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Let’s Get Physical

I am not a particularly fit person. I’ve got love handles and an ever-so-slight hint of man-boob if I lean forward. So what am I going to do about it? I suppose that I could eat a calorie-controlled diet. Or I could just eat smaller portions of the terrible things that I do eat. No, I won’t stick to that. Maybe I could simply eat less cheese… Now we’re just talking crazy.

I decided instead that I would start going to the gym. This isn’t the first time that I’ve made that decision. On a few different occasions I have enrolled at gyms all over the city. A few visits later, I’m desperate for an escape route and my membership just mysteriously lapses. Now the situation is slightly different. I have a number of friends who are avid gym-goers and who are in great shape. I can get advice and ideas on what to do to get the most out of it. Seemed like a great idea as it will help me to stay on target. I signed up and went along for my first session a few days ago. To say it was an eye-opener would be an understatement.

I arrived at around 7pm on a weekday. I knew immediately that this was a mistake by the queue that snaked from the check-in counter to the entrance. So this was the post-work-workout crowd that I’d heard so much about. I figured that the gym was new and big enough to accommodate us all easily enough and to an extent that was true. The person at the check-in desk looked at me blankly when I quickly explained that it was my first visit. She didn’t care. She’d probably heard hundreds of people make the same statement that week and I was just another newbie. Fair enough.

I quickly changed (the changing room was spacious and fresh-smelling; an obvious giveaway that the place was still new) and made my way into the gym proper. At that moment, my heart sank. The place was full of people, but not like I expected. The place had been open for a matter of days. I assumed there would be a lot of people just like me; using a new facility as a fresh start to make a positive change. Instead, the place was filled with incredibly fit and athletic people. The treadmills were being run by trim folks in technical clothing, training for their next 10k or marathon. The weight machines were all in use by people with muscles bulging to escape their vest tops. I looked around the room and saw about a hundred people, the breakdown of which was as follows:

10%: Too thin to be working out (worryingly so), but really pushing it anyway.
10%: Abnormally large and muscular men who need to step away from the creatine and protein powder.
60%: Great shape, probably maintained by regular gym sessions. These are the ‘beautiful people’ of stories.
19%: People who are average builds, kind of like me, in varying levels of fitness and red-facedness.
1%: Really big people who are trying to make a serious change.

I walked in and I didn’t know what I was doing but everyone else seemed to totally get it. It’s hard to focus in that kind of environment. Desperate not to look like a complete newbie (despite the fact that I totally am) meant that I just kind of figured it out as I went along. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t look around. I was terrified that someone would spot me and exclaim “he doesn’t know how to lift!” and I would be chased into the street. That initial shock lasted throughout my first visit which I ended a little prematurely as I just didn’t know what to do next. Visit number two would prove to be far better, but at that moment in the changing rooms, I didn’t know if there would be a second visit.

As I walked out into the evening air (workout stink still heavy upon me) I took a moment to consider those with other body types. I’m not exactly under consideration for the cast list of Magic Mike 3 (which I’m assuming someone will green light soon enough) but my build is relatively average. Yet the worry and anxiety I felt as I stepped into that Hall of Muscles must have been insignificant next to that of those with larger body types. People on chat shows and the covers of tabloids question why bigger people don’t ‘put the effort in’ and get to a gym to improve their quality of life. That anxiety, worry and embarrassment must be exponentially greater for those who live with self-esteem issues. I’m average and yet I genuinely considered not going back. Imagine walking into that lions’ den without any confidence in yourself. Could you see yourself voluntarily putting yourself through that?

But then I realised something important that I initially overlooked. Other people in a gym don’t care about you. They’re there fighting their own personal battles. They don’t care if you have love handles. They don’t care if you have man-boobs. They care about bettering themselves and that is all that any person should worry about in a place such as that.

It is on that very important fact, self-improvement, which I shall be focussing today during my third visit. This morning and every visit after that. At least until I get the call for Magic Mike 3.

