Sexualized Saturdays: Matriarchy Shouldn’t Just Be Patriarchy-But-With-Women

Our society has a poor relationship with gender, which is bad for reality, but gets interesting in fiction. This dynamic is pushed to some possible conclusion in works such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Bitch Planet, or Stepford Wives. In these stories, the degrading treatment of women in the present day becomes far more explicit and sinister. We aren’t just looking at microaggressions and lower pay, but being forced into servitude or stripped of all agency. Stories like these are both good cautionary tales and thought experiments, and they can more easily highlight some of the harder-to-see marginalizations women face. But sometimes, an author wants to shock the audience by flipping the gendered treatment of the characters. In some stories, we get to see matriarchal societies and how they tend to operate, which is useful for examining our own biases. But whenever I see these, I wonder if this is how things would actually go.

A month or so ago, we saw some of the drafts for a Wonder Woman movie penned by Joss Whedon. To put it lightly, it caught some flak. Within the droves of criticism, some commenters pointed out that Diana would most likely not resort to insulting someone by telling them to “be man enough.” First off, she was previously unfamiliar with the concept of men in general. Second, as an Amazon her frame of what is strong would include only women. So if anything, she would say to “woman up,” but again, the gender thing wouldn’t come up the same way, because she doesn’t even know men existed. Third, would a society completely comprised of women still value strength as one of its key tenets and judge someone’s value on their bravery and toughness? For a warrior society, maybe, but not necessarily. Would their values be roughly the same as our more patriarchal society, just with a gender flip? I started thinking about it, and then I got to thinking about other times this theme caught my attention.

Content warning for sexism and assault below.

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How About No: Why a Firefly Reboot Is Probably a Terrible Idea

There was a bit of a splash last week when it was revealed that Fox might, finally, be interested in revisiting the Firefly property. The word used was “reboot”, not revival or renewal, but the company’s apparent make-or-break factor was that they would only revisit it if Joss Whedon was interested in coming back to run the whole deal. Presumably, eternally optimistic Browncoats everywhere raised a cheer of joy, their hope renewed. But should Firefly come back to the airwaves?

Frankly, I think that’s a terrible idea.

Well, to be clearer, it’s a terrible idea unless they address the various and sundry deeply problematic problems that the original series had. The issue I’m coming up against is this: I suspect that eliminating all of these problems would make a show that barely resembles the beloved-by-many original. The show suffered from a variety of racisms with a strong sexist undercurrent, and these were not so much vague issues as they were built into the worldbuilding of the show, deep down in the foundations. Let’s get digging, shall we?

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Joss Whedon, Driven Off Twitter by “Feminazis?” Um, No.

Gentle Readers,

A couple of days ago, Joss Whedon left Twitter. Packed up his bags and went, leaving us with this final tweet:

JossLastTweetThat’s kind of a shame. Joss has long been a writer/producer/dreamer of some of my favorite ideas and I really enjoyed his little corner of my Twitter feed. But what is much more important than that is why he left. After Age of Ultron was released, Joss received a non-trivial amount of Twitter vitriol, which you can investigate here, about the portrayal of Black Widow in the film. I had some issues, but nothing I want to get into here, and certainly nothing I want to scream into Twitter about. But what’s remarkable was the assumption that these tweets were the reason that Joss left Twitter. The article I just linked above, at time of writing, assumes that to be true, it seems.

More importantly, it was lent credibility by Patton Oswalt tweeting:

Yep. There is a “Tea Party” equivalent of progressivism/liberalism. And they just chased Joss Whedon off Twitter. Good job, guys. Ugh.

—Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 4, 2015

You know, I was really bothered by Black Widow’s characterization in Age of Ultron. I thought she was simpering and her on-screen time was wasted. I thought that attempts to show a softer side of her just made her feel a little less relevant, and made me wonder if Joss Whedon really understands the word “feminism”. The prima nocta joke just wasn’t funny, much less in good taste or appropriate anywhere, really. But does it make me want Joss Whedon to rot in hell?

Does it make me want to curse him out on Twitter, to fill his feed with profanities so that he knows that he’ll never work again in this business?

Eh. Probably not. But just the same, all people who respect free speech on the Internet should be ashamed that Joss Whedon was driven off Twitter.

There is just a single solitary problem with that: he wasn’t. In Whedon’s own words: “That is horseshit.”  Continue reading

Was Avengers: Age of Ultron as Good as Its Predecessor?

avengers_age_of_ultron_2015So, you all knew it was coming sooner or later: my review of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I have already seen the movie twice, but unlike its predecessor, I probably won’t hit the thirteen-showings mark with Avengers 2. Even though I enjoyed parts of it, it was weaker than the original Avengers on almost every level.

