Lady Geek Girl: Well, we’re back to talk some more about feminism in Teen Wolf. This time we will discuss Allison and Lydia as strong female characters.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had time to sit down and watch an anime, let alone review it. The last one was… yikes, last August, with Star Driver, and I was less than complimentary.
This time around I’m looking at No.6, which is an anime adaptation of a light novel series with the same name. It’s set in a The Giver-esque dystopian future society, where people are sorted into positions/career tracks early in life based on caste and intellectual ability. Shion is primed to be a shining star in the society of No. 6, one of several futuristic cities that are the remaining bastion of high civilization in the show’s post-apocalyptic world. However, his life is thrown off track when he helps another kid who’s on the run, a boy named Nezumi (which means Rat in Japanese, fun fact). When he denies knowledge of Nezumi’s whereabouts, he’s demoted and ends up stuck in a thankless maintenance job.
Four years pass and a bizarre plague strikes No. 6—wasp-like insects that have laid eggs under peoples’ skin start hatching, killing their hosts. Shion finds himself rescued by Nezumi this time, and they go into hiding together to attempt to figure out the secrets that No. 6 is hiding.
Since the dawn of recorded time (aka: the early 90′s) the Power Rangers have fought the forces of evil with their flashy suits and even flashier fight scenes. Initially there were five Rangers, eventually joined by a sixth, and their characters seemed to be irrevocably entwined with the color of their suit. Not only did the characters wear street clothes of the same color as their Ranger suits, but as they left the team and their suits were taken on by new members, the character traits seemed to remain largely the same.
For example, the Red Ranger will invariably be the leader (unless some upstart punk joins the team late and decides he’s in charge now) and will typically be full of bravado and inspiring speeches. He will also always be male. The Pink Ranger will always be female and she will probably embody very traditional ideals of femininity: gentleness, a fondness for nature, grace, etc. The Yellow Ranger will typically be a spunky young woman, more spitfire than the girl donning the pink.
Despite the frequently changing Rangers, there always seemed to be a tie between the color of the suit and the personality of the one wearing it. It was often the case that the new team members seemed to be new variants of the person they were replacing. Not only do the colors seem to determine what kind of person will wear them, they also seem to be very gender-specific. For the majority of the Rangers’ history Yellow and Pink have been exclusively female while any and all other colors were reserved for the guys.
Even though the Japanese series on which the original Power Rangers were based had a male Yellow Ranger, the American version cast a female in the role instead. While it did offer more female representation on the show it also did something very limiting for women in the series by relegating them exclusively to the “girl colors” of Yellow and Pink from the get go while every other color seemed to be open to the men. Because Yellow and Pink were never the leaders of the team, female Rangers seemed to be precluded from this position, though one early exception to this rule came in the form of the Alien Rangers whose leader was a female White Ranger. They were a very special case though, coming from another planet and really only being around to help out Earth’s Rangers when they were incapacitated for an extended period.
For many years the Power Rangers continued on in this fashion until the Time Force Rangers saw the first Pink Ranger in the lead. Somehow, though, I don’t remember much about her being the leader…
It wasn’t until Power Rangers Ninja Storm that the Power Rangers really started breaking out of their color-coded gender norms. While the leader of the Rangers was still the Red Ranger their were two firsts: the first female Blue Ranger and the first male Yellow Ranger. Not only was a girl allowed to wear one of the traditionally male colors (and there’s probably no more male color in American culture than blue) but a man was actually allowed to wear one of the female colors which seems even more surprising.
It’s one thing for a woman to be shown with masculine characteristics, that’s usually associated with strength in the media, but a man, especially a straight man, taking on feminine characteristics is usually seen as degrading since being female is given so little respect in our culture.
Thankfully the Power Rangers have shown some growth in their many years fighting evil. Hopefully they will do so even more as they continue their battles. Maybe one day we’ll see a female Red Ranger or even a male Pink Ranger! The former seems more likely than the latter, but one can dream! I think the Ninja Storm Rangers showed us that the gender-restrictive color-coding should be defied more often because they were a kick-ass team.
