Archive for the ‘Maniacal Rantings’ Category

8007cef6b23ae281bb2242c0f39f9123If you’ve been listening closely on a few of the more recent podcasts of That Girl with the Curls, you might have noticed I’ve been talking a lot about Storm. She’s one of my favorite X-Men and, if you haven’t listened to the episodes linked, her trading card back in the early to mid-nineties was one of my most prized possession. Whenever my mom took me and my sister to the local game shop – we didn’t exactly have a comic book store close by to my recollection – I always asked (or begged) for another pack of X-Men cards. I was in love with the 1992 cartoon and I was infatuated with Storm. More accurately, I wanted to be Storm. Not only did she have what I believed to be the best mutant powers ever, but as the cartoon progressed I became wrapped up in her story. Like many of the X-Men, and villains, featured in the cartoon, Storm was fleshed out as a character, showing a wide range of emotions fueled by her past and her present position as one of the most powerful mutants on the X-Men roster.

Goddess, thief, mutant, queen, leader, friend, lover, and hero; Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, was introduced, along with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird, and Banshee in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May, 1975) as part of a new diverse generation of mutants created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockram. When Chris Claremont took over writing for Uncanny X-Men from Wein, he established Storm’s backstory and continued to feature her as a prominent character for the next sixteen years. Since her first appearance, Storm has been in every iteration of the classic-x-men-inside-coverX-Men to date; cartoons/anime, movies, and video games have all utilized Storm not just as a powerful mutant but also as a valued team member and friend. However, in the nearly four decades she’s been part of the X-Men Universe, she’s never had a solo book until now and it’s already facing cancellation after only five issues.

Currently being written by Greg Pak with pencils by Victor Ibañez and colors by Ruth Redmond, Storm’s solo book has finally taken the Mistress of the Elements out from under the greater umbrella of the X-Men team to explore her as an individual on her own terms. Yes, she’s still as much involved with the team as ever but Pak uses her relationships, past and present, to key us into what makes Storm so significant and so different. In the five issues thus far, Pak has firmly established Storm as a defender of anyone in need who’s grown tired of working within systems (societal and political) that prevent her from helping others and doing what’s right. As she tells Wolverine, she doesn’t want to hold back anymore and Pak succeeds in making each issue function partially as a one-shot but tied together through the 1398611782000-Storm-1-Ibanez-Coveroverarching theme of Storm’s personal journey to make good on her statement. Much of that journey means going back to her roots in Africa, making her book significant on a cultural level. Africa is a hotbed of socio-economic and political conflicts, so putting Storm in the midst of these problems makes sense and gives her an added dimension of relevance.

But really it’s the diversity angle I want to stress here because it’s at the heart of the #SaveStorm campaign started not too long ago in an effort to keep the book afloat. In the wake of Marvel’s cancellation of Elektra and She-Hulk‘s solo books, the common denominator was low sales. As Brett White at Comic Book Resources pointed out:

According to the October sales charts, “She-Hulk” #9 sold 21,418 physical copies and “Elektra” #7 sold 15,021. You know what series sits between those two terminated ongoings? “Storm.” The fourth issue sold 19,862 copies, which, if “She-Hulk” and “Elektra’s” ultimate fates are to be used as proof, puts it in danger of being cancelled.

StormaProblematic to this entire situation is the way in which copies are being counted. The October sales chart only covers physical copies sold to retailers in North America. Sales from countries outside North America and digital sales aren’t factored into the charts, making the numbers unreliable in their representation of the actual market of readers. But if these are the numbers Marvel is using to justify cancellations, then we have to work within the same parameters.

Are the low sales the result of terrible marketing? Personally, I found out about the book when maybe one or two websites mentioned it, but I can’t recall any huge push from Marvel. Then again, a lot of the solo books have fallen by the wayside mostly due to event books taking precedence. It’s still surprising how little attention she’s received given that Storm is one of the most recognizable characters in the X-Men universe, if not Marvel as a whole. She was Marvel’s first major black female superhero and one would think they’d try to market the hell out of her solo book. Then again, there’s been a lot of speculation about how Marvel has been handling titles with characters they don’t have the rights to for their cinematic universe. Just sayin’.Storm_h622

Is it the readers? I doubt Marvel would give the greenlight on a solo book unless there was enough interest in the character to warrant hiring the talent and spending the money to bring the book to fruition. But, as stated previously, event books are the company’s bread and butter, and with the glut of comics coming out from Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom!, Archie, and other independent publishers, readers need to decide where to spend their money. This means they often purchase books they’ve always bought instead of opting for something new, especially if they’re working with limited funds.

Is it the character? Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean dollar signs and there could definitely be a bit of mental gymnastics going on in the minds of readers trying to justify not buying the book. Storm, as part of the X-Men, still appears in several titles and she’s a regular participant in the crossover events due to her affiliations with multiple teams. It’s easy to think, “Well, she’s in these other books, so I’m still going to have Storm but also all these other characters.” Then again, Wolverine’s been around for the same amount of time and he was (RIP Logan) in almost every book Marvel could stuff him into. Personally, I don’t think it’s a gender or race issue in terms of the lack of interest or cancellation, but it is important in terms of representation in comic books. Diversity is integral to the survival of the comic book industry, not just in the creative teams, but in the characters put front and center. Storm tumblr_mdcss8EKxX1qzgx3uo1_500is on par with Wonder Woman as a character who inspires others. Her strength, compassion, and wisdom, coupled with her very human flaws, make her relatable to readers of all ages, races, and genders. Featuring her as a major player and representative of the Marvel brand, however, gives validation not just to the character but to those who identify with her yet feel overlooked.

The question then becomes: Is that enough? Marvel is a company and numbers are what matter to companies. If a book isn’t selling, even if the higher-ups love it for all the right reasons, it will eventually boil down to numbers. So, for now, all we can do is support the hell out of Storm. Buy or order it from your local comic book store, buy it on Comixology, tweet about the book with the hashtag #SaveStorm, go on Tumblr, shove a copy of the book into the hands of your friends and families. Help Storm because she’d do her damnedest to help you.

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I’m going to admit this right off the bat: I was never excited or interested in a Maleficent movie. It isn’t that I don’t love the character. The exact opposite, in fact. I adore Maleficent because she’s one of the great Disney villains, a powerful sorceress with a wicked sense of humor who revels in her ownMaleficent-Angelina villainy. Oh and she can TURN INTO A DRAGON! She was hardcore before that was a thing, cursing a baby to die because she wasn’t invited to a party. But you know what I never wondered when watching Walt Disney’s 1959 classic, Sleeping Beauty? Gee, what’s Maleficent’s backstory? What would possibly make her so damn evil? Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority with these thoughts because Disney thought they’d cash in on the current “You Don’t Know the Whole Story” trend of retelling popular fairy tales by completely botching everything that made Maleficent so badass and interesting to begin with.

Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie as the titular character who we first meet as an orphaned (this is Disney, remember), human-sized fairy with bird-like wings and horns. For some reason she’s the guardian of the Moors, the magical folk who live in peace and harmony opposite the humans who pretty much keep away from them because humans are a cowardly and suspicious lot. But one day a young peasant boy named Stefan wanders into their enchanted world of nature and the two become friends and eventually lovers. Maybe. It’s implied through montage. Unfortunately, Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is an ambitious young man and when the dying King offers the kingdom to the one who can kill Maleficent he drugs her and cuts off her wings with an iron chain. Heartbroken and embittered by Stefan’s betrayal, Maleficent gets her chance at revenge at the christening of Stefan’s daughter, Aurora. From there on out it’s a quasi-retelling of Sleeping Beauty only with more incompetent fairy protectors, an equally uninteresting and dull Aurora (Elle Fanning), and an “evil” fairy whose heart grew three sizes after finding true love through the role of surrogate mother to the girl she cursed.

angelina-jolie-maleficent-lgIf it wasn’t abundantly clear I don’t have a high opinion of this story. I got to experience the classic animated movies of my parents’ childhood while growing up during the Disney Renaissance and since then I’ve seen the company try to recapture the love and magic of their previous films while incorporating new technology and altering our perception of the typical Disney Princess movie. I get what they’re trying to do, I applaud it even. The current movie going audience demands a different type of female lead and Disney is not exempt from this. If anything, they’ve been updating their heroines since 1989, making them more proactive characters instead of the passive damsels of the early classics. There have been hits and misses along the way, but there was always a sense that Disney was learning from what didn’t work. Lately, though, it feels like the harder they try to tell a story that subverts their own tropes, the more complicated and unnecessary the stories become.

I’ve made my thoughts on Frozen known, but Maleficent is just a hot mess of a movie full of clunky exposition, an over reliance on CGI, and a story that essentially neuters one of the great Disney villains by turning her into an anti-hero. This isn’t a new thing, by the way, especially if you’re a comic book reader. It’s very common for villains to be turned into anti-heroes after they gain any measure of popularity from the fans. How do you root for a villain? Well maybe they’re not as villainous as you think. Done and done, problem solved. Such is the case with Maleficent. But in giving her a backstory, the movie practically strips her of everything that made her likeable to begin with.

