Sexualized Saturdays: Which Characters Would You Queer?

batwoman_17_jh_williams_geekdraw_h022013I have been thinking recently about the practice of making existing characters who are previously thought to be straight into queer characters. It’s not something that happens often, but it has been done before. In DC’s New 52 reboot, the Green Lantern Alan Scott, previously assumed straight, was revealed to be gay. Batwoman was another character who was previously assumed straight—ironically, she was actually introduced as Batman’s girlfriend to prove that Batman was straight. Now she’s a lesbian. Yay! On television Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a character that is still often debated by fans. While her character’s bisexuality was definitely erased, many fans still argue over whether there was evidence in previous seasons that showed that Willow was attracted to women.

Furthermore, the Slash Madness Tournament is here again and is currently in its final aafinalmatch-up. Once again it’s come down to a war between Destiel and Sterek fans. Last time I checked, Destiel was in the lead by a small margin, but the Sterek fans are certainly putting up a fight. What’s more interesting to me, however, is less the tournament itself and more how fans talk about these two giant pairings. Fans seem to think that winning tournaments like this will prove to The Powers That Be that certain queer relationships, like Sterek and Destiel, would be supported by the whole of the fandom if they were made canon. By showing support for these pairings in a visible way, fans believe that writers will realize that the fandom won’t abandon the show because of canon gay characters—rather, fans will actively support it.

While I’m all for people shipping whatever pairings they want, I have always been skeptical about turning canonically straight characters into queer characters. This mostly has to do with having decent writers in my opinion, and even that’s not always a guarantee. I’m especially concerned with characters like Dean Winchester, who is portrayed as a real ladies’ man. In this case, I worry about writers trying to claim that character is now completely homosexual, when logic would dictate that he is at least bisexual. I also worry about the reasons why we, the viewers, are just now learning that a character is queer. Why have these characters never shown any interest in same-sex relationships until now?

30067_3_fullA real life example of this is Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon did not originally intend for Willow to be gay, but come season four, he decided to have a character explore their sexuality and thus Willow became a lesbian. In my opinion, the whole thing was handled very poorly. Other than one episode in season three where Willow’s evil twin is described as being “kind of gay”, there is no indication that Willow is attracted to women before season four. Maybe if Whedon had spent a season or two developing her sexuality this transition could have worked out, but he didn’t, and it didn’t. I’m not saying that these issues can’t be dealt with, but so often they aren’t or aren’t dealt with well.

Continue reading

Legitimate Reasons to Not Like the Girlfriend Character

cnsmovie_indianajones_temple_05In fandom, there is a lot of hate for the “girlfriend” character. I have discussed this before in a post I did on sexism in Supernatural, where I criticized fans for hating on female characters because they get between their favorite male/male ship, or because they somehow think that the actor or (weirdly) the character belongs to them, the fans. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: hating female characters because of a ship, or because you think you are this actor’s/character’s “true love”, is just silly.

I can’t preach on this topic enough, and I often get annoyed with other fans for immediately hating on a female character after one episode. That being said, sometimes it is okay to be wary of or dislike the girlfriend character.

Let me explain.

Continue reading

Top Ten Everyman Characters in Geekdom

The Everyman (or Everyperson, as the case may be) is one of the most underestimated and important characters in storytelling. The Everyman is a character with no powers or special abilities outside of those that a normal person might have. The Everyman is not the chosen one; they usually are the stand-in character for the audience (though not always); and they can be the main character or supporting in the story. But the biggest and most key factor here is that they must be a completely and utterly ordinary character. This character represents what a normal person would be like in an extraordinary situation.

Many movies, TV shows, and books like to indulge in our fantasies by revealing that an ordinary person is actually someone amazing. These stories say, “Are you an awkward outcast and loner? Well, that’s actually because you’re a wizard/demigod/slayer/the chosen one!” And while this particular plot is great and all, at some point when watching or reading about one of these characters, you might wonder what it would be like if you were in the story. You then quickly realize that you are not a mutant/fairy/genius/alien and that you would be extremely screwed if you were to step into the story just as you are now.

But what if you weren’t? The beauty of the Everyman isn’t just that they are completely normal and average, but that they somehow survive against all odds in impossible circumstances.

So without further ado, here are my Top Ten Everyman Characters in Geekdom:

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: It’s Almost Religious

It never ceases to amaze me how our pop culture tries to insert what are clearly Christian themes into comics, TV shows, and many other forms of media, but then, in order to not offend anyone, tries to pretend that those Christian elements aren’t really there. It’s maddening!

