Growing Pains

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Edit: someone pointed me in the direction of a  another great article on failure written by Riki Hayashi that was posted on Paul Barany’s

blog.

Folks, I did it.

I did it, I did it, I did it.

I, finally, passed my L2 test and now have the honor and privilege of calling myself a Level 2 judge.

A lot of the experiences I have posted about in this past year have been the stumbles and downright failures I have made along this wide and varied journey.  Some people may think that by focusing on the challenges means looking at my journey through a negative lens but I would have to vehemently disagree.  In those missteps, in those frustrations, in those moments of embarrassment and frustration and anger, I discovered my drive and passion for this program and for my personal journey through it.

That’s not to say that I should completely ignore the good experiences, for there I often found reprieves and joys that helped me recharge so that I could keep moving.  But if you ignore the challenges you also ignore the growth that’s been made and to do that would be not only a disservice to myself and my unwillingness to be beaten but also to the friends and mentors that have helped me along the way.

I, personally, think that in the Judge Program (and honestly in a lot of aspects of life) we don’t talk about failure enough.  Today, the Feedback Loop posted an excellent article written by Erik Aliff about his failed Level 3 Panel.  Scott Marshall faced a combat call that ended with a mistaken ruling on coverage for GP Denver (December 2016) and posted his apology to the player in question once the event was over.

Besides these two awesome examples of publicly shared stumbles, you’ll be hard pressed to find more examples of judges sharing items in this way.  (At least, I was.)  It also seems that I’m not the only one to notice the deficiency.

I was recently the recipient of an Exemplar Recognition for my post on the IQ where tough player interactions caused me to have a bad day.  I won’t quote the entirety of his words, but Arthur Halavais penned some strong thoughts that I believe will stick with me for a long time to come:

“Often, judges feel that they need to appear invulnerable while they judge, and are unwilling to ask for help, either with the event or with themselves. You bucked this trend by being willing to talk about your frustrations and ask for support from the community. Next, you took the opportunity to write a blog post about the day. While you had the option to minimize the poor encounters and talk about positive parts of the event, you fearlessly tackled a topic that was still hard to write about, and in doing so you focused on the opportunity to use your negative experience as a chance to teach other judges and to help them grow.”

First of all, holy cow can this guy write!  Secondly, this struck a chord with me and reaffirmed my motivation for keeping this blog.

Look, I get why admitting mistakes can be so hard.  There is such a large stigma attached to failure.  In the Judge Program, it can often feel like one mistake will mean the difference between being staffed for an event or never working again, and in the future world of one Tournament Organizer Grand Prixs, or viral and heinous Reddit threads, for example, it seems understandable but feeling as if perfection is the only way forward is damaging not only to yourself but the Program as a whole.  No one can be, or should expect to be, perfect.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t strive for excellence and push to be the best you can be, but to expect perfection of yourself, and by association your colleagues, is not feasible.

I’m also not saying that your only focus should only be on the negatives.  That also doesn’t do anyone any good.  Instead look for and strike a balance between the good and the bad.

My background in education has been nothing but a boon to me in the judge program, and one of the first things they teach you when you learn the fundamentals of education is that students will learn the most when first faced with failure.  When we choose to ignore the mistakes we make we are removing ourselves from potential learning experiences.

I almost stopped after I failed my L2 test for the second time because I was simply not used to the hardship that can come with wanting something that hinges on academic knowledge and missing the mark not once, but twice.  If I kept going, I was going to have to acknowledge the fact I wasn’t quite good enough a second time and frankly, self reflection is one of the hardest things a person can face.

Passing the Level 2 test was hard.  Facing my faults and not quitting was harder.

As a final note, I beseech those of you reading this that if you take away only one thing from this post, it be this:  embrace failures the same why you embrace successes and there is nothing you can’t do in the Judge Program or in life.

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Thank You, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman

This, for the most part, is a Magic and Judging blog.  That is why I started, those items are the ones I talk about the most, and this is the place that I process the things that happen at judging events.

But something magical happened in an entirely different way last night and I need to talk about it.

I finally got the female led super hero movie I have needed my entire life.

For whatever reason, as I’ve traveled through my 3o years on this planet, I’ve always been drawn to what a large portion of the population refer to as ‘male’ hobbies.  I’m an avid video gamer when the time allows, always enjoyed science fiction movies, was huge into Batman once I discovered the animated series when I was ten (still, easily, the best animated serial about any super hero ever), and obviously fell into playing this game who’s player base is largely male, white, and straight.

This demographic majority often means that a lot of the things I enjoy are seen through the eyes of someone of that race and gender which translates to a lot of women or women characters used as objects, or prizes, or tropes, or props to build up a man’s confidence.  We only see them or their story used in a way that betters the lead male character.  Or, in the case of video games and some cards games (though not current Magic art ❤ ) we get objectified women characters that are only their for the enticement of the male gaze.  I lost count of how many times I heard from a male player in the MMO World of Warcraft who was only playing a female character because, ‘If I’m going to stare at someone’s ass for hours on end I’d rather it be a chick’s.” *  I’ve recently finished Horizon Zero Dawn and I was so happy about playing a non-sexualized female video game lead that I often had the sniffles during the play through.

In the most recent decade of my life superheroes have gone from being part of a subculture to blasting into pop culture fame.  We’ve had absolutely fantastic superhero movies that have kept you on the edge of your seat while also pulling at your heart strings.  The Winter Soldier is a personal favorite because of how much in touch with his feelings Steve Rogers gets.  Shockingly (can you sense my sarcasm?), these movies were very male centric, with both (hey at least there were two!) female characters playing supportive roles as well as love interests.  And don’t get me started with Black Widow’s treatment in Age of Ultron.

