For this installment of Throwback Thursdays, I decided to revisit Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)—the first installment in the Indiana Jones trilogy—since I didn’t realize how long rewatching the whole trilogy would take. The movie trilogy and the character of Indiana Joneswere some of my formative influences as a child. I dreamed of unlocking the world’s mysteries and these movies showed an academic leading a glamorous life of adventure, hunting mysterious artifacts and overcoming difficulties using his knowledge and reasoning powers. However, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark as an adult rather requires that I turn my brain off if I want to actually enjoy it because of the number of glaring issues regarding racial and cultural representation, as well as gendered character tropes.
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.
Last week Ace reviewedStranger Things, the runaway Netflix hit. It’s a fabulous sci-fi show quickly gathering what should in time turn into a cult following. The sci-fi-horror-mystery story follows the mysterious disappearance of young Will Byers (and others), the efforts of his family and friends to rescue him, and the mysterious government authorities that want to keep everything covered up. It’s a show that truly pays homage to the spirit of 1980s television and movie tropes, without making the show feel cheap. Most of the time, when a story utilizes a lot of tropes, it’s not a good thing. Usually tropes mean that characters are flat and stereotyped, plots are predictable and boring, and more often than not anyone outside the “straight WASP male” gets shafted. What I find truly remarkable about Stranger Things is its ability to (for the most part) navigate the divide between using familiar tropes and not indulging in sloppy, harmful stereotypes. Take, for example, the way the show treats its female characters.
I love female superheroes, I love female heroes with tragic backstories and redemption arcs. Basically, I love female heroes. They’re great because they don’t conform to traditional female character roles of being quiet damsels in distress, and they show women as complex characters with stories and goals. However, while they break the mold of traditional female character narratives, these characters still overwhelmingly conform to heteronormative societal standards of beauty, gender presentation and sexuality.
So, while we should celebrate all awesome female characters, we should also be mindful of the heteronormative ideas that these characters reinforce and what type of character could challenge them even further. To put it bluntly, I want to see butch queer (super)heroines, but they‘re near impossible to find.
I mean, I’m not one for princess fantasies, usually, but even I would love to be a space princess.
Lately, I’ve grown so tired of watching male “chosen ones” and “jerks with the heart of gold” save the day and get the girl. Representation matters, and girls want to be chosen ones too, and not just princesses in distress. Women are allowed to hate the world and be brilliant while reluctantly saving the day. And we should be able to see ourselves, our stories, and our fantasies reflected on screen too. I’m always on the lookout for female characters subverting generally male character tropes, and today I would like to tell you about some of them and why they matter.