Tag Archives: identity

Glader Slang in “The Maze Runner”

**This post contains spoilers for The Maze Runner**

maze runner cover

The Maze Runner is being adapted to film. It will be interesting to see how the slang is handled on-screen.

When I read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, there was pretty much only one element that I actually liked; the Glader slang.  (Things I didn’t like included the tediously slow (and ultimately unsatisfactory) reveal of answers, the near-complete lack of character development, the inconsistency of the main character’s attitudes towards other characters (like “go away Chuck you’re so annoying!”-“Chuck you’re my new and only friend!”-“gah Chuck stop talking you’re so annoying!”), the way Thomas pats himself on the back for feeling the most basic empathy for his fellow human beings (“…he realized he was worried about the girl. Concerned for her welfare. As if he knew her.”  Like you couldn’t be “concerned” for somebody who’s been in a coma for days? And then this part: “Thomas, concerned for Alby despite his recent ill-tempered ways…”, oh how big of you to be “concerned” when you find a person lying unconscious with a bloody gash on their head, “despite” the fact they’ve been moody or rude in the last 24 hours), the insistence to tell instead of show, things being brought up only to be dropped completely and forgotten later on (like the flag Thomas sees when he first enters the Glade but can’t make out it’s pattern because there’s no wind, and it’s never mentioned again, or the dog named Bark that follows him around for his tour of Slop duty but then is never mentioned again, not even when they’re holing up to fight against invading Grievers, which, wouldn’t a dog bark it’s head off and/or charge beasts attacking its masters?), the fact that when the situation is explained it still makes little to no sense, and the lack of female characters–especially when it’s revealed that the kids sent to the Glade were chosen because they “have above-average intelligence,” and I’m supposed to be okay with this representation of the smartest kids, humanity’s last hope, being all male?!  What a bunch of klunk!)

But back to the topic at hand–when Thomas arrives in the Glade, his memories freshly wiped, he quickly learns that the residents of his new ‘home’ sprinkle their speech with their own unique slang, which he must learn in order to fit in.  This is, of course one of the purposes of slang or jargon or “shibboleths”; to identify members of a social group, or to confer insider status to those “cool enough” to know the terminology and be able to use it correctly.  If you don’t know the terminology at all, you’re a total outsider.  If you know the terms but stumble finding acceptable contexts to use them in, you’re pretty clearly linguistically marked to those in the know as someone trying to fit in.  Someone new.  Someone who maybe hasn’t really earned their place in the group or carved out an identity yet.  Someone like Thomas.  The linguistic markers of social status might be even more important in a setting like the Glade, where there is very little to go on otherwise.  For survival purposes, everyone is forced to share labor, food, and sleeping areas, nobody has access to ‘cool’ clothes or accessories, nobody can remember if they had famous parents or tournament trophies or straight As or a girlfriend before the Glade.  Everyone has to start over finding a new social footing by navigating the new slang terms.

The real reason for the Glader slang, of course, is so that the characters can curse in a manner that won’t be objectionable for a young audience to read.  So it’s kind of disappointing, because the Glade-specific language conventions could have been more complex and interesting, and designed by the author in a way to give more insight to the community, but we’ll just have to be content with what we’ve got.

I suppose  that Grievers, Creators, Greenie, Sloppers, Runners, Keepers, Builders, Bricknicks, Baggers, Track-hoes, Slicers, and  Med-jacks all count as Glader slang, but they’re pretty self-explanatory (if largely unnecessary), so I’m just going to focus on defining by examples “shank”, “klunk”, “shuck”, and “good that.”  Thomas hesitantly uses the latter phrase during an exchange with his assigned buddy, where he also explicitly references the fact that he’s unfamiliar with the terminology.  (I’m labeling this excerpt and all others to be included in this post,as well as including page numbers which are from the version with ISBN 978-0-375-89377-3).

(1) “You’ll learn a lot in the next couple of days, start getting used to things. Good that?”

“Um, yeah, good that, I guess.  Where’d all these weird words and phrases come from, anyway?” It seemed like they’d taken some other language and melded it with his own.

