Recognizing Female Genius by Dr. Rosanne Welch

I was doing editor rewrites on a chapter titled “Dorothy Parker: The Creative Genius Behind Film Franchise A STAR IS BORN.” To the note asking me to consider a “less hagiographic title,” I said “No”.

A quick check showed me that many, many, many male writers are called geniuses – but few women.

For instance, this article, Genius – still a country for white, middle class, heterosexual men*, notes:

“Try a quick google search of the terms “literary genius”. The same names keep appearing: William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henry James, William Chaucer, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, and so on.” 

But I would object to J.D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye did not move me at all – but S. E. The Outsiders(Susan Elizabeth) Hinton’s The Outsiders moved me and all the generations from mine through my son’s Millennial group and into the folks watching the musical on Broadway right now – while teaching us all to love the poetry of another male genius – Robert Frost. See, I’m willing to use the adjective on men when they deserve it.

So the lesson of the day is that if any writer deserves to be called genius, it’s Dorothy Parker.

Own your genius. And use it to describe other female creatives. And maybe refrain from using it on less men for once. 

* Genius – still a country for white, middle class, heterosexual men, Natalie Kon-yu, The Conversation

Rosanne Writes on Doctor Who, “The King’s Demons”, and more in the new book, Outside In Regenerates [Books]

63 New Perspectives on 163 Classic DOCTOR WHO Stories by 163 Writers

While I am quite proud of all the larger publishers I have worked with I also deeply enjoy supporting smaller presses and their niche work – especially when it comes to writing about shows I’ve loved for a long time. That’s what ATB offers every time they email me about another book in their “Outside/In” series.

They publish “thoughtful non-fiction books that explore the history of pop culture with insightful and entertaining commentary from a diverse array of writers, authors, and editors”. So far I’ve had essays in their books on the original Star Trek (on the episode ‘This Side of Paradise’) and in the book on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (on the episode ‘Hush’). My latest is an essay on the ‘Kings Demons’ episode of the Peter Davison era of classic Doctor Who. 

These are funny essays to write – and read – for deep, deep fans of these shows and it’s been fun to be involved.

Emma Thompson on Adapting “Sense and Sensibility”

Emma Thompson on Adapting

On one of my strolls through YouTube, I went down the rabbit hole of wonderful interviews with screenwriter Emma Thompson and landed on this “Making of” Sense and Sensibility.

While it is fun to hear about the casting and the costuming, the best part (naturally) is near the end.

In “Adapting Austen” they discuss choosing the (at that time) relatively unknown-in-the-States Emma Thompson to adapt the novel and then the segment goes over her process in writing the film.

Producer Lindsay Doran had seen some of Thompson’s UK sketch comedy show (then airing on PBS) and knew her favorite novel would need a writer who understood that Austen was funny in her comments about the societal rules she and her sisters were forced to abide.

No surprise Thompson asked for adaptation advice from Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who had adapted Howard’s End, the film Thompson was then acting in (and which would lead to her 1993 Oscar for Best Actress.

Creative women helping other creative women for the win!

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web

Reading Leads to 6 Degree Games with Famous Names

Reading Leads to 6 Degree Games with Famous Names by Dr. Rosanne Welch

A funny thing happens when you read a lot of biographies – sometimes names you never heard of turn up in the lives of people who never met and you’re reminded that the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game could be played in generations in the past (with different names of course).

Rachel Carson, 1940 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee photo
Rachel Carson By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – This image originates from the National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at this page This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing. See Category:Images from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service., Public Domain, Link

That’s what happened when I picked up William Souder’s biography of Rachel Carson On a Farther Shore. I had taught her book Silent Spring which reinvigorated the environmental movement in the 1960s so I wanted to know how she became a writer. As I was reading one of her influences was Hendrik Willem van Loon, a Dutch-American children’s book author, historian, and journalist (like Carson). He wrote The Story of Mankind in 1921 as a history of the world for children and won the first Newbery Medal in 1922. I’ve been reading Newberry Award winners all my life so it was fun to learn he won the first, but that’s not why I remembered his name.

Hendrik Willem van Loon
Hendrik Willem van Loon By Underwood & Underwood – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a02154. This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, Link

That knowledge came from another biography I had delved into several years ago when I started teaching the History of Screenwriting. There I ‘met’ Frances Goodrich Hackett, co-screenwriter with her husband Albert of several classics including The Thin Man, Father of the Bride, It’s a Wonderful Life before winning both the Tony and Pulitzer Prize for the stage version of The Diary of Anne Frank. Then they adapted it into a film. Turns out Von Loon had been Goodrich’s second husband (Albert was her third and final since their marriage and writing partnership lasted over 50 years).

Hackett and Goodrich.jpg
Frances Goodrich Hackett, By not known Fair use, Link

I love accidental finds like that. Carson was influenced by Von Loon to become a writer and Frances became one after she left him. Interesting that both of these women and their writings are now more well-known than he or his works when, at the time, he was the more famous.