Two examples of this that always bugged me were in Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Charmed featured White Lighters as major characters in their series and Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s last season had Buffy doing battle with The First, the very first evil.

White Lighters are clearly angels. Just call them angels. The minute you hear what they are, you think angel! White Lighters are beings of the light who guard their charges, healing and guiding them when necessary. Am I crazy or does that sound like a guardian angel? It does, doesn’t it?

And perhaps you could say that many mystical beings have these sorts of functions. But the White Lighters have certain imagery to them that obviously shows that they are at least inspired by Judeo-Christian angels. Most obviously, their realm looks like fluffy white clouds and the wear robes of pure white that look like clerical vestments. The only thing missing is wings.

Now onto Buffy, where we have The First, a force that appeared before time. This being first appeared to Angel and tempted the vampire into trying to kill Buffy. This same being reveals to Angel that it is the reason that Angel escaped from Hell. When The First later appears in Buffy, it employs a second in command, a defrocked priest named Caleb. Though this one is more ambiguous, it is pretty clear that this being is Satan. It existed before time, like the angels in Judeo-Christianity (including Lucifer); furthermore, this is the being from which all other evil stems. And if this wasn’t enough, the connection with the Caleb, the defrocked priest, makes the connection to Christianity very clear.

Now there is nothing wrong with trying to make TV shows, books, or other media more open and watchable to people who are not of a Judeo-Christian background, but that isn’t what is happening in these shows. They are creating new characters or myths, but simply using the same Christian ones and then saying they aren’t. To anyone with a basic understanding of Christianity, these references are obvious. So writers of any shows, comics, movies, or books, just call a spade a spade or use more diverse or original religious themes in these shows.

Sexualized Saturdays: Willow Rosenberg

Ah, Buffy, how I have such fun memories of thee. I remember always getting excited to sit down to watch some good old fashion vampire murderage, until my parents entered the room to watch it too. Coming from a conservative Christian home and growing up with parents who forced me into joining the middle-school basketball team every Tuesday night right during airtime—under the threat that I couldn’t watch the show unless I joined up, no less! Sense?—Buffy the Vampire Slayer wholeheartedly and irrevocably reverted the hour it aired every week into what Lady Geek Girl and I once nominated as the Parental Bitching Hour. It was the cause of debate, for more reasons than my being blackmailed into unwanted sports that I won’t bore you with the details of.

I don’t know how Buffy managed to piss my parents off so much, as it wasn’t the kind of show they normally invest themselves in, but it raised many an argument in my home. Normally, it went something like this:

“I can’t believe you watch this garbage, Ace! Why don’t you play some sports?”

“…Because I like vampires?”

“You don’t need this fantasy crap when you have the news. Besides, not everyone’s a lesbian!”

“I just want to watch my show. Please?”

Yeah, in order to actually know what was going the hell on in the plot over the tantrum brought on by Willow—the evil slut!—I had to wait for the DVD releases and watch the series all again in the quiet of a dorm room, right underneath the drunken party the floor above me.

Continue reading

My Babysitter’s a Vampire

My Babysitter’s a Vampire is a made-for-TV movie which launched a half-hour TV series of the same name. It is aimed at teens and tweens and airs in the US on the Disney Channel, coming to us from our neighbors to the north (eh?) where it airs on Teletoon.

 

BEFORE YOU ROLL YOUR EYES

I know this is a kids’ show capitalizing on the vampire craze. I know, but before you rush to judge, I urge you to hear me out because this show is actually pretty awesome.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Christian Objects Are Magic

Let me start off by saying this: magic is a part of Christianity. In fact, it’s a part of every religion. Special prayers, powerful objects like crosses or holy water, and even the Church building itself all are seen to carry some sort of supernatural power. These things contain not only God’s power, but also are meant to protect us from evil. These are all magical elements.

Christians don’t have a good history with magic. All the way back in the Old Testament magic and sorcery are condemned as evil, but like many things in the Bible, this is also contradictory with other teachings. In a book not included in most Christian biblical canons, The Testament of Solomon, is actually a magical textbook. Solomon, the wisest of all the Old Testament kings, learns magic that allows him to summon and control demons (and angels to some degree). It’s a fascinating read and I suggest that everyone pick it up at some point. Just be wary about trying anything you learn in there, as it might not go so well for you.

In some ways I actually think whether magic is good or bad isn’t contradicted in the Bible. Magic is good if you learn your skills from God or the angels and honor them for that accordingly. Magic only becomes bad if it’s learned from devils (or evil spirits), if it’s used for your own selfish purposes, or if the user starts to believe the power they have is their own and not God’s. If you still don’t believe that magic is a part of Christianity, then I offer you this example: almost all Catholics I know, when attempting to sell their house, will go out and buy a statue of St. Joseph and bury him upside down in the backyard. This will supposedly help your house sell faster and many Catholics I met swear buy it. I have no idea where this tradition comes from, but if this isn’t an example of magic in faith, I don’t know what is.

