Throwback Thursday: Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

We’re going a little deeper into the archives of science fiction this week, to pull out the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The black-and-white visuals and Cold War imagery give the movie a dated effect, but I’m realizing how distressingly relevant the underlying message still is.


At the top level, the movie is a satire of mutually assured destruction and nuclear war. A rogue American general named Jack D. Ripper, consumed with paranoia, orders an unprovoked nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, and a fleet of bombers take to the air.

When news of the strike reaches President Merkin Muffley, he descends to the underground War Room, joined by the maniacal General Buck Turgidson, the Soviet ambassador Alexei de Sadeski, and the title character, a nuclear scientist from Nazi Germany now serving the United States. De Sadeski reveals the existence of a Soviet Doomsday Device, which will automatically destroy all life on Earth with a cloud of radioactive gas if an atomic strike on the USSR is detected. The Americans and the Russians work together to recall the bombers, but one, piloted by Major T.J. “King” Kong, has been damaged and cannot receive the radio signal, and prepares to deliver its payload.

Earth’s last hope is the failure of Kong’s bomb, spray-painted with the name “Hi There!”—which jams in the bay. But the dedicated pilot climbs on top of it, and jumps up and down on it until it deploys. Kong rides the bomb to the end of the world, gleefully whooping and waving a cowboy hat in the film’s most famous scene.


Anonymous submission to

The Americans pause for a moment of silence, before planning to resume the Cold War after the apocalypse when they emerge from their bunkers. The credits roll with a montage of mushroom clouds set to Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Rape, Agency, and Marvel’s Women

It seems that when you want to make a woman into a hero, you hurt her first. When you want to make a man into a hero, you hurt… also a woman first. (x)

Vague spoilers for Jessica Jones and a trigger warning for rape throughout this post.

jessica jones netflixI’ve spent the last week watching Marvel’s Jessica Jones miniseries on Netflix. (I’ve still got a few episodes left, so no spoilers for the finale, please!) While it’s very good, it also seems to buy into a common problem that plagues female characters, especially the hard-boiled/hero types: whether mentally or physically or both, its women have been violated.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Howling Commandos HQ by rageprufrock

phil coulsonAs presumably all of us know by now, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started when The Powers That Be over at Marvel decided that Coulson hadn’t died at the end of The Avengers after all. Instead, he was resurrected through the judicious use of spoilery alien technology and given his own team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to boss around. The Avengers, and the rest of the world, were told that Coulson was definitely dead. As the series has continued, though, more and more people have been finding out that Coulson isn’t dead—even Lady Sif, Thor’s Asgard pal, who was sworn to secrecy about it. But the Marvel universe stubbornly continues to sidestep how the Avengers, and basically everyone in the films, has stayed in the dark for so long—a move that I find to be frustrating at best and fantastically poor writing at worst. It’s gotta be hard to figure out a plotline that spans a TV show and several movies, but surely someone at Marvel understands that not all of Coulson’s associates are going to take his so-called death at face value. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait around to see if Marvel will ever get it together—there’s already a great fanfic that deftly handles the emotional residue from both Coulson’s death and the fallout from his death.

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The Big Bad: Superheroes without Supervillains

drevilSupervillains are historically inseparable from their superhero counterparts. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, Joe Biden has Nixon’s Ghost. However, as comic movies keep getting bigger, and as the MCU sucks up the world’s supply of white dudes named Chris, the villains are increasingly left behind. These guys fall into a few tidy categories, and alive or dead, find themselves forgotten when the credits roll.

Somehow, the greater realism applied to superheroes, the less room there is for supervillainy. Instead, we’re left with a handful of tropes, with only a few bad guys able to break out of the box. This dynamic is crucial to the ways our current crop of superhero blockbusters reflects our wider psychology. We ache for something bigger than ourselves to believe in, and assemble the Avengers. We question that ache, and begin the Civil War. But when it comes to evildoers, we haven’t figured out what we want. Sometimes it’s just exaggerated versions of the bad people in the world, sometimes it’s faceless alien hordes, sometimes it’s pure evil, given the nasty explanation of “mental illness.” In contrast to the depth we’ve given our heroes, our villains keep falling short.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: White Man’s Redemption at the Woman of Color’s Expense

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second season wrapped up a couple weeks ago, and despite all its very numerous problems, I am still in love with the show. And it’s thanks to characters like Skye that I can say that. She’s resourceful, smart, and after gaining the ability to control the vibrations in everything around her, she is now both an earthbender and a waterbender.

