I just wanted to thank everyone who was a part of this crazy week.
As someone who spent years in the tech world before becoming a comedy writer, I’ve worked in two industries that openly debate gender when it comes to capability. I wanted to write “Barbie Fucks It Up Again” after finding a book aimed toward the youngest minds as they’re just starting to define self-worth. I’m thrilled the Internet seized the spirit of that essay and took up the fight. I’m proud to watch this worldwide discussion. (Not to mention this kickass piece of business.)
I wish Mattel had chosen to adjust the title instead of shelving it. I think we all would have appreciated that kind of reboot, even if it did take two girls (and Brian AND Steven) to get the job done correctly.
Thank you for sharing, for talking, and for making a difference. Thanks for reminding me why I love writing at pamie.com.
I’m sitting here with a fractured nose realizing I haven’t even told you yet that my mom called yesterday to let me know that my dead dad stopped a robbery in her storage unit. But that’s a story for another time. I promise to come back here more often.
…Especially since I had to upgrade my shit after we crashed this site five hundred times this week.
I recently paid a visit to my sweet friend Helen Jane and was excited to find this book at her house.
(The second book of the “2 Books in 1!” is “Barbie [i can be…] an Actress.” We’ll get to that later.)
Helen Jane has two little girls under the age of six. I have a daughter who is almost two. “This is great!” I said. “Barbie wants to be a computer engineer! And fifty stickers!”
“Yeah, I was really excited at first, too,” Helen Jane said. “Because, like you, I believe in the good of people. But then, like I’m sure you’ve experienced a million times, I was reminded you should never believe in the good of people.”
“Oh, no. Should I read it?”
“You must. Immediately.”
And now you all will, too. Because this is a real book. A book you could buy right now if you wanted to. A book that right now, somewhere, is teaching possibly hundreds of young girls and boys the following:
At breakfast one morning, Barbie is already hard at work on her laptop.
“What are you doing, Barbie?” asks Skipper.
“I’m designing a game that shows kids how computers work,” explains Barbie. “You can make a robot puppy do cute tricks by matching up colored blocks!”
Barbie! That’s awesome. I love how your game is both educational and fun. Bonus points for keeping it cute, because you are so stylish. Please be careful not to drop your breakfast fro-yo on your laptop. I’ve done it, and it’s not so funzies.
Anyway, Internet, get ready to find your thing to be super pissed off about today.
“Your robot puppy is so sweet,” says Skipper. “Can I play your game?”
“I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”
What the fucking shit, Barbie?
This is where you assume Skipper will be like, “Oh, why do you need boys? We can do it ourselves! Let’s learn and work hard and do things all on our own because a sense of accomplishment and knowledge are powerful weapons for adulthood.”
But no. Nope. Barbie’s just fine ending her work with the “design ideas” and a laugh. She’ll need the boys before she’ll have a “REAL GAME.”
Wait, wait. I need you to know something, and this is hard for me to tell you, because I’m guessing that like Helen Jane and me, you maybe believe in the good of people. You still hope that when we turn the page, there will be something empowering for Barbie and Skipper to experience. That maybe Steven and Brian are… I don’t know, maybe they could still be girls? But, no. It’s about to get even more misogynistic up in here.
Barbie tries to email her design to Steven, but suddenly her screen starts blinking.
“That’s weird!” says Barbie.
Barbie and Skipper try to reboot the computer, but nothing happens.
“Looks like you’ve got a virus, big sister,” says Skipper.
“Luckily, I wear my flash drive on a necklace so that I’ll always remember to back up my work,” replies Barbie.
So, after this page, we–
Hey, where did you go? Oh, I see you. You’re on the floor, face down, having given up. Yeah, we did that, too. Is it because it took two girls to reboot a computer?
I feel bad for every time I made fun of my mother using technology, because right now some mom is having to read this book to her daughter, and after the “weird” blinking screen and reboot, she’s having to describe the computer’s state as: “nothing happens.”
Are you still on the floor because Barbie wears a flash drive around her neck? And that it’s a giant pink heart? At least Skipper’s doing her best to help the situation by pouring her sister some juice. Girls can be so helpful in the kitchen.
“May I borrow your laptop, Skipper?” asks Barbie as she follows her little sister into her bedroom.
“I really should finish my homework assignment. I am writing about a person I admire,” says Skipper.
“I only need it for a minute,” adds Barbie.
“Okay,” says Skipper.