So where do I start with what doesn’t work? Oh, I know! How about the fact that Maleficent was, forKing_Stefan_(Maleficent_Film) all intents and purposes, raped. Yeah, that’s right. When Stefan decides that his love of power is stronger than his love for Maleficent, he drugs her and physically mutilates her body by cutting off her wings. The aftermath scene where Maleficent wakes up to find her wings gone is filmed in such a way that is disturbing and uncomfortable on so many levels. I’m certainly not the only person who’s written about this, but it begs the question of whether or not anyone at Disney read the script and questioned the message being sent by these scenes. For that matter, why did screenwriters Linda Woolverton and Paul Dini choose this as the primary motivation behind Maleficent’s actions? It’s no longer about asserting her power over the “offense” of not being invited to the christening. No, that extremely cold and villainous curse she puts on Aurora is now Maleficent getting revenge on Stefan for jilting her and taking her wings. Even the spinning wheel is just a conveniently placed item, in a throne room for some reason, for her to utilize as the weapon of choice. And because we don’t want Maleficent to be beyond complete redemption, she doesn’t even curse Aurora to die, only to fall into a “sleep like death” with the caveat of true love’s kiss added as a special little “fuck you” to Stefan who gave Maleficent her “true love’s kiss” when they were sixteen.

maleficent-movieThis isn’t a movie about a “strong female character” who does as she pleases. This is a movie about a woman scorned whose every action is predicated on what others have done to her. Specifically, what a man has done to her. And you can get all bent out of shape about me going all “femi-nazi” on this movie, but I really don’t care. I’m all for adaptations and I could even get behind a reinterpretation of Maleficent, but this movie takes all the wrong cues from the animated movie and butchers what could have been an interesting look into the creation of a villain. When talking about the movie to The Hollywood Reporter, Woolverton said this about Maleficent’s motivation:

We based this on the Disney movie, not the fairy tale. I was looking at that scene, and I had done some research, and the biggest surprise is that she’s a fairy, not a witch. I’ve always wanted to do a dark fairy story. Then I watched that scene where she curses the baby, and I’m thinking “well if she’s a fairy, where are her wings?” Suddenly it was “boom. Lightbulb. Oh! It’s the wings!” Then I worked backward from there to create the Stefan relationship.

I don’t know where she got the idea that Maleficent was a fairy, but fine, let’s go with that. If you take that angle, then why is she human-sized while all the other fairies in the live action movie are small? Is there a hierarchy of fairies? Were there other human-sized fairies? If so, what happened to them? Those are the questions I’d rather Woolverton asked because they start to form a different story. Even in the animated movie there’s obvious animosity between Maleficent and the three good fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. When Maleficent theatrically ponders why she didn’t get an invitation to the christening Merryweather clearly states, “You weren’t wanted.”

Now that’s a loaded statement. Why wasn’t she wanted there? What led to this bad blood between thesleeping_beauty_maleficent_dragon_phillip humans, Maleficent, and the good fairies? If you think about the animated movie, as a whole, it’s more about a battle between Maleficent and the trio of fairies looking after Aurora. They bestow the gifts on the baby, one of which actually lessens Maleficent’s curse from death to sleep, they rescue Phillip from Maleficent’s castle, and in the final battle they give Phillip the shield and sword needed to battle her when she TURNS INTO A DRAGON! Hell, Flora practically guides the sword into the dragon’s chest for Phillip. This is a story about fairies battling each other using human pawns. Any prequel would have to include the origin of Maleficent but there’s also room to explore the world she inhabits in-depth.

The live action movie even sets up that there’s tension between the humans and the Moors, so why wasn’t that the story? Maybe make Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather major players in a battle that splits the world of the Moors over aligning with the humans because Maleficent descends further into darker magic in order to ward off the humans who she sees as a threat to her world and her people. Battles, political intrigue, and magic would all still be possible but the movie would have room to explore Maleficent as a character in her own right instead of trying to retell Sleeping Beauty through a revisionist lens.

Flora Fauna and MerryweatherAnd by revisionist, I mean they make every character who isn’t Maleficent nearly intolerable. Clearly this movie is not meant for an audience who knows the animated Sleeping Beauty. Despite Woolverton claiming Maleficent is taking its cues from the 1959 film, which is an adaptation of the French fairy tale La Belle Au Bois Dormant with the score and songs adapted from the 1890 ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Maleficent bares very little resemblance to its animated predecessor other than Jolie’s outward appearance and the inclusion of the curse on Aurora. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather aren’t even called by those names probably because their CGI, uncanny valley doppelgängers (played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple) are so far off from the originals that it would be offensive to keep their names from the animated film. The movie goes out of its way to make the good fairies as incompetent as possible to the point that a young Aurora would’ve fallen off a cliff or starved if not for Maleficent’s interference during her childhood. All of that, however, is in service of bringing out her nascent maternal side that ultimately leads to the subversion of the “true love’s kiss” towards the end of the film.

Again, I understand what the movie was trying to do but the execution of it was poorly handled especially when Prince Phillip shows up so late in the story that you can see them telegraphing the big “twist” a mile away. Not that Phillip is all that interesting anyway. He and Aurora are about equal in terms of dullness. It’s sad really because there was some opportunity to give at least Aurora some character development but the movie opts for just having Elle Fanning smile a lot, cry, and fall asleep.

If I was going to harp on one more thing (and if you made it this far, congratulations and I’m sorry!),MALEFICENT I’d say the actual climax of the film really misses the mark. Granted, Stefan’s descent into madness is interesting and the film definitely sets up what should be a huge climactic battle between Stefan and Maleficent, but the movie takes away the one thing that always belonged to Maleficent: SHE TURNS INTO A FUCKING DRAGON! Not so this time around. Nope, turning into a dragon gets handed over to Maleficent’s lackey Diaval (Sam Riley) while she’s busy being captured in a net of iron. Really, movie? I mean, you had one job. One. Job. Make sure Maleficent turns into a dragon and you couldn’t even make that happen. For all the faults of the movie I could follow the logic and the purpose behind certain decisions, but when you take an iconic moment away from your main character I have to ask how much Woolverton and Dini were paying attention to the original movie.

It’s not like there wasn’t a way to make Maleficent turning into a dragon work within the parameters of the story. Sure, she’s weakened by the iron net over her, but people get surges of adrenaline all the time that help them overcome a lot of things. Why not make that Maleficent’s final act? She’s already woken Aurora, now she just has to deal with Stefan. Seeing him through the net, ready to strike with his sword, she use her last ounce of strength and magic to turn herself into a dragon, whipping the net off and going on the offensive. She deals with the soldiers and then charges Stefan, but he manages to stab her with the sword as they both fall from the castle. It’s a dark ending, but since Aurora is supposed to be the innocent ray of sunshine and hope, she sees the sacrifice made by Maleficent and makes sure to unite the Moors and humans. But I guess that would’ve messed up the already jumbled tone of the movie, so whatever.

640px-Phillip_and_aurora_in_maleficentThat’s not to say the movie doesn’t have it’s good moments. Angelina Jolie completely embraces the role of Maleficent and she has some fantastic scenes and great lines. Her interactions with Diaval are probably my favorite because the two actors have great chemistry. Sharlto Copley is woefully underutilized, but his scenes are still engaging as he falls further into madness. There are also some great designs on the Moors and the CGI is impressive, but it’s not enough to make the movie work as a whole.

I really wish I could’ve liked this movie more, but this doesn’t give me a lot of hope for the upcoming live action adaptations of Cinderella, Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. Something’s getting lost in the translation here. The classic animated movies are timeless, but who knows how Maleficent will be viewed five, ten, twenty, or fifty years from now.

Ya know, for all the good that can come out of the comic book community, sometimes it really sucks. So I’m just gonna dive into this one because I don’t feel like any fancy setup intro. Even after a couple of weeks to mull things over I’m still pissed and the only way I can convey that, in the least destructive way possible, is to write about it.teen-titans_1-600x911

Two weeks ago Janelle Asselin, a former editor for DC Comics and Disney, did a guest article for Comic Book Resources in which she critiqued the cover art for the upcoming relaunch of Teen Titans that will debut in July with a new #1. In the article, Asselin was highly critical of artist Kenneth Rocafort’s depiction of the new Titans cover: the odd relation of characters to the background, the position of the single person of color, and the highly sexualized rendition of Cassie Sandsmark, a.k.a. Wonder Girl, standing front and center with her very large and unnatural looking breasts prominently featured. In dissecting Rocafort’s version of Wonder Girl, Asselin was also able to branch out and discuss not just the purpose of a comic book cover, but also talk about the demographic for which the comic is being made and marketed. Suffice it to say, women weren’t the target audience.

This critique, based on Asselin’s experience within the industry, however, came under fire from artist Brett Booth, artist for The Flash and former artist for Teen Titans. In some strange form of artistic solidarity, Booth began attacking Asselin’s credibility on Twitter, which then turned into a series of tweets from Booth and his supporters calling Asselin’s critique a biased nitpick with some sort of hidden agenda towards bashing DC Comics. The Outhousers has a great breakdown, including the tweets, of how this all escalated. The final tweet from Booth, however, is something I want to address. Because a woman dare question the costume choice and sexualization of a teenage girl on a book being marketed to a largely male demographic, Booth concluded:

 

 

Now, in all fairness, I’m not trying to demonize Booth. I would hope he’s a good person and he has said that his statements towards Asselin were in reaction to her criticism of the artwork, not the sexualization of Wonder Girl. While those two issues aren’t mutually exclusive in the context of the article, I suppose I can see where he’s coming from, but as with most things on the internet, intention gets lost in the translation. But even if he was just coming to Rocafort’s defense, his remark about putting female characters in burkas as a non-solution is in and of itself presenting a false dichotomy of how superheroines should be depicted in comic books.

Harley QuinnWhen women criticize how female superheroes are depicted in comic books is isn’t necessarily a THIS OR THAT situation. We’re not prudes and we can appreciate the male and female forms in a variety of ways. Sexuality is not the issue, but the context of that sexuality and who that sexualized rendition of a female superhero is meant for are of greater concern. When Brett Booth uses the burka as the extreme opposite, he creates a duality that ultimately undermines the real issue. It’s the comic book equivalent of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy. Women are either pure as fallen snow OR wonton Jezebels. There’s no middle ground, no gray area, no actual understanding of human nuance. Just a nice, neat package complete with an easily identifiable label. I’m sorry, but no. Thanks for playing, now please exit the planet.