I’d like to periodically talk about masculism here, and specifically its issues exemplified in pop culture. If I’m going to talk masculism, I need to clear the air regarding what that means. Masculism or masculinism can refer to an ideology principally concerned with restoring male power and subjugating women, like those good old natural days. For my part, I believe that ideology is wholly harmful and destructive. I have a great distaste for this ideology and a distaste for the unparallel grammatical rules applied to the word ‘masculinism,’ (it’s not femininism; that sounds silly). Thus, I’ll refer to that ideology and movement as masculinism. Masculism, then, will refer to feminism’s male counter-part, which focuses on male empowerment, equality, and general advocacy. The first rule about masculism is that it is not ideologically opposed to feminism. For reasons I’ll touch on over time and which also are available here, the world needs masculism. And masculism needs feminism. It needs it as a framework, it needs it as inspiration, it needs it for support, and most of all it needs it for equality. So with the air cleared, let’s get into some of the masculist issues I identify in one of my favorite shows, Frasier.
Frasier and Niles Crane are what some people would call post-feminism men. Their behaviors and interests are very much different from those traditional of men while never losing their masculine self-identity. Yet, they still suffer from many of the same problems that most men struggle with. They get sometimes get unreasonably upset if their masculinity is called into question. They are almost completely incapable of properly dealing with and communicating their emotions. They have a often feel they need to prove their manliness by either being aggressors or providers. And, despite both being psychiatrists, they are often incapable of properly empathizing. Their emotional unintelligence, communicative shortcomings, and shallow gender-identity, despite their otherwise feminist-empowered lives (they escape certain gender roles and attempt to embrace feminist ideals), are a great representation in fiction for why we need masculism in addition to feminism.
The Crane brothers’ father, Martin, provides an excellent contrast; he is a blend of men with and without feminism. While his attitudes toward women are impeccable, he is very much caught up in the old male gender roles. Be a provider, do not access emotions, avoid affection, do not change, and evade the unknown. As the show develops throughout the seasons, the somewhat more empowered Frasier and Niles gradually effect positive change in Martin, making him a much more well-rounded and happier person. He enjoys openly loving relationships with his family, accessing and expressing emotions, and develops his sense of gender identity to incorporate such things along with his love of sports, pragmatism, and cheap beer.
Niles and Frasier, however, do not develop quite as much as their father. One could argue that they have less distance to travel, but I would tend to disagree. Sure, they develop a much healthier relationship with their father and each other, but they don’t really change much when compared to their father. Niles gains confidence, Frasier puts himself back together after divorce, and they both become ever so slightly less fussy (though they will always prance gleefully for a glass of sherry!), but their identity as men doesn’t develop. They never feel empowered to be anything but a provider. They never stop feeling pressure to be aggressive. They never really reconcile what society says men are with who they are as men.
There’s a lot to get into with Frasier as it relates to this subject – far too much to get into all at once – so let’s wrap it up here. The main female characters in the show, Roz and Daphne, are both very imperfect but very much empowered women thanks to feminism. Other than some superficial similarities, they hold very few similarities to the old and destructive female gender roles. That is a good thing, and is often a sign that things are moving in the right direction. Certainly they are empowered to be providers, to be sexually liberated, to be aggressive, and to feel proud in their femininity. And, it’s certainly true that the Crane boys are very different from the old male gender roles. But Roz escaped the traditional social requirements of chastity, staying in the kitchen, feeling shamed for being a woman, and needing a husband. Frasier and Niles feel empowered to enjoy their interests and to pursue a healthy personal life, but they never escape the need to provide, the need to aggress, or the lack of specific pride as men. Thanks for reading; I really hope I’ve gotten you thinking a little about masculism and feminism. Also, you should watch Frasier. It’s hilarious.
