Victoria Wood yesterday, Chyna today.

Two women whose contributions to the world were greater than it wants you to believe. Victoria Wood died yesterday at the age of 62. Cancer. Chyna died today aged 45.
But the whole world is only talking about the loss of Prince, with a sidenote about Guy Hamilton, director of the James Bond movies.
Let’s talk about the two women who deserved the spotlight today:
Victoria Wood was a writer and comedian who was and still is a household name in Britain. Her style of comedy was insightful and witty. She often worked with Julie Walters, and was known for a multitude of sketches along with “Dinnerladies” and “Acorn Antiques.” Irritatingly, everyone was going on about how she was an “inspiration to women” as if, because she’s female, she couldn’t possibly be an inspiration to men. It’s so annoying when you go out and become inspirational as a woman, because as we all know, your uterus pops out and inflates like an umbrella and anyone taller than 5’6″ can’t see you any more. It’s happened to a lot of women. It’s an outrage that the BBC, in their rush to get the first obituary out, to boost their views, produced an obituary for her which was riddled with proofreading errors. As someone whose parents were such fans of Victoria Wood that they named me after her, I thought it was very disrespectful of the BBC to write such illiterate rubbish.

But it was better than what they did with Chyna. They called her a “wrestler and porn star.” Because of course women aren’t allowed to shine out in male-dominated sports. She’s the only female wrestler to have defeated a slew of male WWE champions in the ring, the first (and possibly only) female wrestler to win the WWE Championship belt, and yet the BBC chose to focus their headline on the fact that she had also worked in the sex industry. In the entire article, they never even mentioned that she taught English in Japan.
To put it into perspective, calling Chyna a “Wrestler and Porn Star” would be like calling Vivienne Westwood a “fashion designer and schoolteacher” or JK Rowling a “writer and unemployed single mother.” It’s just not necessary and it’s not appropriate, it’s to remind you that she’s a woman and has worked in a profession society considers degrading.

Do you know why they’re trying to downplay her achievements in the wrestling ring by focussing on the porn?  Because she was a female wrestler who defeated men at wrestling.  This isn’t the sort of thing the world wants women to know.  That it’s possible for us to become physically strong enough and skilful enough at fighting to overpower men who are also physically strong.  Oh, they’re scared shitless that if we work that out, it’s game over for the men who try to keep us down with their fake “feminism” (where they tell us what to think about feminism) and their “fear of rape culture” culture that they’re crippling us with.  By focussing on the porn rather than the wrestling, they’re hoping to distract us from the fact that she beat HEAVYWEIGHT men in the wrestling ring.
Here she is doing some wrestling:

They would never say crap like that about a man. If Jeffrey Archer died tomorrow, the obituary would read “Jeffrey Archer: Writer and politician has died” not “Jeffrey Archer: Ex Convict has died.”

But then, if Jeffrey Archer died tomorrow, he might actually get a word in edgeways as he’s a man and the world might actually see that his death was worth making a fuss over.

I’d love to see what (if I ever make anything of myself) they wrote about me. Slut?  Actress? Writer? Youtuber? Teacher? Model?  Checkout Assistant? Archaeologist?  Comedian?  Car enthusiast?  Adventurer?  Person who got paid to hold a sign for two days one winter? Atheist? Roller skater?  Probably nothing at all.

What would they write about you? Single mother? Homeless person? Dog lover? Runner? Blogger? Peanut Butter Factory Operations Labourer?

I’d like to hope that by the time we die, women are actually allowed to have careers and impacts on the world beyond a) sex and b) “inspirational to women.” I mean, there’s nothing WRONG with being a porn star or inspiring women, but it’s pretty narrow and sexist to make that the focus of a person’s obit just because that person is also female. I’d like to think that Victoria Wood inspired people of any gender. She sure as hell inspired me, she was one of my biggest formative influences in performance and comedy when I was growing up; I used to read the credits in amazement, seeing with awe that she’d written, acted in AND done the music for most of her TV programmes. She should be EVERYONE’S inspiration for so many reasons, she was a wonderful person and a fantastic comedian with a real gift for natural, approachable comedy. Most comedians can be divided into two groups, either they make you feel more stupid for having watched them, or they are so highbrow that you won’t get half of it. Victoria Wood was neither. She was completely accessible but her jokes were never stupid.
Earlier today, I saw her in a sketch with Alan Rickman (I’d never seen this one before):

This is more her usual style though:

What do you think they will write about Caitlyn Jenner? I dread to think what they’ll put in her headline, I bet it won’t be “Decathlon Winner and Olympic Champion Caitlyn Jenner has died.” They’ll shoehorn something else in. That’s what they do to women. She’ll be an “inspiration to transgendered people” instead of just an “inspiration.” You’re not allowed to go round contaminating good honest white men with your inspiration unless you’re a white man too. Just to clarify, please understand that when what I say sounds like the opposite of reasonable, I’m being sarcastic; it’s what happens when I resent the inherent prejudice in the system.

