Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Year of Living Fearlessly

One year.

It has been one year since Fearless Girl was released to this blog. The work is almost surely my calling card and was also distinguished as without this script, I would never have created Sheryl Strongheart or Rennie Rochester. As in, writing it was what made me start identifying as a feminist (and writing additional girl-power scripts.)

Fearless Girl, the statue, was something I knew about vaguely, but was first presented with in image form for me on a Video Daily Double on the July 18, 2017 episode of the popular game show Jeopardy! One look at this elegant sculpture, uneasy at nothing, with her hands on her hips, asking society to throw at her whatever its gender-biased nature could. The SECOND the statue came onto the screen of our TV, I immediately wondered, "What would she look like as a human girl?" Followed, of course, by the question, "What would it take for her to become a human girl?"

The story expanded over the next hour, and a few days later, it was all realized. Fearless Girl would need to be a source of inspiration, and her message resonate with, a young girl, who in the rough draft was named Madeleine (as opposed to Dakota). A kindhearted middle school boy (named Ari from the start) would help them. This is how the story looked on my 16th birthday (July 23, 2017).

However, I still felt something was missing. I wanted to tackle a specific genre of girl power, a very specific feminist message that could propel starts to talks in the household about misogyny. Then a blast from the past came - a certain Super Bowl commercial from 2015 that had moved me to tears with its message, as created by Serial's Sarah Koenig.

I then looked back at the commercial and found out that the voice behind it hadn't been Sarah Koenig at all - the site I had looked at the day after the game contained errors. The real mastermind had been Lauren Greenfield (who you can visit the Twitter of here, it's mostly stuff about her new documentary, which I assume has been consuming all her time), a documentary filmmaker born in 1966. The minute I discovered who really was responsible for that ad, I totally fanboyed out for Lauren. Her commercial, which proposed a new, stronger meaning for the classic "you run like a girl" playground insult, was the missing piece I needed.

The commercial also changed a key aspect of the story. "Madeleine" became Dakota, whose name and appearance were based on Dakota Booker, who was ten when she showed Lauren how a pre-pubescent girl who has not yet been taught by society that being female is inferior throws a ball. Booker was the poster girl for the Always "Like a Girl" campaign. (I've discovered her Instagram, which you can visit here. Dakota Booker is a healthy, proactive, strong, fun-loving 15-year-old now.)

The script was completed in one day - July 26, 2017. However, I revisited it many times. In February 2018, Dakota's climactic monologue was heavily edited to change the "better meaning" of "running like a girl" from "running like someone who is good at running" to "running like yourself, even if you're not good at it." I didn't want to put down girls who were bad at sports and/or didn't want to break stereotypes, which some accused the commercial of doing. Around that same time, I drew a picture, in character as Ari, of the boy with Dakota and the now-human statue putting their arms around him. This picture, drawn in colored pencil, now proudly hangs on the wall of my bedroom.

I am still fanboying over Lauren Greenfield - but NOWHERE NEAR how obsessed I was with her in July and August of 2017. Lauren may be a documentarian, but there is not a single other person on the face of the earth that I would give the job of director for this fictional story to. I sent a letter off to Lauren's production company, Chelsea Pictures L.A., in August, and I did get something back, saying "we love all the girl power in your writing," "for someone so young, you present as wise beyond your years," "though you were writing specifically to Lauren, we are all truly touched by your kind words about Like a Girl," - but they couldn't pass mail to Lauren directly. They did however wish me "all the positive vibes in my imminently bright future".

As a recluse of sorts, I enjoy writing my scripts. I am extremely lucky to love my work more than anything else. Ari finds real friends in my script the way my scripts are my friends.

I'm going to close with a poll for my readers. Leave your response in the comments. The question is: In Fearless Girl, which is the most important "self-discovery" made between the three main characters? (I'm willing to let you go on your own criteria of what makes this discovery "important".)

A. Ari's discovery of true friends, his achievement of self-worth, and the feeling of being loved that             friendship offers
B. Dakota's discovery of the courage and self-confidence that was in her all along, and the secret to not       losing it
C. Shea's discovery of the human world, and her realization that as a human girl, she must leave her           new world a different place than when she stepped into it

So, in your opinion, which is the most important? Let me know!

It's been one year, and I haven't really been the same as I was before I turned that statue into that story.

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