My friend and I came out of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 convinced that the Infinity Wars movies, and the big Avengers/Guardians crossover therein, were mostly going to consist of Tony Stark and Peter Quill trying to out-Daddy-Issue each other. As well as both having facial hair and a penchant for roguish one-liners, the two heroes have a few things in common, most notably their parental situation: like Tony, Peter Quill has a complicated and at times antagonistic relationship with his father that forms the emotional core of a whole movie, and a sense of wistful mourning for his mother, who was sweet, kind, and only shows up in a few scenes. She’s also dead due to circumstances that were in no way her fault, so they can bond over that as well. At this point, maybe Thor can chime in too, perhaps initiating a group hug, since he also has a complicated relationship with his main-character dad and grieves over his good and nurturing dead mum. Jeez, is Infinity Wars just going to be one big session of father-related angst and mother-related mourning?
Fridge a kind mother and elevate a father to main character status once, Marvel, and that’s shame on you. Fridge a kind mother and elevate a father twice, still shame on you. Do this three times for three different superheroes and it’s officially a pattern. What exactly is going on here, and why does it annoy me so much?
Futurama is one of my all-time favorite shows. I have watched these episodes so many times I think I broke Netflix’s suggestion algorithms. While there are many aspects to the showthat are brilliant and remarkably nuanced, one topic that they have addressed repeatedly, and one that their exploration has handled in widely disparate and often problematic ways, is gender and gender identity. While not a main theme of the show, various aspects of gender and sexuality are regularly explored and put under the lens of Futurama’s satirical distant future.
A genderbent recreation of the Barbarella poster with Fry and Leela. (Screenshot from Futurama.)
In examining how this is generally handled, the good and bad alike, there are some specific episodes scattered throughout the show’s run that specifically deal with these issues and demand specific attention; mostly through changes to the gender identity of one of its most widely known characters: Bender B Rodriguez.
TW: Discussion of transphobic and homophobic themes.
The four issue run of Ladycastle, a limited series from Boom Comics, recently came to an end. The premise of the series was intriguing: after almost all the men of a castle in a fantasy land are killed while out on crusade, the women are left to seize power and agency for themselves for the first time. I thought the idea sounded interesting, and, as always, am enthusiastic about supporting comics stories about women by women, so I eagerly dove in.
The series tackles a number of gendered issues over the course of the story, from the traditional devaluation of femininity to accusations of misandry to challenging socialized behaviors. Ultimately, though, the story bit off more issues than four issues could chew. While it tried to say and do a lot of things, the matriarchy it attempted to sell me never really swept me off my feet.
As I was writing about Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood of the Shadowhunters series, I was actually thinking about their relationship a lot as well. So it’s only fitting, having discussed these characters separately, to also discuss their relationship, especially since it is such an important part of both Magnus and Alec’s character development. As such, it’s interesting to look at their relationship through the lens of their age difference, as Magnus is hundreds of years old and Alec is barely out of his teenage years, as far as we can tell. If not handled well, this kind of age difference can (and often does) lead to an unfair and creepy power imbalance in the relationship, which most works of fiction conveniently ignore. However, Malec, as they’re known, is a pairing portrayed in such a way that both Magnus and Alec are on more or less equal footing despite their different experiences.
Spoilers for the Shadowhunters series below. Trigger warnings for mentions of pedophilia and statutory rape.
It seems in recent years as though a dam has broken and the notion of what is “acceptable content” for a kids or YA show thankfully now has an ever-increasing flow of support. While themes of inclusivity and equality have been a staple of the genre since the early days of Children’s Television Workshop, recent examples like Steven Universe have dealt with gender identity and sexuality in ways that would likely have been vetoed by the networks even a decade ago. One show that, in many ways at least, was at the forefront of that charge is Adventure Time. While by no means perfect, it gives us numerous examples of gender equality and represents a fairly wide range of gender, sexual, and romantic identities that fall outside the heteronormative narratives that many of the genre’s examples, even the best ones, have traditionally retold ad nauseum.
Grab your friends, we’re going to very distant lands. (screengrab from Adventure Time)
While Adventure Time does this in numerous ways and through numerous characters, there is one example that is among the most direct and the most enduringly popular: Fionna and Cake. In looking not only at these characters specifically, but also more broadly at what they show us about the Ice King and toxic masculinity, we can see one of the best examples of these themes being presented in subtle and complex ways that are accessible to the target age group and, ultimately, further that tradition of inclusiveness.
Rick and Morty is currently one of my favorite TV shows, and for that reason I have been avoiding analyzing its gender politics, especially in “Raising Gazorpazorp”, the episode that tries to address gender. In this episode, Rick and Summer go to a planet where the genders are separated. The males are dumb, violent, sex-crazed beasts, while the women are cultured and sophisticated, but openly sexist against men. Rick and Morty uses the Gazorpians to discuss humanity’s own gender issues, but fails, for the most part, to come to any kind of satisfying conclusion.
Trigger warning for rape and rape culture and spoiler warning for “Raising Gazorpazorp”, “Rick Potion #9”, “Meeseeks and Destroy,” and “Look Who’s Purging Now”.
Shadowhunters may not be the best show out there, both in terms of writing and acting, but it does get a few things right in terms of diversity and representation. I talked about my love for Magnus Bane as a bisexual character before, and I just recently finished catching up with the second season, which had a lot of great moments between Magnus and Alec, his boyfriend. So, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at Alec Lightwood and how he is presented in the show as a gay man.
Some spoilers for the Shadowhunters TV show below.