Chuck flopped back down with a heavy flump.  “I don’t know–I’ve only been here a month, remember?” -p. 34

Thomas’ observation isn’t very linguistically astute–come on, dude, it’s a handful of terms, not a melding of two phonetic, syntactic, morphological etc. systems, or “languages”.  Acquiring Glader slang is a simple matter of observing the examples provided throughout the book.

Shank

This term appears to be just a general term for “person”.  It’s derogatory, (the neutral term for “person” is Glader and just refers to the fact that’s where they all live), but can be endearing, such as in (3).  Perhaps most interestingly, Newt uses it in (9) to refer to the Creators, so it can apparently be used to refer to entities outside the Maze as well. (Go ahead and call each other shanks, Maze Runner fans!)  Also interesting to note is the exchange in (7), which highlights the fact that Thomas is still acquiring Glade-speak, both in his pause before and over-emphasis of the term “shank” and in Newt’s response of laughing and referring to him as a “Greenie”.  There’s also an example of “shank” in (15), under the section for “shuck”.

(2) “It’s a long story, shank,” -p. 8

…………………………………………………………..

(3) “Chuck’ll be a good fit for ya,” Newt said. “Wee little fat shank, but nice sap when all’s said and done. Stay here, I’ll be back.”

-p. 11

…………………………………………………………..

(4) “Beetle blade,” the boy said, pointing to the top of the tree. “Won’t hurt ya unless you’re stupid enough to touch one of them.”  He paused. “Shank.”  He didn’t sound comfortable saying the last word, as if he hadn’t quite grasped the slang of the Glade. -p. 13

…………………………………………………………..

(5) “This shank probably klunked his pants when he heard old Benny baby scream like a girl.  Need a new diaper, shuck-face?” -p. 17

…………………………………………………………..

(6) Thomas shook his head.  “Don’t be sorry.  The…shank deserved it, and I don’t even know what a shank is.  That was awesome.” He felt much better. -p. 33

…………………………………………………………..

(7) “Well, it’s kind of stupid to send me to a place where nothing makes sense and not answer my questions.” Thomas paused, surprised at himself. “Shank,” he added, throwing all the sarcasm he could into the syllable.

Newt broke out into a laugh, but quickly cut it off. “I like you, Greenie.  Now shut it and let me show ya something.” -p. 37

…………………………………………………………..

(8) Thomas looked at Newt sharply, hurt by the rebuke. “You think I do things to impress you shanks?  Please.  All I care about is getting out of here.” -p. 260

…………………………………………………………..

(9) Newt shook his head back and forth, staring at the ground.  Then he looked up, took in the other Keepers.  “The Creators–those shanks did this to us, not Tommy and Teresa.  The Creators.  And they’ll be sorry.” -p.309

Klunk

Chuck provides a clear definition and an etymology for this term in (12).  The usage in (10) is weird, (he’s a poo? Not “piece of klunk/poo”? Maybe klunk is a count noun, even though poo is a mass noun?), and I think the construction is kind of forced because the author wanted to overwhelm Thomas (and readers) with as much slang as possible when the Box door opens.  Also, note in (13) another explicit reference to Thomas’ acquisition of Glader slang.

(10) “I told ya, shuck-face,” a shrill voice responded. “He’s a klunk, so he’ll be a Slopper–no doubt about it.”  The kid giggled like he’d just said the funniest thing in history. -p. 6

…………………………………………………………..

(11) “Whacker, if we told you everything, you’d die on the spot, right after you klunked your pants.  Baggers’d drag you off, and you ain’t no good to us then, are ya?” -p. 10

…………………………………………………………..

(12) “We live here, this is it. Better than living in a pile of klunk.”  He squinted, maybe anticipating Thomas’s question. “Klunk‘s another word for poo.  Poo makes a klunk sound when it falls in our pee pots.” -p. 15

…………………………………………………………..

(13) The second hour was spent actually working with the farm animals–feeding, cleaning, fixing a fence, scraping up klunk.  Klunk.  Thomas found himself using the Glader terms more and more. -p.78

Shuck

I think this was the most inconsistent of the Glader slang terms introduced in the book; it most often appears as the insult “shuck-face” (in examples (5) and (10) above as well as several below,) or the expletive “shuck it,” but in examples (23) and (24) it used as an adverb and verb participle, respectively.  It seems obvious what real-world English expletive it’s substituting for, which is why it’s so weird that on page 334 Minho uses “freaking”, another PG derivative of the same real-world expletive, where presumably “shucking” would have been acceptable, especially judging by the example in (23).  Minho’s utterance that Alby “freaking sacrificed himself for us–” is the only instance of “freaking” in the entire book, and seems out of place.