Fun fact, being unable to bear children sure as shit doesn’t make you some kind of monster.  We’re not simply baby factories.

Despite the problematic treatment of female super heroes in major movies, I was still hopeful that we would get a female superhero movie where things wouldn’t be as bad.  I waited for Marvel to give me a Black Widow movie after the success the Avengers as they were clearly in the lead for successful big screen super hero adaptations. (Instead they produced toys that excluded Black Widow from their toy line, citing that girl’s don’t care about super heroes or some other pedantic bullshit.)

Then there were rumblings that the Batman Versus Superman movie was going to have a cameo that would make me happy.  I still remember the goosebumps I felt when she I watched the first trailer with Wonder Woman in it. After being subjected to that movie, myself and most of the people I knew, decided that Wonder Woman was the best part of the movie and by not a small margin.

Then we got the news: a Wonder Woman solo movie had been green lit.  I was filled with both joy and despair.  Finally, someone had decided to listen to the female (and non-binary and in a smaller percentage, the male) fans who had been clamoring for a female centered movie for ages.

However…

Historically female characters have not been handled well.  I’ve already mentioned my dislike of Whedon’s handling of Black Widow.  Most superhero movies where female heroes even make an appearance, they’re put there to fulfill the ‘badass strong female character’ check mark, and nothing more.  They’re rarely offered as much depth as their male counterparts and a lot of times it feels like they just get added so the studio can claim diversity without actually practicing what the preach.  (I cannot wait for the Black Panther movie for all the same reasons; superhero fans are not just white so neither should their superhero movies be all white either.)  There was a large chance my hero was going to be sexualized and transformed into something for men to oogle more than the strong superhero I had read so much about.

Enter Patty Jenkins.  My hype increased ten-fold.  Not only was I getting a female led super hero movie but a woman was also directing it?  Sign me the fuck up.  Now I knew, regardless of the initial reviews, I was going to see it opening weekend, if only to support their decision to place a woman at the helm of a superhero movie.  Overall, Hollywood is still an old boy’s club in a lot of aspects so any chance to support at not (old) white guy I’ll take.  (A great example of this recently was ‘Get Out’ which was directed by Jordan Peele, one of the few horror movies I’ve actively enjoyed and overall a great movie.)

Fast forward to release weekend and the reviews start to trickle in.  The whisper permeating social media that it’s good starts to build into a dull roar and then it’s revealed that Wonder Woman has achieved the coveted above 90 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (At the time of writing this, the rating was still at 93%.)  My excitement was growing and my friends were returning from the theater with exultations of joy.

That’s how I felt once the credits started rolling: joyful, ecstatic, and emotional.  I had cried during the movie and I cried once it was over.  You may be wondering I was so emotional and I myself couldn’t really put my finger on it until this morning.

Wonder Woman was not a superhero movie designed for a man; Wonder Woman was a superhero movie designed for us all.

It portrayed her as, if nothing else, human.  She was herself.  She was not there as some love interest for a man (though there was love in the movie, that was not her sole purpose for existing).  She was not there as someone’s mother, or sister, or cousin.  She did not have to be tied to a man in order to be found worthy.  She was strong and powerful but was not simply given martial prowess to fulfill some rule that all superhero movies have a ‘strong, female character’ but because it was her cultural heritage.  There was no gratuitous but shot; no super low-cut or cut out costume to show cleavage that defies physics.

The Amazons themselves were all different body types and no less strong.  They were scarred, and aged, and not just white (though the movie as a whole could’ve had a more diverse cast as much Hollywood blockbusters can).  They made no excuse for their strength, but reveled in it in a way that was refreshing.  They were not strong because that might interest a man but strong because they wanted to be strong.

That’s why Wonder Woman was so important: she was not made for men alone.  She was not there to be a sexual object for a man but more as an inspiration for woman.

I shared a picture recently on Facebook of a small girl in a Wonder Woman tiara and shirt with a pink tutu who is staring up at Wonder Woman on a cardboard advertisement for the Justice League.  She is why this movie matters so much; so that the girls and young women who see this movie see a heroine who’s not just in the movie as the final prize for the male superhero, but is instead there because she can save the world her own damn self; that she is not just an accessory to boost the male hero’s ego.

It wasn’t perfect; I had some issues with how the female villain was handled (THOUGH THANK THE GODS SHE WAS NOT THE VILLAIN BECAUSE WONDER WOMAN STOLE HER MAN OR SOMETHING. FILMMAKERS, THAT TROPE SHOULD BE DEAD AND BURIED) and I wasn’t so keen on the casting of Ares, though I won’t reveal who that was for the sack of spoilers.

At the end of the day, though, its positive attributes outweigh its flaws by one hundred percent.

Thank you Gal Gadot for portraying the kind of Wonder Woman I have always pictured in my mind.  Thank you for giving her fire, and courage, and anger, and emotion.

And thank you so much Patty Jenkins for directing a movie that left me in tears; that reminded me to not give up the fight for diversity and representation in mainstream culture.  Thank you for giving me both Princess Diana, Princess of Themyscira and Wonder Woman, two different sides of this heroine who has moved past her questionable origins to being a representation of female self-empowerment.

Thank you so much for giving me the woman led super hero movie I wanted but didn’t know that I, and women everywhere, needed so much.

*This was paraphrased and pieced together from the multiple ways I heard it.

**Big shout out to Big Hero Vince for letting me use his Wonder Woman image!  Check out his amazing cosplay and prop making on Instagram!