I have been revising the novel off and on for the past week; it’s been a hard slog this time, painstakingly smoothing out interactions, flat characterization, muddled transitions. It’s been harder still to try and learn how to do this, instead of leaning so heavily on my one bestie beta reader. I don’t know if it’s possible to match another’s objective gaze when it comes to evaluating your own work, but I feel like I should know these things, that there has to be a way to see more of what my beta is seeing and taking care of it myself.
Which is to say that when I hit page 100 I treated myself to a matinee and went to see what the Age of Ultron fuss was about. And I didn’t like it very much, though I didn’t walk out as I know some have. Weird character decisions, a sort of slapdash feel to much of the plotting, and at this point I’m just done with slow-mo fight scenes with rousing music; they’re second only to those scenes where a character falls to their knees and howls NOOOOO at the sky. Both are like nails on a chalkboard at this point.
I like the matinees because they are generally inhabited by elderly folks and solitary viewers such as myself; but this one was crowded, and I was soon flanked by a group of young men who were obviously keen enthusiasts of Marvel fare. They whooped and oohed and ahhed at the fight stuff, they laughed at the one-liners . . .
and they laughed at the now-infamous prima nocta line, and they sniggered and made “get on with it” gestures at the bit about Black Widow’s sterility.
Both reactions hit me in the gut. I don’t think it’s a secret to those who have read my work that I have struggled with infertility, and I spend a fair amount of time imagining all kinds of violence, thinking on its presentation, and struggling to present such scenes with empathy, compassion, and nuance. To see these issues played for petty characterization felt icky enough; to see the audience finding it funny/silly—well, let’s just say that I did consider leaving, but I had paid my money and I’m a completist at heart.
I did come away with one positive, though: my utter, utter resolution to do better than that. Better in my representation, better in my handling of violence, better in my plotting. I don’t think I’ll ever write something as popular as a Marvel comic, much less one of their movies, but perhaps, just perhaps, something I write will affect one of those laughing guys, so that the next time sexual violence is treated as a one-liner or a prop they’ll pause, consider, and realize it’s just not funny at all.