to him. But from the bottom of his heart, he believed Ethan deserved better. Ethan didn’t deserve all this hate, he didn’t deserve to hide all of himself from everyone. He deserved a safe space.

“I’m not gonna ask anything of you that makes you uncomfortable,” Michael started slowly. “I won’t ask for anything you don’t truly want. But you do want this, don’t you? I can see it in your eyes. You’re terrified to want it, but you want it. You don’t have to hate what you are. I don’t hate you for it. I love you for it. I want you. Don’t you want me?”

Ethan’s mouth parted.

“—You don’t have to say you do, if you don’t. If you want me to go away and leave you alone, I will. I just needed to know… Am I right? Do you really want me too?”

Ethan’s eyes fell. They were full of shame. He said it so quietly that Michael almost didn’t hear it. “Yes.”

Michael’s face lit up. “We can be careful. I know what’s at stake, for me too.”

“There is no such thing as safe. It won’t matter how careful we are. Even this is dangerous…” He indicated between them with his eyes. “The only safe is not to do it all.”

“That’s why your father hates you, isn’t it? He caught you?”

“It was a friend. Like you and me. Nothing is safe, not even this.”

Michael let him up, stepped back. Ethan just looked at him. He didn’t move.

“You’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed to have good things,” said Michael.

“No I’m not,” said Ethan. “But that’s okay. Emptiness is still better than pain.”

“Emptiness is pain,” said Michael. “Can’t you see that?”

“I don’t feel pain. I’m fine like this. Not happy, but… content.”

“Are you really?” said Michael sceptically.

“Yes,” said Ethan. “Now leave me alone.”

“Is that what you really, deep down?”

Ethan hesitated. “No,” he admitted. “Do it anyway.”

“No,” said Michael.

Ethan glared. Then he looked absolutely lost.

“Seriously, no,” Michael repeated. “I won’t do it. You’re making a mistake.”

“We can’t all follow our heart.”

“We should all follow our heart. Otherwise what’s the point?” said Michael.

“There are other things worth living for.”

“Like what?”

Ethan paused. “Other things. School.”

“You can’t hide behind your studies your whole life, Ethan.”


“You can’t run forever.”

“Watch me.”

For the third time, Michael watched Ethan run from him.

Since I don’t know what the source for this is, it’s not fanfiction. However, I came up with the names based on the actors I thought the two characters looked like, Michael Weatherly and Ethan Hawke.

My continuation starts with Michael’s quip to the librarian.

Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Show(runner)s

Lori Morimoto

My most recent fannish loves – in a long line of infatuations – have been BBC’s Sherlock and NBC’s Hannibal (the network designations belie the transnational coproduction contexts of each, but that’s a post for another day). Both are named for characters who have unwittingly embarked on journeys of emotional discovery, precipitated by and torturously focused on the first men we see in each series, who themselves hide behind walls of self-delusion that they are somehow ‘normal’ in contrast with the titular characters’ abnormalities.

View original post 1,354 more words

Leave a comment

I Went Ahead and Wrote A Spider-Man Movie Where Peter Parker is Bisexual Because Life is Short and God Knows Nobody Else Was Going to Do It

The Niche

Did you know that Andrew Garfield, the inventor of acting, once proposed a Spider-Man movie in which Peter Parker would be bisexual and Michael B. Jordan would play MJ? Did you know that he proposed this more than once?

Did you know that Sony and Marvel allegedly inked a legal licensing agreement in 2011 which contractually obligated all parties involved to portray Peter Parker as straight and white?

No? You didn’t know all that? Well, you do now. Welcome to my own personal hell. Andrew Garfield tried to deliver a bisexual Spider-Man unto us, and Sony and Marvel successfully conspired to screw us out of it.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d just resigned myself to the fact that we would never see the immaculate truth of a bisexual Peter Parker on the silver screen.

But then I was like, wait. I may not have the…

View original post 251 more words

Leave a comment

Driving into Midnight

“I knew you loved me too much.”

Brenda flashed her eyes to Dawn, gripped the wheel, stared forward. “It − this − it isn’t like that. I’m not… coming back.”


Brenda cracked a smile even as she visibly pushed it down. She glared at Dawn softly. “I meant what I said before. We’re not… I can’t do this.”

“You love me.”

“I know. But we both know it isn’t enough.”

“Maybe not for you. I know you don’t see any hope in love. And I know it doesn’t fix anything. I still did what I did, and I’m still damaged goods. The world’s still shit and hateful and tearing itself apart. And I don’t blame it, because so was I. I found no value in love, and look where it got me. I became what I became because I thought love wasn’t worth it. I thought it destroys you, but so did hate. And look at the world now, look what hate’s doing.

“I love you, Brenda, I do. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing anymore. Love can be redemptive. And I’m trying, I really am. Won’t you say you love me too?”

