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17 Pieces

March 12, 2014

I thought I was going to have something profound to say today, but my therapist brought so much profundity to our session on Monday that I don’t think I need to bring it here. He referred to the events that occurred late on the night of March 12, 2010, as an avalanche that still hasn’t quite settled. So I decided to write something rather quotidian instead. A list. A chronology. An accounting of pros and cons.

Four years ago I fell down the stairs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plus: I hit my foot instead of my head on the wall at the bottom and therefore I didn’t die.
Minus: I broke my heel bone.

Two weeks later I had surgery.

Plus: I had a great doctor.
Minus: My husband and his family left me alone in unbelievable pain in the hospital for two days.

I went back to my log cabin in Vermont.

Plus: Puppy dogs and pussy cats.
Minus: Stairs into and out of the house, snow, a wood burning stove (with the wood being outside), and total solitude. All on crutches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree months later I moved to LA.

Plus: I was finally going to live in the same city as my husband.
Minus: I had to pack up the house and get the dog, the cat, and my luggage to the airport. All on crutches.

Two months later, my doctor gave me the go ahead to start putting weight on my left leg.

Plus: Over five months of using it exclusively, my right leg had gotten really strong.
Minus: Over five months of not using it at all, my left leg had gotten really weak.

I started physical therapy.

Plus: I needed physical therapy.
Minus: My insurance wouldn’t cover it so I had to stop after three weeks.

For the next 13 months, as during the five previous, I was in 24-hour, 7-day a week pain.

IMG_0118Plus: I studied and got a certificate in personal training so that I could figure out how to rebuild my body without PT.
Minus: My husband resented me.

My husband left, citing my accident as one of the ways I was “holding him back.”

Plus: I realized he’d never been truly attached to me and he would have left eventually, so it was good that he did it before we had kids.
Minus: I realized he’d never been truly attached to me.

For a year, he punished me legally, financially, and psychologically. I wished I had died when I fell. I prayed to God that I would die.

Plus: There is no plus.
Minus: It was all minus.

IMG_0398In the middle of that, I decided I had to go to the doctor and get physical therapy even if I had to go into debt to do it.

Plus: I got physical therapy.
Minus: I had to go into debt to do it.

Ten months ago, I started writing for HowlRound. I kept writing for Ms. I got published by XX Factor, Bitch, and The Atlantic. I started writing for Ms. in the Biz.

Plus: I love writing.
Minus: It’s not full-time and doesn’t involve directing or teaching.

I let go of the friends and family that could not deal with my physical and psychological pain. I got hired to direct R&J this summer in Maine. I developed a national reputation as a feminist media critic. I realized that the friends and family who have stuck with me through it all are the best parts of my life. I made a jillion new friends in the LA theater community, in feminist Hollywood, and in activist networks advocating for diversity and gender parity in theater, film, and TV across the country. I got cortisone shots and orthodics.

Plus: These are all plusses.
Minus: There are no minuses.

IMG_075817 pieces of bone. 7 metal screws. 3 years of non-stop physical pain. 2 years of emotional pain. 1 year of coming back to life. I have a different definition of pain than I did four years ago and a different definition of love and attachment. I may have less money, but I also have less fear and no need to be accepted by anyone but me.

Minus: I have no idea what’s going to happen next.
Plus: What could life possibly bring that I can’t handle?

A Holly Jolly Christmas Story

December 15, 2013

photoI have always been a very nostalgic person. Therefore, I love the holidays. The holidays are all about nostalgia. It’s the same songs every year, the same movies, the same beverages and foods. I do not get bored; I do it all over and over again every time.

Now, when I say “the holidays,” keep in mind that for me the holidays begin in early October. In some ways Halloween is my favorite because it’s all about the costumes. Sometimes I think I became a theater director so that I could always be doing dress up. Then there’s Thanksgiving, and everything is pumpkin flavored, and there’s cider, and hopefully a little nip in the air. Then there’s my birthday, which usually involves some kind of celebration involving food and friends and drink.