Once again I’ve had to email a film screening program about the blurb they posted about an upcoming screening and Q&A with the creators of a new film. Here’s the post I read:

When single father Max (John Cho) discovers he has a terminal disease, he decides to try and cram all the years of love and support he will miss with his teenage daughter Wally (Mia Isaac) into the time he has left with her. With the promise of long-awaited driving lessons, he convinces Wally to accompany him on a road trip from California to New Orleans for his 20th college reunion, where he secretly hopes to reunite her with her mother who left them long ago. A wholly original, emotional and surprising journey, Don’t Make Me Go explores the unbreakable, eternal bond between a father and daughter from both sides of the generational divide with heart and humor along for the ride. From Amazon Studios, #DontMakeMeGo will begin streaming July 15 globally only on Prime Video.

Why We Love It: Don’t Make Me Go is an emotional and beautiful exploration of the struggle between chasing your dreams or settling on the safe choices. Mia Isaac and John Cho’s chemistry is captivating in this one of a kind father-daughter road trip film. Bring tissues.

Here’s the email I had to send to the programmer:

I saw your announcement and wondered if Don’t Make Me Go is “A wholly original, emotional and surprising journey, Don’t Make Me Go explores the unbreakable, eternal bond between a father and daughter from both sides of the generational divide with heart and humor along for the ride” then WHY wasn’t the writer, Vera Herbert, invited to this live discussion? Or even mentioned in your post, which makes the reader assume that the director is a writer-director, giving them all the credit for what sounds like a film based on characters, situation, theme, and dialogue – none of which are under the auspices of a director.

As the Executive Director of an MFA in TV and Screenwriting, I subscribe to all your posts to see what events I might want to bring my MFA candidates to – but I only attend events that include writers. It’s an insult to not even name the writer. The auteur theory was invented years ago by French film reviewers who found it simpler to list directors since many were writer-directors and sometimes a film is written by 2 people which was unwieldy in a review. That’s why it exists and it’s a shame for film experts/programmers/educators to continue that practice. More women have written films than directed them (the Joan Harrison/Hitchcock team is an example) so it was another way to erase the creative work of women when we only mention directors. I would say “Please stop” but I’m tired of saying “Please”.

Dr. Rosanne Welch

A TED Talk Worth Watching – “Saving the World Vs Kissing the Girl” by Lindsay Doran

I am quite a fan of TED Talks – for their content and the spiffy way they illustrate a talk should go in a quick 20 minutes or so.  I often show students one of my favorites – Chimamanda Adiche’s “The Danger of a Single Story” and show my friend, Art Benjamin’s TED Talks in some of my humanities courses.  I was deeply pleased to be asked to give my own TED Talk, “A Female Voice In The Room”,  when CalPolyPomona hosted their own TED@CPP event a few years ago.  So when I find a new one worth sharing – I share it. 

The latest TED Talk to catch my attention was given by film producer Lindsay Doran in 2012.  “Saving the World Vs Kissing the Girl” is a fascinating look at how ‘action’ movies end on the announcement of the success to someone the protagonist is in a relationship with, making the culmination of the relationship more important than the ‘saving the world’ part. 

For instance, at the end of Rocky he doesn’t say “Yo, Adrian, I won” because he doesn’t win the fight.  He only survived it. The movie ends with Rocky and Adrian struggling to get to each other in the crowd. When they reach each other, they clutch each other saying, “I love you” over and over again. THAT’s the win.

A TED Talk Worth Watching -  “Saving the World Vs Kissing the Girl” by Lindsay Doran

Using Dirty Dancing, Karate Kid, and The King’s Speech she explains how positive relationships are more important than positive accomplishments in films.  They always end with the healing of a primary relationship. Heroes who don’t win their fight (Rocky in Rocky, George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird) are so inspirational because they win their relationships. 

Then she says that women don’t need to learn that relationships are more important than accomplishments in life – men do.  So perhaps these action films are women’s way of teaching that lesson that no man is a failure who has friends.

I LOVE that idea!

All About The Almighty Johnsons with the Fake Geek Girls Podcast – Episode 165 [Audio]

As we’ve all been advised, if you put something out on the internet folks will stumble over you and your work and offer you new opportunities.

That happened last month when Melissa Banks, who co-hosts the Fake Geek Girls podcast found an essay I had written and recorded to my blog in 2015 (How the Female Characters in The Almighty Johnsons were Misused – and how that likely lead to the early end of a great series…). 

All About The Almighty Johnsons with the Fake Geek Girls Podcast - Episode 165

It’s about a New Zealand show called The Almighty Johnsons and my opinion had to do with how I felt the writers had done a disservice to the female characters on the show. So here in 2021 Melissa and her co-host were planning an episode around the show, found my essay and asked for permission to quote it, which I happily gave.

If you know the Almighty Johnsons this whole episode will be of interest; if not my quote comes into the conversation here at 1:18:25  when they Introduce to the section on gender in the show and then at 1:19:22 – when they begin using my quotes.

