Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Breaking the Silence

OK, I'll admit, posting's been pretty light lately, but I just have to get this off my chest.

So Rod Stewart is presenting us, the listening audience, with a hypothetical scenario that IF "[we] want [his] body" AND "[we] think [he's] sexy" THEN "come on sugar, let [him] know". This, by its very nature, presupposes alternative scenarios under which we might want Rod Stewart's body while not, in any way, finding him sexy. And Rod Stewart is advising us that, should such a set of circumstances arise, he in no way, shape or form wishes to be informed.

WHY? Setting aside whether this is a likely event, why is Rod Stewart so worried about it? Is he convinced that someone who wants his body without being sexually aroused by it is likely to have intimacy issues in other areas, and he's trying to avoid such a relationship? Does he generally want to steer clear of loveless sex, finding it to be joyless and mechanical? Or is he possibly hinting at other, darker implications to the phrase "want my body"? Could he have fears of black-market organ-traffickers targeting him for their sinister schemes, or perhaps warding off demonic possession through the use of up-tempo music? I can no longer stand not knowing. I need answers, and maybe one of you can help.

(And before anyone brings it up, yes, I'm aware that there's also a potentially-implied scenario under which the listener might find Rod Stewart sexy but not want his body. This seems pretty self-explanatory to me, so I won't discuss it further here.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One Thing I Hope to See From "Daredevil"

I was thinking the other day about the "Daredevil" TV mini-series that Marvel's planning, and while I'm trying not to put too many expectations onto anything forthcoming (on account of how I enjoy being pleasantly surprised a lot more than I enjoy complaining that such-and-such wasn't like I hoped it would be), I did come up with one thing I'm really, really hoping they do in the upcoming show.

Specifically, I'm hoping to see some really innovative fight choreography. Because Daredevil is almost utterly unique in one aspect--he's just about the only superhero I can think of who has three-hundred-sixty degree perception. Unlike Captain America or the Black Widow, he doesn't actually need to see you to fight. I think that over his training with Stick, he would have developed a totally unique fighting style, one that involved lots of things like reverse sweep kicks and shots with the elbows at enemies behind him. It would almost have some similarities to drunken fighting, in the sense that it would work very well against large numbers of enemies by inverting their expectations--he'd actively encourage people to think he'd left himself open to an attack from behind, only to elbow them in the teeth when they left themselves open to his attack.

I think that if they get a really good fight choreographer and involve them in the conceptualization of the fight scenes--not just "make it look cool", but make the combat an extension of the character--it could wind up really looking like something special, something unlike any other superhero movie fight scenes we've ever seen. I do hope for that. Even if I'll probably wind up complaining that it really wasn't like I hoped it would be.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The One Reason I'm Glad Firefly Didn't Get a Second Season

My roommate had "Shindig" on yesterday (for those of you who don't remember Firefly episodes by title, it's the one where Mal and Kaylee go to the fancy party and Mal winds up getting into a swordfight over Inara). It's a pretty good episode, because any episode with Badger is a good episode and Mal gets in a great line towards the end ("Mercy is the mark of a great man...and I'm pretty good. Well, I'm alright.") But watching it reminded me of something that bothered me about Firefly, and something I suspect would only have bothered me more as the series went on if it had gone on.

Specifically, it was the interactions between Mal and Inara. This episode had it worse than others, because it was a very Mal/Inara-centric episode, but it was there any time the series focused on these two characters. Namely, Mal had absolutely no respect for Inara as a person, despite the fact that he really wanted to sleep with her, and he treated her terribly. Really terribly. All the time. And the series wanted me to think it was cute.

"Shindig" had a perfect example. After Mal decked Atherton Wing, Inara's escort for the evening, he was put into quarters until the duel. Inara met him there and told him, in no uncertain terms, that his "defense" of her "honor" was unasked for and unwanted...and then proceeded to try to teach him the basics of surviving a swordfight anyway, because she wasn't mad enough at him to want to see him dead over it.