About a month ago, I was lucky enough to go to Medieval Times with my family. For those who don’t know, Medieval Times is a dinner theatre franchise that gives its attendees an ‘authentic medieval experience’. They make you eat with your hands while watching knights swordfight and joust and ride ridiculously well-trained horses and whatnot. The show is styled like an old-timey tourney, and the seating arrangement decides which of the six knights you’ll be rooting for. Eventually the tournament is interrupted by a rogue knight or an evil warlock or some other unfortunate menace, and the champion of the tournament must take up arms and defeat them. They switch out the scripts for the shows every four years or so—over the course of my life I’ve seen (I think) three of the different plots. This evening’s plot featured a sinister herald from a northern king, who threatened the tourney’s king with war over a disagreement.
First of all, women have very little place in the show. The Princess’s part is simpering, inane, and two-dimensional, and it grates on me. The knights’ squires can be boys or girls, but their parts are silent and entail mostly setting up obstacles and picking up horse crap. I’d have loved for this year’s new show to have included a female knight, but the heteronormativity built into the show (knights give tokens—flowers and sashes—to their chosen ladies in the audience, and it would just be gross if it was a girl giving it to another girl) really doesn’t allow for it.
Outside of that, I have a few other complaints. First, the King at our show was a terrible actor. Most of the actors either put on a British accent (despite the show being apparently set in 11th century Spain) or speak in generally posh-sounding Standard American English. This King sounded like Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride. The touch of Brooklyn accent made it hard to suspend disbelief that this guy was an 11th century lord.
The other thing that bugged me was the show’s plot. These shows often have trouble deciding whether they’re part of a fantasy kingdom or an actual historical place. As I mentioned, the setting is apparently Spain—the knights all represent Leon or Navarre or Castile or whatever—but the mysterious Northern emissary looked like a mix of Shan Yu from Mulan and Ned Stark from Game of Thrones—a fur-wearing, menacingly broad-shouldered warrior from some far-off and frozen land. I’m probably just wildly over-thinking it, but I feel like in the 11th century people who lived so far north of Spain that they dressed like Winter is Coming weren’t just going to ride by themselves hundreds of miles to treat with a Spanish king. /overthinking
Medieval Times is a fun experience if you’re willing and able to shell out the dough for it. Just don’t go in expecting Masterpiece Theatre on horseback and you should have a good time.
From an historical viewpoint, just about every culture on the planet has idealized males as dominate figures, while dismissing females as the lesser sex. Japan is certainly no exception to this way of thinking. Though in recent years, while the gap between both genders has slimmed, it is still there, and the Japanese reflect this ideology in their manga and anime. Manga has been around for quite some time, and anime first appeared in the last century to represent manga on the television screen. While manga has an incredibly wide fan base that continues to grow each year, it normally targets either boys or girls. Manga for boys is called shounen, and for girls it’s shoujo.
Both may display similar characteristics regarding gender roles, but they are quite dissimilar in their portrayal, and normally cater to different genres. Shoujo, for instance, tends to center more on romance and finding true love, while shounen, even though it may also have romance, focuses more on action and adventure. This is not to say that shoujo has neither action nor adventure; those are just not the main focus in a typical shoujo.
So what I’m going to talk about today are two different shounen, Kisimoto Masasi’s Naruto and Takahasi Rumiko’s InuYasha. I also hope to explain why they are both shounen and not shoujo. Obviously, Naruto is a shounen, but there are some discrepancies about what category InuYasha falls under. And you’re going to have to brace yourselves, but I’m also going to be discussing gender roles.
Okay, let’s get to it.
So on Saturday I went with my family to see the much-hyped Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth in the eponymous roles.