Listen to All About The Almighty Johnsons with the Fake Geek Girls Podcast – Episode 165

Coming Soon: A chapter in a new book, Doctor Who: New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whitaker Era

There are many exciting steps along the way to having a chapter you’ve written about a beloved television show accepted into a book collection.

  • First you see the Call for Submissions, have an idea and send in an abstract.
  • Then they tell you they like your idea and want to include it in their collection.
  • Then you write the chapter and they send back minimal notes.
  • Then (that’s today) they send you the artwork for the cover and you smile all over again knowing other fans of the show will be reading your ideas as they consider the importance of the show to our culture. 

Coming Soon: A chapter in a new book, Doctor Who: New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whitaker Era

All those steps (except the cover page) happened recently on a couple of upcoming collections I’m contributing to but the other day this cover came along for Doctor Who: New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whitaker Era and I couldn’t be more excited that a show I originally watched on PBS back in Ohio and followed all these years then made their lead character a female and then I had the chance to write about how a writer could go about making such a culturally important change.

My essay is entitled ‘She is wise and unafraid’: writing the first female Doctor and a diverse universe for her to protect

The book itself will be out later this year!

“Let us simply celebrate good television” and Bridgerton [Opinion]

“Let us simply celebrate good television” and Bridgerton [Opinion] by Dr. Rosanne Welch

Leave it to NPR to get it right, which is why I’m posting this piece they did on Bridgerton (Netflix), the new show executive produced by Shonda Rhimes and created for television by Chris Van Dusen from the romance book series by Julia Quinn.

See ‘Bridgerton’ Is A Delicious, Raunchy Tale Of One Very Hot Family

Far beyond explaining the show’s popularity, this article interested me because it understood instantly that what works best and most binge-ably about this show is that

“Let us simply celebrate good television, made by a shop run by a woman who loves good television and written by people who are experienced in television.”

Bridgerton and

In fact, I found one of the cleanest, clearest descriptions of the difference between movie screenplays and television screenplays while listening to this.

“Writing television requires writing to the rhythm of the episode, not just the season. An episode must have its own shape, its own rise and fall… Obviously, in a serialized story, one episode will not be complete on its own when it comes to plot, but it should work on its own structurally. It should have a beginning, middle, and end.”

You could spend a whole semester in a writing class and not yet be able to define it so cleanly – or create a piece that demonstrates having digested that delightfully delectable tidbit. 

I also appreciated the note about how we may think streaming services invented binge-watching but

“Remember, binge-watching really came of age with DVDs, which didn’t have the Netflixian boosts of the auto-play and the credits-skipping and the part where they almost bodily shove you from one episode to the next episode. If you watched 10 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on DVD, it was because you affirmatively said yes, over and over.”

I would go so far as to say TV in general invented that because before streaming it had to make characters and stories so compelling you would remember to be in front of the TV set at the same time every week in order to keep up.

That’s quite a lot of television writing (and history) information to glean out of one short public radio piece. Kudos to NPR pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes. And because we learn so much from any writer’s origin story – don’t miss her story at the end of the online post:

“She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living-room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.

Holmes was a writer and editor at Television Without Pity, where she recapped several hundred hours of programming — including both High School Musical movies, for which she did not receive hazard pay. Her first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, will be published in the summer of 2019.”

Rosanne Welch serves as Executive Director of the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting. Television credits include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, Nightline and Touched by an Angel. Award-winning publications include When Women Wrote Hollywood, runner up for the Susan Koppelman Award for best edited book in feminist studies and Women in American History, named Outstanding Reference Source and added to the list of 2017’s Best Historical Materials, by the ALA.

New Essay Published: The Twenty-First-Century Western: New Riders of the Cinematic Stage

Once again I’m happy to have co-written a chapter with editor Doug Brode. — Westward Ho! The Women!: Frontier Females in Postfeminist Films

Our first was collaboration came in The American Civil War on Film and TV: Blue and Gray in Black and White and Color – this one gave me a chance to analyze female characters in westerns produced after 2000.

Sadly, you’d think their new-ness would have made for more interesting, nuanced female characters but, as I say in the chapter, the most well-rounded, honest and real representations of females in westerns in the (supposedly) 21st century came from one of the youngest characters (Mattie Ross in True Grit) and from one of the animated characters, who is not even a female human, but a female lizard (Beans in Rango). And once again, as I am finding more and more, whether the screenwriter was female or male often made a difference.

New Essay Published: The Twenty-First-Century Western

Focusing on twenty-first century Western films, including all major releases since the turn of the century, the essays in this volume cover a broad range of aesthetic and thematic aspects explored in these films, including gender and race. As diverse contributors focus on the individual subgenres of the traditional Western (the gunfighter, the Cavalry vs. Native American conflict, the role of women in Westerns, etc.), they share an understanding of the twenty-first century Western may be understood as a genre in itself. They argue that the films discussed here reimagine certain aspects of the more conventional Western and often reverse the ideology contained within them while employing certain forms and clichés that have become synonymous internationally with Westerns. The result is a contemporary sensibility that might be referred to as the postmodern Western.