It’s funny how every time a male celebrity dies at the same time as a female celebrity, the male one overshadows the female one. Did you know that Farrah Fawcett, the bombshell pinup from Charlie’s Angels, died the exact same day as Michael Jackson? No, of course not, because they latched on to Michael Jackson and turned him into a saint and she faded into obscurity. Like women are supposed to. They do it when we get married, they do it when we have babies, and they do it when we die. We’re just supposed to disappear. So Guy Hamilton and Prince get the spotlight today, and Chyna and Victoria Wood, the real tragic losses of the past 48 hours, have just disappeared.

Sorry about the ranty tone of today’s article, but this whole inequality just makes me so angry. Death happens to everyone. Why do we only publicly see and seem to mourn the deaths of men? It’s a throwback to the dark ages (or Islamic Shariah states such as Afghanistan) where women never left the house and weren’t seen to do anything of any importance, and by that token the important contributions of women were invisible. In death, the ultimate reality, we see that nothing has changed for women despite all the “rights” and “freedoms” they have been accorded.

It’s also the Queen’s 90th birthday today.  At least SHE got a headline.

Why Daisy Ridley shouldn’t play Lara Croft.

So I saw yesterday that apparently Daisy Ridley is in talks to play Lara Croft. Because, y’know, she’s got brown hair and has been filmed running around.

daisy ridley
Daisy Ridley will not make a good Lara Croft for another 10 years or so.

When are the people making Tomb Raider movies going to get it through their thick skulls that they are doing it wrong? They just keep repeating the same mistakes.  I’ve seen a lot of changes since I started following the Tomb Raider franchise in 1996, but this is utterly ridiculous.

Lara is English. She should be played by an English actress, they’ve got as far as working that out. However, there’s plenty of English actresses other than Daisy Ridley. They can run around and point guns at stuff just as well as American women, it’s not a “talent” that’s unique to Daisy. Not only that, but any English actress will be able to point out anachronisms in the script “we don’t usually eat that food, we don’t actually say that phrase” etc.

The main issue is that Lara is 29 in the first game. Twenty. Nine.  She gets older as time goes on.  Her official date of birth was February 14th, 1967 until the marketers stepped in and de-aged her.  Because, y’know, women aren’t allowed to age, we hit 25 then they rewind and rewrite the history and get a new actress to play the part, redesign the video game character, all that jazz.  But Lara started out as 29 and she aged 1 year in every subsequent game up to Tomb Raider Chronicles (Tomb Raider 5) where it gets a bit confused due to her being thought dead.  Of course, women stop ageing when they’re believed to be dead and it was implied (but never stated) that the clock rewound at some point because Angelina Jolie was too young when she played Lara.  Why make the same mistake again?

Hiring someone who is 23 but looks 16 isn’t going to make a great Tomb Raider movie. She needs some gravitas.  If you don’t understand this, think about an analogy – would you hire a 23 year old actor to play James Bond? It’s exactly the same.  The role of James Bond generally goes to someone aged in their very late thirties or early forties, and they play him through their forties and sometimes into their fifties.  Lara has life experience, she’s supposed to be laid back and a bit sassy, and (here’s the really important part) in her original bio, she was completely self made. She got disinherited and EARNED her money from writing travel books. You need time to establish that sort of money.

In order to win the all-important over-21 female audience, you are going to need to give them something inspirational, instead of sending the message out (yet again) that women’s lives are over at 25 and they’ve peaked.  The reason Lara did so well with the female demographic in the first place (in the video games, and she really did) is because it was the first time we’d had a character like that; older, smart, physically active, totally independent AND didn’t feel the need to look like a man to make it in the world (but wasn’t frilly and uber feminine either).  Give us Lara Croft at her actual age with someone who can really get inside the character, and I promise you, it’ll do MUCH better than whatever you’ve got planned.