So yes, magic is a part of Christianity. I have no problem with that. What does drive me crazy is when characters in TV shows or movies use these Christian objects and attribute nothing back to Christianity or Christian magic. This object banishes demons, because… well, it does. No one thinks about why.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Buffy is guilty of this particular issue though I usually tend to give the show a pass. Buffydoesn’t have any particular mythology that it is drawing from. It’s one of those shows that constructs its own mythology from various other mythologies. The only time I ever get annoyed with Buffy is when they interpret Bible passages, because they usually interpret them so wrong that it kind of makes me laugh. That being said, they do interpret biblical passages in a way that fits their own personal mythology though. So again, Buffy is really more borrowing from various mythologies than being true to just one.

What really bothers me is their use of crosses and Halloween. Really all vampire movies and shows that employ the cross mythology does this, but it still bothers me. The cross repels vampires. Why? Nobody knows or at least no one explains. Buffy always wears a cross, but only as protection, not any real belief. I think I would be okay with the cross repelling vampires if all holy symbols did the same thing. Like if the Star of David, or a statue of Krishna would also repel and burn vampires, it could be viewed as a sign that all the good forces in the universe condemn the evil vampires. But this only works with crosses, which is never explained and no preference for Christianity is ever expressed in the show. To me this just makes it confusing. Just because there is magic in a show doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules. The magic should at least kind of make sense.

Halloween is another thing in Buffy that bothers me. The supernatural takes a night off on Halloween, but this is never explained either. I have a theory that it is because Halloween is actually All Hallows Eve, which comes before All Saints Day, a Christian holiday. Halloween, whether Pagan or Christian, has some religious significance, but any connection to those faiths is swept under the rug, leaving those of us who pay attention to things like that perplexed.

Supernatural:

Until season four and the introduction of beautiful, perfect-in-every-way Castiel, Supernatural would often annoy me. Supernatural draws on Pagan and Judeo-Christian mythology, but I would argue it draws more on the Judeo-Christian mythology (especially in later seasons). What would drive me crazy wasn’t so much that they used these magical Christian objects to fight evil, but that they would use them and then assert that not only was there no God, but there was no good higher power at all. What?! Okay, Sam believed in God and angels, but Dean never did. Dean didn’t even believe in Lucifer until season four. And while this may be in character for Sam to believe and Dean not to, it drove me crazy that Dean wouldn’t believe and then use a Latin exorcism, invoke the name of Christ to reveal demons, use rosaries, holy water, and devils traps to fight off demons. Where do you think that stuff comes from, Dean? Why would invoking Christ’s name work on demons if there is no God? Why would holy water work if there aren’t any good forces in the universe? Did the demons get together with the hunters one day and just agree that certain things would be allowed to hurt them? While the show eventually fixed this with the introduction of the angels and revealing that God does exist, those first three seasons will always be endlessly frustrating for me because that.

There are more shows like this, but this is all we have time for right now. Feel free to tell me about other shows, movies, books, etc. that do this. And feel free to point out how pop culture does this with other religions besides Christianity.

And as always, tune in next time and get some religion!

Fanfiction Fridays: Howabout a crossover?

I avoid crossover fic like the plague. It just takes so much to be done right, and I have gotten finicky about what I’ll actually spend time reading these days.

So here’s the backstory to the discovery of this fic: When I was about 13, I read all the existing Les Miserables fanfic on the internet. Like literally all of it. A few months ago, I realized that the Archive of Our Own (aka AO3), being a relatively new fanfiction archive, might have untapped Mizzie fanfic for the reading, and I happily wandered over to their Les Mis section.

Imagine my confusion when, amidst all the sad stories of doomed gay revolutionary love, I discovered this title:

“The Host Club’s Refreshing Interdimensional Tour

It… it couldn’t be.

Did they mean… Ouran High School‘s host club?

Oh, yes, they did.

The premise of this beautiful work of staggering beauty: Tamaki, having been unfortunately allowed to watch some sci-fi, decides he wants a time machine. A staggering investment of Ohtori funds later, the club finds themselves with a dimension-hopping vehicle, which they dub “Super-Delicious Strawberry Cake, since no one can think of a good reason to object”.

They visit (among other stories) the Enterprise circa Star Trek TOS, Sunnydale, the Fire Nation, the Andes ofThe Emperor’s New Groove, and Amestris, wreaking havoc and leaving greatness in their wake.

