26 episodes

Expanding representation of middle-aged and elderly women in media

Wise Not Withered wisenotwithered

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Expanding representation of middle-aged and elderly women in media

    Herb-Tracking Navigator – NARDEEN

    Herb-Tracking Navigator – NARDEEN

    Hello and welcome to Week 16 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I'm thrilled to present Nardeen, our 75-year-old Herb-Tracking Navigator! This character was actually the very first one I came up with, and I'm so very happy with how she and the other characters turned out in her story. The writers for this story were Heba, from Palestine, and me. Nardeen's wonderful, detailed illustrations were done by Natalia, from Argentina.Now, what is an "herb-tracking navigator", you ask?? I'm not sure exactly how I came up with this concept. I had a vision of an elderly woman that has a rare magical ability of diagnosing an illness, and identifying and tracking the right herbs to cure it. Not necessarily a past or future setting, Nardeen's world is one lacking in technology, but abundant with plants and herbs, animals (particularly goats), and supernatural elements like magic and spirits.Nardeen's story, titled "Generational Forbearance", was a collaborative effort between Heba and me. The story begins with some tender moments between Nardeen and other villagers, including her grand-daughter, Amira. The story focuses on the relationship between the two of them; Nardeen and Amira both have the "sacred herb-tracking sense".The woman of the generation in between them—Nardeen's daughter/Amira's mother—is named Aliana, and she does not have the herb-tracking ability. This creates some tension in Aliana's relationships with both Nardeen and Amira. In addition, Aliana's husband/Amira's father had passed away years prior to the story, from a tick infestation—even though it was not Nardeen's fault, Aliana still harbors some resentment toward her mother, the esteemed village apothecary, for not being able to save him.A mysterious plague afflicts many villagers in the story, and Aliana is one of them. She ends up passing away, still visibly angry with her mother and never letting go and forgiving her. The title is "Generational Forbearance" because one of the main themes in the story is forgiveness (or lack thereof) of parents. We see in Aliana that she never forgave Nardeen for things that ultimately were not Nardeen's responsibility (Aliana's lack of magical abilities and her husband's death). I wanted to provide this tragic example to show how very sad but very real it is that some people die without ever forgiving people they feel have wronged them in some way. I think resentment toward one's family, particularly parents, is probably pretty common across all cultures. It's really up to each of us to recognize that our parents did their best, and the mistakes they made are ultimately our responsibility to come to terms with, especially if our parents are no longer alive to discuss deeper matters.The main themes in the story are pretty deep and raw, not unlike those of other Wise Not Withered stories, and they resonate especially for me in this time of my life. I was hesitant to post this episode and have been taking a while to write it because I realized that there was no way I could not talk about my own mother, and how her recent passing ties in so closely with this story.My mother passed away from lung cancer in the end of February, and it was an earth-shattering experience, to say the least. I guess I shouldn't say "was", because it still is affecting me nearly every moment of every day. When I first wrote Nardeen's story, I tried to write about what it might be like to experience the death of a loved one, and now that I actually have experienced it myself, I have two reactions to what I wrote. First, I'm surprised that some of the things I wrote about were absolutely spot on to what I am feeling now. Second, there were a few instances where I thought what I wrote may be a bit too dramatic, but after having lost my mother and experienced this type of grief first-hand, I will not change those parts because the death of a famil

    • 16 min
    Dancer – YANTI

    Dancer – YANTI

    Full transcription available on WiseNotWithered.com:https://wisenotwithered.com/2020/03/17/dance-teacher-yanti/