Lara’s physical appearance is wrong for Daisy Ridley. Her hair is a medium brown (and in the original games she had a henna rinse). Angelina Jolie’s hair was nearly black. What’s the point in them making such a big fuss about the physical characteristics such as boobs and waist, and then consistently getting the hair wrong?

The marketing geniuses behind the Tomb Raider films seems to think that tokenistic Britishisms and the right costume are all they need, and that they should just throw it at some popular-today actress. They probably don’t understand why Cradle of Life flopped. Lena Headey would be the ideal Lara Croft in every way shape and form.  If they need more suggestions, Keira Knightley would be a MUCH better choice than Daisy Ridley; her face looks exactly right and she is a good age to play Lara convincingly, or how about Emilia Clarke (who also played Sarah Connor), these are fantastic English actresses who could really do the role some justice.  If they consider hiring an American actress (given my reservations outlined above), they should be looking in the direction of Angelina Goddamn Jolie. Really they need someone over 30 with enough life experience to actually make a credible Lara Croft, and maybe some experience in a similar role.  The only obvious reason I can think of for why they’re not considering Keira Knightley is boob size.  And that’s a disgraceful excuse.

Actress Knightley poses as she arrives for the European premiere of the film "The Imitation Game" at the BFI opening night gala at Leicester Square in London
Keira Knightley is the right age and she has the right appearance to play Lara Croft.
lena headey
Lena Headey would make a MUCH better Lara Croft than Daisy Ridley.

Lara Croft is Sarah Connor without kids. She’s not some petulant and 2-dimensional little girl who lives off daddy’s money and got into daddy’s gun cupboard. If you look at the original bio before it all got sanitized and changed to fit the films, the conflict between Lara and her parents (and getting disinherited) is what drives her to be so independent. Without it, you’ve just got an uber-wealthy spoilt brat running around third world countries damaging old stuff. Not only that, but she’s supposed to be tongue in cheek, like James Bond or Indiana Jones.  She has balls.

Characterization is where they went badly wrong with the first two films – they just didn’t understand the character when they wrote the script, turned her into some laughable idea of British Upper Class and, while the first film pulled through due to canny marketing and product deals, the second one flopped. Nobody even knew when it was out because all the advertising posters didn’t have the date on them.

They need to return to the original character concept – it worked for Batman, there you have a strong body of evidence that the modern audience wants authenticity, not some popular-culture influenced, re-styled version of the original idea. It doesn’t need to appeal to 14 year olds, it needs to appeal to twenty-and-thirty-somethings who own action figures, because the rest of the market will follow where they lead when it comes to things like this, and they will determine whether the film becomes a classic or is totally forgotten in a year’s time.  It all starts with hiring the right actress to play Lara Croft.

Marketers aren’t usually this stupid. They know how the audience thinks and they know how to market things. If they’re hiring Daisy Ridley for this, there’s something wider going on here – they want it to fail. Why? Because if they can’t reboot Tomb Raider then it’s proof positive that consumers don’t want female action heroes. Ghostbusters was a shockingly fake nod to “diversity” and following it up the next year with a terrible Tomb Raider movie will really turn public opinion against female action protagonists. Which means they can get back in the kitchen and bake cakes instead.

Edit: To reflect Lena Headey’s nationality, I have amended this article.  She really is the ultimate Lara Croft.

Want more about my Lara Croft obsession? Tutorial: Three classic Lara hairstyles.

21 tips for writing a bestselling travel article

This article will give you 21 tips and tricks to help you to write a bestselling travel article: In the style of a well known travel website which also sells guidebooks.

I look to magazines to show me the best examples of how to write. Sometimes I have to wonder why these people get paid in money rather than in bananas. That’s right, I’m implying a relationship between monkeys and typewriters. Bearing that in mind, here are some tips on how to write the perfect bestselling travel article, including photo editing tips:

1. Pick a place that’s easy to get to, but far enough away that normal people can’t actually afford to go there.

2. Take one or two photos that are probably unrepresentative of the place as a whole, particularly if it involves the sea, rugged landscapes, or any view you can only get from a helicopter.

This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.
This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.

3. Touch up the picture with Photoshop to enhance the colours, to make it even more unrepresentative of the place, and edit out the unsightly evidence of real life taking place, such as litter, insects or children.  Your aim is for travellers to be disappointed when they get there, so they go somewhere else (and buy a new guidebook) next year.

Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them.
Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them. Source: Wikipedia.