Sex sells. We all know it, we get it, and female readers of superhero comics specifically understand this because it’s pretty much shoved in our faces. Though we make up almost half of the reading audience, with our numbers continuing to grow, women and girls are still marginalized when it comes to marketing comic books. The same can be said for movies and tv shows involving superheroes or anything believed to be “for boys”. Don’t believe me, take a look at Giancarlo Volpe’s short comic about the focus groups for Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Three groups for boys of varying ages, one group for girls of all ages. Guess who gave the most thoughtful feedback. Or go back and listen to Paul Dini on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman where he lays it all out that girls are considered unwanted afterthoughts when it comes to marketing products. The point is, women and girls, are still looked at as outsiders. Despite our growing presence, when we look to the superheroines of Marvel and DC, most of them are being written and drawn by men who’re catering to an audience that the companies at large perceive as, or want to believe is, predominantly male.I am Wonder Woman

I want to be clear on this, I’m not saying men can’t write or draw nuanced and dynamic superheroines. One of my favorite books is Wonder Woman, written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Cliff Chiang. This actually presents us with an interesting surface comparison of Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl. Chiang’s Diana is proportionally sound with her body type a reflection of her life and training as an Amazon. She’s athletic and muscular, but still possesses her femininity. And save for a brief glimpse of side boob, Wonder Woman, as depicted by Azzarello and Chiang has never been shown as a sexual object. Even her costume, by all accounts a one piece bathing suit with knee-high boots, looks more like plated armor with the silver eagle atop the corset covering her breasts in order to prevent spillage. Diana’s sex appeal is ostensibly left to the reader to interpret through the actions of the character. Cassie, as drawn by Rocafort, is, as pointed out by Asselin, proportionally wrong. She says:

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Wonder Girl’s rack. Perhaps I’m alone in having an issue with an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head (seriously, line that stuff up, each breast is the same size as her face) popping out of her top. Anatomy-wise, there are other issues — her thigh is bigger around than her waist, for one — but let’s be real. The worst part of this image, by far, are her breasts. The problem is not that she’s a teen girl with large breasts, because those certainly exist. The main problem is that this is not the natural chest of a large-breasted woman. Those are implants. On a teenaged superheroine. Natural breasts don’t have that round shape (sorry, boys).

So, yeah, Cassie’s one-piece costume stops exactly mid-breast. This is a girl who can fly and has to regularly throw a magical lasso and punch people. Unless she has some Acme-strength superglue on hand, the second she swings her arm or breaks the sound barrier she’ll be experiencing a wardrobe malfunction. This depiction of her is overtly sexual for the sake of being sexual with no consideration given to the character.

Ms. Marvel to Captain MarvelFor another comparison, let’s look at the costume change for Carol Danvers, formerly Ms. Marvel now Capt. Marvel. As Ms. Marvel, Carol definitely had a few costume changes, but the most iconic one was the one piece black bathing suit with a lightning bolt, sash, arm-length gloves, and boots. Carol Danvers, a former United States Air Force pilot, though superpowered but not invulnerable, was flying around in a uniform her former superiors would probably classify as unbecoming of an officer. So when Kelly Sue DeConnick took over the newly minted Capt. Marvel with Carol as the titular character, she made sure the costume reflected the character, making Carol’s new costume more in tune with something a soldier would wear even if they happen to associate with mutants, aliens, and a giant green Hulk. Does it cover her up? Yes, but so what? It has everything to do with how the uniform is an extension of the character. When we see a superhero in their outfit it’s supposed to evoke specific feelings: hope, fear, inspiration, etc. When we look at Wonder Girl, what’re we supposed to think of her? Who is she being drawn for?

The depiction of superheroines and how artists draw them extends, to no one’s surprise, into the world of cosplay. Cosplay is itself a fascinating sect of fandom and the time and effort people put into their costumes is something to be commended. Women who cosplay, however, have to deal with more unwanted attention than men who cosplay simply because the costumes available to them are derived from characters who are regularly drawn with more skin showing than their male counterparts. The amount of anti-harrassment and zero tolerance signs that go up during conventions, if they bother to put them up at all, is a direct correlation to the actions of men who think that because a woman dresses sexily it gives them the right to ogle, harass, or solicit them. She dressed like Power Girl, so that means she wants the attention, right? If she didn’t want the attention she wouldn’t have chosen to dress like that character. Never mind that the woman in question is dressing as a character she identifies with who happens to have a costume with a boob window and no pants. Nope, clearly anyone dressed as Power Girl, Black Canary, Huntress, Starfire, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, or Harley Quinn wants people to stare at them to validate their sexuality, not because the character means something to them.best-of-cosplay-power-girl

This leads to the final point I want to make regarding the Scantily Clad OR Burka dichotomy: the double standard of sexuality, superheroines, and female readers. The standard male response to women criticizing the sexualization of most superheroines is that male superheroes are equally as sexualized or presented as an unrealistic ideal because COMICS! Again, it’s people making assumptions who don’t understand the issue. Are comic books essentially power fantasies? Yes, but with the dearth of female creators, especially at DC and Marvel, this means that most of these power fantasies are coming from the male perspective. Heroes like Superman and Batman get to be muscular, tall, and handsome while exhibiting strength of body and mind. They’re also entirely covered up. Female heroes like Power Girl, Black Canary, Huntress, and Wonder Woman are shown in one-piece bathing suit outfits, thing-high boots, fishnet stockings, boob windows, and bare midriffs. They’re idealized, but they’re also highly sexualized. Let’s face it, we’ll always get the fan service bare-chested man, but you know what will never happen in a DC or a Marvel book? Dick slip – and I’m not talking Dick Grayson slipping on a banana peel. There will never be even the slightest notion of a male character’s fly being down or his pants being ripped off while going commando based on the design of his costume. They will always be covered up, no matter what.

Wonder Girl -Cassandra-Sandsmark (2)In the case of female readers, our power fantasies are being dictated to us, but our means of ownership or reaction to those fantasies put us in a no-win situation. A lot of women identify with superheroines who dress in the aforementioned style of dress. In fact, those women own that sexuality and find it and the costume empowering. And what do they get for taking ownership of those characters? The words “slut”, “whore”, “attention-seeker”, and “fake” get thrown around a lot. Hell, even in Justice League: War Wonder Woman is called a whore by the leader of a mob who’s hanging her in effigy based on her costume. In an animated movie supposedly for kids! And should women go the opposite route and critique the costumes of superheroines, we’re called “prudes”, “femi-nazis”, and told we’re “over-reacting” and “nitpicking” because we have an agenda against men in general.

God forbid female readers just want to enjoy reading a comic book without having to think about how Starfire’s spine bends like a snake or how low the zipper goes down on Catwoman’s outfit. That’s our agenda, folks. We just want to be able to read our comics and enjoy ourselves without having to explain to our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, friends and family why we feel uncomfortable talking about or showing them our passions.

And if you’d like to see a more distilled version of this argument, I’d highly recommend the Nostalgia Chick’s look at the Charlie’s Angels movies.

So I’m gonna play a little game here mostly because I haven’t written anything for this blog that isn’t some sort of In Memorium or a previous review. I apologize and there’s a perfectly good explanation for it…which I will probably be able to talk about in roughly two weeks. So stay tuned!Nightwing-Dead

Anyway, I thought I’d expand on an idea that came to me while recording DC Confidential over at Word of the Nerd. I don’t know when the episode will drop, but it’ll be linked here once it does. Suffice it to say, mid conversation about one of my favorite topics, Nightwing, I started speculating on one of the possible outcomes that could befall the former Robin in the wake of the Forever Evil crossover at DC Comics where Dick Grayson was unmasked to the world. DC isn’t shy about amping up the “Will Dick Grayson Die?” vibes that are coming off of this event either. It doesn’t help that Nightwing’s solo book was canceled and all advertisements concerning the Bat-family have suspiciously left him out…as far as we know.

So I thought I’d take a page out of DC’s old book and form an Elseworlds Tale of my own. For those who don’t know, the Elseworlds books were DC’s way of telling alternate reality stories about their characters without interfering with continuity. For example, Superman: Red Son is a really great Elseworlds book that I highly recommend. In the spirit of that, I thought I’d take a crack at how I think the aftermath of Forever Evil should play out for Nightwing.

For my money’s worth, I don’t think Dick’s gonna kick the bucket. The most recent issue of Forever Evil that came out today seems to confirm my suspicions, but I’ll leave that to you fine people to read the book. This article is all about the “What if?” scenario and fulfilling my own fangirlish notions of how a story could play out. Cool? Cool.

Nightwing_arrestedWith this in mind, where could Nightwing possibly end up? Let’s just say, for the purposes of this article, that in the wake of Forever Evil and Dick’s unmasking, he’d more than likely be arrested for vigilantism. He’s been breaking the law since he was 16, so he’d definitely be an easy scapegoat for those looking to reestablish law and order in a world that’s just been overrun with chaos. This would, more than likely, mean Dick gets thrown in Arkham Asylum, one of the many prisons in the DC Universe, or a newly constructed prison created due to how friggin’ easy it seemed to break everyone out of their respective facilities the last time. You could even make it an entire arc, “The Trial of Dick Grayson”, which could expand on justice, heroism, vigilantes, etc.

It would also be a way of diving further into the character of Dick Grayson. He’s always been a performer, going from the Flying Graysons to Robin to Nightwing (and briefly Batman, though don’t ask me where that falls in the five year timeline). Now that the world knows who he is and his alter ego, could he continue fighting crime? Should he continue fighting crime or has he earned a spot in prison alongside the people he put away? And if he’s no longer Nightwing the hero, but Dick Grayson, prisoner of Blackgate or Belle Reve or Arkham Asylum, then what does this mean regarding how he views himself?