This fic is great for a number of reasons: the characterization is spot-on, making it seem like this is just a lost episode of OHSHC that never aired. The writing is clever and often hilarious, and the situations presented are goofy but perfect. (Honey and Mori fight in the 1832 June Rebellion for the revolutionaries, with whom half-French Tamaki sympathizes extraordinarily, hence why this was tagged in the Les Mis section of AO3.)

Anyway, this fic is perfect and hilarious and you should all go read it now. Find it here at the Archive of Our Own.

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: The Divine Feminine

Women often get screwed when it comes to being a Christ figure. Sure, if I was watching a movie about the actual historical person of Christ I would be a bit confused if Jesus was cast as a woman, but a Christ figure is just that, a figure. I don’t think anyone but perhaps crazed religious extremists would protest Aslan being a lioness instead of a lion, but alas, Christ was a man so I don’t blame anyone for constantly casting Christ figures as male. There is no harm in that and completely understandable. It does, however, leave another divine role open to women, one that doesn’t have a gender.

It’s been said that portrayals of God are often a white male. While this may be true in religious iconography, I don’t know if it’s fair to say the same about pop culture. In recent years, God has on occasion been black and even a woman once or twice; so pop culture has been branching out. Before that, while God was occasionally a white male, for the most part God was a disembodied voice or hand (think Monty Python or The Ten Commandments). Many times, God wouldn’t appear at all but would be an unseen, unknowable force, seemingly moving the events of the story (think Good Omens).

Women have been portrayed as God a few times, but for the most part we get what I call “a taste of the divine.” Women get an opportunity to touch or commune with the divine, but they don’t stay that way and often return to their normal human states after.

Rose Tyler of Dr. Who goes through one such touch with the divine in the season finale of Dr. Who in 2005 when she absorbs the heart of the Tardis.

To give you a bit of background I have only just finished watching the episodes of Dr. Who with the 9th Doctor. So if there is later information that I do not mention it’s because I’m not aware of it.

Anyway, Rose absorbs the heart of the Tardis and promptly becomes a conduit for God. Rose looks into the time vortex, which the Doctor explains that no one is supposed to see. He further tells her that if she doesn’t stop she’ll burn. This is very reflected of instances in the Old Testament where someone encounters God and is changed by or even dies by it. In this way, the Tardis appears much like the Arc of the Covenant, which the ancient Jews believed was the seat of the God. God is physically present in the Arc and anyone who looks upon or touches it that is not supposed to dies. The Doctor warns Rose that she is not meant to see the time vortex and is worried that Rose will burn up, but Rose manages to hold on long enough to destroy false gods (the Dalek emperor) and resurrect the dead.

Rose Tyler: I want you safe, my Doctor. Protected from the false God.

Emperor Dalek: You cannot hurt me. I am immortal.

Rose Tyler: You are tiny. I can see the whole of time and space, every single atom of your existence, and I divide them. Everything must come to dust. All things, everything dies.

This quote 1) shows Rose’s ability to see all things the way many imagine God. She sees the big picture. 2) Rose destroys a false God, which is a theme often depicted in the Bible. In the final line, Rose actually discusses the creation of all things reflecting Genesis 3:19. “…for you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Finally, Rose restores life to those who have died and, despite the Doctor’s begging, seems unwilling to let the power go. Though it doesn’t seem to be because she is power hungry, but rather she doesn’t want to let go of this connection. Many Catholic and Orthodox saints who have claimed to experience the power of God describe it as touching ecstasy. Rose seems only able to let go after the Doctor describes his own experience feeling what Rose does. (And for those of you wondering, yes, the Doctor is something of a God figure too. I’ll get to him later.)

In the end, Rose let’s go of the power and remembers nothing, again implying that the power and awe of this divinity is too great for human Rose to comprehend. Well, not without dying anyway.

Buffy is another character that touches the divine and is even something of a Christ figure. Yes, Buffy dies to save the whole world and then rises from the dead, but I hope that last week’s talk on Christ figures has made you realize there is more to Christ figures then simple resurrection. After all, Spike died and rose again, but we’d hardly call him a Christ figure. Let’s call Buffy a pseudo-Christ figure, though Buffy does have her own touches with the divine. In the finale of season four, Buffy faces off against the Frankenstein-like monster Adam. Adam may be my absolute least favorite Buffy villain, but how Buffy defeats him is probably the coolest. Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles realize that the only way to stop him is to use a Sumerian enjoining spell to combine their power.