The construction in (14) is another unusual example like the one in (10), and it also appears in the same scene of Thomas’ entry to the Glade.  I don’t know why it doesn’t just say “shucking neck” instead of bare “shuck”, but there aren’t any examples (that I noticed) of “shucking” as an adverb.

(14) “Look at the Greenbean,” a scratchy voice said; Thomas couldn’t see who it came from. “Gonna break his shuck neck checkin’ out the new digs.” -p. 5

…………………………………………………………..

(15) “Shuck it,” Alby said, rubbing his eyes. “Ain’t no way to start these conversations, you get me?  We don’t kill shanks like you here, I promise.  Just try and avoid being killed, survive, whatever.” -p. 9

…………………………………………………………..

(16) “Pipe it, shuck-face,” Alby grunted, pulling Newt down to sit next to him. -p. 9

…………………………………………………………..

(17) “Shuck it,” he said. “Can’t the bloody Med-jacks handle that boy for ten minutes without needin’ my help?” -p. 12

…………………………………………………………..

(18) “The Changing!” Gally shouted from below. “Look forward to it, shuck-face!” -p. 19

…………………………………………………………..

(19) “I’m gonna kill you, shuck-face!” Gally yelled, but Chuck was already off the box and running toward the open Glade. -p. 31

…………………………………………………………..

(20) Newt let out a long sigh. “Shuck it. But that’s not really what has me buggin’.” p. 107

…………………………………………………………..

(21) “You don’t understand, shuck-face!  You don’t know anything, and you’re just making it worse by trying to have hope!  We’re dead, you hear me? Dead!” -p.117

…………………………………………………………..

(22) Thomas rolled his eyes.  “She’s not my girlfriend, shuck-face.”

“Wow,” Chuck said. “You’re already using Alby’s dirty words.” -p.281

…………………………………………………………..

(23) “She’s right, Chuck–you saved us, man! I told you we needed you!” Thomas scrambled to his feet and joined the other two in a group hug, almost delirious.  “Chuck’s a shucking hero!” -p. 347

…………………………………………………………..

(24) The sense of normalcy was almost overwhelming.  Too good to be true.  Minho said it best on entering their new world: “I’ve been shucked and gone to heaven.” -p. 368

Good that

See also example (1) from above.  This was my favorite, because it’s clearly a new construction whose correct use is crucial in ingratiating oneself with the Glade hierarchy, but it’s not actually new words.  It signals agreement or consent.  I never saw it used as a blanket positive, like somebody eating one of Frypan’s meals and declaring it “good that!”, which would have been fun, but then we’re not really given much non-plot-centric dialogue.

(25) Thomas fumed, wanted to punch somebody.  But he simply said, “Yeah.”

“Good that,” Alby said. -p. 10

…………………………………………………………..

(26) “If I can convince those shanks–and that’s a big if–the best time to go would be at night.  We can hope that a lot of the Grievers might be out and about in the Maze–not in that Hole of theirs.”

“Good that.”  Thomas agreed with him–he just hoped Newt could convince the Keepers. -p.317

Miscellaneous

I wasn’t paying much attention to instances of “slinthead” while I read, so I don’t know if I am missing some, but it appears to be an insult.  As for “slim”, I don’t remember seeing it anywhere except as an order to Thomas from Alby when he first arrives in the Glade (27).

(27) “Just slim yourself nice and calm.” -p. 6

…………………………………………………………..

(28) “And stay away from me, you little slinthead.” -p. 19

…………………………………………………………..