Mal's response: "They teach you that in whore academy?"

Inara's response: "You have a strange sense of nobility, Captain. You'll lay a man out for implying I'm a whore, but you keep calling me one to my face."

Mal's response: "I might not show respect to your job, but he didn't respect you. That's the difference. Inara, he doesn't even see you."

Now the problem here is obvious: Mal's line of reasoning was obvious self-justifying BS. Inara has never been portrayed as stupid, nor has she been portrayed as limited in her options through circumstance. She is never portrayed as being coerced into the role of Companion, either. (Which may be worth discussing another time, but for the moment, let's put "Companions can always choose their partners and are well-respected and never suffer social stigma for their work" deep down in the same Well of Uncomfortable Truths as "For a universe that's supposed to be half-Chinese, Firefly sure doesn't have any Asians.") Everything about the character suggests that her current lifestyle is an informed, intelligent choice. For Mal to say, "I don't respect your job, but I respect you," is patently and self-evidently false, because it implies that he doesn't respect her decisions or her ability to make them, but that this shouldn't in any way be taken as an insult. Which, pull the other one, it's got bells on.

The scene still works, primarily because both of the actors play it smarter than the script. But when you look for it, this kind of thing pops up all the time in the series. In "Out of Gas", when we see the characters' first meeting, one of Inara's baseline conditions for renting the shuttle is that he not come in uninvited. Every time Mal burst in on her, it wasn't a wacky neighbor intrusion like Kramer on Seinfeld. It was a deliberate violation of her explicitly-stated boundaries. That's not "cute", that's creepy and stalkerish.

Mal was possessive, he was controlling--he might not have been sleeping with her, but he was damn well going to carp and moan and complain and passive-aggressively punish her every time she slept with anyone else. He didn't respect her boundaries, he didn't respect her choices, and frankly, given that actions speak louder than words, he didn't respect her. And Inara knew it.

And the series was clearly trying to portray this as "cute", and bringing these two together as a couple. And call me crazy if you will, but I don't think that the showrunners were going to bring the two of them together by having Mal realize that he was not only out of touch with his culture's views on sex work, but that he was also being a possessive jerk who needed to grow up and respect Inara's boundaries, right to make decisions about her body, and decision-making abilities. No, I think it was more likely that Inara was going, at some point, to realize that her sex work was Hurting The Man She Loved and give it up in favor of heteronormative monogamy and slut-shaming. (As a message sent by the series, that is. I don't think that was going to be her new career path.)

It would have been a disaster. It would have retroactively made Inara stupid and Mal cruel, tossing out two interesting characters solely for the sake of a lousy OTP between two people who were, as they were then-currently written, disastrously bad for each other. It was much better to have her leave the way she said she was going to, so that at least Mal could stew in his entitled manchild BS for an undetermined period of time. So in that respect, as much as I loved the series, I'm glad Firefly was cancelled.

(And I'm also not sad about losing Tim Minear's planned episode where Inara kills a bunch of Reavers by tricking them into gang-raping her poisoned vagina. But that's another day's rant.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Thank You for Telling Me This

Here. Read this, accept it, internalize it. Believe it and try to be the kind of person who would stand with the person who wrote it. If you want to play Devil's Advocate with it, explain that #NotAllFans are like that, or suggest that maybe she's exaggerating because "you know how those people are about political correctness"...read it again and look for yourself in it.

And Ms. Jemisin...your comments are closed, quite sensibly under the circumstances, so I can't thank you for writing that speech on your blog. So I'll do it here. Thank you so much.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Brief Blogging Catch-Up

I just wanted to say that for those of you who'd kind of given up on seeing new updates on "Madman With A Box (Without a Box)", my Doctor Who blog (linked in the linkroll on the left), I've revived it a bit lately in the wake of CONsole Room 2014. I'm trying to at least repost something every weekday, since one of the initial goals was to collect all my varied and various writings about Doctor Who in one place; since I've got over 200 reviews and articles on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide page alone, that's enough material to at least put something up there every day for the better part of a year.