Hella spoilers after the jump.

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You Can’t Take The Sky From Me: Racebending the Firefly Universe

fireflyBack in 2002, you may have watched a little old show called Firefly. It was a Joss Whedon brainchild, a unique sci-fi show that tried to mesh together Asian and Western cultures as a backdrop for space cowboys. No, really. Whatever the case, Firefly became known as a show with a Sino-American background, as evidenced by its Asian/Western aesthetic and the phrases of Mandarin Chinese used right alongside the English in the dialogue. However, one major question remains: why were there never any Asian characters of note in all the episodes or the movie?

In the commentary for the Firefly movie Serenity, it’s stated that China and the U.S. were the two superpowers who took the human race to the stars, and so, by the time the series starts, these two cultures have merged into the default “human” culture. However, if the two cultures really merged, one would expect them to, well, merge—the prevailing theory that the Asians settled on the richer central planets instead of the poorer ones in the Outer Rim doesn’t hold water, because no ethnicity is inherently smarter or better than another. Asians should have been on all planets, rich or poor.

firefly mal chopsticksWhich brings us to our main cast. There were only a couple of extras who were Asian, which is a shame in and of itself, but none of our main cast—Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Inara, Jayne, Shepard Book, or Simon and River Tam—were Asian. So we’re left with a bunch of mainly white characters who all speak some amount of Mandarin Chinese, use chopsticks, and dress up in Asian-inspired clothes and hairstyles. Without an Asian character in the cast and without Asian values reflected in the storytelling, this little bit of otherwise creative worldbuilding smacks of cultural appropriation.

Fortunately, however, Firefly is an old show with a huge fandom (hello, Browncoats), and many of them have written extremely nuanced and articulate posts on why Firefly’s cultural appropriation is a big problem. So I won’t go into that here. It did occur to me, though, that Firefly’s problem could easily have been fixed by racebending. That is, the producers could easily have changed one or more of the characters’ ethnicities so that they were Asian. But which ones would be best?

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Theatre Thursdays: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

Geez oh man, you guys, I really dropped the ball on reviewing this one. I told you about the trailer back in April of last year, and I brought you news of its production all the way back in May of 2012, so it’s been a long road. In fairness, I live in a pretty hick town, so I missed the chance to see its very limited theatrical run. Either way, the long wait is over! I finally got my hands on a copy and, without further ado (pun unintended), let’s get down to what I thought.

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Industry InJustice

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You know what was great? Teen Titans. While I don’t need to make a list of reasons why Teen Titans was great, I could throw a couple at you. Starfire wasn’t a walking sex toy. A skilled writing staff managed to write jokes that made me laugh without wanting to put my head into a desk. Cyborg was clearly Black, but not an Erkel or a thug. Then there was Terra, who presented complicated notions of heroism, loyalty, and betrayal for a young audience. There was also the Puffy Am—shut up!—Puffy Amiyumi theme song. All of these things and others made for a great show. But it went the way of the dinosaur. If you ask Wil Wheaton, that was because the season 6 pitch didn’t go over favorably with the execs.

That’s the way it is with television shows. Many great shows are here today, gone tomorrow. Despite the efforts of many a Kickstarter or online petition, it takes much more than a vocal and obsessive fanbase to convince a company to reverse the decision to terminate a show. See: Firefly (which, by the way, was a decade ago, so maybe we should just let that wound heal). So many different things go into the cancellation of a show because it takes the cooperation of actors, animators if a show is animated, the owners of the creative property, production companies, etc., and I recognize that these things happen, but the cancellation of Young Justice genuinely broke my heart. There aren’t that many DC properties that I’ve ever really been into, so it was sad to see a critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning, mature, and compelling show disappear. That’s all right; I will learn to love again.

But the other day I was listening to Kevin Smith’s Fat Man on Batman podcast, which is a goldmine, and he was interviewing Paul Dini. Dini is a writer with a long career and a longer resume, and he has written for a show you like, no question. Dini gave a rather troubling answer as to why Young Justice was cancelled, along with other shows like Tower PrepApparently, those shows are too mature. They appeal to audiences that prefer complexity, and apparently those audiences don’t buy toys. Now, I acknowledge that televisions often live and die on advertising and merchandising. But there’s something much more disturbing in his answer. There’s a transcript here, and if you read far enough down you’ll encounter this comment about studio executives: Continue reading