And then it’s Christmas. And it’s peppermint and chocolate and more family time and more food and more friends. And more drink.

When I was a kid we kept the Christmas decorations in the attic, and, curiously, we didn’t keep anything else in the attic. So the only time of year we went up there was to get the Christmas decorations. Even the opening of the attic, the pulling down of the ladder, the gazing up into the darkness–every moment was magical. Then there’s opening the boxes and rediscovering all of your favorites. In the years since, I have literally never let my mother throw away a single ornament. We still have ornaments that are those baked, glazed cookies that you make in pre-school. They’re all chipped so it’s impossible to tell if it’s a bell or a snowman or a reindeer or what. My parents still have them all.

Not surprisingly, over about fifteen years of my adult life, I amassed quite a collection of my own decorations. Some I bought in New York for my tiny little apartments in Hell’s Kitchen and Washington Heights. When I moved with my then-boyfriend soon-to-be-husband to a log cabin deep in the woods of Vermont, I started collecting decorations for all three holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. At Christmas I would decorate the tree, the windows, the kitchen, all four bedrooms, and the bathrooms. There was even a little fake tree in the basement where I worked out. We hosted several Christmases in that cabin– sometimes for my husband’s mother and my parents and his sister, sometimes just for us and my parents. We spent our first Christmas as a married couple there just the two of us. One time his sister, his mother, her sister and her husband, my parents, and my neighbors were all there for Christmas eve. There was snow and icicles and sleigh rides and wood stoves with blazing fires. It was pretty great.

When we moved to LA I brought all of the decorations–several boxes–and to put that in context, I only brought one box of kitchen things. That’s how important the decorations were to me (and how unimportant the kitchen is). Then two years ago, my husband spent Thanksgiving in China on a tour of a play about freedom of the press, which was pretty cool, but I missed him. So when he got back I started planning my birthday–I wanted to have his cast and my cast (I was directing a show that we were co-producing) over for a cocktail party. But five days before my birthday, I came home from rehearsal and he announced that he’d decided that it was unfair to him that he had had to help me out when I was hurt (I had fallen down a flight of stairs and broken my heel, was on crutches for five months, blah blah blah), and he said that I wasn’t making enough money, and he left.

I will spare you the details of that holiday and of the two years that followed. Suffice it to say that a lot has changed. When he moved out of the apartment we shared in Brentwood, I made him take the Christmas decorations. I knew that it would be impossibly sad to open those boxes the following year, but I couldn’t bear to throw them away myself. So I made him take them. They were the last thing he took the day he moved out. So that was that.

Then last Christmas I got a little sad that I didn’t have any decorations, and divorces are expensive, so I didn’t have any money either. As any modern person will do when faced with a problem, I turned to Facebook. I told friends if they had any stuff they weren’t going to use this year that I’d love some hand-me-downs. My new landlord responded, “I think I might have what you’re looking for.” Very mysterious, right? So, I went over to her house and she told me to go up into the attic.

I pulled down the ladder, and headed up, inhaling that familiar attic smell and feeling that familiar draft of cold air hit my face. Then there was that moment where it’s really dark and you have to find the light and balance on the ladder at the same time. But I managed it, and I discovered that the prior owners of that house had left two boxes of Christmas decorations in the attic. There were garlands, a stuffed snowman on a swing, an adorable penguin-box-thingy with a scarf. And of course, lights. And they were perfect.

One of the things I have always loved about Christmas is the fact that early Christians decided when to have Christmas based on the fact that most pagan societies celebrated the Winter Solstice with like a really big party. I can just imagine the church elders going, “So, how can we win people over to our new super-awesome religion?” And one guy’s like, “Well, they have this huge party every year around this time, and maybe we could like figure out a way to throw an even better party at the same time?” And the other guys were like, “Yeah, that oughtta work.”

