Way back in my senior year of high school, my friends and I took full advantage of our senior year freedom to go see The Forbidden Kingdom in theaters several times. As far as we were concerned, The Forbidden Kingdom was the long-awaited team-up of Asian action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li—it didn’t matter to us that the plot included some white guy as the main protagonist. In fact, we were pretty happy about it—we thought the white protagonist would make the movie much more attractive to Americans and thus make more money at the box office, thereby proving that Asians could sell movies. And to be fair, The Forbidden Kingdom did rank #1 at the box office in its opening weekend. But nearly a full decade later, it’s pretty apparent that The Forbidden Kingdom‘s flaws in 2008 are the same flaws that Hollywood still has today.
There are a lot of great movies coming out in the next few months. There’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, obviously, and Black Panther looks amazing, and then… there’s this one. Ferdinand, by Blue Sky Studios, is going to be coming out on the same day as The Last Jedi, and, just between you and me, I don’t think it’s going to do so well.
Orphan Black ended this summer, and in the finale, we got to see a little of what most of the clones were doing post-big battle. Sarah, Helena, Cosima, and Alison all came together at Alison’s house to discuss their experiences with motherhood and sisterhood; a fitting cap to a series that held these concepts at its core. Another clone, Rachel Duncan, wasn’t involved in this healing conversation — she hovered on the outside, giving Felix some information about the remaining Leda clones, but stopping short of going in the house and joining her sisters. This was probably as much as could be expected — throughout the series, Rachel was undoubtedly an antagonist, one who did terrible things to her sisters despite being a victim herself. She’s a layered, complex female character who really got to epitomize Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s “cool motive, still murder” test, which is a status usually given only to white male characters. Still, part of me was hoping that Rachel could have been given a just a little more development than what she got in canon. Fortunately, today’s fanfic does just that.
I’ve been on quite the webcomics binge lately (reccing another webcomic for this column, you say? Shocking), but I can’t help it that the internet is so good at recommending well-written, diverse webcomics to me through Tumblr! Today’s web crush is White Noise, a complex fantastical webcomic about families and found families, the aftermath of tragedy, and prejudice.
When I reviewed Dreadnought earlier last week, I wasn’t aware that it had a sequel — the book came out early this year, and sequels usually take a least a year to put together. But against all odds, Dreadnought‘s sequel Sovereign was published a mere six months after Dreadnought, and so I went on down to the library to pick it up. What I found was that while Dreadnought had a fairly clear-cut narrative as a coming-of-age story for its trans protagonist, Sovereign tried to tackle many different issues at once and had the very typical sequel problem of not getting deep enough into any of them. Still, amongst the issues with gender, race, the media, a TERF villain, and a quickly developing romantic relationship, Sovereign did succeed in raising some thought-provoking questions about superheroism as meritocracy.
Spoilers for Sovereign below the jump.
From its inception, Animorphs was always a series dedicated to what we’d term social justice today. It featured five kids of various ethnicities trying to save the world from a secret alien invasion, becoming child warriors in the process. But as a product of the 90s, it didn’t focus on LGBTQ+ issues very much. Sure, the protagonists were very young, and author K.A. Applegate might not have been able to get any LGBTQ+ rep through her publishers if she had had any ideas, but the fact remains that a series about kids literally changing their bodies as a weapon of war should have made trans issues front and center in Animorphs‘s otherwise excellent diversity.
Fortunately, in recent years the Animorphs fandom has taken steps to correct this oversight. One of my previous FFs, Bird in a Cage, was a character study of Tobias, arguably the Animorph with the most gender dysphoria. Canonically, Tobias never felt comfortable in his human body, and when he ended up trapped in his hawk morph, it wasn’t his body he missed, but his humanity in general. In that fic, author etothepii explores the idea of Tobias as a trans girl coming to terms with her gender identity. Today’s fanfic broadens the scope of these gender identity issues by changing the gender identity of all the Animorphs. The Word of Your Body is a series of vignettes about trans, intersex, and nonbinary Animorphs that looks at the many social and family issues that the gender-diverse Animorphs have to go through in the shadow of the war.