    • 11 min
    Magical Blessing-Granter – TALA

    Magical Blessing-Granter – TALA

    Hello and Welcome to Week 14 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week I am proud to present Tala, our 103-year-old Magical Blessing-Granter! The illustrator for the oldest character of the entire project is Zahra, from Iran.I absolutely adore the illustrations that Zahra made for Tala. She worked so hard, creating five fully colored, incredibly detailed pictures. In the sketching and initial coloring stage, I asked her to completely change the aesthetic of the character, which I understand is no easy feat and something I should have told her sooner. But she did it! She was amazing to work with, and I love the illustrations she made so so much.Illustration by Zahra GholamijalalThe interesting thing about this character is that her illustrations are done, but I have yet to find a writer. The original person who was going to write the story for this character had so many great ideas and we were in contact for many months, but before the story was finished, she just disappeared, and I have not heard from her since last June.It's a shame, but the show must go on! This is actually something that has happened quite a lot during this project, an issue that I did not see coming but makes a lot of sense that it would happen. At the beginning I thought okay, I have recruited all of these people for this project. I'll send them the character list one week, pair them up the next week, then get started right away! It obviously ended up taking longer than that to wait for people to pick their preferred character, for me to pair people, and then get started. Then once we got started, sometimes it was mostly me and one other person (usually the writer) coming up with all of these ideas. Sometimes the illustrator was also very involved, but what ended up happening for a few of the characters is that the ideas we had after all did not match up with what the illustrator thought we were doing. So I have had to find new illustrators for quite a few of the characters.With others, the work is not done yet, but they have continued to stay in contact with me, which I greatly appreciate! I understand that people have their own busy lives, and this passion project is not a source of income so it is not a top priority for any of the writers or illustrators—it's a priority for me, and I am the one coordinating and directing everything! I'm at a place now where I can still see a vision of the final product, but am waiting patiently, trusting that each part will be completed, sending reminder emails and texts, and letting go of people that I don't hear from for months. It's been an interesting process. I do my best to send only good vibes to the people that I drop from the team. No hard feelings, we simply must be moving forward.Tala's story will be a very interesting one! Her gorgeous illustrations are all completed, and the writer I find will create the story in a backwards way, using the illustrations as a guide. One important thing about Tala is that, because she is the oldest character (age 103), she is the only one that is allowed to die at the end. There was some discussion with other writers about their character dying in their story, but I put my foot down and made it very clear that those characters would not be allowed to die—that would defeat the whole purpose of the project! Tala is special though, being the oldest character. I will discuss that with the writer I find though, and maybe she won't die. We'll see.Illustration by Zahra GholamijalalThe original writer I had found for this story was from the Philippines, and really into Philippine mythology. I would love to find another writer from the Philippines to create the story for Tala, but a different type of Asian would be fine too!The description I wrote for Tala was this:Magical Blessing-Granter — Age 103story starts with adventurers going to visit the magical blessin