My little baby is all grown up and mastering the elements. (via x)

My little baby is all grown up and mastering the elements. (via x)

And if her character keeps going the way she is, like her comic counterpart, she’ll be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D someday. But while Skye is hardly the only good thing about S.H.I.E.L.D., I feel completely different about her parents. Cal’s and Jiaying’s storylines were interesting and fun to watch at first, but by the time the season ended, S.H.I.E.L.D. did such a poor job with them that I wonder what was going through the writers’ heads.

Spoilers for all of the current S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes after the jump.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Mary Sue Spirituality

image via tvtropes

image via TVTropes

Back in the early 2000s, I, like many of you, spent many hours on role play or “RP” websites. The RP site served as a platform for people to write stories together. More often than not, these were (and are!) different kinds of fanfiction. Sometimes you wrote from the perspective of a canon character, but I’d spend more time crafting my own characters to populate some author’s universe. For example, I’d create my own unique character and send them to Hogwarts, to get into all kinds of shenanigans with unique characters created by other people. Most websites had written (or at least, unwritten) rules about how these co-authoring relationships work. You couldn’t control another author’s original character without their permission, you couldn’t break the rules of the universe, you were encouraged to match your post’s length to your writing partners’, etc. One of the more popular (and nefarious) rules was “No Mary Sues”.

A “Mary Sue” character is more or less a fictional version of the author. She was a way for the author to insert themselves into the story, usually to steal all the attention. It’s hard to have fun writing when your writing partner’s character has the ultimate tragic backstory, special powers, is the constant center of attention, and usually has some out of the ordinary physical features. Mary Sues are the ultimate idealized versions of the author, inserted into the story. There’s a lot of argument of what really counts as a Mary Sue, and whether or not Mary Sue characters are even all that bad. I don’t think Mary Sues are all that bad. In fact, Mary Sues have been encouraged for centuries. I’m talking about a spiritual practice called Ignatian contemplation or, Mary Sue Spirituality.

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Catching Up with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Second Season

Agents_of_SHIELD_logoAgent Carter may be over, but that means that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back on. Unfortunately, I liked Agent Carter a hell of a lot more than I have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I wasn’t sure what to think of the show when it returned. However, S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s first episode back gave me plenty of food for thought.

Spoilers up to the current episode (2.11) of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the jump!

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Sexualized Saturdays: So Pumped about Female Friendships

There’s a slow but exciting change occurring in popular media, these days: lots of creators are finally beginning to show female friendships in their works. That’s not to say that there have never been friendships between ladies in the public eye before the last few years—Wicked comes to mind, among other things—but the message seems to finally have gotten out to the world at large. We want more than one lady in things, and we want those ladies to understand each other, not for them to antagonize each other.

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I Am Disappoint: A Captain America: Peggy Carter, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review

A few months ago, while I was picking up my weekly batch of comics at my local shop, the guy at the register asked me if I wanted to add any upcoming titles to my subscriptions. I scanned the list of publishers and titles on the counter briefly, and noticed that, under the Marvel heading, was a book called Captain America: Peggy Carter, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.—listed at $7.99. When I asked why that one was so pricey—most comics run $3.99–$4.99—he assured me that it was a lengthy one-shot rather than a super-expensive ongoing series. Intrigued, I decided to request one. With the new Agent Carter TV show only growing in hype, I figured it would be some sort of tie-in or backstory for the Peggy the MCU has led us to love.

If you watch anime, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a recap episode. These are episodes tossed into a show when there isn’t enough production money to make an entirely new episode, and instead tie together footage from earlier episodes under a flimsy frame story, all the while pretending to be something new and worth watching. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover I’d dropped the price of a new manga on the comic book version of a recap episode.

peggy carter comicThe cumbersomely titled Captain America: Peggy Carter, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., rather than being any sort of tie-in to Hayley Atwell’s Marvel Cinematic Universe character, actually collects several issues of old Captain America comics that featured the Marvel-616 universe iteration of Agent Carter. It clocks in at a little over a hundred pages, so the price is arguably comparable to other books this size, but it’s the content, not the size, that left me frustrated. Continue reading

“Then Mind Telling Me What I’m Doing Here?” Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Poorly Shifting Cast

agents of shield season 2As we head into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midseason finale, I can’t help but notice that S.H.I.E.L.D. is having a similar problem to Sleepy Hollow. That is to say, both shows are adding characters without rhyme or reason, and it’s often to the detriment of the narrative and the other characters. In Season 2, we’ve added Lance Hunter, Bobbi Morse, and Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie to S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s already large cast, and the result is that many of the existing characters have seen interesting plotlines reduced.

Spoilers for all of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. below.

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