For the sake of argument, let’s say Dick is still found guilty and sentenced to prison. Bruce tries to get him a lighter sentence, say house arrest, but the judge isn’t lenient. Remember, law and order, chaos, yadda, yadda, yadda. Dick’s sent to jail and finds himself amongst some familiar faces, but this is Nightwing, so he can adjust, right? Well, even someone as easygoing as Dick Grayson can have his bouts of depression and one could see him having a case of this and just when it really looks bleak, maybe after yet another fight in the cafeteria or the prison yard, someone comes to his cell for a visit.

Amanda Waller.amanda-waller-feat-image

Let’s be honest, if Dick Grayson was unmasked you’d have to be a complete idiot or extremely dense not to realize that Bruce Wayne is Batman. The fact that Lex Luthor of all people, who looked up who Dick Grayson was after he was unmasked, didn’t put two and two together either means he’s playing dumb or he really thinks 2+Z = chair. Anyway, Waller, armed with this information, offers Dick a deal. She keeps the information buried and promises no one will find out the identities of the rest of the Bat-family if Dick agrees to join Suicide Squad. She could use a guy with his skills to participate, or lead, the new team she’s formed. He gets the same deal as everyone else, one year of missions or whatever arbitrary number of missions Waller decides, then he’s released back into the world a free man. Lacking any real choice, but also seeing an opportunity to protect his family, Dick accepts. Knowing that Bruce would never accept his choice, Dick and Waller agree that the only way this will work is if they stage his “death” in prison. Bruce being Bruce, he’d also investigate the death of his oldest “son”, but Waller promises to keep him busy enough. Or, Bruce is in on it the whole time, but keeps it a secret from the rest of the Bat-Family.

red_x_by_jehuty23-d4ruq3bOnce the “death” has been staged, Dick takes on a new mantle in Suicide Squad. In fact, part of the story could be that he’s only referenced by this new identity so that the other villains don’t know it’s him. Dick being Dick, he eventually assumes a leadership role and even comes to sympathize and begrudgingly respect some of his other teammates. Or his animosity for some of them could run deeper. All the while, he’s using Waller to keep tabs on Bruce, Barbara, Tim, Jason…possibly Damian when he returns. There would probably be a mission or two that puts him at odds with his family and he has to fight them without hurting them while also not giving away that it’s him, which would mean changing his fighting style completely. It would be yet another opportunity to explore Dick Grayson’s character through the new identity. He’d essentially be trapped behind a new mask, unable to take it off unless he felt safe, which would be difficult considering he doesn’t trust anyone he’s working with. Amanda Waller would be the only person he could talk to who knows the truth and if we went with the angle of Bruce knowing, it would still be dangerous to contact him. But what if Dick starts to like being on Suicide Squad? Then he’d have to deal with the consequences of those feelings contrasting with everything he’s learned as Batman’s former partner and as a hero in his own right.

Like I said, just my version of how things could play out. It probably won’t happen that way, but I like to think a girl can dream…or write fan fiction.

But I’m curious to hear what others think? What do you think will be the fallout of Forever Evil for Nightwing? Will he live, die, or something else?

nightwing

As The Cowsills sang:

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, streaming flaxen waxen..

 

Something I’ve noticed recently is the use of hair as a story-telling element for women and girls, especially in animation. This is nothing new. Hair has always been linked, one way or another, to societal position, marital status, and even rebellion, but in the visual format of film, television, and animation, hair has become the most visceral way of showing a person’s state of mind. The most recent example of this is a pivotal moment in Disney’s Frozen (2013) where Elsa, the Snow Queen, finally lets go of her repression and literally lets her hair down as she sings about embracing her true self.

No longer in the tight braid of suppression, Elsa now has a mussed up, slightly sexier braid, to say nothing of the dress she magically creates for herself with her ice-tailoring powers. The point is that this is supposed to be the moment Elsa completely comes into her own and it’s entirely linked to her hair. The minute that braid comes down, the audience immediately understands what’s just happened even if they’re not paying attention to the lyrics of the song. It’s a visual representation of Elsa’s state of mind that anyone can deduce.

Elsa, in this regard, actually has a lot in common with Merida from Brave (2012). Much of the movie’s early advertisements centered around how different Merida looked from other Disney princesses with her wild, curly red hair. The film even uses her hair to emphasize her rebellious spirit when Merida’s father, King Fergus, stands in as his daughter for a bit of role-playing to help his wife try to find an angle of communication. The king, in his best high-pitched voice proclaims, “I don’t want to get married, I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset.” Merida’s hair is linked to her desire for freedom from the responsibilities of marriage and being a princess. When she’s tied into her dress and her hair is stuffed into a wimple before her three suitors begin the series of games meant to win her as a bride, we’re meant to sympathize with her and her unwinnable situation. But when this happens…

It’s meant to be a moment of shock for the characters within the movie, but a triumphant moment for the audience and their attachment to Merida. The reveal of Merida’s unruly hair is an act of defiance, a statement of her intentions to be her own person by shooting for her own hand. Her feminist visualization goes even further when she breaks the stitching of her dress to give herself the proper freedom of movement to shoot her arrows, but her wild hair is the first and most obvious “moment” where Merida makes her intentions clear. The entire scene screams “METAPHOR!” but it sets the tone for Merida as a character and drives the central plot of the movie, more or less.

Disney actually uses hair in many of their animated movies as a means of visually depicting how the audience should perceive their female characters. This starts happening more during the Disney Renaissance since Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora don’t have any hair-related incidents as visual cues tied to their character development. The closest would probably be after Cinderella’s step-sisters tear her dress apart and her hair is disheveled only to be done up regally when the Fairy Godmother provides her with a new outfit. It doesn’t do much for Cinderella as a person, but it shows what a state of mess she’s in before her wish is granted and she’s off to the ball.

Hair becomes a prominent feature starting with The Little Mermaid (1989) when the animation department showed off their skills at depicting hair underwater through the long, red locks of Ariel. Her hair practically has a will of its own as it shifts and falls with the current or Ariel’s movements, emphasizing her rebellious and youthful spirit in contrast to her six older sisters who either have their hair cut shorter or done up in a ponytail or bun. In Beauty and the Beast (1991), Belle’s hair continually transforms from the bookish, yet youthful ponytail to her hair worn down as she matures in her love for the Beast or when she’s in peril. A constant tick is Belle pushing a stray lock of hair away from her face, which always seems to coincide with a major revelation she has. In Aladdin (1992), Jasmine wears her hair in a hanging, segmented ponytail, yet her only major hair change comes when Jafar makes her a slave-girl, using the higher ponytail to symbolize her change in status.

Disney doesn’t entirely have a monopoly on hair as visual signifier. The other contender would be Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) and The Legend of Korra (2012-present). In both shows, hair is used to signify the mental state and/or maturity of three characters specifically. Katara, over the course of three seasons (though only a year has passed in the world), transitions from her pulled back and braided hair on a near regular basis to consistently having it free flowing. In the first season, we only see it down when she means serious business and displays her mastery of waterbending, but in the later seasons it becomes a sign of her character growth and maturity. There are similarities in Legend of Korra in regards to the titular character. Korra, because of her athletic training, keeps her hair up, but in both the first and second season finales, when she has to fully display her skills as the Avatar, her hair always manages to come undun. By having her hair wild and free, it shows that Korra is equally as unrestrained.

The award for hair as linked to mental stability goes to Azula in Avatar: The Last Airbender. When we first meet Azula, she goes through a near perfect firebending routine, marred only by a single strand of hair out of place. The intensity with which Azula stares at the errant hair tells you everything you need to know about her. Her bullying and perfectionism come to a head when, devoid of all friends and allies, she awaits her crowing as the Fire Lord and breaks down in the process. Believing everyone is against her or trying to kill her, Azula tries to do her own hair, but messes it up. Her solution to the problem of such uncooperative hair is to frantically cut it. From there on out, she wears her hair down, uneven and disheveled. Her madness is solidified when she faces Zuko in Agni Kai. Her very movements become disturbing and erratic, made all the more so by her uncharacteristically free-flowing hair giving her a demonic presence as she attacks Zuko and Katara with uncontrolled glee.

Azula cutting her hair, however, does bring up an interesting contrast when it comes to Disney and its female leads. In most of their movies, the hair of each Disney princess has only changed in terms of how they wear it. There are two princesses, though one actually isn’t a princess but gets lumped into the category anyway, who have significant moments tied to their hair because it gets cut. It’s not as psychologically damaging, but important to their character’s nonetheless. The first is Mulan (1998). In order to take her father’s place in the Chinese army, Mulan needs to pass as a boy, leading to a very well done scene in which she cuts her long hair and takes her father’s armor, sword, horse, and summons. It’s a significant moment for Mulan not just as a woman, but as a woman in China. The men of China also have hair long enough to put in a topknot, so Mulan cutting her hair is more of a symbolic gesture, removing her duties as a daughter to assume the duties of a son to maintain the honor of her family. Though the Disney merchandise continues to depict her with the long hair she sports in the beginning of the first film, Mulan keeps her hair shorter even in the direct-to-DVD sequel, showing that her femininity and her prowess as a warrior lies in more than just her hair.