Run, Skipper! Run from the haunted flash drive!
When Barbie puts her flash drive into Skipper’s laptop, the screen starts blinking.
“Oh, no!” says Barbie. “The virus must be on the flash drive!”
“I forgot to back up my homework assignment!” cries Skipper. “And all my music files are lost, too!”
“I’m so sorry, Skipper,” says Barbie. “I have to run off to school now. But I promise to find a way to fix your laptop.”
“You better!” Skipper replies as she playfully hits Barbie with a pillow.
A PILLOW. SKIPPER HITS HER SISTER WITH A PILLOW. PLAYFULLY.
Skipper has just lost her homework, all her music files and her laptop, but all she’s moved to is STATUS: PILLOW FIGHT.
Barbie makes it to computer class just before the bell rings. As soon as class begins, Barbie raises her hand.
“Yes, Barbie?” asks Ms. Smith, the teacher.
“If your computer gets a virus and crashes, how can you retrieve all the files you lost?” asks Barbie.
The fact that Barbie’s comp sci teacher is female almost lets you assume things are about to get less insulting. Don’t fall for it.
“Well, first you remove the hard drive from the crashed computer,” explains Ms. Smith. “And then you hook it up to another computer.”
“But won’t the other computer get the same virus that made your computer crash?” asks Barbie.
“Not if the computer has good security software installed,” says Ms. Smith. “Good security software protects your computer from catching a virus.”
Barbie gets told how to do something, so what do you think she does next? That’s right. Go find some boys to fix her computering!
After class, Barbie meets with Steven and Brian in the library.
“Hi, guys,” says Barbie. “I tried to send you my designs, but I ended up crashing my laptop — and Skipper’s too! I need to get back the lost files and repair both of our laptops.”
“It will go faster if Brian and I help,” offers Steven.
“Great!” says Barbie. “Steven, can you hook Skipper’s hard drive up to the library’s computer?”
“Sure!” says Steven. “The library computer has excellent security software to protect it.”
IT WILL GO FASTER IF BRIAN AND I HELP, offer the men voices. “Step aside, Barbie.” YOU’VE BROKEN ENOUGH, NOW.
From Helen Jane: Steven and Brian are nice guys, I’m sure. But Steven and Brian are also everything frustrating about the tech industry. Steven and Brian represent the tech industry assumption that only men make meaningful contributions. Men fix this, men drive this and men take control to finish this. Steven and Brian don’t value design as much as code. Steven and Brian represent every time I was talked over and interrupted — every time I didn’t post a code solution in a forum because I didn’t want to spend the next 72 years defending it. Steven and Brian make more money than I do for doing the same thing. And at the same time, Steven and Brian are nice guys.
“I’ve got Skipper’s assignment from the hard drive!” exclaims Steven.
“Fantastic!” says Barbie. “And her other files, as well?”
“I’ve got everything,” says Steven. “Now let’s retrieve the files from your hard drive. Both laptops will be good as new in no time!”
High-five, dude. High-fucking-five.
The next morning, Barbie gives her sister a big surprise. Skipper turns on her laptop– and it works!
“My lost assignment!” cries Skipper. “You are just too cool, Barbie! You fixed my computer AND saved my homework!”
Skipper gives Barbie a huge hug.
Barbie not only waits until the next morning to return her sister’s computer, she completely takes all the credit that it’s no longer broken! What an asshole!
At school, Skipper presents her assignment to the class.
“Hi, everybody,” she says. “The person I admire most is Barbie — a great sister and a great computer engineer!”
Everyone is impressed by Skipper’s presentation.
What?! Oh, wait. Didn’t she mostly write this assignment before the crash? Let’s give Skipper a pass. She almost lost enough already this week. Besides, if we upset her we’re likely to get trapped in the middle of one of her combination pillow fight/bikini car washes.
At computer class, Barbie presents the game she designed. Ms. Smith is so impressed that she gives Barbie extra credit!
Barbie’s terrific computer skills have saved the day for both sisters!
“I guess I can be a computer engineer!” says Barbie happily.
THE FUCKING END, PEOPLE.
Despite having ruined her own laptop, her sister’s laptop, and the library’s computers, not to mention Steven and Brian’s afternoon, she takes full credit for her game design– only to get extra credit and decide she’s an awesome computer engineer! “I did it all by myself!”