    • 6 min
    Fire & Water Twins - FEU & SUI

    Fire & Water Twins - FEU & SUI

    Welcome to Week 13 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I am recording from my kitchen table today, for a change of scenery. It's a little windy outside, so you may hear the gentle tinkling of the wind chimes right outside my front door throughout this episode. This week features the last PAIR of women: our fire and water twins, Feu and Sui. Their supernatural story about parallel worlds and elemental powers was written by Jessie Jing, with gorgeous illustrations by Marah Ali.A lot of the Wise Not Withered stories are set in reality, or at least a realistic world. Something really special about Feu and Sui's story is that there are actually two worlds: the living world of Earth, and the parallel spirit world of Etern. Jessie will talk more about this later in the episode.In terms of plot, the Fire and Water Twins' story was perhaps the most bare-boned idea I had at the beginning. I just knew that I wanted there to be twins that had fire and water powers. That idea sparked from the plethora of natural disasters that have been happening in the United States: raging fires in the west (where I live), and devastating hurricanes in the east. I thought about how it would be great if someone could take all the water from the other side of the country and bring it here to the west coast. I started to imagine two middle-aged women floating high in the sky, bringing all the water over there to over here. And that's really all the thoughts I had about these characters!Jessie brought such a depth to the twins, coming up with their names and the idea of being cast into parallel worlds. I'm amazed at just how broad Jessie's creative spectrum extends: she is arguably one of the most multi-talented artists on the team so far, not only excelling in writing but also dancing and choreography. I was so happy to hear back from her.The story of Feu and Sui is definitely fit for a video game: it starts with a narrator named Vide, inviting the reader/player to learn about the twins and help reunite them, to bring balance to the world. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the story:"They need to be reunited in order for the world to be in balance once again...Hello, my name is Vide. I am the answer to all that is unknown, which shall be revealed soon. What we will need to do first, however, is reunite the twins in order for the world to be in balance once again. Will you help me?I will tell you the story of Feu and Sui, and you can be the judge of whether or not you will help me in this journey of reuniting the twins..."Jessie and I collaborated on the rest of the story, bringing her ideas of Feu and Sui's past and rooting them into current-timeline scenarios. The ending is purposefully left open-ended, which I will read at the end of the episode.—The illustrator I found for these characters was Marah Ali from Jordan, whom I discovered through Behance. I was really drawn to the realistic details and colors she used for the portraits she had on her page. She was such a joy to work with!Both of the artists involved in the creation of these characters' story and illustrations got involved in the Podcast this time, so without further ado, here is the illustrator, Marah!"Hi, my name is Marah Ali. I'm a studio artist and animator from Jordan. The projects that I'm most proud of are probably two animated music videos that I've done for a local band that I'm a huge fan of. My experience with Wise Not Withered was extremely nice. I had so much fun drawing the fire and water twins. The story was extremely creative, extremely beautiful—I was blown away when I first read it. I got so excited. I tried to make the characters as magical and beautiful as they were in the story. I was also happy that I was given enough creative space to work with my own style. Juliana was such a sweetheart. Illustration by Marah AliI also joined Wise Not Withered becaus

    • 20 min
    FPS Housewife – CANDACE

    FPS Housewife – CANDACE

    Hello and welcome to Week 12 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I'm fighting off a cold right now, so bear with me as my voice is a bit croaky. Today's character is extra special because I think of her as a flagship of sorts of the entire project. I'm thrilled to present Candace, our FPS (first-person shooter) Housewife!Candace was one of the first characters I thought of conceptually. As with all of the characters, when I introduced them to the team of writers and illustrators, I changed the names I had in mind to be as culturally ambiguous as possible (hence "FPS Housewife"). But Candace was actually the original name I had thought of for her.The whole project started out as a huge initiative to create middle-aged and elderly female characters in video games, but a lot of them turned out to be suited for other types of media, so not all of them would be game characters. Candace, however, from the very start, was going to be a housewife who abhors her sons' devotion to video games, then gets sucked into one—along with her sons—and they must figure their way out. I knew I wanted her to have moments in the story where she becomes closer to her sons, getting to know them on a deeper level, comes to understand their passion for video games, and rekindles passion for her own life again.At some point I decided that her older son would be gay, and his coming out to her would be a non-negotiable part of the story. I thought it would be interesting if the older son was also a sports jock (again trying to break stereotypes, as I mentioned last week). He and his younger brother would play video games together and the younger one would look up to him immensely.The writer I found for this character was DeNae. I found her through Instagram, while searching #nerdmom. I knew I wanted the writer to be a gamer (or former gamer, just someone that was familiar with the gaming world and basic mechanics of a first-person shooter game), and a mother (so that element of the story would be as authentic as possible).https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo9YlJPgi39/?tagged=tvmomsDeNae, whose online presence is "The Big Bad Mama Wolf", brought Candace to life with her own gaming and motherhood experiences. And I know I keep saying this, but the story she wrote was simply more than I ever could have asked for. We decided together that her husband would be an architect, often staying late at his job but still a supportive and kind father in his own way.When we were coming up with ideas of what types of terrain and setting we would include in the first-person shooter game, my boyfriend and I had the brilliant idea of each world in the game representing a different room in their house. Ultimately it became each world representing each person in their family. It's never outright said in the story, but the biomes and their character representations would be something like this:Ice caverns | Father/Husband/Richard: he may seem cold and distant, but there's a warm, fiery village at the center because he has a warm heartVolcano | Older Son/Shaun: he's very passionate and a go-getter type of person; possibly trying to hold in emotions, waiting to eruptJungle | Younger Son/Jasper: wild, free, unpredictableDesert + Oasis | Candace: seemingly dry and boring, but brimming with life and vitality upon closer inspectionThe illustrator for this character unfortunately dropped out of the project, so the search continues! In terms of racial identity, I want Candace to be half-Asian, half-white (like me!), and I would love to find an illustrator who is either mixed, or any type of Asian. I also want her to have a huskier body type. I suppose she doesn't have to be half-Asian at this point, since there is nothing in the story that indicates anything about her appearance or ethnic heritage. But I just like the idea of having one of the characters be a mixed baby like me

    • 19 min
    Diner-Owning Superheroes – TANVI + GABBY

    Diner-Owning Superheroes – TANVI + GABBY

    Hello everyone, and welcome to Week 11 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week is one of only three PAIRS of women, and this time, they are a MARRIED COUPLE AND BUSINESS-PARTNER SUPER-HEROOOOOOOOEEESSS!!!!I am absolutely delirious to present Tanvi and Gabby, our Diner-Owning Superheroes! They are both forty-two: they met and fell in love while in college, and have been together ever since. The initial idea I had for this character was that it would just be one: Tanvi, the Diner-Owning Superhero, would also live with her wife and their niece. But at some point, sort of like the Potion Witches, we decided that they would both share the spotlight.The focus is still more so on Tanvi, as the story is also told in first-person from her perspective. I originally thought that Gabby would just be a supportive character to Tanvi, but when the idea was brought up that they would be a unit—both of them owning the diner and both of them superheroes—it just made sense.If I had one regret about the project so far, it would be that I didn't add in enough LGBTQ+ characters. The focus is definitely on expanding representation of middle-aged and elderly women, but the opportunity to include more diversity in sexuality and gender identity may have been missed. I did include a few other gay characters in the project, and with others they may identify as LGBT but those topics were never discussed in their stories because it is simply one aspect of a person.That is one of the underlying motives for this project as well... I mentioned it briefly last week but it has been rolling around in my head for months now: None of the characters in the project has age as a defining characteristic. Akuol, one of the Potion Witches, does struggle with aging specifically in her story, but there is so much other stuff going on that it still represents only one aspect of that story and that character.I feel that that sometimes becomes a story's downfall: if the character is based almost entirely around one trait, it can be easy to start taking out the labels and judgements. The token old person who is always hacking and coughing and waving their cane. The token woman who is always meek, weak, and in need of assistance. The token gay character who wears pink and acts in a flamboyant way. When a character is flattened to a very specific way of thinking and acting, not only is it boring and trite, it's downright damaging to the demographic that it's supposedly representing.I find it very powerful when a character's sexuality is simply a part of who they are, while the story focuses on other aspects of their awesome life. I do think it's important to show the struggles of minority groups, but also just as important to show their successes as well. Again, that is part of the goal in this project. The characters are all older women, who are still thriving. None of the stories are about their differentiating trait bringing them down.With each of these characters, it was important to me that not only did we represent uncommonly seen ages, but also from a huge variety of perspectives. That is, from many different parts of the world, with different cultures and beliefs, styles and aesthetics. Being an interracial baby myself, with Filipino and Western European heritage, I also wanted to include a few characters in the project who were in an interracial relationship, or the result of one!The writer I found for this character was Meghna. We first connected over Behance, then once we got to email, the conversation just rolled.https://www.instagram.com/p/B50t5hhHRg0/We exchanged so many long emails when we first met, getting to know one another and bouncing around ideas for the character. Since Meghna had chosen the character first (before I even found Kristen), we decided that the main diner-owning superhero would be of Indian descent, and her wife's ethnici

    • 17 min

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