(29) “Ain’t you got a job, slinthead?” Alby asked. “Lots of sloppin’ to do?” -p.41

I am curious to know whether the slang persists in the sequel, The Kill Order, since by the end of The Maze Runner the main characters have escaped the maze and are in a different setting surrounded by strangers.  It would be my guess that Glader slang would become even more important in this situation, as a way for the boys to self-identify as a cohesive group when their circumstances no longer reflect it so obviously.  On the other hand, some of the boys might drop the slang or pick up/invent new slang as a way to reject having the identity of test-subject Glader forced upon them, or as a way to try to gain access to a new social group, if they decide they identify with their “rescuers”, or with WICKED.  Either way, though, I don’t think I’m actually curious enough to read the second book.

*update* For those interested, Grammar Girl has posted an interview with author James Dashner on the subject of Maze Runner slang.

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Filed under Books, language

Fictional Green Eyes, part 3

Ever since I posted my first collection of green-eyed fictional characters (and commentary about how a disproportionate number of them are “evil” characters,) many of my friends have been been helping to point out green-eyed characters that they notice, and I’ve noted a few more on top of that, enough to have posted a second collection of green eyes, and now a third.  I’m pleased that this third collection includes more positive examples, because, if you recall, my interest in green-eyed representation in fiction is fueled by the fact that my own eyes are green.  And I am not an evil/jealous character, (usually).

I can’t believe I forgot all about James Cameron’s Avatar in the previous installments of my green eyes series!  All Na’vi have blue skin and green eyes, and are cat-like and awesome.  I especially love fierce Neytiri.  This definitely counts as a positive, big-screen glorious 3D example of green-eyed character representation, although there’s no quality ascribed to the eye color for the characters in the film itself.  But it’s still cool!

All Na'vi have "rikeana menari" (or, you could say "menari arikean"); "leaf-green eyes."

To describe her own eyes, Neytiri would say  “rikeana menari” (or “menari arikean” since word-order is fluid in Na’vi); “leaf-green eyes,” according to the bit of nerd-research I just did on learnnavi.org.

The title character in John Green’s Looking for Alaska has green eyes, that are mentioned by the narrator several times, (because he’s totally in love with her and notices stuff like that.)  Here’s one such description, from the first day he meets her:

But even in the dark, I could see her eyes—fierce emeralds. She had the kind of eyes that predisposed you to supporting her every endeavor.

This is a tough one for me to categorize as a “good” or “bad” green-eyed representation, because it’s hard to categorize Alaska herself as a “good” or “bad” character.  She’s…fickle.  Impulsive.   Hot and cold.  I think in this case, though, her green eyes are one of the things that set her apart as “different” and “desirable” and “mysterious” to the narrator, and I’m certainly not going to complain about that.

Lena Duchannes, as described in the book Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, has green eyes.  Movie-Lena, played by Alice Englert, has dark brown eyes, which I actually think fits the whole “Is she going to ‘go dark’ and destroy the world or not?” thing better.  But as written in the book, it’s another example of green eyes being somehow sinister and associated with witches.  I mean, Lena finds the term ‘witch’ pejorative, but that’s essentially what Casters are.  So it’s not a fantastic green-eyed representation, but I might be biased because I really didn’t care for the book itself.

After I posted my first two green-eyed collections, a friend insisted that I should watch Big Trouble in Little China, a cheesy 1986 movie in which an immortal Chinese sorcerer is targeting women with green eyes as a key element to his plan to “please the god of the east” and regain his mortal form.  There were several great quotes about green eyes being awesome in this film, but I don’t know if I’ll be adding it to my personal DVD collection because it was ridiculously cheesy.  Maybe even gloriously cheesy.  Maybe I do need to own it…

“All I need is a woman, a special kind of woman with dragon-green eyes, and I can be whole again.”

-evil sorcerer Lo Pan

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“She has green eyes, you know how rare that is, Jack?…Beautiful green eyes, like creamy jade.”

-Wang Chi, describing his soon-to-be-abducted fiancee.

Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law in Big Trouble in Little China.

Kim Cattrall as green-eyed Gracie Law in Big Trouble in Little China.

Another friend sent me a message to let me know she’d found another green-eyed character through her daughter’s love of Tinkerbell and friends.  As she put it, this is technically a “good” green-eyed character, but not necessarily the most admirable.

Rosetta, Tinkerbell's fairy friend.

Rosetta, Tinkerbell’s green-eyed fairy friend.