So we all know the plot of Snow White: evil stepmother takes over a kingdom, princess escapes, goes into hiding with seven dwarves, poisoned apple, magic coma, true love’s kiss, happily ever after. This movie attempts to lend the titular princess a little more agency—she attacks her captor (the evil Queen’s brother) to escape; she storms the castle to take back the throne clad in armor and wielding a sword; and she slays the Queen herself before ascending to the throne. The movie ends with a coronation, not a wedding. It does succeed in a lot of ways, and it had some really great ideas—it just didn’t put them together very well.
Let’s start with the dialogue. There were long scenes, it seemed, without any. Each character got a rousing monologue at some point throughout the film that was really emotional and great, but in between those what lines they had seemed stilted.
The only character who was really well-developed was the Huntsman, who doesn’t actually get a name (he was even The Huntsman in the credits). He has ups and downs and memories and reactions. Snow White is fairest of them all, but it’s unclear whether she’s fairest because of physical beauty (which the Queen seems to think) or because of her kind heart, which is pretty much her only distinguishing feature. I don’t blame this on Kristen Stewart, by the way—I thought she did pretty well, given the script she was working with.
Her boyhood friend William is blander than white bread, and the dwarves are all just steretypically dwarfy in a way that’s not new or exciting. The Evil Queen (name of Ravenna in the movie) has one of the character types that pisses Lady Geek Girl off more than anything: the “I’VE BEEN EVIL SINCE I WAS BORN AND I JUST WANT POWER” type—she has no relevant character motivation or background besides “I am beautiful and want to rule things and kill people.” Also, her brother was annoying, unnecessary, and had truly atrocious hair. Like seriously.
The world-building was sketchy for me; there’s magic, and faeries, and Faerieland; it’s unclear whether the Dark Forest is magic or just filled with hallucinogenic dust, and there are also medieval-era-looking Catholic priests, and one of Snow White’s first lines is the Lord’s Prayer. Are the dwarves an actual different race of magical people, or are they just short miners? Is this the real world with magic, or a completely different world? There’s some sort of weird symbolism about three drops of blood, but what does it mean? These things are addressed late or not at all.
Finally, it seemed like they just tried to shoehorn all of the plot elements of Snow White into the movie whether or not they were necessary. The movie was fine without dwarf sidekicks or faeries; especially tedious was the poisoned apple bit. First of all, the queen leaves her castle to tempt and trick Snow White into eating it, which completely ruins the whole idea where she had to send the Huntsman after the princess to begin with.
And then Snow White is comatose, and not awakened by the kiss of her boyhood friend William as we’re supposed to expect, but by a kiss from the Huntsman, following an anguished monologue that actually makes you feel for his character. (Whether the cure for her coma is actually true love’s kiss is up in the air; this isn’t addressed at all for the rest of the movie, except in the final scene, where she doesn’t seem to be happy at her coronation until she realizes the Huntsman is there.) Hemsworth delivers a great performance of the Huntsman possibly realizing he’s in unrequited love with this girl, but Stewart’s character doesn’t give me any rationale for his loving her. But anyway, I was still annoyed that she had to be awakened by a kiss rather than, I dunno, overcoming the curse with her latent healing magic or something? She seems to have that in this world, so that could have been a thing.
It’s just, she attacks her captor and escapes, but barely scratches him and is caught by the Huntsman as soon as she gets into the woods. Okay, that’s fair. She’s been locked in a tower for ten years; she can’t have been doing battle training or learning woodsmanship in that decade. But she travels with him and other warriors for a while, and you’d think she’d try to learn some fighting, but even when she finally carries a sword and rides into battle, she never really fights anyone but the Queen. There was a moment right after Snow White meets the Huntsman where he teaches her one defensive move, and since we never see her training or learning to defend herself in any other way, it’s obvious from that scene forward that this will be the move she uses to kill the Queen an hour and a half later.
