Ladyblogs You Should Be Reading: Roxane Gay

I first became acquainted with Roxane Gay’s writing through The Rumpus and HTMLGiant, where she often talks about fiction, its process, and also matters of gender and racial equality when it comes to the attention media outlets give writers. Currently, she is an assistant professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. The child of Haitian immigrants, she spent her childhood living in the Midwest, but also spent family vacations visiting Haiti. Her debut collection of short stories, Ayiti, interweaves different stories of the Haitian diaspora experience, and her work has also appeared in New Stories From the Midwest 2011, Best Sex Writing 2012, Salon, among many others. In addition to being the co-editor of PANK and the fiction editor of Bluestem, she runs her own small press, Tiny Hardcore.

On her own site, however, most of the content centers around two subjects: receiving writing rejections and watching movies. Lots of movies. Roxane – with one n, and don’t you forget, says this Sara-with-no-h – loves watching movies and has near perfect recall of all their details. If you’ve ever wanted to find a way to enjoy films that otherwise look awful, read her reviews.

After following her blog and Twitter stream for quite some time, I spoke Roxane about her site and love of movies. Lifetime watchers, take heart – She is so with you.

Before we get into the movies, tell me a bit about your blog’s title, “I Have Become Accustomed to Rejection.” What made you decide to detail your submission/rejection process?

I wanted a reason to blog regularly and I regularly receive rejections so it seemed like a good idea.

What’s the longest you’ve had to wait before getting just a standard form rejection? Any complete surprise acceptances?

More than a year. Most acceptances take me by surprise. I’m pretty Sally Field winning her Oscar for Norma Rae about acceptances, whether the magazine is big or small.

Now the fun: Your dedication to movies in general, particularly the gloriously ridiculous ones, really is a great thing to read. I know you’ve said that you don’t really know why you remember every detail from a movie, but what led you to wanting to discuss them at length online?

I love movies. I always have. Sadly, while most of the people in my life will go to the movies with me they don’t want to sit around discussing movies in exhaustive detail as I enjoy doing. To preserve my relationships, I needed an outlet for all that movie love energy so I made one.

Can you give us a recap of your “Movie Rules”? Or any other of your movie terms that we can forever associate with your name for posterity? TV Sub-categories such as “Law & Order Rules” and “Lifetime Original Movie Rules” can also apply.

I wish I kept better track of my movie rules but here goes:

  • Movie rule: When a woman in a movie vomits, she is pregnant.
  • Movie rule: When a romantic comedy takes place in New York, the apartments will be large, airy, with lots of natural light and the residents of these apartments will somehow be able to afford them without doing much in the way of work.
  • Movie rule: In an action movie, an attractive woman will somehow be physically vulnerable as a plot point.
  • Movie rule: If a movie takes place in the Middle East, even in a modern city like Dubai, there will be some kind of scene in an “authentic” souk.
  • Movie rule: If characters in a movie are playing chess, the chess game is some kind of “deep” metaphor for life, war, love, or some other ridiculous thing.
  • Movie rule: Grizzly, socially antagonistic or anti-social men must be reformed.
  • Movie rule: The president is black.
  • Movie rule: When a movie somehow involves a swamp, things aren’t going to end well.
  • Movie rule: When a cast is comprised of unknown actors and a handful of recognizable faces, the unknown actors will die first. Corollary: This is based on the Law & Order rule where the most recognizable actor is the rapist/serial killer/ bad person.
  • Movie rule: If a woman is raped, she’s going to take a rape shower.
  • Movie rule: Kate Winslet loves bathing in movies. Also, she loves being naked.
  • Movie rule: It’s sadder when a beautiful person dies.
  • Movie rule: If one character tells another character, “Don’t tell anyone,” the request will be completely ignored.
  • Movie rule: If a movie is set in San Francisco two things will happen – the Golden Gate bridge will be fucked up and there will be fog.
  • Movie rule: If a movie is set in New York City, skyscrapers will fall.
  • Movie rule: If a movie is set in Washington DC, political landmarks will be destroyed and the audience will inexplicably cheer.
  • Movie rule: If you are a brunette in a movie, you will have a blonde best friend and you will be the sad sack sort who wears wool skirts or something.
  • Movie rule: If you are a lawyer you hate your job.
  • Movie rule: When it comes to infidelity, two wrongs do make a right.
  • Movie rule: A pregnant woman is the holy grail and all her sins are absolved.
  • Movie rule: Love makes you pretty if you were originally a bit drab.
  • Movie rule: In an action movie, when a woman is pregnant, this plot device will be used to demonstrate that a great deal is at stake and that there must be a happy ending.
  • Movie rule: When a movie is set in Brazil, and particularly Rio, the opening scene  in that city will involve panning around the Christ the Redeemer statue, first from a distance, then closing in. There will often be some kind of sweeping scoring involved.
  • Movie rule: In an action movie, the blacktor will often provide comic relief. See: Tyrese.
  • Movie rule: If there are canals, there will be a boat chase.