4. Write a story, embellish the details and make up interactions with semi-stereotypical characters who are always unusually aware of their global context for a farmer/mechanic/factory worker, to really show people an unrepresentative slice of life in the place where they’ll never go (because if they did, they’d find out you made it all up).

5. The opening paragraph – use at least four adjectives per sentence, the whole paragraph must be exactly three sentences long. The first sentence should have no more than 8 words in it. The second sentence can be a little longer.

6. The body of the article: Basically the first paragraph serves to describe the place in its entirety, from here on you will be talking about the history, climate, etc, and never, ever tell people anything useful such as what they could find there, how to get there, what petrol is called, what side of the road to drive on. Instead, you should find the most obscure language in the area and throw around one or two words that don’t mean anything, because it makes people feel like they now know enough lingo to go there. You never know, they might just find that one person who speaks that actual language and talk to them for long enough to use the two words they can now understand. More likely, it’s an insular community who are sick to death of white people, since their only contact with white people is when they turn up, gawk, take pictures of them as if they’re objects, then talk loudly at them and leave.

7. It is probably a place of conflict. Briefly mention the conflict, and don’t hasten to embellish on exactly how this conflict has changed all the people who live here, even if it only happened a few years ago or only happened for two days, or only affected one village that was eight hundred miles away from where you stayed. The only exception to this is if the conflict is ongoing. If the conflict is ongoing, you must mention it in less than one sentence, or even better, don’t mention it at all. They can find out for themselves when they get shot.

8. Don’t mention cultures or customs (with the exception of high days such as Carnevale or Divali, people need to know what they could have done, had they picked better travel days), after all, wouldn’t it be really funny if all the unescorted white women got arrested for immodesty, driving or being out unaccompanied. Better still, don’t tell them about the kidnap/rape problem, because that’s no biggie if it happens. The absolute best practice, though, is to tell your audience all about the cool exciting awesome things you can do in this country, which women aren’t actually allowed to do, and adding a tiny sentence at the end saying “women are not allowed in/on/at the …”

9. Do mention pickpockets or begging children, people will then think your article is honest and reflective of the “real” place.

10. Do mention that drugs are illegal. After all, the fact that they’re illegal EVERYWHERE is such a good deterrent that telling people what happens when they get caught abroad will REALLY stop them doing it. Seriously, this is like secret code for “everyone does drugs in this country.” Those are the only countries they ever point out the legality for.

11. Don’t mention any of the potential diseases you can get in the country you’re writing about. Or any of the necessary vaccinations. Who cares if some tourists die of malaria, AIDS, dengue fever or cholera as long as they bought your guidebook before they departed on their trip?

12. Don’t mention the state of the hospitals or other emergency services. People won’t take out travel insurance if they find out it’s utterly useless due to the fact that there aren’t any hospitals within 800 miles. And then you won’t get money from advertisers.

13. Don’t mention whether the destination has decent food for coeliacs, vegans, Muslims or Jews. They don’t need to eat. As a travel writer, you don’t know any of “those people” personally, so clearly they don’t exist.

14. Do talk in great detail about the “traditional dish” or “national dish” (which nobody really eats who lives there) which is usually meat stuffed with meat in meat sauce with meat and/or possibly cheese.

15. Leave out information about electricity. No-one charges their phone when they’re on holiday.

16. Keep pushing those sponsored hire car articles, but don’t tell readers ANYTHING about the various highway laws. Getting tickets abroad and putting the wrong fuel in your car is fun! Hey they could even get their car impounded!

17. Keep talking about budget options, but don’t actually make an effort to include anything that’s truly cheap. Whatever the hell you get paid to write those shoddy articles is too much if you think £80 a night is a budget hotel/hostel.

18. Never mention anything to do with accessibility. People who are disabled, people who have a guide dog to accompany them (or other support animal) and people with kids in pushchairs don’t travel. Only rich able bodied people do that. That’s why there are ramps and lifts and things all round the world.

19. Don’t discuss travel money options. At all. That’s not worth a single word of an article.

20. Don’t mention which religious groups reside in the area or where the local churches are, or what denominations can worship here. People stop believing in religion when they’re on holiday.

21. DO mention architecturally famous places of worship. Particularly if nobody can worship in them any more. Because travellers want to see the stunning results of religious buildings but don’t want to actually thank the people that made it all possible.

If you follow this guide, you too can produce financially lucrative, but boring and uninformative travel articles with exaggerated details, that editors will pay to publish. That’s a highly popular way that you can make a living off travel writing – because selling out and selling lies to the Man is everyone’s dream come true right?