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 Defendersserieshave 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 wish I could say the themes and messages of Brian Wood’s DMZ are less relevant than they were a decade ago, but that is not the case. If anything, this story has become more relevant as the years go by. But even though the central concept of an irreconcilable ideological divide leading to a second American Civil War seems to become more depressingly realistic with each passing day, the stories about humanity and human nature during wartime that DMZ tells remain compelling.
You know it’s going to be dark when an Escape From New York reference is the most lighthearted bit. (screengrab from DMZ)
Looking back on DMZ, it is tempting to think of it as prescient. But set against the backdrop of the war on terror and the reality of a post-9/11 world becoming firmly established in the American zeitgeist, it was also very much a product of its time. Yet by focusing on the reality of war for the people stuck in one, the result is essentially timeless.
TW: Discussion of 9/11 and life in a war zone. Violent imagery.
One of the things that I loved most about the Tyme series, which is a revisionist retelling of several fairy tales, is its depiction of fairy godmothers. In many traditional fairy tales, the fairy godmother is not particularly expanded upon; she’s simply a deus ex machina to get the protagonist from one place to the other. In the Tyme series’s retelling of Cinderella, it takes the concept of fairy godmother and builds on it in both a worldbuilding and a moral way.
For many of us, Cowboy Bebop, as it notes in its opening credits, really did become “a new genre unto itself.” It was a formative anime experience and set a standard for animated television that in many ways continues to be that against which new shows are judged. It was hugely successful and for many people, in the West at least, served as an introduction into what anime was really capable of as a storytelling medium. It was also released during the late 90’s pop culture zeitgeist when the Internet was still relatively new and concepts like media inclusivity and cultural appropriation were just beginning to gain traction in the mainstream narrative.
They’re gettin the band back together. (image via IMDB)
So how does Cowboy Bebop hold up when exposed to modern criticism? Mostly pretty well. There’s some problematic stuff, obviously, but the universe in which Bebop is set offered a lot of creative freedom and some of that was used to explore social constructs and culture. It presents a vision of the future that is incredibly diverse and where humanity is living on other worlds, but where people are still just people. While there are tropes and shortcomings, some of that vision was ahead of its time and still holds water today.
After a long couple months of YA booksthat I couldn’twholly get behind, I went back to the library to return them and then just wandered the aisles for a while. I didn’t have any other recommendations from friends or websites, so I ended up in the children’s section, picking out, somewhat at random, what looked like a fairy tale adventure with a Black protagonist. The back cover told me it was the second in a series, so I grabbed the first book, as well, and went home to see if they were any good. As it turns out, they were incredible. Not only are they some of the best revisionist fairy tales I’ve read, the book I picked up, Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella, was also centered on social justice and the ills of child labor. Did I mention I found this in the children’s section?
Geek culture has evolved. Over the last few decades, a push for greater inclusiveness and better representation has gained major ground as our generation’s penchant for nostalgia simultaneously breathes new life into dusty classics. One of the more excellent byproducts of all this dusty life-breathing has been the tendency to reexamine some of our favorite classic female characters and expose them to modern feminist criticism. In the midst of it all, however, I feel like one of the most unique ladies in comics has remained largely confined to “cult status”: Tank Girl.
This foul-mouthed, sexually liberated, substance-abusing, interspecies dating, ultra-violent, post-apocalyptic badass has been around since the late punk days and has given us some of the most incredible and incredibly fucked up stories I’ve ever read. She has been able to retain such a consistent emotional energy throughout decades of artists interpreting her that she nearly seems to have some level of real-world agency; at times she almost feels real. I, and many of her fans, see her as a sort of pop culture meta-demigod-thing: “Tank Girl, goddess of anarchofeminism and blowing shit up.”
You really don’t want to make her mad.
Tank Girl is, in many ways, the comic book equivalent of the punk and riot grrrl musical movements. Born a decade after the Sex Pistols but a few years before Bikini Kill, Tank Girl’s pagesradiate a sense of anarchistic artistic resistance to the inequality born of extreme commercialism and the emotional damage caused by rigid and oppressive social norms. Tank Girl is regularly portrayed literally destroying systems of oppression, often going to ludicrous extremes to avenge minor injustices (such as the mafia buying up all the good beer to sell everyone crap at inflated prices) and occasionally committing major injustices in the process, highlighting and mocking the fragile nature of these systems along the way.
For many, fictional media is an escape from real-life troubles and stresses. Of course, completely fantastic settings achieve this easily, but seeing an “our world, but different” setting can also provide this escape. This is becoming increasingly common, such as in our superhero fiction; the Marvel Cinematic Universe is set in our world, for the most part, with only subtle changes. The DC universe, while set in fictional cities like Gotham or Metropolis, still reflect our cities and sometimes have shoutouts to real-world locations. These reflections create a shorthand of worldbuilding and can certainly enhance the experience. However, what kind of responsibility does fiction owe to real-world realities?