So yes, for Christians like me, there’s a birth that we celebrate, a gift from God that, even though it probably happened in April, would forever change human history. But it’s not a coincidence that the story of this gift’s arrival is linked to the presence of a really bright light. In the midst of the darkest part of the year, we humans have always celebrated with a big, bright, blazing party full of light. And every year we are reminded, Christian or not, that there is good in the world. That even in our darkest moments, we can find reason to celebrate.

I have a lot to celebrate this year, and I’m super grateful for all of it.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Where Have you Gone, Sarah Connor?

July 6, 2013

Holly L. Derr


Originally posted at Ms. and Bitch Flicks.

Remember Linda Hamilton (playing Sarah Connor) and her guns in “Terminator 2″?

Summer always makes me a bit nostalgic for childhood. I remember fondly the excitement of being out of school, the long days with nothing to do but read and the cool refuge from the hot Texas sun provided by a matinee of a summer blockbuster at the local movie theater.

Unfortunately, this summer’s action movies have left me nostalgic for more than the air conditioning. Only a few of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer feature more than one woman, and those women are primarily co-stars, not leads. After Earth and World War Z have wives who stay behind while the man goes on the adventure. Elysium co-stars Jodie Foster as a “bad guy,” but from what little information has been released on the plot, her weapon…

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Is Wonder Woman Too Muscular For the Silver Screen?

July 6, 2013

Come follow hld6 at http://hollyderr!

Holly L. Derr

She Hulk comic cover

Originally posted at Bitch

This is a dark summer for geek girls. Though superhero and comic book-based films are all the rage these days, it’s male crime-fighters who get all the attention: there are no films starring female superheroes on the horizon.

Take the whip-smart spy Black Widow, for example. The Avengers member will co-star in Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014, but the buzz around a film in which she is the titular character all but died out in 2012. Likewise, every attempt to make a movie focused on Wonder Woman has failed to overcome the Hollywood “prevailing wisdom” that women action heroes don’t sell.

Frankly, that argument is hollow.The Hunger Games, starring deadly archer Katniss Everdeen, took in $687 million at the box office. In comic book world, the women in the X-Men have become so popular that they now have their own comic

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Something Special Happened in Texas

July 5, 2013

Hey hld6 friends and followers! I’m now publishing on my non-anonymous blog, Hope to see you over there!

Holly L. Derr

The reason the sky is bigger here is because there aren’t any trees. The reason folks here eat grits is because they ain’t got no taste. Cowboys mostly stink and it’s hot, oh God, is it hot…. Texas is a mosaic of cultures, which overlap in several parts of the state, with the darker layers on the bottom. The cultures are black, Chicano, Southern, freak, suburban and shitkicker. (Shitkicker is dominant.) They are all rotten for women. — Molly Ivins

I have a ghost in my computer. This poltergeist spontaneously shuts my laptop down whenever there’s anything important happening. On Tuesday I finally broke down and took it into the shop for an exorcism, so as Wendy Davis filibustered SB5 in the Texas Senate, I could only follow what was happening via the Twitter app on my phone.

Refresh refresh refresh refresh.

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Who Should Play the New Lara Croft?

July 5, 2013

Holly L. Derr

trassaultIn the midst of a dark summer for geek girls (sorry USA Today, one lady per movie does not constitute a good summer for women), a ray of light has finally broken through. MGM has announced it plans to reboot The Tomb Raider film franchise, and they’ve hired a female screenwriter: none other than Marti Noxon of Buffy the Vampire fame.

The Tomb Raider game–one of the few with a female protagonist–was rebooted earlier this year, and its new incarnation garnered it’s share of criticism as well as praise. Before it came out, executive producer Ron Rosenberg announced that Croft would be a victim of rape and encouraged players to protect her. Amidst backlash, the development company, Crystal Dynamics, walked back the statement. But when the game was released earlier this year, the controversy flared again. The violence that Lara Croft suffers at the beginning of the game is…

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January 25, 2013
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