A kiss is just a kiss?


Finding myself back from Marbella in the middle of August, reluctant to get back into any kind of routine and with my hard-working reviewers working their way through the latest draft of the Callisto novel, I sought escape in the story of what happened to Rebecca – ‘Red’ to her friends – after the adventure on Enceladus described in The Safest Moon. The basic idea had been established months ago (Red had access to an ultrakey; everyone knew what she was going to do with it!) and the first draft is already drawing nicely to a conclusion. With Red, I seem to get away with just putting her in the situation and seeing what happens next. The current plan is to fast-track the new novella for publication as a tempting October freebie.

Now, this may seem like a weak link or a lame excuse for me to jump onto my soap box, but when the Spanish women’s team won the World Cup earlier in the month (bad luck Australia, USA and England this time!) and that well-deserved victory was overshadowed in the media by the antics of the undeniably male Royal Spanish Football Federation president, Luis Rubiales, I couldn’t help thinking about Red. To be generous to Rubiales, he seemed to forget he was essentially ‘at work’ when he decided to grab hold of his huevos while standing a few feet away from the Queen and the sixteen- year-old Infanta Sofia (he’s president of the royal federation, remember), planted the kiss on Jenni Hermoso and later lifted another Spanish player onto his shoulder for a post-match celebratory stroll around the pitch. Crimes? Not really. Appropriate behaviour in 2023? I find it hard to believe Red would think so, however long ago it would seem to her.

But what would my favourite fictional ex-captain of Italy and Juventus have done in Hermoso’s situation? Much the same, I suspect. How would anyone react after receiving the infamous and uninvited (according to Hermoso) kiss? Presumably, unlike Will Smith, as a woman Red would have got away with a slap. And with that fiery temper of hers, it couldn’t be ruled out. But having just won the world cup, I think she probably wouldn’t pay much attention to Rubiales, either in the moment or afterwards. I see her shrugging her shoulders, turning to the cameras and pointing a finger at the offending official as if to say, WTF?

‘If the federation thinks he embodies the values it stands for, they should probably support him,’ she might say later. ‘Personally, I think he gives the impression that the archetypal “Latino macho man” is alive and well and still running the show here!’

(As a brief aside, rumours persist that Hermoso and Rubiales used to be an ‘item’. In fact, a friend said he looked up the footballer on Wikipedia during the World Cup tournament and the entry suggested they were still romantically involved. He assures me that the Wikipedia entry has since been ‘updated’ to remove this ‘fact’, and the official news continues to completely ignore the issue. As viewers, we may or may not think the question is significant, but decisions to choose what the public should or shouldn’t be told are usually classified as either censorship or propaganda, aren’t they?)

And on a vaguely similar note, I found Barbie a bit of a disappointment. I suppose the hotchpotch of feminist theory was presented in a slightly juvenile way because of the target audience (although my mother, a teacher, always said that you should never oversimplify things for kids), but for me there was a real missed opportunity to explore the proposed role for men in Barbie Land’s brave new world through Ryan Gosling’s Ken (and the other Kens!). I don’t think ‘I am Kenough’ really is, especially after the movie made the ‘real world’ (Los Angeles!) look like such a cool place for men to live in.

I suppose the writers would argue that the film was about Barbie and that a Barbie doesn’t need a

Ken. In other words, Ken’s problems are his own to sort out, and feminism isn’t obliged to offer him any kind of positive message. But it seems to me it’s precisely when men and women have to work and live together that all the problems arise. (I’d prefer to see women’s football teams with female coaches, for example, but that would be a case of avoiding rather than addressing issues of sexism in sport.) And there were a lot of young men in the cinema (many with their girlfriends) when we went to see Barbie who probably went home thinking, ‘Huh?’

On a more trivial note, Margot Robbie as Barbie would also work perfectly for Ariadne the ‘archetypal’ android in the story I’m currently writing, though she would be unambiguously dangerous as a role model.

Next month I hope to include a link to a short, humorous action video in which I make a cameo appearance. Kenough said.

PS: Congratulations to India (if it makes any sense to congratulate an entire country) for landing the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon for less than half the amount it cost Christopher Nolan to make the movie Interstellar!

PPS: Just in case anyone was wondering, this newsletter was written without help from AI or robots of any kind.

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