It’s worth mentioning here that Buffy, unlike most other fantasy/horror shows, draws on the Judeo-Christian tradition notably less. But let’s break this little spell down. It’s Sumerian, one of the first and greatest human civilizations. One could argue humanity started there—creation started there. Who creates? That’s right, God. Buffy does combine with Willow, Xander, and Giles, and Joss Whedon has even mentioned that this was to show the power and closeness of their relationship. One tradition in ancient Jewish and Christian culture was that God’s body was comprised of all people. In this way, God was all races, all genders. In other words, God was everything and humans were all just a tiny piece of God. Buffy and her Scooby Gang enjoining, in their combined strength, could be viewed as a larger piece of God.

In fact, the same things happen to Buffy as they did Rose. Buffy glows, especially her eyes, she turns death to life by turning Adam’s bullets into doves (Holy Spirit symbolism… maybe?), and seems to see the same bigger picture that Rose did.

Adam: How can you…?

UberBuffy: You can never hope to grasp the source of our power. But yours is right here.

She then proceeds to destroy the false god Adam, who was going to destroy humans by creating a new race of composite monsters, by removing his power source.

So these are some women who have communed with God and been a part of God, but hey, sometimes those women don’t need to commune with God, because they are God.

In the movie The Fifth Element, Leeloo is created by the Mondoshawns, a race of aliens, to defeat evil when combined with four elemental stones, thus obviously, making Leeloo the fifth one. Leeloo is created perfect and often called the Supreme Being. As a feminist, I always got a kick out of this movie, because of the constant assertion from people that don’t know Leeloo assuming the Supreme Being was a man. There is definitely a very obvious commentary here about female empowerment and God as feminine by the creators.

From a theological perspective, however, as much as I love this movie it can be damn well confusing. The religion in this movie is all over the place. Leeloo is created by these other aliens, yet she is the Supreme Being. Are those aliens gods? To create a Supreme Being you would assume they’d have to be. Or are they creating a body for God to inhabit in the same way that the Virgin Mary said yes and allowed God to be born through her. Furthermore, the idea that Leeloo could not defeat evil (evil here being this giant intelligent dark planet which only has the intent to destroy) without the stones (the four elements) limits her Godlike powers. If she is the Supreme Being couldn’t she just defeat the evil anyway? She doesn’t seem that powerful either. She has one fight scene in the whole movie, is later saved by Bruce Willis’s character, and then after realizing he loves her, saves the world, because love is worth protecting even if humanity tends to screw up. She defeats evil with the light of creation, but seems to have little to no control over it and it takes everything out of her.

The priest who is with Leeloo seems like he is part of another sect of Christianity. He makes the sign of the cross and still refers to a God or Lord throughout the movie, but calls Leeloo the Supreme Being and guides her through our world. Leeloo never has a big picture moment. In fact, she seems to know nothing about the world and spends a large chunking of the movie going through human history on the computer.

At this point, I have to conclude, that despite Leeloo and others constant assertions that Leeloo is the Supreme Being, she’s not, not really. I’m guessing more a super-powered human used, once again, as a conduit for the divine with the help of the stones. She may be perfect, but really she’s a perfect vessel, not God. This does not make me think this movie is any less awesome or any less a feminist narrative. It has its problems, but doesn’t everything. Leeloo may not be God, but she is still worth watching.

There is one female character that I know with absolute certainty is God.

God in Dogma is a woman. That’s just fact. It’s clear this God can take other vessels, but God’s actual gender in this movie is spelled out as being female. While that’s not theologically accurate because God has no gender and every gender at the same time, it is a refreshing change of pace. This God is completely and utterly powerful, awe-inspiring, but yet funny and relatable. She has a sense of humor about Her creations and Her plans, while still being powerful enough to see the bigger and to have greater plans in the first place.

It endlessly annoys me that a movie most Christian groups heavily criticized actually has an awesome portrayal of the feminine God and asks good theological questions. Dogma was a great movie about God and faith. You should keep an open mind and watch it.

I suppose now you all want me to talk about the male portrayals of God. Well, I need a break from God right now. What? Talking about God is hard. God is unknowable, after all. So what can we talk about next week if not God? It has to be something big, something that connects all people no matter what religion or philosophy. Hmm… oh, I know! The one thing all people fear to some extent.

Next time on Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: O Death!

Tune in next week and—die! Uh… I mean get some religion…

Top 20 Romantic Couples in Geekdom (10 Canon/10 Fanon)

Those of us here at LGG&F worked tirelessly to compile and vote on the Top 10 canon and Top 10 fanon pairings in Geekdom. You have no idea how hard it was to come to a consensus on what was actually canon or not!

Continue reading