Trigger warning for gender dysphoria, transphobia, and internalized transphobia in the fic. As Animorphs was originally written in the 90s, this fanfic was written using LGBTQ+ terms that would have been used in the 90s, despite the fact that we no longer use some of these terms today. Please read with caution.
This weekend was the Emmys, and usually, nothing much interesting happens at the Emmys aside from the opening monologue. However, I was ecstatic to hear that one of my very favorite TV shows from this year, Master of None, won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The episode nominated, “Thanksgiving,” was about the story of protagonist Dev’s queer Black friend, Denise, coming out to her family through the years and was co-written by Lena Waithe, herself a queer Black woman. In Waithe’s acceptance speech, she said:
I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different – those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.
Waithe’s words are both true and a rarity in today’s world, which generally pays lip service to LGBTQ+ solidarity but hardly ever celebrates the stories of actual (non-white and non-male) queer people. The idea of LGBTQ+ people being superheroes in their own right, not in spite of but because of the parts of themselves that mainstream society often doesn’t accept, is something that many queer youth need to hear and which many superhero stories need to understand.
Many superhero stories will rely on faulty allegories for the LGBTQ+ experience, like the X-Men hiding their abilities from their parents, despite the fact that queer people are not inherently dangerous. These stories often have little to no actual representation, and they almost never show the LGBTQ+ experience in an authentic, realistic light. Fortunately, the world of publishing is slowly pushing itself towards diversity, and one of the fruits of this labor is the 2017 novel Dreadnought by April Daniels. As a superhero story about a transgender protagonist written by a transgender author, it’s every bit as real as Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” and is a beautifully written novel that shows how a superhero story can be more than just another coming-of-age tale.
Minor spoilers for Dreadnought and trigger warning for transphobia/internalized transphobia after the jump.
For the past few years, Netflix has been on a roll with the original content. Though at first Netflix was only known as a DVD rental site and then a TV streaming site, its forays into original content are now probably what it’s most known for. Shows like Voltron: Legendary Defender, Sense8, and the various Marvel Defenders series have all garnered (mostly) high praise, and with them to jump off of, it’s no surprise that Netflix quickly went from original TV shows to original movies as well. At the end of this year, Netflix is releasing Bright, a fantasy cop drama with A-list actors that looks to be Netflix’s bid at its next famous property. The trailer looks good, but I’m afraid it may raise more questions than it answers.
I’m not usually into horror, but while I was on my webcomics binge this break, I stumbled upon a little comic called Brainchild. I didn’t know anything about it and I had the vague idea that it was about mutants, so I went in pretty much completely unprepared. Quick update: it’s not really about mutants. However, it is about an enormous, unsettling conspiracy that looks to have a great effect on the personal and professional life of its protagonist, Allison Beaufort. I was thoroughly creeped out and thoroughly entertained, and that’s all I can ask for from a webcomic.
Trigger warning for body horror after the jump.
Over our summer break, I was reading a book whose protagonists traveled to alternate universes which, frankly, I didn’t like very much. But it did get me thinking about the idea of alternate universes in fiction. Not the scientific concept of alternate (parallel) universes—though that’s often the subject of many sci-fi stories—I’m talking about the alternate universes that result from one thing changing in a fictional story. What if Charles Xavier died before he could found the X-Men? What if Captain America was a Nazi? Undoubtedly, a lot of things would be bad. And unfortunately, this is the kind of alternate universe that we often see in today’s fictional media. However, the idea that one different thing could change everything is so broad that I don’t understand why this kind of grimdark change is the most common. Fanfiction also often deals in alternate universes which diverge from canon, but the changes of fanfiction, on the whole, all tend to be more positive and more emotionally satisfying. Though many mainstream movies and TV shows disdain this sort of happy story, an alternate universe which changes originally negative canon material into positive new story fodder can bring with it a wide range of different emotions than the usual grimdark reboot is capable of.