This movie was a step in the right direction for strong princesses with agency. She abandons her dress for first leggings and then plate armor; she fights her own way out of the palace, and rouses the country’s small rebel force to regain her throne. And when she finally does, she’s crowned queen with everything that entails—she’s not a consort or a trophy, but a ruler in her own right. And although there is the hint that she might love the Huntsman too at the end, they 1) could totally just be platonic friends, and 2) actually have been through hell and back together and could arguably have romantic feelings for each other if you wanted to interpret it that way. The important thing is that marriage is not the wonderful, perfect, and obvious end result of being a princess in a story.
Snow White is always going to be a problematic fairy tale for any number of reasons; Euro-centric beauty standards, women who are either evil or damsels in distress, and cure-all marriages to perfect princes are just a few reasons why. This isn’t a standard-raising example of feminist princessdom, but despite all my complaints, it’s not a bad way to spend an evening. (I’d still recommend seeing The Avengers again instead—I’ve seen it six times already and it still hasn’t gotten old.)
After I finished reading The Hunger Games, I had a lot of feels. However, pretty much the last thing on my mind was shipping (a new and shocking development). And so, although it doesn’t surprise me that the dichotomy developed, I don’t really feel like I belong to Team Peeta or Team Gale. (Can I be a rebel and be, like, Team Johanna?)
Even when there were romantic moments, the books were just so much not about romance that I didn’t have any desire to go deeper into it. But I digress.
This Sexualized Saturdays is about the wonderful, the tortured, the naïve, the boy with the bread and the crush: Peeta Mellark.
Now as far as sexuality goes, I’ll put it upfront: I think Peeta is irrevocably straight. He may not have had a chance to experience any non-hetero attraction what with having a crush on Katniss for, like, his whole life, so there’s always potential that he’s not a pure Kinsey 0, but I really don’t think so in this case.
So Sexualized Saturdays usually focuses on discussing a character with (at least arguably) a non-heteronormative sexuality, so why did I pick Peeta?
Peeta is interesting to me because of the way he performs his sexuality. While Gale is all about blowing stuff up and killing the bad guys, Peeta presents a different schema for a male lead—he is sensitive and artistic; his skills are the sort that are traditionally relegated to female characters: defense, camouflage, hell, cake decoration, and he holds a crush for Katniss unspoken for a decade—but no fan I know has ever accused him of being less of a man for doing these things. In fact, the Team Peeta cohort is expansively and massively huger (from what I can tell) than the Team Anyone Else groups. The thing that’s cool about Peeta is that he represents a role model that says that regardless of sexual orientation or stereotypes, sticking with your talents and being honest and true to yourself are the most important things. And that’s a nice break from the messages being sent by other franchises.
So I love the ballet. (Going to it, that is – the extent of my dancing is an ability to do para para.) I’m lucky enough to live in a city with a very talented company, and also lucky enough to have a mom who’s had season tickets since before I could spell ballet. Because of all of these reasons, I was able to see their performance of Coppelia about a fortnight ago.
The production was, of course, lovely, and I greatly enjoyed it (I’m a sucker for the formulaic ways of classical ballet, and the company is truly excellent).
Coppelia is a ballet in three acts about a small town (German or Austrian, I think). Anyway, there’s a young couple in love (Franz and Swanilda), a mysterious girl on a balcony (the tiitular Coppelia), and a grumpy old inventor (Dr. Coppelius). Franz, despite his love for Swanilda, is intrigued by the girl who sits on the Coppelius’ balcony every day, silently reading her book and paying no attention whatsoever to the outside world. Swanilda, who’s a bit of a firebrand, gives her boyfriend all sorts of shit for swooning over this bookworm. Dr. Coppelius thinks the whole town is a nuisance, caring more about his inventions (no one in the town knows exactly what he does).