Brenda looked back at Dawn, moved but weary. Then she let a genuine smile light up her face. “That’s all I ever wanted from you, Dawn,” she said, her eyes shining. “Maybe there could be hope yet.”

They kissed.

This was as far from the end as it was possible to be. There was no driving off into the sunset for them; it was physically impossible without burning. And they were far from done facing the worst of the world. Quite the contrary, this was only the start. But they would face it together, knowing themselves and each other. Their inner demons weren’t gone, but they no longer had power over them.

It was time to see what they could make of it.

Inspired by the episode Birthmarks from the show House. Specifically the line, “I knew you loved me too much,” when they were on the road.

Also I recently saw a post on tumblr reimagining the Harry Potter epilogue given what we now know about the state of the world. I decided that when I get to the end of the story I’m writing, it can’t just be placating like the ‘All was well’ line at the end of the last HP book. So this was also inspired by that.

Leave a comment

If Harry Potter Had Been Depressed Like The Other Teens I Know Instead of the Kind of Depressed that He, Harry, Was

This is gorgeous. Things to think about…

The Niche

Having the main character deal with every single problem by staying in bed does not make for a very exciting book set in a magical world. So, I totally understand why Harry dealt with his mental illness by going out and saving bunches of people whenever he could.

But the thing is, he wasn’t mentally ill like the teenagers I know. This kid just wanted to play sports all the time and win a group award at the end of every year that was based on points for good behavior. Instead, he got all sorts of disorders because: adults. It’s a wonder he wasn’t in therapy by the time he was fifteen. He was abused his entire childhood. And then he killed his (admittedly evil) professor with his bare hands when he was eleven. He got a giant snake fang through his arm the year after that. He had bunches of PTSD inducing…

View original post 819 more words

Leave a comment

Have You Ever Thought About Ghost Stories?

This post is planned to be published before season 4 of Sherlock is released.

So recently, I’ve just finished reading the full Sherlock Holmes canon as an extension of my BBC Sherlock obsession, looking to further my knowledge and scope on the area. You can thank my latest obsession with the TJLC Explained videos on YouTube for this, which led me to as much meta (essays etc.) on historical and narrative context as to her video meta analysing the show.

One such meta claimed ghost stories are gay stories, and that was the one that really took me further away from the show and the original canon, and took me towards the actual tradition the canon came from. As in, now it’s not even about Sherlock Holmes; it’s about every narrative corresponding to the genre, the period that so much as reflects that tradition, and about queer coding within that setting and genre.

Through this meta, I’ve discovered Benson and M.R. James, both of which are writers that Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss is a fan of, I have plans to read Carmilla, and I’ve recently read Jekyll and Hyde. As well as all this, I have also discovered Rosamund Marriott Watson, because she has been referenced by Sherlock writer, Steven Moffat, when he announced in a real newspaper that John and Mary’s child carries a similar name to her:


Rosamund Marriott Watson was a poet, although I haven’t read much of what she’s written so far. The Bird-Bride is one of the poems I have read, though, and there is some significance to it.

Some members of TJLC (The Johnlock Conspiracy) claim the reasoning behind naming the child after this poet is because her poetry reflect John and Mary’s situation: because they are set to have a rocky marriage in season 4, naming their child after a poet who commonly writes poems of marriage troubles is particularly telling.

All these expanded interests started with the show, extended to the canon, then extended again to the period and the genre. That was the starting point for this new interest, and they have led me into the territory of recognising particular metaphors that seem particular to the Victorian period. Metaphors like watermirrors, and keys, some of which have been explained by TJLC Explained. These first two are more major themes in TJLC, the latter being a more minor but no less important metaphor. It isn’t just BBC Sherlock or the original canon which holds these metaphors: I’ve seen them in the Benson story, A Tale of an Empty House (the title itself seems reminiscent of the Holmes story, The Adventure of the Empty House), and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Metaphors like this have some grounding in Freudian theory, as it has been said that at least water in dreams has a symbolic meaning that carries a message to conscious mind. However, Freudian theory wasn’t published until at least 1895, in the middle of Holmes and Watson’s relationship.

There are a fair amount of mirrors in BBC Sherlock’s Hounds of Baskerville. Three in particular stuck out to me. First, in Henry Knight’s kitchen, when Sherlock first suggests going out onto the Hollow, we see Henry and Sherlock both dressed in similar colours, especially blue, and in that same scene, there is a mirror image of Henry on the far left of the screen in at least two shots. Further to that, we see many circles (from lens flare) in this episode, and this indicates emotion. It can perhaps be concluded that this emotion is what links them as mirrors, especially as the both later suffer the same fear on the moor.