The second princess to have a significant hair cut is Rapunzel. In Tangled (2010), Rapunzel’s magical hair is attached to her freedom, though she doesn’t realize this until the climax of the film. Stolen away by Mother Gothel to continue rejuvenating her looks, Rapunzel’s hair cannot be cut or it will lose it’s magical properties. Though Gothel assumes the role of a parental figure, her primary focus is retaining her youth. To ensure that Rapunzel and her hair are never discovered, she warps the girl’s perception of the outside world as a means of keeping her in the tower. Her hair makes Rapunzel Gothel’s unwitting prisoner. When Flynn, who’s dying of stab wound, cuts her hair, he frees her from Gothel and her imprisonment at the cost of his own life. But this is a Disney movie, so you know that doesn’t stick for very long, right? Either way, when Rapunzel’s hair is cut, she’s finally free to be her own person and pursue her new dream. In many ways, it’s similar to real life.

Outside of animated movies, when a woman gets her hair cut, it’s an emotional ordeal that signifies transition or sacrifice. When Jo sells her hair in Little Women (1994) to pay for her mother’s train ticket or when Lt. Jordan O’Neill shaves her head to show her commitment to the Navy SEALS in G.I. Jane (1997), these are moments that show how far these women are willing to go to help others or to help themselves. Then there are instances like Sabrina’s maidenly and naive maturation into a sophisticated and worldly woman in Sabrina (1995) or Rebecca Warner changing from the timid farm girl into a “mature” college student in Son in Law (1993) that are emphasized through their hair going from long to short. Seems like the 90s were really into hair as metaphor.

If you’d like a more recent example of a live action movie hair transition, look no further than the upcoming Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. Black Widow/Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), in three movies, has gone through three different hairstyles. In Iron Man 2 (2010), she had the long, curly sexy hair that was about as functional as her role in the movie. In The Avengers (2012), she had a wavy, short cut that showed her no nonsense, yet still feminine approach to being a spy and soldier. And in Cap 2, she now has shoulder length, straight hair. Character maturity or a typical Hollywood change up? You decide.

Fatman on Batman

If you’re a fan of DC Comics and all things Batman (which I am), then you’re probably aware of Kevin Smith’s podcast Fatman on Batman where Silent Bob himself talks to pretty much anyone who’s been involved with the Dark Knight in some capacity. It’s a celebration of the Bat and it gives Smith a reason to fanboy out much to all of our delight.

Recently, Smith brought back Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Mad Love, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) to the Fat-cave for a two-part discussion of what were supposed to be minor bits and ephemera concerning Batman and the various properties with which Dini has been involved. In the second part, however, during a discussion of the probable cancellation of Beware the Batman on Cartoon Network (CN), Dini spilled the beans on how executives at Cartoon Network regard their female viewers. The short answer is: They don’t want them.

Apologies for how long this transcript is, made possible by Vi at A Bird’s Word on tumblr, but it’s worth reading the entire conversation as well as Smith’s response. Or, you can download the podcast and just listen to it because it gets very real when the two start talking about the harsh reality of why girls are marginalized.

First he talks about the cancellation of Young Justice and Dini’s own show Tower Prep for CN:

“But then, there’s been this weird—there’s been a, a sudden trend in animation, with super-heroes. Like, ‘it’s too old. It’s too old for our audience, and it has to be younger. It has to be funnier.‘ And that’s when I watch the first couple of episodes of Teen Titans Go!, it’s like those are the wacky moments in the Teen Titans cartoon, without any of the more serious moments. ‘Let’s just do them all fighting over pizza, or running around crazy and everything, ’cause our audience—the audience we wanna go after, is not the Young Justice audience any more. We wanna go after little kids, who are into—boys who are into goofy humor, goofy random humor, like on Adventure Time or Regular Show. We wanna do that goofy, that sense of humor, that’s where we’re going for.’

Then Dini hits us where we hurt:

DINI: “They’re all for boys ’we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”

DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show—”

SMITH: “So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t—A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as f***ing boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them f***ing umbrella with the f***ing character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

DINI: “That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’—this is the network talking—’one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’ And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]’s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t—’ and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down—’Yeah, but the—so many—we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.’”

SMITH: “That’s heart-breaking.”

DINI: “And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, ‘We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.’ We had a whole… we had a whole, a merchandise line for Tower Prep that they s***canned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, ‘Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.’

paul-dini-kevin-smith-cartoon-network-gi

Not this one

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

I just wanna get this out of the way first: “goofy” humor is not a sign of quality in a show. It is an aspect of a show like drama, action, or any number of genres, but it isn’t the only reason people watch Adventure Time or why they watched the original Teen Titans. I personally don’t watch Adventure Time, but I know there’s far more to the show than surrealist imagery and random humor. Teen Titans was also a cartoon that, while it had a lot of humor and anime influences, told mature and sometimes darker stories. Young Justice and Green Lantern had the same mix of action, humor, and quality storytelling. Apparently the people at Cartoon Network really don’t understand why their shows are popular.

Secondly, toy sales should not be the determining factor in the lifespan of a children’s show. They’re not reflective of the actual viewership of the show and with families needing to cut down on spending due to the slow rise of the economy there could be people out there who would normally buy those toys for their kids but can’t afford to. And like Smith says, if merchandise is your ultimate signpost of popularity, then find a way to sell to boys and girls! Superhero_superman_supergirl_batgirl_batman_child_photoshoot_Albuquerque_Photographer_02(pp_w907_h604)

Which leads into the third issue: GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS ABOUT SUPERHEROES! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS WITH “GOOFY HUMOR”! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS, PERIOD! GIRLS BUY TOYS AND OTHER MERCHANDISE BASED ON SAID CARTOONS! Is it really that hard to wrap your head around this fact? Girls aren’t different and they aren’t hard to figure out when it comes to the things they pester their parents to buy. But to cordon girls off from your product based on a preconceived and ridiculously ignorant notion of gender stereotypes, you’re inevitably sealing the fate of your show. Like Smith said, girls and women are 51% of the population and they make up the same demographic percentage when it comes to the media they consume. Nothing, not cartoons, comic books, movies, television shows, games, or princesses for that matter, belongs to one gender. You can sell the same products to girls that you do to boys. The executives at Cartoon Network, and for that matter, the executives of any company that maintain this mindset, obviously do not understand how to do their job.

You know what, I’m just gonna head over to my hittin’ wall and bash my head against it a few times. Maybe then I’ll be able to better understand how these people think. Also, let us now have a moment of silence as the quality of my writing goes right down the tube.

warrior princess

Now that we know Wonder Woman will actually be appearing in Superman vs Batman and that she’ll be played by Gal Gadot, it’s time to start musing over how David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder will characterize the iconic superheroine. Obviously we don’t have any plot details on the movie, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make some educated guesses as to how Goyer and Snyder might depict the original comic book warrior princess.

Warrior princess…

This is actually the most fitting and succinct description of Wonder Woman you’ll ever find because it encompasses the dual nature and complexity of the character. Diana is the Princess of Themyscira, an island exclusively populated by the female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazons. With all the talk of Gal Gadot’s casting and the plethora of aggravating judgements of her body continuing, the common thread has been comments about how fans envisioned the look of Diana as an Amazon. We’ve been talking a lot about the warrior, but there hasn’t been a lot of talk about what motivates her: the compassion and love she feels for others. Gail Simone described the essential Wonder Woman movie as a “Disney princess who fights monsters”. Simone should know since she’s written the character, but she makes a salient point. When we think of Disney princesses, certain traits come to mind: kindness, determination, cleverness, love, and compassion. Nix the songs and apply the job of the typical Disney male lead to Diana and you have Wonder Woman. It’s not that far off from what Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, had in mind. He envisioned his superheroine as the embodiment of what be believed were superior, feminine traits, and reinforced them with the physical power and strength rivaled only by Superman.

Simone, along with George Pérez, Greg Rucka, Phil Jimenez, and, to some extent, current writer Brian Azzarello, have all locked into this characterization, striking the right balance between the emotional and the physical. In Diana’s case, they’re not mutually exclusive. She fights because she sees the injustices that humanity inflicts upon itself and her capacity to feel for the suffering of others drives her to help those in need. Conversely, her compassion prevents her from stepping over the line and killing her enemies. Like Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman’s first priority is to prevent harm from coming to others, even the people she’s fighting. Killing does not equal justice, but what distinctly separates Wonder Woman from Batman and Superman is her understanding that sometimes killing is a possible solution when all others have failed.

Death of Maxwell LordThere’s a reason the death of Maxwell Lord is so significant to Wonder Woman’s character development in Infinite Crisis. Snapping his neck (sound familiar?) is the last resort, but it’s a final act done in order to stop Clark from killing others but also to save Clark from the emotional trauma should he kill a friend, loved one, or any random person while under mind control, something she knows would haunt him the rest of his life. The consequences, however, are tremendous in terms of how the world views her and how Superman and Batman treat her. They don’t trust her like they used to because she crossed a line neither of them have dared to no matter what the circumstances. The reasons why can be found in the very core of each character. Clark’s power set makes him practically unstoppable, yet he constantly holds back from putting his enemies six feet under because of the responsibility he feels to uphold the virtues of humanity. Bruce’s “no kill” policy is so central to who he is that he can’t even bring himself to kill the Joker, a mass-murdering sociopath, because he’s afraid of what will happen once he crosses that sacred, yet blurred line.