Although vampire Edward Cullen is mostly known for varying between golden/amber or black eye color, depending on how long it’s been since he last swallowed blood, when he was still human Edward Masen his eyes were green.  Bella learns this detail about the object of her obsession from Carlisle in New Moon, and of course she swoons over this fact like she does everything else about Edward.

“But [Edward’s mother] Elizabeth was alert until almost the very end.  Edward looks a great deal like her–she had that same strange bronze shade to her hair, and her eyes were exactly the same color green.”

“His eyes were green?” I murmured, trying to picture it.

“Yes…” Carlisle’s ocher eyes were a hundred years away now.

It’s hypocritical of me to say that Alaska’s green eyes count as a positive since they mark her as unique and yet be annoyed with Edward’s original eye color being colored green by the author with a possibly similar intention, but the Twilight obsession with unique eye colors and with Edward being totally perfect and different and better than everybody in every way makes me resent this particular instance of a green-eyed fictional character.  Maybe it’s just that I don’t like his character (and the way he obsessively and unhealthily controls Bella and their relationship), and that’s why I don’t want to share eye-color attributes with him.

I recently stumbled across a gifset of Pixar’s How To Train Your Dragons on tumblr, and realized that all the dragons have eyes that are shades of green.  That movie is adorable and dragons are awesome (and in this case, not really villainous) so I’m going to call that another positive.

I’ve saved my favorite for last; the main character in the recent animated film Epic has green eyes, and I mean really green eyes.  They are fantastic; bright and dark, complex, sparkling with flecks of gold towards the iris, just like what I picture when I read a description of a character that says they have green eyes, or in my head when I’m imagining a flawless version of myself.  Seeing them on the big-screen was a delight.  Unfortunately, the character herself was kind of blah, and the story felt a little undercooked, but it did have a lot of imaginative world-building elements and some great animated action sequences.  I mean, warriors riding hummingbirds?  Terrific!  And there was green and green eyes everywhere, and this might be my new favorite green-eyed representation in fiction.  For now.

Mary Katherine "M. K." of Epic, with her epic green eyes.

Mary Katherine “M. K.” of Epic, with her epic green eyes.

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Filed under Books, movies, nerd

More (Mostly) Evil Green

Since my post on the way green-eyed characters are often evil, I’ve collected several more examples of the portrayal of green eyes in film and on screen, and the correlation of the color green in general with evil.

Possibly my favorite example of green-eyed character representation ever is Ceasar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

“There have been absolutely no side effects associated with One-Twelve. With one exception; for some reason the chimp’s irises exhibit flecks of green.”

[…later…]

“I maintain my hypothesis that A; the green in his eyes indicates that the A-L-Z-One-Twelve has passed genetically from mother to son. And B; that in the absence of damaged cells that need replacing, the drug in his system has radically boosted healthy brain functioning. And he plays chess pretty well.”

-scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Green eyes that represent superior intelligence?  I’ll take it!  But, the virus that causes the mutation in the apes is fatal to humans and will decimate the human population…minor drawback…

Ceasar’s green eyes signify his advanced intelligence in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Then you have the Hulk.  He’s a superhero, but this isn’t really a 100% positive green example, since the Hulk form is monstrous, a bit like Jekyl and Hyde.   Bruce Banner spends a lot of time trying to avoid Hulking out or regretting his Hulk actions and telling people they aren’t safe around him.  His eyes are not green normally, but they turn green when he’s about to turn into this rage machine.  So , ultimately it’s still green eyes=jealousy, anger, out-of-control evilness, it’s just that it’s channeled to useful purposes most of the time, hopefully.

Edward Norton’s otherwise blue eyes change to a dramatic green whenever he is about to turn into a rage-filled, irrational monster in The Incredible Hulk.

