Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is quite possibly one of my favorite games. Released in 2003 for the PS2, I found the game to be extremely well made and fun, even though the story did have some problems. Also, a couple of the voice actors are really bad. Like, exceedingly ear-bleeding bad. That said, overall, this game is certainly better than Star Ocean: The Last Hope. Not only does Till the End of Time really go out of its way to develop its worlds, it doesn’t rely on or subject its characters to pointless and offensive stereotypes. While this game does follow a male protagonist and was clearly marketed to boys, I can’t quite say that there was ever a time when the roles given to the female characters made me groan in disbelief and annoyance.
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.
One of the very first in-depth conversations I ever had with my college roommate was about Legally Blonde. We’d both seen the movie before, so when it came up when we were flipping through channels, it was something we were both willing to procrastinate our homework over. Elle went to Harvard and won her case, and at the end of it all I turned to my roommate and said, “I always hated that Elle won her case because of some hair care thing.”
“Really?” she said back. “I always liked it because of that—I liked that she didn’t have to entirely change who she was in order to succeed.”
Fast forward many years, and I’ve come around to my roommate’s way of thinking. We often think of badass ladies as ladies who succeed, in some way, in a masculine field—the only woman in the cast of an action movie, or the only female scientist, or so on and so forth. These ladies succeed because they’ve proven themselves the best, or at least competent, in a field that is held in high esteem by men. When a woman succeeds because of her gender or gender expression, it’s more a form of weaponized sexuality—a woman is able to seduce a man or confound him in some way with flirtatious behavior.
However, it’s rarer that we ever see a woman succeed because of her life experience as a woman. Though all genders can use products marketed to women, it’s often women or people assigned female at birth who grow up with the societal obligation to not only use things like cosmetics or hair care products, but also to become excellent at using them as a form of gender expression. In other words, using these products proves that one is truly “a woman”. Women are constantly told that they should aim to be the “after” photo in the makeover story, but are constantly shamed for their knowledge—women who use lots of makeup are deemed “high-maintenance” or “spoiled”. Yet women who don’t use makeup are seen as not caring about their appearances. It’s basically a lose-lose situation.
So that gets us into something that we usually don’t see in media—weaponized femininity. This differs from weaponized sexuality—a woman is not confounding her enemy with sensuality, but rather, is using the tools of her societal-prescribed gender expression—cosmetics and the like—to win battles.
Sexualized Saturdays: A Genderqueer Take on Slash Fanfiction. Pan reflects on their experience with slash fanfiction.
As a genderqueer person I’m fairly certain that my own experience with slash fanfiction differs somewhat from the norm. Only recently have I begun reflecting on how formative both writing and reading fanfiction was at a time in my life when I felt isolated and frustrated by my own seemingly incongruous feelings. Knowing now that there are a surprising number of people for whom the gender binary doesn’t hold true, I like to think that for some small portion of the fan community fanfiction has been an important tool for self-discovery, as it was for me.
Sexualized Saturdays: Teen Wolf and the Turmoils of Male Puberty. Pisces talks about how the cis male werewolf experience is analogous to the cis male puberty experience.
Lycanthropy also serves as a metaphor for the inherent state of physical transition and transformation that is a defining part of puberty. For most able-bodied, non-chronically ill people, puberty is the first time we actively feel out of control of our bodies (potty training notwithstanding). The changes are sudden, violent, bizarre; simple changes in height are nothing compared to the fundamental, irreversible changes to the character and nature of our bodies that happen during puberty. It’s rooted in the same basis that makes all body horror so terrifying—the involuntary changing of and lack of control over the body.
Werewolves have never really been the most popular monster; they’re usually second fiddle to vampires or zombies. I suppose there’s some sense to that. Vampires are sexy romantics and zombie hoards are harbingers of the apocalypse. Werewolves usually act alone, and, outside of Twilight and Teen Wolf, aren’t typically portrayed as having much sex appeal. In 1941, The Wolf Man became the first successful werewolf film. Our monster has a furry face, spreads his affliction through biting others, kills people, and is ultimately killed by his own silver walking stick. He’s monstrous, not sexy. We can understand why vampires and zombies scare us, too. Vampires might represent a powerful person draining us of our own power for personal gain. Zombies drawn on our fear of pandemics and the ignorant masses destroying those of us just trying to survive. But what about werewolves? The most common answer I find is that werewolves speak to the changes a teenager experiences during puberty. Pisces already explored how this dynamic works in Teen Wolf. But if that’s the case, then where are all the female werewolves?
I’ve been reading Marvel’s Thor comics since long before the movie came out. I think I was immediately captured by Thor’s and Loki’s stories since I viewed them as an opportunity to learn more about Norse mythology. After reading the comics for a few years and then finally seeing the first live-action film, I started picking up books on actual Norse mythology and even read the Edda at one point.
It was then that I realized that my original assumption—that I could learn about Norse mythology through Marvel’s Thor—was not the best assumption to make. There are still many things about the comics that are in line with actual mythology, and before studying the Edda I did know that there would be some differences between the two narratives. After all, I didn’t think it was quite a big deal that Marvel made Thor blond instead of redheaded.
However, it didn’t occur to me before reading the Edda just how vastly different they would both be. Marvel even went so far as to change Asgardian culture to reflect beauty standards today, with very little regard to actual Norse ideals, especially when it comes to gender roles.
Before we get into this, I should point out that reading about Norse mythology and the Edda by no means makes me an expert on the subject. So please feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong.
Usually I’m an easygoing person, but one thing that gets under my skin is “kitchen jokes”. Partly because someone actually thinks they’re being clever, and in my opinion, they’re ironic. As a woman who has been working in food service for seven years now, I’m not blind to “men only” kitchens in restaurants. The general reason for this seems to be “because women can’t handle the pressure and the workload”. I know that that excuse is complete malarkey, but I don’t understand why it seems to be a continuing trend, especially in the media. Women are portrayed as home cooks, and not as professional chefs. On television there are many examples of serious female chefs. There’s Cat Cora, who’s still the only female Iron Chef in America. Julia Child, one of the first chefs ever televised in America, is famous for her influence in culinary arts. If we have women on TV who can be professional chefs, why can’t this be more common in fictional mediums?