Clark and Bruce have clearly marked where the point of no return is for them and refuse to deviate from their chosen paths. They’re more motivated by the fear of crossing that line and the repercussions it has on a psychological level. Diana, however, knows where that line is but she also understands that sometimes it has to be crossed because the aftermath may be far worse if she doesn’t act. What separates Diana from Clark and Bruce are the emotional stakes she invests in being a hero and how far she’s willing to go because of them. What would you do to save someone you cared for? How far would you go? Diana will kill if she has to not just because she’s an Amazon but because, sometimes, it’s the lesser evil. Wonder Woman’s heroism comes from trying to spare others from pain even if it means diminishing her own reputation. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make and it paints her as a hero who can believably live in the moral grey area. She can still be inspirational and an ideal to strive towards, but when push comes to shove, and there are no other options left, pray that it isn’t Wonder Woman standing in front of you.zzTrinity-Wonder-Woman-Superman-Batman

And that’s just scratching the surface of who Diana is considering the nearly 75 years worth of stories that have expanded on her character and that of the Amazon culture from which she hails. This isn’t a character you can just sum up in a scene and pat yourself on the back.  But how much characterization will end up in the Wonder Woman we see on the big screen in Superman vs Batman? If I were a bettin’ woman, I’d say the odds aren’t exactly in her favor. Diana will be showing up in a movie that is still being referred to via her male peers. Until a title is officially released, hopefully not one of the God-awful domain names purchased by Warner Bros. in the last couple months, we’re still looking at this movie as if it’s going to solely focus on Superman and Batman. Unless the title miraculously has the word “Trinity” or “World’s Finest”, we can expect Wonder Woman’s role to be smaller, leaving less room for significant character development. Not that it can’t happen, but it would have to be some amazingly well written dialogue. Possibly a one-on-one between Diana and Lois. Just no love triangle, please. Listen to Amy Adams.

Keeping in mind, however, the filmmaking team we have, what’s the quickest way to set up a female superhero so that we might know how badass she is in the most visceral way possible? If you said, “Have her smash through a building while lassoing a harpy,” then you’re probably thinking along the same lines as Goyer and Snyder. Not that it wouldn’t be cool to see that, I’m just saying that Diana’s warrior background is going to get way more attention than her pesky emotional side. There’s also the classic bait and switch maneuver of introducing us to Diana Prince first only to have Wonder Woman unexpectedly show up during a fight between Superman, Batman, and whoever the secondary villain happens to be who isn’t Lex Luthor.

Frozen and Catching FirePushing the warrior angle is the easiest route to bring Wonder Woman into the fold. It requires minimal explanation because all you need is something big enough to attract more heroes and BOOM! there’s Wonder Woman stabbing something with a sword while The Flash runs around doing whatever he’s doing. Is it the best way to introduce her? Yes and no. While it gives the audience something they can immediately grasp, it relegates Diana to simply “Action Girl”, which diminishes her complexity as a character. The irony being that the “Action Girl” trope is the one thing working in favor of Warner Bros. greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie. The two top-grossing films of the last month were The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen, both of which had female leads. The advertising for both movies, however, put more emphasis on the action. Katniss shoots her arrows, some political intrigue ensues, she gets attacked by birds while Peeta shouts at her, and then explosions. Anna proactively goes after her sister, Elsa, and then she’s chased by a snow monster, or Elsa is wielding her ice powers. Neither of these movies had  a lot of advertising that delved into the emotional stakes at the heart of both movies.

In justifying female action leads we’re inadvertently sidestepping emotional arcs in favor of attracting the same audiences just so we can say, “See, Hollywood, girls can bring in the box office numbers too!” The fact of the matter is that Wonder Woman isn’t “tricky”. The Hollywood system of producers and executives in charge of her cinematic future are the “tricky” ones, requiring a constant incentive to push movies through that they believe will attract the male demographic who are still considered the target audience for action and superhero movies despite the numbers showing viewership as relatively even across gender lines.justice-league-22-superman-wonderwoman-1

The comic books, the recent ones at least, at DC Comics aren’t exactly helping with Wonder Woman’s image as the few books she’s featured in emphasize the more militarized version. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is at least motivated to protect others, but her protection only seems to stay within the realm of her Godly family. It gives her a personal connection and personal stakes in the fate of those she’s defending, but at the same time it makes Wonder Woman a hero focused on self-interest. This isn’t the same Wonder Woman of Greg Rucka’s Hiketeia who would protect and defend anyone who asked for her help even if they committed the crime. Geoff Johns doesn’t do much better with Diana. The beginning of Trinity War has her outright implying that the reason she doesn’t have a rogue’s gallery like Clark or Bruce is because she’ll straight up kill her enemies. The Wonder Woman of the New 52 actually strikes me as the most likely version of the character to end up in Superman vs Batman purely because her motivations have been streamlined, emphasizing the warrior above all else. It begs the question of whether Snyder and Goyer are planning to distill the character for the sake of simplicity or take a chance and strive for more. 

The silver lining in all of this is that we know this won’t be the last appearance of Wonder Woman and that, at the very least, her appearance in Superman vs Batman will provide the opportunity to further explore the character either in Justice League or, hopefully, her own movie. Even if they just emphasize the warrior, they could easily expand on the complexity of Diana in future projects. Whatever doesn’t work this time around can be fixed. Joss Whedon gave Black Widow a purpose in The Avengers, making her far more interesting than her initial introduction in Iron Man 2. So maybe, just maybe, Goyer and Snyder will get Wonder Woman right off the bat, but in case they don’t she’ll at least have a chance at making a second first impression. Her fans love her too much to let her go down without a fight.

Trinity

2013_10_Gal-Gadot-Beautiful1

Yesterday, Variety reported that Israeli actress Gal Gadot was officially cast as Wonder Woman/Diana of Themyscira/Diana Prince for the upcoming Superman/Batman movie. Gadot, best known for her role as Gisele Harabo in the Fast and the Furious franchise, will join Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman and Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. It still remains unclear how big of a role Gadot’s Wonder Woman will play in the film since it was also confirmed that The Flash will make an appearance and rumors persist about Nightwing/Dick Grayson making a cameo as well as rumors of Lex Luthor and a possible second villain (perhaps Doomsday?) taking up screen time. Given the cast so far, we’re one Green Lantern short of a Justice League Begins movie.

Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel and the aforementioned Superman/Batman movie/sequel/whatever issued this statement about Gadot’s casting:

“Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful female characters of all time and a fan favorite in the DC Universe. Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role. We look forward to audiences discovering Gal in the first feature film incarnation of this beloved character.”

man-of-steel-castWith the announcement of Gadot as the most iconic female superhero, it was inevitable that comic book fans and non-comic fans alike would chime in on the casting. It’s about what you’d expect; there’s as much backlash as there is support. Personally, I know nothing about Gadot as an actress. It’s been a long time since I saw the first Fast and the Furious movie and I didn’t exactly stick with the franchise, so I have no idea if the movies really showcase her talent or if she has that “magical quality” Zack Snyder is talking about. If there’s one longstanding compliment I can give to Snyder it’s that he always casts his movies well. I may have my problems with Man of Steel, but the cast isn’t one of them.

Not surprising, though, one of the first things to come up was Gadot’s look and how she measured upWW to the image of Wonder Woman. The most prominent reactions were to her weight. Gadot is a thin woman, which doesn’t necessarily match up with the perception of Wonder Woman, by many fans, as the warrior princess blessed by the Greek Pantheon. In the comics, Diana is often depicted with the body of an athlete, svelte but muscled. It makes sense because, while she may have been given extraordinary gifts by the Gods – depending on the origin story – she’s still part of a warrior culture. Her blessings give her greater power, but at the end of the day she’s still a capable fighter. Diana has been training her entire life, so if one were to logically think about how she’d look, female athletes would be the best real-world examples. There’s a reason why a lot of people were looking at MMA fighter turned actress Gina Carano for the role. Cliff Chiang’s version of Wonder Woman in her current solo title brings those logical elements together, creating a Wonder Woman who has the look of a warrior but retains her femininity. Other artists like Alex Ross and George Perez have emphasized these qualities as well.

While I do agree that Gadot is skinny, she’ll more than likely be hitting the gym. If Zack Snyder’s smart, he’ll make sure that happens. Not that Gadot would need much motivation. During her two-year term of service in the Israeli Armed Forces, Gadot was a sports trainer, so she already has an athletic background. At the very least she just has to bulk up a bit. Think Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. Besides, she’s not the only actor to change her body for a role.

Christian Bale - The Machinist to Batman Begins

Christian Bale – The Machinist to Batman Begins

Henry Cavil Transitions to Superman

Henry Cavill Transitions to Superman

Ben Affleck...I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Ben Affleck…I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

So, yeah, I’m sure it’ll be covered. If not, and she remains as thin as she is, then we’re getting into the dangerous territory previously tread when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. In that case, Lawrence was criticized for being “too fat” to play Katniss. With Gadot as Wonder Woman, we’re looking at the reverse with an actress deemed “too skinny” to play a role that many believe requires a woman of larger proportions. Given the choice, I fall on the side of casting someone with an athletic body to match the Amazonian warrior in my head, but that doesn’t mean Gadot and her trainer won’t strike a happy balance. The point is, there is a level of believability surrounding Wonder Woman as a warrior that needs to be satisfied. Just saying she’s strong because the Gods gave her these abilities robs her of the years of actual training she received from her sister Amazons that would reflect in how her body has shaped over time.

There’s also the possibility, and worry, that Gadot may have been cast because she’d look good in the costume. Let’s be honest, Zack Snyder doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to portraying women in his movies and there’s the very real possibility that Gadot’s Wonder Woman may only serve as eye candy. To his credit, Snyder did right by Faora (Antje Traue) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Man of Steel, so hopefully he’s learned from those mistakes. Wonder Woman, from the moment you see her, exudes power and femininity, which should come from the actress portraying her, not through the use of slow-motion or ass-shots.