Lifetime Movie rules are a very special category that I could go on about at length. I will spare you but I will point out that in a Lifetime movie there will be: Canadian accents, bad backgrounds, fake “dance” music, Times New Roman credits, “racy” sex scenes, poorly choreographed fight scenes, women always, always imperiled, and bad wigs.

What seems to be the line, for you, between a bad movie and so-bad-it’s-good?

A bad movie doesn’t make me laugh at the badness. A truly bad movie makes me angry. I’ve seen a couple truly bad movies lately that made me so disgusted. Example: Jack & Jill. That was a movie so offensively, criminally bad, I wanted to drive to Hollywood and punch the movie industry in its face.

A so-bad-it’s-good movie makes me feel this warm stirring of delight from deep inside my chest. I literally feel like dancing at a so-bad-it’s-good movie and sometimes, I do. I really do.

Your review of Fast Five might be my favorite of yours, though the recent Twilight movie and Skywatch? Hell, I can’t even remember the name of the movie now other than your review is more memorable than the actual movie. Have you been surprised at the reaction you get from people with your movie reviews?

SKYLINE! I own that mofo on DVD. I might even watch it later. I have been very surprised (see: Sally Field/Norma Rae). It makes me so happy to know people enjoy my movie review/recaps because I love movies so much and want people to love them with me. Joy should be shared.

Seriously, though, Skyline was just so unbelievably awesome with that cray cray ending. Also, I kind of feel like I maybe reached the pinnacle with my discussion of Twilight 4: Dawn and the Headboard, Both Completely Broken.

Related to that, I suppose if someone only knew you through your more serious posts about literature, discrimination, and your fiction writing, they might not expect you to enjoy romantic comedies, live-tweeting reading Vogue magazine or the serious hunk of meat that is Vin Diesel. Of course, that’s somewhat ridiculous, since we’re all varied people with a sense of humor. I suppose this is just a long way of asking, What Up With That?

I am a Libra.

It’s important to be well-rounded. I have a serious side but I also have a sense of humor and know how to relax and not take things too seriously. Frankly, given a lot of my more serious writing, I need to be able to step away sometimes.

Do the employees at your movie theater recognize you now? Or is it like my semi-shitty small theater and the turnover rate is high?

Oh, they know me. It’s a small town.

Define “Face Acting” for us. Your All-Time Favorite Face Actors?

Face acting is serious business. It’s when an actor is unable to convey emotion with nuance or subtlety so they try to express how they’re feeling in a scene by exaggeratedly contorting their faces.

These days, who isn’t a face actor? Mostly, it’s like B-list and C-list actors who are very attractive but will never win an Oscar. Julianne Hough, for example. Very attractive young woman, and a fine dancer. She cannot act, though, so she face acts to compensate. Channing Tatum is also a flagrant face actor, but it’s okay because he’s such a hunk of hot beef. Have you seen Paula Patton? She is gorgeous but, my goodness, she is a face actor. If there was an Oscar for face acting, it would probably go to my man Paul Walker. Last year he really put on a face acting clinic in Fast Five, and also the year before in Takers.

What movie are you most looking forward to seeing soon?

Hunger Games, obvi. Also, I am all over The Vow. I am leaving work as early as I can to catch Channing. Look, I’ll be real. If it is being released in theaters, and it is not a cartoon or some weird animation thing, I am very excited to see it.


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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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