Oh my God! So guess what, guys? I’m not as nervous about the Batman vs Superman movie anymore! Though as always, I still have some concerns.
I often notice a disturbing trend among fans when it comes female characters and male characters. I mean when you think about it there are a lot of disturbing trends, really, but the thing that bothers me in particular is when fans hate on a female character for something they love about a male character. And sometimes fans seem to just ignore a flaw that a male character has, but then they crucify a female character for having that same flaw. It’s incredibly aggravating to me to watch this constantly play out again and again. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at some examples.
Oh boy, okay, here we go. This trailer is… longer than the original teaser trailer, and we, um, get a look at some more characters, like Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. So yeah, that’s exciting… but I’m gonna be honest. I’m beyond disappointed in how this is developing. I want to be excited for this movie, but it looks so boring.
Spoilers after the cut!
Not long ago, a teaser trailer came out for DC’s new Batman vs. Superman movie. Ever since the title was announced, I have been nervous about the upcoming movie. I have a lot of feelings about Superman and Batman (both together and separately) and I have been waiting a long time for a team up movie to hit the big screen. But when I heard the title of the movie, I was extremely sad. I’m not going to see a Batman and Superman movie based purely on them fighting each other (we all know Superman wins that fight anyway).
No, what I really want to see in this new movie is the complex, somewhat antagonistic relationship between Batman and Superman, which eventually morphs into an epic friendship. So today for our Throwback, I want to take a look at the Batman and Superman movie that greatly shaped my perception of the two characters. The World’s Finest originally aired as as a three part episode on the Superman Animated Series in 1997, and was later re-released as a movie. Until this point there had been little to no cross-over between the Superman Animated Series and the Batman Animated Series, other than a one off comment about Batman at the start of the Superman Animated Series. So this movie was the first meeting between Batman and Superman in the animated universe. And the movie just really hit it out of the park.
Though it is in fact a Sexualized Saturday, imagine with me for a moment that it is Transformation Tuesday. The delicate wallflower blossoms into a stunning beauty just in time for her senior prom, the second-string nerd transcends his former self to become the leading man he was always meant to be—all with the simple removal of a little apparatus: eyeglasses. Glasses form the basis of tons of tropes, though perhaps none as infamous as “The Glasses Gotta Go”. From Princess Diaries and the quintessential Magical Makeover in She’s All That, to Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man transformation, pop culture has been helping nerds achieve their sexy potential by liberating them from their bespectacled prisons. Join me as I delve a little deeper into the intersection of sexual capital and corrective lenses, and the problematic territory we find there.
So we all known Superman is Jesus, right? I talked about that before, and while it’s downplayed in the comics, it’s so obviously and almost painfully written into some of the movies that you have to wonder if there are any non-Christian fans of Superman at this point. Even when Superman isn’t being practically written as Christ, he is always displayed as having extremely Christian values. I don’t have a problem with it; I mean, it makes a lot of sense. Superman was found and raised by two midwestern farmers. So yeah, Superman more than likely follows some form of Protestant Christianity. A lot of people argue that he’s Methodist, which I can see, but it’s also never really specified; he just comes off as generic Christian.
Except when he’s proclaiming his faith to the god Rao, the lead god in a pantheon of others that Superman’s people, the Kryptonians, worshiped. So, what, is Superman a Christian? Did he convert to Raoism after learning it was the faith of his people? Did he combine the two? Well, let’s try to figure it out!
Quick: who are Batman’s enemies?
I’m certain that many of you reading this can rattle off a long number of names from his rogues gallery. I’m sure that this list includes the Joker, Two Face, Clayface, Bane, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. I’m not the world’s biggest Batfan and so my Batcollection of Batcomics is fair to middling at best, but I can safely tell you who Batman is fighting: criminals.
Right? Of course Batman is fighting criminals, super and non-super, from Calendar Man (yes) to Darkseid. My goal here is not to state the obvious but rather what is ignored: Batman does not fight crime. He does things like fight a whole cities’ worth of gangs, but he doesn’t fight the root causes of crime. Batman is obviously not a sworn enemy of income inequality; he does not put on a cape and go toe-to-toe with the misallocation of resources, the troubling legacy of international colonialism, or the profit-driven culture which encourages the building of sweatshops or the abuse of labor rights.
On some level, we want our fictional universes to be real. We want our Hogwarts letters; we want the TARDIS to show up on our doorstep; we want to be chosen as the hero by a talking cat or to find faeries in our backyards. And creators have noticed. Many franchises have tried to play into our desire for our fantasy worlds to be real by adding a layer of meta into their creations, inextricably linking the real world and the fictional one. The key to this sort of real world tie-in is subtlety and a firm grasp on the message of the original work.
I do not play Dungeons & Dragons nearly as much as I would like to. Despite this, I often like to go through various game manuals as fodder for the imagination. Once I was skimming through an expansion manual and discovered an interesting character class: the wu jen. This name is a Wade-Giles rendering of 巫人, which translates most literally to “shaman person”, although other interpretations are certainly possible. Unfortunately I never got a chance to play this character, and even more unfortunately, the manual in question is entitled Oriental Adventures.
The wu jen is one of the magic-user type classes available in this setting, but what makes her unique? Her power is tied to taboos. The specific taboos the wu jen must follow are chosen by the player, starting with one at 1st level and then adding additional ones at various levels as the character advances. If a wu jen breaks any of these taboos, she forfeits her ability to cast spells for the rest of the day. I had never come across anything like this in gameplay before, and was extremely intrigued. Although this was years ago, I still think about it from time to time, and I have recently starting contemplating this more deeply. How do our backgrounds and worldviews influence whether we perceive taboos as restrictive or as empowering, and what does the use of taboo in speculative fiction mean for people who follow religious taboos in real life?
As far as the “enjoyable, genre-lampooning movies that imagine a certain medium as a universe in which characters from many franchises interact”, I’m gonna have to say that Wreck-It Ralph was both more engaging and more feminist than this one. That said, however, this was a truly funny and enjoyable movie, and I definitely recommend you go see it. Spoilers lie ahead. Continue reading