Flip the book and you can read “Barbie: I can be an Actress,” where Barbie saves the day by filling in for the princess in Skipper’s school production of “Princess and the Pea.” She ad-libs and smiles her way through her lines, and charms the entire audience. Standing ovation, plenty of praise. At no point did she need anybody’s help. She didn’t even need lines! Just standing there being Barbie was enough for everyone in attendance. See, actors? It’s not that hard. Even Barbie can do it.
When you hold the book in your hands to read a story, the opposite book is upside down, facing out. So the final insult to this entire literary disaster is that when you read “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you’re reading “Barbie: I Can Be an Actress” upside down.
Helen Jane and I were so livid after reading this book we spent the first fifteen minutes spitting out syllables and half-sounds. We’d go from outraged to defeated to livid in the span of ten seconds. “I want this thing to start a meme of girls screaming, ‘I don’t need a Brian or a Steven!’”
We knew we had to share this with you, because if we didn’t, we’d be saying it was okay. We couldn’t just roll our eyes at how insulting this book is, how dangerous it is for young minds, how it’s a perfect example of the way women and girls are perceived to “understand” the tech world, and how frustrating it can be when nobody believes this is how we’re treated.
Oh, and the 50 stickers? I only saw one: “Nerdy is the new Fab!” The others had already been removed by Helen Jane’s small daughters. We can only hope that one of them doesn’t boast, “My other laptop is a boy!”
I need you to know that I have been working on keeping my Fan Face in check. The other day, Nick from Project Runway/Under the Gunn passed me on the street and said hello to the baby and I acted like he was a face I didn’t recognize. An elevator door opened to reveal Maya Rudolph standing right in front of me and — you guys — the fact that I did not immediately launch into an impression of her impression of Oprah shows you how much I’ve grown as a person who periodically goes outside.
But this is a story from before I had labelled my Fan Face. Back when it was so obvious my husband would just look away and go, “Damn, Ribon. You look like you’re taking a photograph of Marcia Gay Harden with your retinas. Either work on that, or go talk to her before we get on the plane. It’s getting creepy. …oh, you’re going to go talk to her? I’m going to go over here and not know you, then.”
Marcia was very sweet, even though she had an understandably protective lean decidedly away from me. I normally never go up to someone, but Marcia had talked to my acting class back when I was in college, and I wanted to thank her because it really stuck with me, and many of my friends from that year. Plus I was pregnant at the time, and that state of being apparently turned my “give a shit” meter all the way off.
That missing self-check mode made for all kinds of new experiences during the months I was pregnant. One that immediately comes to mind, one I just can’t seem to let go, involves another airport encounter.
Being pregnant makes you have to pee. All the time, a lot. This is probably not news to you. But it can make something as mundane as getting through airport security turn into a stakes-are-very-high situation inside your body. One time I was struggling through security check before a red-eye flight to New York, keeping my mind focused on the first finish line: the ladies room inside the United Lounge. There had been some delays, some traffic, some longer-than-expected lines, and by the time I reached the bathroom door, I was hunched over, inching my way to the stall.
I peed with great relief. I remember this. I remember a feeling of accomplishment that almost made me sleepy.
Afterward, while I was washing my hands, a woman stepped out of another stall. After a quick glance in the mirror, I thought, “That looks like Retta. But, Retta if she were not in makeup and wanting to sleep during this upcoming redeye.”
I tried not to Fan Face. After all, we were in a bathroom. Let the lady have her time.
Just after take-off I rushed to the airplane bathroom, as it had been almost a full forty-five minutes since I’d been allowed to pee. On the way back I saw that the woman I thought was Retta was sitting in the aisle in front of me. But now she was tucked in all cozy and asleep. Couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, sure as hell wasn’t going to ask her, nor inspect further.
After the flight, maybe-Retta was sitting near us, waiting on a taxi or shuttle or something. This is when I realized I knew the best way to find out if that was, in fact, Retta on my flight. Twitter. If she was on a plane to New York, surely she would have mentioned it.
Turns out Retta had tweeted just before her flight.
“Damn, lady in the United stall next to me. Why the orgasmic experience? #personaltime #keepmeoutofit”
So, you know, it’s not always just my face that ruins things.
If there were a kind of porn site where I just watched people who had time on their hands do all the things I wish I still had time to do, I would… well, I wouldn’t have time to watch it. These days I hear about people binge-watching entire seasons of a tv series over their weekends and I’m drooling, it sounds so luxurious. I get jealous every night when the baby has her bath, because sometimes there are bubbles, and I miss just deciding to take a long, hot bath and then taking one while reading an entire book. I used to have so much time! Time I wasted thinking I needed to be doing something with all that time! I never appreciated it and now it’s gone and you guys, I have regrets.