In the Chronicles of Narnia book The Silver Chair, there is a villain known as “the green lady.”  The book doesn’t say specifically that her eyes are green, (it doesn’t say what color they are), but I assume they are since the color green is so associated with her, and she is always described as wearing it.  **SPOILER ALERT**  Later, she not only imprisons the rightful prince and attempts to take over the kingdom, but she turns into a slithery green serpent and tries to kill the protagonists, so, yeah, this is a solid example of the color green signifying that the character is evil, evil, evil! **END SPOILER**

“And there they rested till it came to high noon: and at noon Drinian looked up and saw the most beautiful lady he had ever seen; and she stood at the north side of the fountain and said no word but beckoned to the Prince with her hand as if she bade him come to her.  And she was tall and great, shining, and wrapped in a thin garment as green as poison.  And the Prince stared at her like a man out of his wits.  But suddenly the lady was gone, Drinian knew not where; and they two returned to Cair Paravel.  It struck in Drinian’s mind that this shining green woman was evil.”  -excerpt from chapter 4, “A Parliament of Owls,” The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, (emphasis added).

The DC villain Poison Ivy is another example of an “evil” (or at least untrustworthy) green lady; I assume she has green eyes in the comics, she’s often depicted with green skin, and she definitely wears green or green ivy all of the time– (sometimes she doesn’t wear much else).   But the plant she’s named after is green, after all, so I don’t really begrudge this particular representation.  Still, it counts as another example of green=evil.

uma thurmon as poison ivy, plus three drawings in different comic styles of same character

Various depictions of the Poison Ivy character.

The Lannister family in the Song of Ice and Fire books are another example of the “evil green eyes” cliche.  I still haven’t gotten caught up on the series, but within pages of reading the description in A Game of Thrones of how Queen Cersei, her brother Jamie, and her son Joffrey had green eyes,  my suspicions that they would turn out to be sinister characters were proved extremely correct when they **SPOILER ALERT** pushed a child out a window because he saw them having incestuous relations, which it turns out is how Joffrey was conceived, and oh by the way Joffrey is a psychopath.  **END SPOILER**

“A jeweled tiara gleamed amidst her long golden hair, its emeralds a perfect match for the green of her eyes.” -description of Queen Cersei from A Game of Thrones.

Going right along with the “evil green eyes” stereotype, Tyrion Lannister has only one green eye while the other is black, and he is the sole member of the Lannister family that appears half-decent.  (But only half!  He’s still a Lannister, after all, with one green eye.)  However, book 2, (A Clash of Kings), introduced Jojen Reed, who also has green eyes, but is not evil.  In fact, his ability to dream prophetic visions is known as “greensight,” so that’s actually a very positive green-eye connotation!  (It’s worth noting that Jojen’s eyes are described as moss-green, while the Lannisters are said to have emerald green or bright green eyes.)  I’ll call the whole series even on the green-eyed representation.  And to be fair, in book three (A Storm of Swords) Jamie Lannister’s character started developing into a decent human being, and he still has both of his green eyes, while I pretty much completely forgot that I ever thought Tyrion was “evil” when I read book 2.  The characters have moved beyond their initial stereotyped starting points.

I used a picture of Loki in my last post on this subject, but didn’t talk about him.  I guess the only thing to say is to point out that the god of mischief’s depiction in Marvel comic books and movies is not only green-eyed, but his entire color scheme and wardrobe is green as well.  Loki is often conflicted and not 100% evil, but he’s definitely a “bad guy.”

And finally, while not actually a character, kryptonite is green.  The infamous (fictional) element that is Superman’s only weakness, and it had to be green.  Of course kryptonite isn’t evil by itself, but it’s always being used by Superman’s enemies to hinder or prevent his ability to rescue earth and innocent humans, so it definitely deserves to be mentioned when cataloging examples of “evil” green connotations in film and literature.

Superman struggles in the presence of kryptonite.

Can you think of any more examples of “evil” green or green eyes?  Or more positive green-eyed examples?  I’ll continue to keep my own green eyes sharp on the lookout.

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Green Eyes

I’ve always been annoyed by the treatment of green eyes in movies and books.  I have green eyes myself, and as a child I always hated that green eyes were supposed to be some sort of shorthand for villainous, jealous, or somehow evil characters. It’s like, blue eyes are for “pretty girl” characters, brown eyes are for “smart girl” characters, green eyes are for “crazy/jealous/evil or minor character girls.”

Green eyes in this movie poster let you know Loki’s the bad guy.

One of my favorite books growing up was A Little Princess, (which I would have loved anyway since it is a delightful story), but one of the reasons I clung to it was because the heroine, little Sara Crew, is repeatedly described as having gray-green eyes.  I loved Sara’s imagination, bravery, and selflessness, but most of all I loved that she was such a good character who also happened to have green eyes.