The issue of her costume, however, factors into how she’s framed within the movie. There was a huge backlash against DC Comics for giving Wonder Woman pants in J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the title, which the New 52 rectified by putting her back in her most iconic costume that’s essentially a one-piece corset/swimsuit and knee-high boots. How her outfit translates to the big screen is a different beast entirely. What works in the comics, doesn’t necessarily make sense in the “realistic” world being built up in the nascent DC Cinematic Universe, so Snyder and his team are going to have to make a choice and I can’t say that I envy them in this regard. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with giving her pants. The iconic costume is iconic for a reason, but putting Gadot in that costume also presents more opportunities for sexualizing the character instead of relying on the actress to transcend the outfit. If Superman is essentially wearing Kryptionian mesh armor and Batman wears a segmented, armored suit, then why does Wonder Woman have to wear a corset and boots? She’s just as powerful wearing pants. If they chose this route, they just have to avoid the David E. Kelley Wonder Woman outfit.Darwyn-Cooke-Wonder-Woman

The other issue appears to be with Gadot’s height. Henry Cavill is six foot one while Ben Affleck is six foot four, putting Gadot at a disadvantage, height wise, at five foot nine. Again, this boils down to how we perceive Wonder Woman, as an Amazon, compared to Superman and Batman. Generally speaking, Wonder Woman is usually depicted being as tall or taller than both Superman and Batman, which is a way of visualizing her power and strength. It’s been used in a lot of comics when artists and writers want to emphasize that Superman isn’t the only powerful hero in the DC Universe. Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: The New Frontier is one of my favorite reveals of how Diana measures up to Clark as well as Jeph Loeb’s reveal of Big Barda’s height compared to Superman’s in Superman/Batman: Supergirl. In terms of the movie we either have to trust that Gadot’s acting abilities are top-notch that we don’t notice or they’re gonna give her some boots that give her some extra height.

Strangely enough, the reactions to Gadot’s casting don’t necessarily reflect poorly on her as they do emphasize that the first appearance of Wonder Woman on the big screen is a huge deal and that fans of the character have very different ideas of who the character is and how she should look. It’s no different from when we nitpick the casting of any actor or actress portraying a character that’s been around for 70 years. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have gone through so many reboots and reimaginings that the likelihood of pleasing everyone is impossible. The only difference here is that this is Wonder Woman’s first time being featured in a movie whereas Superman and Batman have had multiple actors portraying them since George Reeves put on the cape in 1952. Actually, it goes even further back if you count the Batman and Robin serials of the 1940s. This is also the beginning of a shared cinematic universe for DC and Warner Bros., so the casting of Gadot and the choices they make in how she’s portrayed are going to be what sticks for the foreseeable future.

WonderWomanPictureFor my part, I’m always going to be more concerned with the story and where Wonder Woman falls into the plot. The role could range from cameo to supporting player and until WB puts out an official synopsis of the plot, we can only speculate how big of a role Wonder Woman will have in a movie that introduces her via her male peers with whom she’s supposed to stand alongside as an equal. I’m obviously not the only one who realizes this as many fans and articles have also commented on why Wonder Woman doesn’t just get her own movie before Justice League. And I’ve been on that side of the fence for a long time. I’ve written about it multiple times and I’ll continue to say that Wonder Woman doesn’t need to earn a movie of her own when every male character in the current comic book movie landscape got his movie without question. But we also don’t know WB’s long-term plan. We know Justice League is on the table, but how far out is still unconfirmed with the 2017 release date that came out of San Diego Comic-Con still a rumor. Like I said, the way things are shaping out in terms of the cast of Superman VS Batman, the proto-Justice League is already moving into place. I would love to see Wonder Woman get her own movie before Justice League because she’s Wonder Woman and she deserves it.

The reaction to those who continue to make the exact same statement has been one of, “Hey, we got Wonder Woman in a movie. We should be happy about this.” And, “I’m sure it means a Wonder Woman movie is on the way.” In regards to the first reply:  Yes, I’m happy Wonder Woman is going to be featured in a movie, but I will continue to question her purpose in it until I have some plot details and a better understanding of WB’s plans. Also, just being grateful that a character shows up in a movie is a double-edged sword. Until I see Gal Gadot in the costume and hear her speak, I can’t judge anything. The same goes for Affleck, but to imply that her just being in the movie is good enough sends a message to the filmmakers as well. What if it all goes wrong? What if Snyder falls back on what he’s done before regarding female characters in his previous movies? What if Goyer drops the ball and Wonder Woman is relegated to the background? Was I supposed to be happy about that the whole time? Obviously the reverse could happen and I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong. If this movie ends up being a fantastic superhero movie that gives Wonder Woman a fair shake along with Superman and Batman, I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m not Mary Sunshine, so it’s great that others have such faith in what’s to come, but I’ll keep my skepticism and if I can respect your devotion, you can respect my reservations.wonder-woman

Concerning the second reply, it’s another show of faith in WB and the filmmakers that seems to be separating us. I hope to high Heaven that Wonder Woman gets a solo movie, but the constant assurances of it from others who know as much as I do about WB long-term plans for their movie franchises, which is nothing, that they’re certain it’ll happen doesn’t mean it actually will. We only really know that Justice League will happen, it’s just a matter of when and if they attempt to make another movie before then. So you can have you faith in the idea, but the fact of the matter is Wonder Woman has only ever popped up on the radar of WB in regards to movies in which she shares screen time with other heroes, never as a solo act. If, however, they announced a Wonder Woman movie would precede Justice League or that they were at least planning for one afterwards, then fine, your faith has been rewarded and I jumped the gun. Happy Happy Joy Joy to all of us! My concern will always remain with the hows and whens.

wonderwoman-kate-beaton

So that’s all I got on the matter. This is, as always, one person’s opinion. But what do you think about the casting of Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman being part of Superman VS Batman? Should she get a movie before Justice League or are you content to wait?

Frozen-4I’m just gonna come out and say this: I didn’t like Frozen. Loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, and I do mean loosely based, Frozen is Disney’s latest 3D animated movie that tries to recapture the magic of Tangled, but ends up with an uneven story with mixed messages about repression, individuality, love, and what it actually means to be sisters.

Set in the Scandinavian-ish kingdom of Arendelle, Frozen is about two sisters, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), who become estranged after Elsa’s ice-oriented magic accidentally hurts Anna and their parents, the king and queen, have all memories of Elsa’s gift/curse removed from Anna’s memory via some trolls that happen to live in the forest while telling Elsa to suppress, and yet control, her abilities. They do this in the most caring and loving way, by scaring the shit out of their daughter instead of actually helping her learn to control her powers while keeping the other daughter in the dark. After the typical Disney plot device of the parents dying occurs, Elsa is next in line to rule the kingdom. When Anna meets Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and they instantly fall in love and decide to marry, Elsa forbids it, prompting Anna to push her sister to the breaking point and reveal her powers to the entire kingdom. Condemned for being a sorceress, Elsa flees Arendelle, but inadvertently causes a sudden shift in the weather pattern by covering the kingdom in ice and snow. Anna goes after Elsa to get her to “bring back Summer” with the help of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), an ice salesman raised by trolls, and his reindeer, Sven. Along the way they meet a snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad) and hilarity ensues until Anna is cursed with a frozen heart that can only be broken by an act of true love. So the race is on to save Anna while Elsa still deals with her crippling emotional problems that eventually results in the sisters resolving their issues. The End!

Frozen StillOkay, for the sake of fairness, I’ll tell you what I did like about this movie first. Like all the critics are saying, Frozen is a gorgeously animated movie. Texture-wise, the snow and ice are beautiful and some of the establishing shots of Arendelle and Elsa’s ice palace on the mountain really show how far the technology has come in terms of what animated movies can accomplish. There are also some funny lines in the movie, most of them said by Olaf, but Kristoff gets a few in there as well. Plus, you have Alan Tudyk hamming it up as one of the visiting royals to Arendelle, which makes you wonder if he’s going to become Disney’s go-to character actor after this and his delightfully kooky performance as King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph. And, yes, some of the songs from Broadway songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Book of Mormon, Avenue Q), are catchy and wonderfully sung by the cast. Olaf’s “In Summer” is a fun little number made all the more absurd when a snowman is singing about frolicking around in the heat and “Frozen Heart” is a powerful opening number that, unfortunately, gives you a false sense of what the movie is going to be like. “Let it Go”, however, is sure to be the song submitted for Best Original Song at the Oscars, and for good reason. It’s everything a Disney song embodies with a message of freedom and being yourself despite what other people think.

If only the movie could have lived up to the idea.

That would be my transition into what doesn’t work about this movie, which is pretty much everything else. This is a movie that expects its audience to just accept everything that happens for no reason because, if you gave the plot any bit of thought, you’d realize there are holes you could drive a convoy of trucks through.Elsa and Anna

This is supposed to be a movie about two sisters and yet we never get any sense of them actually being sisters. We see them as children, and that works because they actually act like siblings, but the plot takes a quick dive into WTF-land when their idiot parents destroy Elsa’s psyche and turn her into a control-freak scared out of her mind that she’s going to hurt everyone if she doesn’t suppress her unexplained powers. There isn’t even an attempt by Elsa’s parents to help her, they just slap some gloves on her and tell her she has to try harder to keep her powers under control. Then they die. Great job, mom and dad. The rest of the movie revolves around one phrase, “She’s my sister.” I don’t know if writer Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) has any sisters, but that mantra only works when you establish an actual relationship between Elsa and Anna that needs to be repaired. As far as the movie is concerned, Elsa and Anna’s estrangement boils down to Elsa locked herself in her room for over a decade and Anna became an idiot loner who’s, for some reason, suddenly obsessed with finding romance. We never get to know them as individuals much less as sisters, making the impact of their relationship unearned during the movie’s climax.

The most obvious problem is Frozen wants to be Tangled so bad it’s almost embarrassing how much it tries to steal. Rapunzel was a shut in, making her awkward, so let’s make Anna a shut in as well with the addition of insane ramblings that just serve to make her more “quirky” and “relatable”. Problematic to this logic is the fact that Rapunzel only had her caretaker, Mother Gothel, and her chameleon, Pascal, to interact with until Flynn Rider showed up, so it makes sense that she’d be awkward, naive, and a little goofy. Anna, however, has no excuse since she still grew up in a palace that had other people in it besides her sister and parents. We never see her interact with anyone else because the movie can’t be bothered to explain anything about her actual character. At the very least, show how loneliness affects her in ways that aren’t clock-watching and talking to paintings. At least Rapunzel was active enough to keep herself busy. But the theft doesn’t stop there. Did you like the animal sidekicks? Well instead of a militaristic horse that would make Javert go, “damn!”, we have a reindeer that acts like a dog. Remember that tavern full of ruffians who were rapunzelannamisunderstood? How about we replace them with a group of trolls that do nothing but explain things in a confusing way? Did you like an antagonist with actual motivation? Well here’s sort of an antagonist, only she’s not, but then there’s another antagonist revealed toward the end with the stupidest plan ever. Disney!

For all the in-house plagiarism going on, the movie spends a lot of time trying to make Anna an interesting character. I’m sorry, but she isn’t. Anna is an example of what happens when you go too far trying to make a character “modern”. But it worked in Tangled, so let’s do the same thing with Anna, right? And just to amp things up, let’s make Anna so socially awkward that she just says random things out loud and then questions them after she says them because that makes her “quirky”! Anna is the animated embodiment of the panic pixie dream girl trope. Elsa doesn’t come across any better. For all the time the movie spends on Anna, it spends less than half of that on Elsa who should be just as strong a presence as her sister. But what do we really know about her? She has ice powers and she’s been suppressing them. That’s about it. Oh, and she wants to “be herself”, whatever that means since we don’t know who she is as a person. She’s neither villain nor protagonist. She’s just there to make icicles and emote when we need to hammer in the other mantra of the film, “conceal it, don’t feel it” so she can overcome it.Elsa

And while I’m adding to the growing mountain of things that don’t work, the songs aren’t natural to the established world. We’re supposed to be in a Scandinavian kingdom but only the opening song and a small interlude even touch upon Scandinavian music. The rest of the songs are pretty much Broadway numbers shoved into a movie, as if the stage show had already been written and the songs were transferred over. There are a lot of Broadway singers in this movie. Idina Menzel is a powerhouse voice, but she only gets one song to showcase what made her a Tony award-winning singer while Kristen Bell, an admirable singer, gets four. To say nothing of how underused Jonathan Groff is in terms of his character and his voice. If you’ve ever seen Spring Awakening, or his stint on Glee as Jesse St. James, then you know he’s also a talented singer, yet they give him a throwaway ukelele number that just makes Kristoff look weird and kind of insane. The same goes for Santino Fontana, another Tony-nominated singer. He gets one song and it’s a bland duet that does nothing except force a “romantic” relationship. Josh Gad probably comes out the best in all of this with a number that fully embraces his comedic talent. Again, the songs aren’t bad, I actually like Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and their work in other musicals, but the music doesn’t match or feel organic to the setting, and it makes the movie feel disjointed. Granted, you could say this about a lot of Disney movies, but if The Princess and the Frog can embrace New Orleans jazz, I’m pretty sure Frozen could embrace Scandinavian music.

FROZENThere’s also an odd idea about love running through the movie, as if it’s trying to make some sort of meta-commentary on the Disney tradition of the female and male leads falling in love within days of meeting. Frozen definitely starts that way with Anna and Hans, which allows Kristoff to repeatedly stress the bizarre logic of Anna getting engaged to a man she’s known for one evening. Of course, when Anna and Kristoff fall in love it’s because they’ve had at least a day and a half of conversation, running around, and nearly being married by the weirdly pushy trolls in the forest, so that makes things better, right? To the movie’s credit, they do invert the idea of what constitutes true love when Anna sacrifices herself for Elsa, breaking the curse of a frozen heart in lieu of the typical kiss of true love solution. The set-up, unfortunately, is clunky making the climax difficult to accept.

That’s not to say the ideas in Frozen aren’t interesting. Siblings become estranged, it’s a fact of life, and usually it takes something huge to bring them together again. I’m just surprised, and disappointed, Frozen went the way it did with the narrative. But I can only talk about what I took away from the movie because I seem to be in the minority on this one. When I was in the theater, there were plenty of kids, boys and girls, who were engrossed in the movie and there seems to be an overall consensus that Elsa and Anna are fantastic additions to the Disney line-up of princesses. If you like them, then good for you, they just didn’t do it for me. The best part of Frozen coming out within a week of Catching Fire is we get to see two movies with female leads doing so well at the box office. No excuses now, Hollywood. If, however, you’d like to know how I would’ve approached the story, you can go here.

What it really boils down to is whether or not Frozen is worth your time at the theater. If you have small children and you need to distract them for a little over an hour, then sure, go for it. If you’re just a Disney fan, maybe wait until it’s at a reasonable rental price.

See, two can play at this game.

Hey, girls, do you like Princess Merida from Brave? Do you like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games? Do you remember Geena Davis? Do you want to play war games on the playground like all kids do? Well guess what, Nerf has their own line of girl-oriented weaponry for you to fight back against…whatever it is you’re fighting against that makes you “strong”. How do I know these weapons are for you?

So, yeah, looks like the one thing keeping girls from meeting the boys on the playground of battle was a stylish line of crossbows and guns color-coded for your gender-specific pleasure. I know marketing toys for boys and girls has always been part of advertising, but seriously what the fuck is this? Rebelle? Not only did Nerf and Hasbro color-code the weapons for girls, but they had to genderize the spelling of “rebel” while adding bird-like flairs to the weapons and projectiles. This is like some next level, we-really-need-the-money, BS. You know what Nerf items I played with when I was a kid? The same ones the boys did. The neon orange footballs, the blue, red, and yellow guns and crossbows, pretty much everything short of the actual weapons were colored the same and it didn’t matter. Did the advertisements feature boys more prominently? Yeah, and that’s where the problems lies. Katniss

Anita Sarkeesian recently put out her fifth installment of Tropes vs Women in Video Games where she defined the Ms. Male character: a female character who is essentially the twin of the male protagonist or default character and is usually differentiated by gendered signifiers like the color pink, a bow, makeup, and long eyelashes. Sarkeesian points out that this is not limited to video games, but is ubiquitous to all mediums of pop culture, which solidifies as part of our culture in general. Case in point, the Rebelle toy line highlights the same trope in how we market anything to girls. Nerf products default to boys because boys like to play games and run around and simulate violence, right? Girls don’t do any of that stuff, so of course we’d only feature boys in the advertisements as the consumers of said product. Boys and girls clearly don’t like the same things, ever, so we need to make sure that the toys they play with reinforce their defined gender roles. However, should girls actually reveal themselves to be violent, bloodthirsty hellspawn indistinguishable from boys, we might as well market their line of weaponry in a way that lets the girls know that this is clearly for them. Boys get the regular Nerf weapons, girls get a highly stylized, gender-specific brand.

Pink Camo ChildAnd I know this is Nerf and Hasbro’s way of trying to cash in on The Hunger Games. I get it. Girls want to be strong yet fashionable when they’re mowing enemies down with bullets or shooting arrows into the chest of an attacker. If they really wanted to make this commercial tie into The Hunger Games, Katniss would shoot her arrows into the girls one by one, showing why the Guardian Crossbow, Heartbreaker Bow, and Pink Crush are ineffective at improving performance, style, or strength. Everybody loses, but mostly the girls these toys are geared towards because it’s just another dose of gender reinforcement wrapped up in a new package. Next thing you know the only way to distinguish the girl soldiers from the boy soldiers will be if the girl soldiers are wearing pink camouflage with a gun to match.

The reverse, however, doesn’t necessarily change the dynamic. Products marketed to girls shouldn’t just be considered for girls only, but we color-code and stereotype because it’s easier that way to sell one product to girls and another to boys. But what if a boy wants to play with the “girl” toy? Easy Bake Oven, a product that is heavily advertised as a toy for girls, got some flack when little boys started asking for their own version because boys like to bake too, right? Baking isn’t a girls only domain, The Food Network proves that every day. But it then begs the question: Why change the Easy Bake Oven for boys? If a boy wants to use the toy, then use the toy. What’s wrong with the product that requires changing?

Girls Version

Girls Version

Boys Version

Oh…

Well, then, it seems that colors really do make a difference when you’re baking a cake. This example is just one of many cases where girls toys, a lot of them in varying shades of pinks, purples, and pastels are considered to be derivations from the norm. Boys want to bake, well they can’t do it using a purple apparatus. That’s what a girl would use. We wouln’t want boys to feel weird about using such a horrifying display of unmanliness, so change the color and make him feel better about himself when he’s icing that brownie!  And I’m sure if the boy wanted the purple version, then he’d use it, but the boy gets an option. He can have his pick, but girls are relegated to only this color scheme in terms of what products are marketed towards them.

Does this really make sense to anyone? Black and turquoise Easy Bake Oven vs pink and purple Easy Bake Oven. Nerf Rebelle? Who the hell cares? Here’s a thought, make the products in a variety of colors so maybe the kids can just choose which one they like based on their favorite color.  Change up the color combos. Do what Harrods and a bunch of retailers in the United Kingdom are doing and eliminate the whole “Girls” and “Boys” sections of the stores. Stop looking at girls like they need something different than what’s already available to them. Wouldn’t a better form of advertising be a commercial that includes boys and girls playing with the same toys on an equal playing field? And if you’re going to market something to girls specifically, try appealing to them as people, not as a stereotype.