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Irons in the Fire

I’m in a very weird position at the moment, creatively speaking. I have a lot of things to work on, but I’m nowhere near finishing any of them. Hell, some I’ve barely even started putting together. There is a part of me that likes to have all of this exciting stuff to do. It makes me seem busy and productive, but I think that it really leaves me feeling massively incomplete. Even now I’m writing this blog knowing that I have at least three or four stories that require my attention (at least a couple of them are pretty good ideas too, if I do say so myself). Then again, procrastination is my forté. This is also not really a new thing for me, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now.

But why do I let it continue when I can openly acknowledge that the problem is there? What is the best way to deal with it? IS there even a best way to deal with it?

I keep trying to visualise where I could be in a few years time if I completed all of these works; a few feature films and a couple of television series. The possibilities are vast and wide-ranging and yet I do not let them inform or direct my efforts. This must be some form of madness; to sit with ideas sprawled out before you and yet being able to do LITERALLY any other unimportant thing instead. Eating seems to be a particularly popular distraction (which obviously then leads to unhappiness with my own body, but that’s another matter entirely). The other downside to the visualisation technique is that it gets me down when I consider what I am not achieving. It’s amazing and uplifting thinking about where you could be with your work until you suddenly realise exactly where you actually are. This in turn puts a bit of a creative block in my brain because, unlike some of the great writers that used depression and sadness as a muse, I find it very difficult to write from a position of negativity. So I get down about not writing, thus leading to a period where I’m not able to write which in turn gets me down about it… You get the idea.

I wonder if I’m alone in this. I think of the prolific writers of books, TV and film whose output is unmatched and I wonder whether they just have a way of working through negative mindsets. They must have.

The biggest piece of advice that I keep failing to listen to is simply “just write the words”. It’s as simple as that. I just need to write the words. I occassionally have an idea for a character or scene and think to myself how good that particualr nugget would be in a story of mine. I then promptly fail to do anything with it. This is a recurring thing, and that makes it damned upsetting.

The answer is a simple one. I simply need to find a way to fix this behaviour and become an overnight beacon of extraordinary success.

That, or I could just focus on getting some things done.

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Playing the Fool

A few weeks ago I found myself in a club in London, surrounded by people in their finery and listening to a rather good swing band (albeit a little loud for making conversation). This is not the kind of event I’m used to attending so I was a little bit hesitant at first. A room full of producers, writers, actors, directors… Should be the dream for someone wanting to break out, right? Maybe?

The event was the Independent Filmmakers Ball hosted by the Raindance Film Festival. My experience of high society balls from film and television led me to expect flowing gowns, masquerade masks and lashings of intrigue (with at least one dastardly murder by the evening’s end). However, apart from a few gowns, this ball was decidedly vanilla and in danger of being spoiled by televisual expectations (it wasn’t, and with hindsight I suppose a murder wouldn’t have been that much fun, but you can see why I’d be worried).

The night began the way that I imagine most events of this type do; the event’s VIPs were separated from the rest of us ordinary folk. The VIPs were led to what looked like a red carpet photocall from a World Premiere, whilst the rest of us waited for the flashbulbs to stop popping (check out the photos and you might just catch the back of my head in a couple of shots). When they did stop, we were able to pass through, ignored by the gaggle of bored-looking photographers (this may sound like bitterness, but I assure you that it is nothing more than simple envy). Once we were through into the venue proper, we were confronted by a table covered in tarot cards with assistants (who looked more like models, really) explaining how the night’s game worked. You were supposed to pick a tarot card that you had some kind of affinity with and then find someone else with a matching card. You could then break the ice, exchange pleasantries and then claim a free drink with that person. Simple enough.