“Oh,” sniffed Lavinia, spitefully, “that is the way her shoes are made.  I don’t think she is pretty at all.  Her eyes are such a queer color.”

“She isn’t as pretty as other people are,” said Jessie, stealing a glance across the room, “but she makes you want to look at her again.  She has tremendously long eyelashes, but her eyes are almost green.” (–Sara’s first day at boarding school, from chapter 2 of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Then of course Harry Potter came along when I was a bit older, and throughout seven glorious books the boy who would save the Wizarding world again and again was the proud owner of a pair of green eyes, just like his mother.

Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes.

“Las’ time I saw you, you was only a baby,” said the giant.  “Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh’ve got yer mom’s eyes.”

-(from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling, chapters 1 and 2)

Of course, the movie adaptations of Harry Potter feature a blue-eyed star, (and inexplicably his mother has brown eyes as a child), so needless to say that was a disappointment.  And in both of the Little Princess movies that I’ve seen, the main character had blue eyes.

What sparked this post was the release of the first image of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent in her latest project, a live-action version of Sleeping Beauty.  The first thing I noticed were the eyes.

The accompanying article in Entertainment Weekly describes her image by saying:

There’s a kind of vampire quality to the tipped back head and slightly parted, blood-red lips, and of course the glowing eye — pure nasty.

I know they aren’t outright saying that green eyes are nasty.  But it still feels a little personal, that the costume designer went with glowing green eyes and not blue or brown or some non-human color like purple or red, and especially because my eyes actually have rings of color similar to this rendering of Maleficent; green on the outside and then brown and yellow in the center.  (I would post a picture, but I’m paranoid about the personal information that I put online, and what if iris scanning becomes a thing?  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  Some might classify my eyes as hazel, but they are predominantly green and I’ve always self-identified as a green-eyed girl.)

I’m just so sick and tired of my fellow green-eyed people being negatively stereotyped onscreen!  Or, more often, completely absent from the screen.  Thank goodness for books, where my imagination’s casting director never has a hard time projecting characters that actually match their written descriptions.  I recently came across a new book with a green-eyed heroine for me to admire, the main character in Matched.

“Greenspace, green tablet,” Grandfather said, and then he looked at me and smiled.  “Green eyes on a green girl.”

“That sounds like poetry,” I said, and he laughed.

“Thank you.”  He paused for a moment.  “I wouldn’t take that tablet, Cassia.  Not for a report.  And perhaps not ever.  You are strong enough to go without it.”

I close my eyes and think of Grandfather’s poetry.

Green tablet.  Green space.  Green eyes.  Green girl.

-(Matched by Ally Condie, Chapter 10)

The movie rights to Matched have been sold, but I won’t hold my breath for accurate eye-color casting.  With the exception of the Twilight films, contact lenses and digital re-touchings seem to be too much bother for film producers to concern themselves with.  Just look at The Hunger Games, where the books describe Katniss and Gale as having gray eyes and Peeta as blue, but they cast blue-eyed actors for the former and a guy with brown eyes for the later.  And they didn’t bother with contacts.

Until Rapnzel in 2010’s Tangled, I don’t remember encountering an on-screen princess with green eyes.  None of the Disney Princesses have them.  If I had still been a little girl when Tangled came out, I probably would have idolized her.

You do see green eyes in Disney movies.  It’s just that they’re always the bad girls.

Then of course there are neutral portrayals of green eyes, like how the Earth Benders in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra tend to have them.

And while we’re on the subject of Legend of Korra, I have to give a shout-out to Asami Sato, a non-bender who holds her own in combat, drives race cars, stands up for herself and is on team Avatar.  You go, green-eyed Asami!

In conclusion, I guess I feel like I can relate in a very small, insignificant way to the frustration that other minority groups might feel at being under-represented, sidelined or negatively stereotyped in film and literature.   There’s just something about having a hero you can admire and say, “Hey!  They look like me!” that resonates.  I can only imagine how much more it would matter if to me if I were talking about skin color or cultural background.  Eye color is relatively trivial by comparison, but I will still always keep a (green) eye out for positive green-eyed representatives.

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