I'm also posting intermittently about the classic series, because I'm trying to watch the whole thing in order for the first time. During the con, I got into a discussion with Robert Smith? and Lars Pearson, and they were frankly amazed that someone could be in a position where they had read every single Doctor Who novel and still not have seen some episodes of the classic series. So I'm doing that now, albeit not on any particular kind of schedule or with any great urgency (as there are still plenty of extant stories I don't have on DVD, and I can't just splash out for the missing ones all at once). Look for posts with the tag "pilgrimage" to see what I think of Doctor Who from the beginning.

As for "Undead for Life", well...not sure when I'll get back to that. I've realized lately that one of the big things that kills my drive for writing is promising my audience that I'm going to embark a large project--I get nervous about disappointing them, which sets me on edge, which ruins my focus, which makes it hard to finish, which makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy and makes me even more tense the next time. So I'm going to avoid any public pronouncements about anything big until it's done. (Hmm. This also explains why I can't ever get into NaNoWriMo.) This isn't to say that "Undead for Life" is permanently dead; it'd be kind of odd if it was. Just that it's not going to update regularly.

And of course, I'm also continuing to write on MGK's blog. I'm assuming that if I put my foot wrong, he'll tell me.

Monday, May 26, 2014

David Goyer, Craig Mazin and She-Hulk

For those of you who haven't heard, David Goyer (screenwriter on movies such as the Blade trilogy, Man of Steel, and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Overextended Title: Seriously, We Can't Stop With the Colons: We're Starting to Sound Like Rikti) recently did an appearance on a podcast called "Scriptnotes", where he and host Craig Mazin discussed She-Hulk. The Mary-Sue summarizes it here.

In all fairness, Craig Mazin did apologize. In the other, harsher kind of fairness, he waited until it was perfectly obvious he was never going to get any peace until he did so, and he gave a lazy, weasel non-pology where he explained that he didn't think She-Hulk was a slut when he said, "The real name for She-Hulk was Slut-Hulk," he was just pointing out all the sexism inherent in the character that only he can see, and which he admits in the podcast "worked on" him! Seriously, I've seen multiplexes with less projection than this guy. But again, in all fairness, he did apologize. So he's actually ahead of Goyer on this.

Now, in fairness to Goyer...because I'm a big believer in fairness in all its many forms...his statement that She-Hulk was "a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could f**k" does have some background to it. Mark Millar wrote a comic where the two characters had an incestuous relationship that resulted in children, because of course he did, and John Byrne wrote some comics where She-Hulk lost her clothing a lot more than was strictly plausible in the course of a superhero's daily activities, and certainly more often than male superheroes do in the general run of events. There was a Dan Slott run where She-Hulk was kicked out of the Avengers Mansion for bringing home too many drunken hook-ups...if you were someone who wasn't a comics fan and who was given a random stack of She-Hulk comics to research the character, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that you might form a conclusion that she has not always been well-treated by her creators. And pointing out that those creators were mostly men and tended to sexualize her, well...again, not unfair.

But Goyer went much further than that. He reduced the character to nothing more than a male sex fantasy, which is something that suggests to me that he's at the very least wanting to have his cake and eat it too. (Which is something that Mazin can also be accused of.) He wants to point out that the character is a sexualized caricature, but he isn't at all interested in making the effort at a redemptive reading (which isn't even that hard, given that she's also a trial lawyer who argued in front of the Supreme Court while being an Avenger and a member of the FF. Competency is pretty thick on the ground with Jennifer Walters, here.) Instead, he seems to be suggesting that it's okay if he sexualizes and reduces She-Hulk to a caricature, because it's no different from what anyone else was already doing.

And more than that, it seems to point to a deeper unwillingness to engage with the characters. Later in the podcast, Goyer spent an inordinate amount of time making fun of the Martian Manhunter as "stupid", which isn't in and of itself offensive--let's face it, DC has spent a lot of time and effort trying to transform the Martian Manhunter into an A-list character, and they've never succeeded--but it is illuminative. Goyer isn't interested in working at this stuff. He simply doesn't care enough about superheroes to give them more than a surface examination, and write his scripts based on that. And based on his comments about She-Hulk, he at the very least expects to be given a pass on not bothering to challenge the sexism of others beyond commenting on it, assuming he's not adding a healthy dollop himself.

This could be a problem, given that he's currently working on a script that features Wonder Woman. And that's directed by Zack Snyder. And that's inspired by Frank Miller. I mean, at this point if you added in Dave Sim and Mark Millar, you could form some sort of Misogynist Voltron out of the people working on this movie, and it's set to define Wonder Woman for a whole generation of fans that have already pretty much given up on comics as a medium for delivering superhero stories. This worries me. I'll admit, I'd already written off SvB:TDoJ:INWATA (the last initials stand for "I'm Not Writing All That Again") due to the Snyder/Miller thing, but it does sadden me that DC has hitched their star to a bunch of jackasses and sent it chasing Marvel. I like DC. I want to like their movies.

But they have to make some good ones first.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thoughts on the Recent Amazing Race Season

It looks like we had another Amazing Race. This was another "All-Star" season, where they brought back fan favorites from previous seasons to give them another shot at the race around the world for a million dollars. This season actually had plenty of sympathetic teams, two of which actually made it to the finals. So that part was nice (even if I wish they'd stop bringing back Jet and Cord, the homophobic cowboys).

I liked the mix of teams, for the most part, and I liked that most of them played the race smart and avoided a lot of drama. The obvious exception was Brendon and Rachel, who did pretty well on the former but not on the latter. They were much better than last time, when they seemed to be a sort of Zach-and-Flo minus the competency, but even so, Rachel's insistence that they were racing on behalf of her tragically empty womb grated. (No, seriously. She'd made a deal with Brendon that if they won, he had to impregnate her. Because that isn't creepy.)

Actually, more needs to be said about that. It's creepy, but it's not just creepy that Rachel made that deal. It's creepy...creepier, in fact...that Brendon agreed to it. Because you could see it in his face every time she talked about it, which was a lot--he doesn't want kids right now. He may not want kids ever. But he really doesn't want to have that conversation with Rachel. So he's putting up practical obstacles in her way so that he doesn't have to discuss the emotional divide between them on the subject, which is really unfair to her and clearly driving her towards big dramatic gestures in an effort to get those practical obstacles out of the way (and if there's one thing you don't want to do, it's to encourage Rachel's tendency to dramatic gestures).

Other than that, I thought their "heel" elements were overplayed by the series. Eventual winners Dave and Connor made a huge hairy deal out of the fact that the Brenchels U-Turned them, which...um, RACE? Competitive competition in which each team tries to come in first? I understand not being happy, but seriously, people. This is like getting pissy with your friends when they hit you with a "SORRY" card.

All that aside, I thought there were some good challenges this season; the bamboo raft-building exercise made for some great television, and the drink-mixing detour was fascinatingly brutal. And I think that every team should have to go through Rome and participate in remote-control chariot races. (And they should also have to race bunnies in the Netherlands, but that's another story.) Even so, it felt like a lot of the legs lacked tension, probably due to the foregone conclusion of Margie and Luke's elimination falling right between two non-elimination legs. (Mallory and Bopper's leg felt a bit like a foregone conclusion, too, but that at least had some tension to it.)

The lack of tension extended a bit to the finish line--not that skydiving to the mat wasn't AWESOME, but I was really good with either Dave and Connor or Caroline and Jennifer winning, and Brendon and Rachel were clearly out of the running for first no matter how they Amazing Edited things. So it didn't pack as much oomph. Still, the finish was great because the finish to the Amazing Race is almost always great. Seeing all the teams gather together and share the joy of having experienced the Race, win or lose, is something you don't get in Survivor or Big Brother. It's what'll definitely bring me back for another season.

But please no cowboys next time?