Blogging at GeekMom about MINIONS’ Scarlet Overkill & DIY Female-centric Adventure Tales

I blogged at GeekMom about the origin tale behind DESPICABLE SCARLET, the all-ages, illustrated fanfic project I created to share with my daughter and yours.

This story features a redemption tale for MINIONS supervillain Scarlet Overkill (along with her groovy husband, Herb) and is geared for fans of the DESPICABLE ME movie franchise. It’s also my DIY attempt to help address the gender imbalance when it comes to female protagonists.

The beautiful art for DESPICABLE SCARLET was created by the amazing Bananataffy!

Thanks for reading!

On the Ableist Portrayal of Female Villains: MINIONS’ Scarlet Overkill

Back in December 2015, Indiewire’s Animation Scoop featured an interview with MINIONS’ directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. As a fan of supervillain Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), I read the interview (which I had recently discovered) to learn more behind-the-scenes information about how the story evolved. Then one quote in particular stopped me cold:

BD: Let’s talk about Scarlet and Herb Overkill and working with Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm.

KB: The nature of Scarlet’s character is that she’s bi-polar and unpredictable.

Wait, what?!

Scarlet spits tea_gif

I had previously expressed my concerns about Scarlet’s ableist portrayal several months earlier via Twitter—September 9, 2015, to be exact. I collected my tweets in a Storify: Scarlet Overkill’s Ableist Portrayal in Minions.

At the time of my tweets, I’d assumed her ableist portrayal was the result of unexamined prejudices. Mr. Balda’s statement, however, seems to indicate the creative team had deliberately made a choice to portray Scarlet as having a mental disability. Needless to say, such an approach is problematic, irresponsible, and harmful.

It’s very disturbing to see a representative of Illumination Entertainment spin this narrative about her character. Scarlet Overkill isn’t the first character to be portrayed in an ableist way and she probably won’t be the last, but this incident demonstrates that the conversation about this issue needs to keep going. It’s especially concerning given that her character appears in a high-profile, mainstream film targeted at children.

Mr. Balda’s statement is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it trivializes bi-polar disorder, which is an extremely serious health condition. Associating any kind of psychiatric diagnoses with a villainous character demonizes mental health consumers and that’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Then there’s the sexist aspect. I’ve not seen any indication that the male villains of the Despicable Me franchise are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. If it’s true they aren’t (and I’m willing to bet money that they aren’t), then characterizing the franchise’s first female supervillain as having one is an astonishingly callous and sexist act. Films like MINIONS don’t happen in a vacuum. The implication here is that there’s something evil about women who have a mental health history or heck, all women who experience mood swings as part of their menstrual symptoms.

Another issue is that a bi-polar condition is complex and involves more than just mood swings. Reducing it to someone being merely “unpredictable” and “upset” is beyond irresponsible. It’s also inexcusable. Additionally, Scarlet Overkill’s character isn’t a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of a villain struggling with a mental health condition.

This incident is yet another example of how the entertainment industry perpetuates ableist stereotypes. But it doesn’t have to continue. A character like Scarlet Overkill can have mood swings without them relating to a psychiatric disorder. Or she can simply choose to deploy mood swings as part of her arsenal. Why is it so difficult to envision a female villain who’s in complete control of her behavior? The failure of imagination displayed by the MINIONS’ creative team is staggering.

Color me cynical, but I doubt any follow-up message about Scarlet’s “bi-polar” portrayal will come from Illumination Entertainment or Kyle Balda, so on their behalf I apologize to anyone who may have been hurt by Mr. Balda’s words. I’m part of a society that hands out ableist portrayals and/or general ableist actions left and right and have contributed to the problem myself. Therefore, I’m here to convey how sorry I am to those affected by his thoughtless comment.

I apologize for all of my shortcomings in this area as well. This situation only makes me more determined to listen, learn, and do better in my own life. I don’t have a disability, but I know plenty of people who do. I have an enormous responsibility to do right by all of them, whether or not I even know their names.

I wrote this post in the hope that at least one person will gain better insight and abstain from using ableist portrayals in their stories. If you have insights about this type of situation to share or links to informative articles about the subject, please do so. Thank you for reading.

Images property of Universal Pictures

Space Disco For All My Friends!

smirkyGreetings, Earthlings!

Dooley here, taking a break from wrapping presents, and looking forward to seeing the latest Star Wars installment with my family on Christmas Day. The original movie released in 1977  when I was a mere ten years old. I don’t think I saw it in the cinema, but I do remember people going crazy for it. And I remember the radio playing so many songs related to space and adventure and…love.

Space Disco it came to be called, and over the past few years I’ve been trying to hunt down some of those catchy tunes. Here are some of my faves. How many Science Fiction Romance tropes can *you* spot?

Automatic Lover by Dee D. Jackson:

I Lost my Heart to a Starship Trooper by Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip:

Starship 109 by Mistral:

Magic Fly by Space:

Spacer by Sheila B. Devotion:

Do you have a favorite that I’ve missed? Let me know in comments.