First of all, let’s say one thing straight. The correct word is “inaugural”. There are those who would argue that “first annual” should be used if someone plans on repeating the same event every year. They would be mistaken. The next time you hear someone say “first annual” in place of “inaugural”, you have my permission to throw a spit wad at them.
Now that we have that out of the way, welcome to my inaugural award column. For a long time I was wondering what to call this award and then it hit me - I'll call it the "Pretend You Won Something Award"! We can nickname them the “Pretendies”. This seems most appropriate I'm not going to hand anyone an award. Maybe if I get around to it, I might send something in the mail. Holding our breath not advised.
How does someone win a Pretendie, other than I just declare it so? First the winner has to fall arguably within the realm of geekery. Next, entertainment value is taken into consideration. Finally, there should be a sense of helping present a world where everyone is different but equal.
For the first awards there will be five main categories: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Comics, Gaming, and the “Interwebs”. Along with those five categories there will be couple special awards given.
This was a difficult one, since there were no obvious winners. I know many might be thinking Torchwood, since the main character is openly bi-sexual (actual, I think he is just any darn type of sexual that appeals to him at the moment), but when sexuality comes up, the show seems to become more sexual than worrying about plot or character. Warehouse 13 came up with a great character who happened to be gay (a compared to a “gay character”) with Steve Jinks, only to (spoiler alert) kill him off after tossing him around for a few episodes. Until they decide to bring him back from the dead, he is just a wasted opportunity.
Of course there are some other stuff out there, but for effect the award goes to Doctor Who. Characters of all types are being treated as any other, and to large audiences around the world. My personal favorite would be the lesbian interspecies couple. How “normal” were they? So normal that the story wasn’t even about them, but instead about the battle they are brought in to fight. And they live! Bravo.
I want to give a quick honorary mention…no, that isn’t right…dis-honorary mention…no, still not right…I would like to mention the campy tasteless fun of Chillerama. This movie is a quartet of horror/comedy tales bookended with the story of a Zombie STD infection. The second tale in this movie is called “I Was a Teenage WereBear,” and is about a closeted teenager in the 50’s who is brought out by a gay rebel gang of werebears. Directed and written by openly gay Tim Sullivan with a lead played by a gay porn star. This movie is definitely not for all audiences or ages, but it was perversely fun and available at some very mainstream stores.
The actual award will be somewhat unconventional as it is not going to a movie, book or anything like that. Instead, the winner this year is Sharon Needles, currently seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race. That queen is scary! Her first catwalk involved bursting a blood capsule in her mouth! She also shows that fabulous comes in many different forms, not just beauty queen shades.
This is an easy one. Yes, there are some gay kids running around the Marvel Universe, over at DC Batwoman is a lesbian and has her own comic book (as well as there being at least four female characters in continuing series, one Hispanic and one African, marking quite a bit of lovely diversity), and there are LGBT characters wandering around the other companies of course.
This is all nice, but there really can be only one winner this year and that is – Kevin Keller from Archie Comics. He ran for four issues in Veronica Comics before they decided to launch him into his own series in which he is the class president. Then in issue 17 of the magazine series Life With Archie which features grown up cast centered around a married Archie Andrews, Army Lt. Keller marries his African-American boyfriend Clay. The All-American town of Riverdale became the most integrated place in the world, not because of the acceptance of Kevin Keller (and his future interracial marriage), but on how they treated it like it was no different than anything else that happens there.
This may not seem like the obvious category for this type of award. Very few play Angry Birds wondering about the social implications. Usually the only note that is taken is for negative portrayals. And the hubbub over the disappointing ending to Mass Effect 3 somewhat over-rides the ability to choose gay and lesbian interactions for the characters.
This year’s award is different; it isn’t quite about equality or something like that, but instead about advancing knowledge that can help us all. It goes to the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science and their Department of Biochemistry who developed a game called Foldit, which is a puzzle game about untangling virus proteins; as you play the game, you actually solve science problems that can help develop better treatments and possibly even cures to many diseases, including HIV. Already a group of players have solved a problem that had stumped scientists for 15 years. (If you’re curious, fold.it/portal is where you can start puzzling for humanity.)
The Internet is massive, so for this first award I am going to focus on podcasts. This is not necessarily making anything any easier because of the multitude of podcasts out there. Heck, if I can figure it out, you will hear my lovely voice on a podcast someday. And I can list dozens of good ones without effort – QTalk, Girl On Guy, Nerdist, Star Talk Radio, Afterbuzz. Really, the list is almost endless. But for me, this year’s winner is ScreamQueenz with Patrick, the Angriest Red-head in New York City. Not entirely safe for work because of language, the show covers his personal exploits before digging into his thoughts on whichever horror subject he tackles that day. While there is no doubt about his sexuality, his analysis is pure geeky goodness.
Three individuals deserve special attention –
Gail Simone – a writer for DC comics with a very entertaining Twitter account (as does Phil Jimenez.) It is amazing how outspoken she is. She has not only wittily and intelligently integrated race, sexuality and gender into her comics, stood with crowds rallying against the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, but she also has had the guts to very publicly speak out about the lack of female creators currently working at DC – directing her words straight to the very people who are writing her checks every week. Not only does she believe in a more equal world, she is more than willing to speak up whenever needed.
George Takei – If you aren’t following him on Facebook or his blog, start doing so now. His updates are mostly tongue-in-cheek, but add to this that he has developed a musical about the Japanese Internment, his whole pro-pride “It’s Okay to be Takei”, and his attempt at unifying the Star Trekkers and the Jedis against the true foe – Twilight – he is meaningful and witty without becoming preachy and boring.
Todd Glass – This is a comedian with a podcast on the aforementioned Nerdist family of podcasts. In general his humor is offbeat and unfortunately not safe for work because of language. But it is one specific podcast that wins him an award – episode 37 with Paul F. Thompkins (a fellow comedian) – in which the offbeat takes a backseat to answering mail about recently coming out and speaking out about the derogatory use of the word gay. Touching without leading to tears, he doesn’t ask you to agree with everything he says, but at least to listen and be open to discussion.
So, here are the inaugural winners – Doctor Who, Kevin Keller at Archie Comics, Drag Queen Sharon Needles, University of Washington’s Foldit, Scream Queenz, Gail Simone, George Takei, and Todd Glass.
Enjoy your Pretendies!
(Now the rest of you have something to aspire to.)