One day upon leaving his house, the good Doctor drops his key. Swanilda finds it, and she and her friends sneak into his house to see what exactly goes on there, what with all the mysterious bangs and explosions and whatnot. At the same time, Franz succumbs to curiosity and climbs up to Coppelia’s window. To the group’s great amusement, they discover that Coppelius makes toys – life size dolls – and that the pretty girl in the window is no more than a pretty puppet. Swanilda switches clothes with the doll and plays a trick on Coppelius when he returns, making him believe his beloved creation has come to life. Eventually she grows tired of it, reveals the doll’s body behind a curtain, and she and her posse make their escape as Coppelius laments his persnickety-old-person forever-aloneness.
The entire third act is Franz and Swanilda’s wedding. Yes, this is a classical ballet, and that is how it is done. There is corps dancing, there is a grand pas de deux, and curtain call.
There’s a lot to unpack when looking at ballet from a feminist perspective – the dedication to a purported ‘ideal’ body type; the superhero-comic-like double standard of males portraying a masculine power ideal while women portray a male’s sexual ideal; the annoying stereotype that any man dancing ballet is gay and any man attending ballet is either gay or really really wants to get some; and the stereotypical hetero fairy-tale-esque love story that ends with a happily-ever-after marriage.
However, I think it’s also worthwhile to point out that ballet is a venue where stories about women tend to take preference, where women’s roles are the ones that get top billing, and where, more often than not, the girls and women who are portrayed in these stories are imaginative adventurers with dreams and (like Swanilda) sassy, not-exactly-a-damsel-in-distress personalities.
What are your thoughts on ballet, dear readers?
I’m a terrible horrible no good very bad updater, and for that I apologize. But I’m back with a vengeance. Get ready.
So I’ve spent a bunch of time telling you why ponies are awesome for a lot of reasons, and addressing where they have some issues as well. Now for my final installment in my MLP series, I wanna touch on the brony fandom itself and some of its high points.
Bronies have banded together for various charitable/fundraising endeavors. They auction albums, art, and other creative works for charity. They banded together to support the Humble Bundle indie video game charity (you pay whatever you want for the games, and the proceeds go to mostly children’s charities); and dropped hundreds of dollars on original Lauren Faust artwork whose proceeds benefitted post-earthquake Japan. Bronies have big hearts.
Bronies, whether they want to or not, are becoming a more visible part of pop culture purely because of their novelty to the ‘normal’ people. But from what I can tell, most bronies are owning their bronydom with pride. This is a refreshing change because it means that somewhere out there is a generation of young people who won’t judge their children or each other for liking things society says their gender shouldn’t like.
Brony fandom has exploded with creative original and manipped works from remixes and original music to art in all mediums imaginable (from felt to plushies to fan-designed pony video games) to fanfiction. One of the most impressive creative works in my opinion are the fanmade video games, simply because of the unpaid effort of designing and coding and debugging an entire game.
I gave this a separate category because it’s one of the most charged areas of brony fandom. But just as with any fandom, there is everything from cute one-shots, adventure stories, romances, and yes, clopfic (the NC-17 of ponyfic). Some stories, both ongoing and complete, have already become famous/infamous in fandom (See: My Little Dashie, Fallout: Equestria, and the terrifying Cupcakes). All I’ll say about clopfic is this: your kink is not my kink, and I don’t want to know that much about horse genitals. But as far as shipping itself is concerned (especially between the female characters), I think it’s important to separate the characters from the fact that they are nonhuman, and consider that here is a community that we associate with men, writing lesbian relationships that are focused on the romantic rather than the objectifying. If Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy can be together, why not other women? (I personally don’t ship anypony, but mostly because I don’t see the ships, not out of any squick…)
Inclusion and Community Acceptance
Finally, bronies in general tend to be sweethearts. They take to heart the idea of love and tolerance that sits at the root of the show and run with it. From small area meetups to conventions like BroNYCon and Everfree North, bronies make an effort to find other bronies and make them feel included. Jump into fandom and try it out, non-bronies, and I guarantee you’ll be welcomed into the herd.
This concludes my MLP series, everypony, but don’t doubt that I’ll keep posting about it as I’m inspired to, and check out ladybacula’s weekly episode reviews as well!