The other day I couldn’t find my library card. “It’s on Qwerty’s keys,” I said to Jason and Kristen. “Do you guys know where she keeps her keys?”
“Did you check her pink purse?” asked Jason.
“I did. No keys.”
Kristen said, “I know they aren’t in her owl purse. I found that earlier and all it has is her phone.”
This keys-having, phone-toting, two-purse-and-a-library-card owning child is seventeen-months old.
From LA Weekly:
The Working Poet Radio Show
7:00 p.m. June 4
Los Angeles Central Library
Mark Taper Auditorium
Whether it’s Twitter, YouTube or Instagram, digital media are changing the business world, one click at a time. The whole concept of sharing has swiftly become more than social, and if you’ve seen Jon Favreau’s latest film, Chef, you’ll understand how quickly your Twitter game can change your career. Enter The Working Poet Radio Show, a new monthly radio and television talk show sponsored by the Los Angeles Public Library, which seeks to explore the lives of creative people. The June 4 show, “Working With Humor,” will focus on comedians and how digital media are changing their professional lives. Sit with the live audience and listen as L.A. success stories Flula Borg, a German techno DJ; Key & Peele director Jay Martel; and best-selling author Pamela Ribon discuss how humor has changed because of social media. “It’s such a struggle for people to get to where they want to be,” says show host (and L.A. Weekly contributor) Joseph Lapin on the struggle to be successful while maintaining creativity. “This show appeals to those who want to be creative.” Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St.; Wed., June 4, 7 p.m.; free. (213) 228-7338, theworkingpoetradioshow.com.
— By Kellyn Kawaguchi
Created by: Carlos Romero
Music by: Adam Blau
This has been sitting in the inbox for a while. My apologies.
I attended your Chicks with Bics panel and we met briefly during the BBQ at the Austin Film Festival. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak on the panels and share your experiences, and also for taking the time to talk with me personally. I am a novelist and an aspiring TV comedy writer so everything you spoke about has direct relevance to what I’m trying to do/achieve/be. Therefore, I am writing to express my thanks.
Your advice solidified my plans to start a blog and take an improv class, the latter of which frightens me to my very core (it was the only time I purchased something where I hoped my credit card would be declined).
With the hope that I’m not overstaying my email welcome, I do have a question for you – if you have the time. I wrote a half-hour comedy with the following logline: An orthodox Jewish family, desperate to have a child, tries to adopt a little Jewish girl but through a mixup at the agency, ends up with an African American one. (it’s sort of a Modern Family meets Different Strokes) I know it’s not necessarily a marketable idea but I hope it’s unique enough to get read and, in an ideal world, help me get staffed.
I received notes from a (film) producer friend who said it was basically too Jewish to sell and has too narrow of an appeal to use as a writing sample. So, my question: Is he right in that IF it doesn’t have broad appeal, could that be a problem? Should I be writing something that’s safe and appeals to the broadest audience possible so that agents, producers etc. know that I can, or is it ok to have an idea that may be a bit niche without them thinking I can only write to that niche?
Thank you again so very much for your time and assistance. It really is invaluable to receive advice from someone with your accomplishments.
Hi, Megan! It’s good to hear from you, and YAY on the improv class! I know it’s scary, but that’s the point. You’ll have more sympathy for the actors in the roles you create, and all actors want is love, attention, sympathy and everything else you have and then more than that and actors can be needy, is what I’m saying.
So, someone told you that your idea wasn’t that great. The next question to ask yourself is, “Do I want that person to be right?” Because if this is the story that showcases your voice, your point of view, your unique place in this huge world of writers and storytellers, then you have to stick with it. If you’re looking to get staffed, showrunners aren’t looking for writers with “broad appeal.” They’re looking for something new, something different, something funny with heart and talent. Did this story happen to you or someone you know? Even better. And even more reason to tell the haters to suck it.
Posting my Austin Film Festival info here for those of you who I want to see, need to see, or hope to see next week. When I’m not at these places, I’m probably in the Driskill lobby, or wherever Chuy tells me to be. Austin, please get your breakfast tacos and Mexican Martinis all in a row because I have only so much time to eat and drink between these fun things: