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" 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.