Having a penchant for comedy writing (along with the stunning realisation that I was absurdly out of my depth), I chose The Fool. There with my filmmaking partners and friends Tom and Paul (The Devil and Temperance, respectively) we first met a young producer named Patricia who took it easy on us by making the first move and introducing herself. After that initial conversation our confidence grew and we met many more talented people throughout the night, with the music and the drinks acting as an incredibly efficient social lubricant. There was Jenny (the redheaded Scottish producer), Nick (the film student and fellow Fool) and Sarah (the German scientist with no filmmaking intentions whatsoever). These were good people. There were also some people who embodied the worst media stereotypes; fast-talking, no substance, all show. I didn’t enjoy the company of these people as much.

All in all, what it did show me was that there is talent all across the country doing similar things in different places. Independent film is happening all over the place, and the people that do it are the same everywhere; the shy but skilled visionary, the unrecognised hard-worker, the talentless braggart.

Once I realised that, the whole event seemed far less intimidating. And although I didn’t gain a great deal professionally from the trip, I met some cool people that helped me to remember why I enjoy the independent film scene. I figure that was worth the price of admission (even if I didn’t end up in the photocall).

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Election Fever

People always call it that, no matter where in the world it takes place. It’s fitting really, if you think about it. Cold sweats, the shakes, headaches, a prickly feeling of general unease… I think it’s fair to say that these symptoms are indicative of a General Election in the UK. In fact, the frustration that you experience when you’re unable to properly express how ill you feel is remarkably similar to how it feels to debate someone politically, especially when you just know that you’re right.

The argument that I hear floating around all the time (not just in elections, but predominantly so) is the age-old mantra of the defeatist ‘better the devil you know…’ This statement should never be used in politics (or anywhere really). Elections should be about hope and change, not sticking to what we know out of fear of what else might happen. Surely it is better to leap into an unknown with a potential for reward than to simply fit the same old yoke around your neck? Why else would there be an election process if not for the possibility of change for the better?

I’ve already cast my ballot today, so I urge you to go and do the same. There are several more hours in which to do it, so I don’t want to hear any ‘but I didn’t have time’ excuses. I’m not going to tell you who I voted for, nor am I going to tell you who deserves your ballot. Only you can judge who the right candidate is for and your views, but remember that the election isn’t just about what’s right for you. It’s about the country. It’s about everyone in it who’s circumstances may be wildly different to your own. So don’t just vote for your interests. Vote for theirs too. And remember, ‘better the devil you know…’ is never a valid argument.

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Quandary

I’m on the cusp of a decision that can either be interpreted as a funny kind of success or abject failure. The decision concerns my seemingly long-lost manuscript. I had originally intended to have my first attempt at a first draft of a proper novel completed by my birthday (that was almost two months ago) but this particular deadline (which you may have heard me mention before) has slipped through my fingers. Now, the question has switched to what to do next.

My recent focus has been on completing screenplays, rather than returning to my neglected prose. I have kind of focused myself on being a screenwriter and not an author, which I believe agrees with me. I’ve set up an account on the International Screenwriters’ Association website to showcase my scripts and hopefully garner some interest (with the closing of IdeasTap, this seemed to be a prudent thing to do). I think I’m better at producing scripts than I am completing chapters anyway (I’m talking about productivity and not quality, before you think I’m being conceited), so perhaps it makes sense to continue on this path.

I suppose the point that I am dancing around is whether or not I should abandon my book plan and instead adapt the story of my book into a feature-length screenplay. I have the story planned out in its entirety and I could use that to build scenes visually. Would that be a better use of the ground work I’ve already put in developing this idea? I think it might be. I’ve always wanted to publish a novel, but I think I’d rather see my name on the big screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (if I had to choose between them, that is, because I’d accept both). I suppose there isn’t anything  stopping me from writing the book and then adapting a screenplay (or vice versa) but I don’t know whether I can focus on one project quite that heavily.

Now I know that pretty much no one knows the story of my book apart from me and thus no one can really give me a well reasoned case for either book or screenplay. However, if anyone has an opinion that they want to share, I’m open to it.

I genuinely don’t know which way to go but, one way or the other, I will complete the story.

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Moonstruck

I’ve always been a fan of space. Whether I was stargazing at night in the backyard (I never had an awesome telescope, but I always wished for one) or curled up watching televison shows like Star Trek or Babylon 5, I have forever believed that the human race’s future lies out there in the big black. It just makes sense, right? Our species managed to crawl out of the primordial ooze and then, after a healthy dose of time (billions of years, unless you’re a creationist), came to have dominion over the whole planet. The human race developed so many diverse languages, arts and sciences and I am convinced that a species that has evolved like ours is not destined to die out on the planet of its origin.

Anyway, I’m getting carried away with myself. Let’s talk about the Moon. Tomorrow, areas of the planet will be treated to a full solar eclipse as the Moon passes directly between us and the Sun. This is a pretty awesome, and somewhat rare, occurrence. In preparation for this, I watched Stargazing Live on the BBC last night (if you didn’t see it, I highly recommend catching it on iPlayer). As it was a show about the eclipse and the Moon in general, they had a special guest; Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon.

I’ve got a bit of a hero-worshipy man-crush going on for Buzz Aldrin (yes, I know that he is 85 years old), although I know that I probably wouldn’t agree with some of his politics and positions (he is a staunch Republican and has an interesting stance on global warming). However, all of that aside, this is a man who stood on the surface of the moon (and he once punched a moon landing conspiracy theorist in the face). There aren’t very many of those. I especially like how much he has owned the experience. Whereas Neil Armstrong (the first man on the Moon) was a very private person who didn’t talk much about the Moon landing, Buzz has never shied away from telling his stories. He does tell a good story too (seriously, watch that show).

So they were talking about space exploration (from the Moon to Mars and beyond) and it got me thinking about our planet and the people on it. If only the people of the world stopped hating each other, we could be exploring the stars. This is the same reason that things about space upset me a little bit. I can’t see a possibility of people putting aside their hatred and conflicting beliefs long enough for us to truly achieve something great. In Star Trek, it took aliens visiting the Earth before we all realised that we are not that different from each other and that we should work together for the common good of mankind. I have this feeling that if were to be visited by benevolent aliens, we would only pause our destructive ways for long enough to obliterate the aliens before returning our attentions to ourselves.

Something I learned from Stargazing Live last night was that Apollo 17 brought back pieces of the Moon which were then mounted on plaques and given as gifts by President Nixon (he was a nasty piece of work, but this gesture was nice) to the leaders of 135 countries around the world. Part of the letter that accompanied the Moon rock reads:

If people of many nations can act together to achieve the dreams of humanity in space, then surely we can act together to accomplish humanity’s dream of peace here on earth. It was in this spirit that the United States of America went to the moon, and it is in this spirit that we look forward to sharing what we have done and what we have learned with all mankind.

Forty years on from that and we are no closer to a worldwide peace that will allow us to explore the stars together. I find that incredibly saddening. It is hard for me to consider the vastness and majesty of space without thinking about how many people in the world would rather kill each other than simply live side by side. How can anyone look up into the night sky and not think that exploring OUT THERE is the greatest thing the human race could do together? The International Space Station (I think people often forget that we have a damn SPACE STATION orbiting the Earth with people on board right this very second) regularly sends back images of our world, with us all just tiny, invisible specks upon it. How is that not more sobering to everyone?

Had I the chance, I would show everyone on the planet that program from last night. I’d let them hear Buzz Aldrin talk about seeing the Earth from space and setting foot on a different celestial body and I’d ask them how they feel afterwards. The saddest thing is that I imagine many wouldn’t be moved in the slightest. I guess that I’ll just have to carry on being moved for them, at least until everyone comes to their senses.

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Identity and Beardedness

The other night, as I stood clutching a pink Wilkinson’s disposable razor, I was assailed by a strong wave of emotions. I stared into the mirror above my sink and didn’t recognise the man looking back at me. The man in the mirror was clean shaven, complete with marks and cuts given to him by a razor dulled on hard stubble. Who could he be? I glanced at the twin-bladed devil in my own right hand and, in that moment, I realised my terrible mistake. The beard that I had lovingly cultivated and maintained for well over a year was no more than whiskers in my sink.

The beard was dead. Long live the beard.

I know that this sounds a little overly dramatic for something that people around the world do everyday, but there is more to it. I had kind of wrapped my identity up in my beard. I believed, and had been vocal about it, that anyone who could grow a beard should do so. I once shared with a group of men (in varying states and levels of shavedness) the opinion that the beard is the ‘bonsai tree of the face’, requiring dedication and commitment to get right. I still hold this opinion, even in my current clean-shaven state.

I feel that I need to elaborate on why the shave occured in the first place, as I’m making such a big deal out of it. I saw a picture of myself the other day and felt that my beard was making me look old. Not just aged, but haggard too. The beard was full and lucious, but wide and straggly too. I realised that I needed to trim it down. Rein it in. Usually I have my beard done professionally (entirely because I don’t trust myself with clippers) but on this occassion I figured that I could handle it. I was wrong. A little bit more from each side turned into ‘oh well, I guess I’ll have a goatee’. Levelling that out turned into ‘oh no, it all has to go’. Should have stuck with my lack of personal trust. If I had, I would still be whiskered.

When the sink was rinsed and the final hairs were washed down the drain, I realised the seriousness of my error. I had grown so attached to the beard (quite literally, but that should be obvious) that shaving it off left me feeling genuinely emotionally stunned. I just stared into that mirror not knowing what the hell I had done. The beard was me and I was it and, with nothing but a flick of the clippers, that was suddenly over.

But it is not the end. The beard will return. Sure it will take some time, but then all good things do. My beard was a good thing and I have no one to blame for its loss but myself.

It will return. Until then, I just need to get used to my face and learn once again what my (weak) chin looks like.

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Momentum

I’ve written paragraphs and paragraphs before about that little movie that I made (here and here) but today I’m going to write a little bit more.

Shooting on the Rim was a labour of love, both in the sense that we poured our hearts and souls into it and also because it’s about porn (fictionalised and never on camera, but still). Now we’re at a stage where the film is done and we’re sitting on a guaranteed blockbuster property (this is a subjective opinion of the movie, I admit) and are a little unsure of how to proceed. This has been our problem, but now we are making actual, genuine progress.

Today we submitted Shooting on the Rim to FOURTEEN different film festivals using the website FilmFreeway. The law of averages states that someone has to take the film. That might not seem overly optimistic, and I know the movie is good enough to be selected, but I just hope it finds the right judge who falls for it the way that we have. The way that it should go (in my head, anyway) is that one festival selects it and then the next festival sees that it has been selected and selects it too. This goes on and on and becomes a never-ending downhill snowball of raw success which finishes with us collecting a Palme d’Or at Cannes. Or that SHOULD be how it goes, anyway.

We’ve also made a connection with a gentleman named Andrew Patrick who works for UK Trade & Investment. From him we are getting some mentoring and industry advice, some of which we have already put into practice. It’s nice getting some information from someone who’s been in the business and can tell us when a plan is not worth pursuing, before we stumble blindly into some kind of failure.

It’s an exciting time for our movie. Momentum is with us for the first time in a long time and we will ride it all the way to success (or glorious, catastrophic failure).

Ask Me Tomorrow Productions Website

Shooting on the Rim on FilmFreeway

A new blog belonging to Paul Thorp (co-writer and producer of SotR)

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25+5 (A Retrospective)

Five years ago, the decade was changing and I wrote a somewhat melancholic blog about the arrival of my 25th birthday. Now here we are and I’m turning 30 in a couple of weeks and I thought it might be good to critique this old blog and see how much I have (or haven’t) changed. I know that this might seem a little self-indulgent going over my own stuff like this, but it’s my birthday so just go with it, okay?

Let us begin.

The decade’s nearly over. That means that it’ll be 2010 before you know it. If I had to pick the one thing that matters the most to me in 2010 it would be my birthday. Not just because it’s my birthday, but because it’s the big number twenty-five. It’s the last big milestone birthday before you hit thirty. Sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one are all long gone and that means that it’s time to take stock of my life.

I like that it starts with this sense of impending doom (The decade is ending! What will we do?!) and a little element of narcissism (What matters most is my special day!). I still hold that those are the milestone birthdays and I believe that they are the ones that people really care about. Shame I won’t get another for a decade.

Ten years ago, I was still new at an English high school. I split my time between trying to fit in and trying to stand out. Six years ago, I was dropping out of Manchester Metropolitan University. Back then I was sure that this was the right idea. Well, the jury’s still out on that one. Two and a half years ago, I was moving out of my parents’ home. This time for good, I promised. One year ago, I was sporting a particularly nice ginger beard.

Okay, so not everything listed above is particularly important.

These things were and are all true. I used to think a lot about where I had come from and I would beat myself up over choices that I had made. Coming to an English school was a serious shift in gears for me and I’m genuinely surprised that I made it through without losing my mind. I always considered dropping out of University to be one of my biggest failings, but actually my life could have been totally different had I stayed in and gotten my degree. I probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am now, although 25-year-old-me wouldn’t necessarily believe that. Moving out and staying out of the parent’s home was important for everyone involved. I know that they would agree. And although I may make light of it in the paragraph above, it was a nice beard and was the origin story for the one I wear today, so that’s something.

So I’m rapidly approaching twenty-five and I don’t know if I have much to show for it. I haven’t done particularly well with the factors that usually define success: career, wealth and family. I work for a good company, earning a decent wage. Maybe there isn’t as much in the way of progression as I would hope for, but at least I’ve been comfortably employed throughout the recession. In terms of wealth I’m probably in about as much debt as the next guy, just with less to show for it. And my love life… Well that’s something that’s best left unspoken about (not because it’s terrible and seedy, but because it’s relatively non-existent).

Wow. There are a lot of deep-seated neuroses in the lines above (this is where the melancholia I mentioned at the start kicks in). I seemed to carry around a lot of crippling self-doubt a few years back. Luckily, just like Taylor Swift, I’ve learned to shake it off. Am I still aware of not having ticked certain boxes, of course I am, but I just don’t worry about them so much (I go into this a bit in one of my earlier blogs). At least the last part has improved. I’m engaged to the love of my life and she, for some inexplicable reason, has been putting up with me for three years now.

I think all in all it’s not the getting older bit that bugs me; it’s the worry that I may not be achieving what I wish I was. Funnily enough not only do I not worry about ageing, I actually want to live to be one hundred and sixteen years old. If I do, I’ll have officially lived in three centuries. How about that for an awesome achievement?

The progression of modern medical science means that 116 might actually be an achievable age. Maybe. Or at least I keep telling myself that. Anyway, I’ll go into my theory on mortality and the concept of the body as a self-repairing machine at another time.

So what are the goals to achieve before this (rather minor) milestone age? I should know them, but I’ve pretty much given up on birthday resolutions. I usually just rely on booze to be a comforting mistress at birthday time instead of planning my year ahead. Of course I do have life goals, but they’re mostly scheduled for around that next big milestone; the big three-oh. I’ll start worrying about them in four years time.

Oh brilliant. Thanks past-me. Leaving a big old heap of ‘things to do’ for me to worry about. It’s not bad enough that I’ll be missing my more recent deadlines (read more about that here), but now I’m going to miss past ones too. Ugh. I don’t even know why I said that thing about booze being a comfort. I’ve never really been much of a drinker. When I do drink, I get emotional… and usually messy (bit of a lightweight). Best avoided, really.

I think that what I’m trying to say (and at the same time, convince myself of) is that although birthdays cause you to pause and examine yourself (not physically), they shouldn’t be how you judge yourself or anyone else. I’ve met massively accomplished twenty-somethings (they make me jealous) and I’ve met middle-aged folks with nothing but their name (they make me worry). From now on, when you think about your age, don’t think about the number. Think about what you’ve done, who you’ve known, how you’ve changed. If the thoughts and memories that you conjure up make you smile then the number is no longer important. That’s how I’m going to work from now on. Happier birthdays.

Check that out! Finishing as a plucky optimist. Who’d have thought that it would end up that way after the first few lines? What reading this has taught me is that my opinions on things like age, success and so on have pretty much remained the same over the last few years (except for the odd moments of panic and cold sweat). Since I wrote that blog I’ve made a feature length movie with some of my best friends (check out the trailer or read about the premiere maybe?) and I’ve met and made plans to wife my dream girl. I think that’s pretty good for a neurotic thirty year old.

Now I just need to tick the rest of the boxes and buy a house and have a baby and make it as a writer and…

Forty is a good age for deadlines, right?

Je-suis-Charlie

#JeSuisCharlie

I want to talk about the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

I’ve agonised over it, talking myself out of it and back into it a few times now. I’ve seen so much written over the last few days (some calm and measured, others furious and vitriolic) and I’ve decided that (despite my better judgement) I want to add my voice to that ever-growing cacophony. I know that I’ll probably draw criticism for over-simplifying things, but I just felt the need to say something.

Charlie Hebdo is a French weekly satirical newspaper and I have to admit that before the events this week, I had never even heard of it. I expect this is the same for most people outside of France. A quick check on Wikipedia sheds some light on the paper and its history. It describes Charlie Hebdo as left-wing, with a history of satirical attacks in all directions. By its very nature, the paper will have offended a lot of people (this should go without saying as satire is always attacking the beliefs or opinions of someone) but for it to have been attacked twice (firebombed in 2011 and the shooting this week) is really quite shocking. Viz and Private Eye have been known to offend regularly in the UK, but neither of them have ever been attacked like this.

The most surprising thing to me in the aftermath of all of this, however, is the position of what appears to be a growing number of people on the internet. That position seems to be “Charlie Hebdo is a racist newspaper so let’s not start calling them heroes…” In the wake of something terrible, victims are regularly referred to as ‘heroes’. Not necessarily because they died heroically, but mostly just because they died. Playing down the grief because perhaps they weren’t all lovely people is ridiculous. The paper was offensive, that much is accepted as true by all parties. But the issue isn’t whether or not they even WERE racists. They were murdered in their offices. The police officers in the street were killed trying to protect their community. Mercilessly gunned down by people claiming to have been insulted by cartoons and harsh words. You don’t get to kill people because you don’t like what someone has said, not even if they’ve REALLY hurt your feelings. Likewise, the things that those people wrote/drew/did should not lessen the grief felt by those left behind. To say that “we shouldn’t start excusing what they said just because of a shooting” is just stupid. People are united in sadness for the victims and condemnation for the attackers. If you have a problem with the content of the paper, you could at least wait until the bodies are cold. Otherwise you are just grandstanding, using the victims as your stage.

And now, after all of this has happened, people are proclaiming ‘Je suis Charlie’. The common thread between those using this statement is that freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be fundamental rights for all of us. The response I have seen to this is “I hope everyone isn’t Charlie, because if they are, then they are all racists too.” I really don’t believe that this is what ‘Je suis Charlie’ means. People aren’t saying that they embody and are represented by everything Charlie Hebdo ever published. Nor are they saying that what was published should be free from criticism. What they are saying is that we accept everyone’s right to an opinion, no matter how much it may differ from our own or how much it may upset somebody else. Charlie Hebdo’s opinion may not be one that you share, you may not even like it, but you should allow them to have that opinion. That is their freedom. Everyone is offended by something and it is your right to be offended. Things that you believe or say may offend me, but that is YOUR right to believe and to say them. You see where I’m going with this?

Should Charlie Hebdo be free from all criticism in their quest to offend all cultures and religions with their use of heavily barbed satire? Of course not, but the victims of January 7th sure as hell didn’t deserve to die for it.

#JeSuisCharlie