Later, when they go out on the Hollow, Henry brings up Sherlock and John’s relationship, relating it to that of his father and Frankland’s relationship. We can take this as a further mirror that Sherlock is meant to stand for Henry’s father, and Frankland for someone else. If we follow Henry’s comparison, we can conclude that Frankland is John, and that these relationships are linked because there’s something unspoken between both of them. But by the conclusion of the episode, we discover that Frankland killed Henry’s father for this secret, and that he stands not for John, but Moriarty: we know this because Sherlock sees him in the fog, before his mind clears and he sees Frankland. This probably indicates that Sherlock is afraid of his relationship with John because he’s afraid of Moriarty taking him away.

Second, there’s Louise Mortimer. She is seen on at least two separate occasions wearing a different red dress, and then when Henry starts hallucinating that he’s being chased by the dog, we see a flash of red eyes, and the mirror is broken ― literally. And we see her, not the hunter but the hunted, and Henry is revealed as the monster. Dr Mortimer never believed him, and perhaps condescended him in the session we saw with them together. But she also told John, “You’re only a nutter if you’re wrong,” so perhaps she had knowledge or suspicions beyond what we knew. In the original canon, she definitely did, but she kept it to herself for the sake of the man who eventually attacked her, who in this version is Henry himself. So in both versions, she is perhaps not a mirror for the hound, simply connected to him. And in fact, Frankland, who is seen frequently hanging about with a watchful eye, interrupts her conversation with John in order to avoid exposure.

The final mirrors were the Cross Keys innkeepers mirroring John and Sherlock, especially in the scene when they and Lestrade were interviewing them. We first see Sherlock through a mirror beside which John is seen staring, though not perhaps at Sherlock as it at first appears, and then two separate mirrors aligning Sherlock with Billy the chef, and John with Gary (the Scot). Rebekah from TJLC Explained has said that they are the version of John and Sherlock who are together because they openly communicate with each other.  It’s obvious from the chefs glances at his partner that this isn’t just verbal communication, although John and Sherlock too communicate this way. The Cross Keys couple also mirror John and Sherlock through clothes, but in lighter colours.

We first see Sherlock in the mirror making coffee, but the mirror seems to be behind John, and we assume he’s staring at Sherlock. If he isn’t, the implication is that he appears to be more aware of Sherlock than he really is, and this could extend to their relationship too, and how they feel for each other. Then, we see John drinking the coffee to humour Sherlock, to make him feel better about their recent fight. The fact that these mirrors come so soon after Sherlock’s attempts to push John away is particularly telling: it says that they need to communicate more, to be honest about how they feel about each other. Sherlock gives John the coffee as what John assumes is a peace offering and what is really an experiment; they’re not there yet. But at least John is trying.

Through analysing this show and other narratives, I’m working towards being a better writer myself. And in fact, this isn’t my first time studying Victorian literature. I’ve also read a ghost story by another Victorian writer with the last name James, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I fondly remember learning to craft a Jamesian sentence. You start with what’s called a meta-reflection, which is actually an impression. Then you move it forward with an action. And finally, you slow the pace with a conclusion that combines impression with true action.

For example: ‘A figure ー as if conjured by the light that burst across the sky ーsuddenly appeared, and I stood stock still has he came towards me, his ghostly pale flesh visible through an almost completely unbuttoned shirt, his dark eyes boring into me, punctuating each step with a pause before continuing until my back pressed against the hard wall and my heart fluttered in my chest.’

The above sentence is of my own making, but it is following the Jamesian sentence structure. 

Meta-reflection: “A figure ー as if conjured by the light that burst across the sky ー”
Action: “suddenly appeared, and I stood stock still has he came towards me”
Conclusion: “his ghostly pale flesh visible through an almost completely unbuttoned shirt, his dark eyes boring into me, punctuating each step with a pause before continuing until my back pressed against the hard wall and my heart fluttered in my chest.”
James, and Victorian writers in general, are said to have been fans of long, complex sentences, and James was a obvious example of this trend. Frequently, he also liked to use complex punctuation such as dashes and semicolons too, but he also frequently extended sentences with commas, as I have done here.

Ghost stories, like novels, like fanfiction, were the time’s underappreciated literary form. According to the above link, “We are part of the long tradition of women writing and being told their writing is not real and does not matter, that the things we love and value are worthless and foolish, for so long that we even begin to believe it.”

And this is something I’ve believed for a while, but I also believed myself capable of proving myself good enough anyway, though I’ve not believed my own skill level to be “there yet”. Although the above link is about fanfiction, as is my accompanying remark, how do you think novel writers or ghost story writers of the past felt? Not good enough? But even if so, they still followed their passion, because they needed to, at least for themselves. If ghost story writers added queer code, or anything else apart from the norm, it’s because they needed to subvert the norm, to write something that they saw themselves reflected in, as I do. So I will continue to think about these underappreciated art forms, and to learn from them. Because, I believe, I am one of them.