So Lani Sarem did an interview with Idobi Network, an Internet radio station last night. The only reason I listened to it was because I checked her twitter and it was happening in like five minutes, and I had nothing better to do than listen along. In my defense, it’s been a while since we’ve heard any developments on the HfM movie front, and I was thirsty for answers.
EDIT: To listen to the interview yourself, click HERE
1: Lani is going HARD on the #feminism thing
Right off the bat, the interviewer asked Lani about her history as a creative person, and, unsurprisingly, she brought up her history as an amateur screenwriter. As you probably know, Lani Sarem began writing her own screenplays (in which she would naturally cast herself as the lead) at the age of 11. However, instead of saying “why wait for someone to write a role for me” as she did in her ThreeGeeks interview, this time, she said something about how even at the age of 11 she knew there weren’t a lot of great roles for women, and therefore wanted to write her own:
My dream and desire as a child was to make movies and I began writing scripts at 11 because I knew that there weren’t a lot of great female roles. As an 11 year old, way before this was like a bog topic of discussion, so that’s why I started writing scripts (3:48)
Later, while talking about the production of the film that is supposedly actually happening (color me skeptical), the interviewer followed up on Lani’s assertion that there would be a female director by asking if there were any directors officially attached to the project.
The official answer is. . . No. This movie does not yet have anyone attached. They are, however, “in talks” with a few female directors, one of whom, according to Lani, has directed a female-led movie in a franchise before. No names were specifically mentioned.
But Lani is super psyched about her #feminist movie, say something along the lines of
“When have we had a brand-new project with a female character? Probably Hunger Games.“
I don’t have the interview on-hand, so I don’t know if that’s an exact quote as of yet. I wrote it down as she said it. It was in the context of how Wonder Woman just came out, but Wonder Woman’s been around forever. What I love about this bit though is that it shows how narrow Lani’s cultural radar is. The first Hunger Games film came out in 2012. Since then we have had three female-led Star Wars, a female-led Pixar film, Hidden Figures, HBO’s Big Little Lies, Westworld, and the last two seasons of Game of Thrones have been really fucking big on Stronk Empowered Wimmin. Lady Bird has been nominated for best picture, as has Three Billboards(. . .). There was Atomic Blonde, and then this year we’ve got Ava DuVernay doing A Wrinkle in Time (GET HYPE). Not all of these were feminist works. I didn’t even like all of them. And I’m not even saying that women have reached equal representation in film. My point is just that having a female lead isn’t exactly novel.
2: Fun Fact: The Plain White T’s were originally 100 Monkeys
And this is how we ended up with Jackson Rathbone as the lead vocalist in the Plain White T’s:
Originally (as I FUCKING CALLED), Jackson was not a significant character. In fact, Jackson was initially ACTUALLY JACKSON RATHBONE.
You see, originally, Jackson Rathbone and his band 100 Monkeys were imagined to have a cameo role in Lani’s screenplay. Then, I guess when Lani went on to manage the Plain White T’s, she changed the cameo band to that. I guess Jackson had a minor role, though, so Jackson Rathbone was kept in. BUT THEN the Love Triangle was introduced (again, as I FUCKING CALLED) and that must be when Jackson Rathbone became Jackson Milsap. She didn’t even bother changing his first name:
If I’m gonna write a script, why shouldn’t I—originally I’d written it kinda a small cameo idea, and then really like the idea of—originally it was less of a love triangle and then just kinda really liked the idea of—once you start writing, characters kind of have a life of their own, so as I kept writing and writing they kind of became their own sorta characters. And then actually when the band became no longer 100 Monkeys I had changed that character’s name from Jackson and then just really changed it a couple times and then realized that his name was Jackson, that this character was supposed to be Jackson, so I changed it back. So at that point it wasn’t really related to Jackson Rathbone at all anymore. (9:03)
When the interviewer asked if the Plain White T’s would have a cameo in the film, Lani replied that she thinks so, barring “scheduling conflicts.” (7:57)
3: We got to hear a defense of the cover art plagiarism
Finally, someone asked her about the conspicuous similarity of HfM’s cover art to Gill Del-Mace’s The Knifethrower.
“We didn’t do anything illegal”
According to Lani, she had the idea of a girl sitting in front of a “death wheel” and thought that Del-Mace’s piece looked better than other reference images she could give to her artist (or something?). She talked about how there are only so many ways for someone to sit on a stool (or something) and about a heuristic for figuring out if you’re veering too close to plagiarism (make a list of similarities and differences, if there are more differences than similarities you’re good? Something like that), and how she’s talked to lawyers and they’ve all given her the OK. Then she said something about it being an intentional homage. She also said something about how comic book artists rip each other off all the time, so yeah.
She also said that she doesn’t think anyone would have cared if the book hadn’t gotten such negative attention.
4: More of the same misrepresentation of her critics
So we’ve all heard Lani’s many retorts to her detractors. Basically, she doesn’t think that any of her critics have ever read her book. Or they’re specifically looking for reasons not to like it. Or they’re getting bent out-of-shape about a few typos here and there. And there are people who hate Twilight and 50 Shades, but those are still massively successful franchises.
“I get fan mail from girls about how they love Zade and want to be her!”
She also talked about the Facebook writer’s group drama, making it seem like people were looking down on her for having written HfM as a screenplay first, rather than, you know, publishing a book with zero redeeming qualities as a stepping stone to movie stardom:
I noticed sometimes that even in writer’s groups—I’m a part of one writer’s group on Facebook and there’s like 75000 members—and you know we all talk about our projects sometimes and I was talking about my project, and somebody got really angry and was like “SHE’S JUST A SCRIPT WRITER! She doesn’t belong in here” and the admin was like “this is for any kind of writers. We don’t care what you write. (11:50)
5: Babby’s first demarcation problem
As you may remember, there has been controversy over exactly what genre HfM falls under. Is it Young Adult? Is it New Adult? What is “Young Adult,” anyway? Is it “New Adult” if the most salacious it gets is a knee-popping kiss and the language puts it at a weak PG? Lani and the interviewer seem thoroughly perplexed. It’s kind of cute. It’s like watching people become postmodern Cultural Marxists in real time. Maybe one day we’ll get Lani Sarem’s woke views on how gender is a social construct.
Basically, Lani argues that the NYT classified it as Young Adult, but in her heart of hearts, she agrees. She talked about how, like, age of the character is super arbitrary. And like, if age of the protagonists defines the target audience, then isn’t Pixar’s Up for senior citizens? (Fun fact: According to someone who went to her “How I Navigated the NYT Bestseller List panel at Agile Writer’s Conference,” she touched on this there as well. )
I’m not going to argue the point that genre is a horribly imprecise, ill-defined taxonomy. I’m fairly sure that anyone who has done much reading has thought about genre and how arbitrary it is, so it’s kind of funny to hear someone wrestling with it for the first time.
That was everything vaguely interesting from this interview. There was a lot of victim-complex-ing on display, and the only way anyone could ever hate her book is because they were prejudiced from the start, etc. She did a lot of rationalization about how people bought the books at cons because the just love Thomas Ian Nichols so much (I’d literally never heard of him before this drama started). But we’ve heard all that before.