American Gods Review: A Fascinating Glimpse at Gods Walking the Earth

american-gods-coverI’m not generally a fan of horror, and while Neil Gaiman perhaps isn’t specifically writing horror, his fantastical worlds are often quite scary. However, I love literary explorations of mythology, faith, life, and death, and most of his writing, from The Sandman to The Graveyard Book, deals with these themes in one way or another. As such, I’ve been meaning to read American Gods for a rather long time. With the TV adaptation of this book fast approaching, I finally picked it up. Gaiman succeeds, as always, at setting the perfect atmosphere and at creating mysterious characters. However, although I love the exploration of mythological and religious themes, there are also a couple of things that prevented me from completely falling in love with this book. I will delve into all of it below.

Spoilers for American Gods (the author’s preferred text version) to follow.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Where Are My Butch Queer Heroines?

supergirl

The epitome of a female hero?

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.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Gendered Powers in the X-Men

I’ll be up-front: I love superpowers. Sometimes I peruse this article just for funsies. There’s a few shows out there I watched that didn’t have any element of the supernatural or paranormal (Dawson’s Creek always comes to mind), but my very favorites tend to revolve around the superly powered, from Buffy and Charmed to today’s Teen Wolf. I trace my love of these types to early exposure to the world of The X-Men, the original superpowered team, who continue to hold a special place in my heart. Follow me after the jump as I look at some of the intersections of gender and superpowers in the comics of the X-Folk.

Mini dresses, a must-have for any superheroine in the 1960s.

Mini dresses, a must-have for any superheroine in the 1960s.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Repair Her Armor

webcrush picIf you’ve ever read any science fiction, played any video games, watched any anime, or if you’ve just generally seen any Escher Girl-like drawings, you know that women in pop culture are typically designed with the male gaze in mind. That is to say, they’re normally drawn in unrealistic poses and terrible costumes in order to cater to the tastes of straight heterosexual guys. (Dom even did a post on this recently.) That’s why sites like Repair Her Armor are so important. Much along the same lines as The Hawkeye Initiative, Repair Her Armor attempts to show uncreative designers the error of their ways through collective group shame:

This blog is dedicated to show and change the looks of ridiculous female armors (and other outfits) that women tend to have in media; such as games and comics. The purpose is to show that over-sexualized women is not “empowering”, but clearly offensive and ridiculous – not to mention it’s also clearly out of context. We’ll also show that their clothes could be greatly improved with a touch of common sense, equality and character.

In other words, Repair Her Armor goes by the idea that even small changes to an outfit or design can be much better (and make much more sense) than whatever the original is. They also accept submissions for characters who don’t have armor in their source material and spotlight existing good costumes for both men and women, among other such things. Some of my favorite RHA armor redesigns are below the cut!

Warning: possible NSFW images past this point.

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Generation Avex: Girl’s Day’s ‘Female President’

It never ceases to amaze me that in my time of need I happen upon perfect opportunities just by chance. Today, I have to sincerely thank my beloved K-pop fansister/dongsaeng for today’s article, and what an article it is. Girl pop group Girl’s Day just recently released a song titled Female President that encourages girl power and other such sentiments, a noble goal, especially in an industry so inundated with traditional gender roles. However, there’s much arguing about whether or not this is in fact what Girl’s Day is promoting. I went into this song completely blind, so I’ll allow you, readers, the same kindness.

Honestly, I can see what they were trying to go for, but overall I cannot say that I feel particularly empowered by this song or that the general principle of the song is empowering. The entire message of the song is: girls, if you like a boy, it’s totally cool to kiss him first and take a more dominant role in the relationship. It’s a small step, the idea of breaking free of traditional gender roles in relationships is an important idea to present to the youth listening to this song. But, outside of the lyrics, I don’t believe Girl’s Day does anywhere near a good enough job of reinforcing this thought process. This sentiment has nothing to do with their outfits in the video—which aren’t to my tastes, but they aren’t any big thing—it has to do completely with the way the video is shot.

Most importantly, and most bizarrely, there are no actual males in this video. Trust me, they’re not trying to be progressive in a non-heteronormative front simply because it wouldn’t sell to a wider audience. So for a video that’s trying to promote the idea of taking charge in a relationship, why wouldn’t they have any males for the girls to be taking charge with? I think that the fact that the only “male” in this video is portrayed by a girl reveals the answer all too clearly: despite whatever intentions Girl’s Day had when writing the song, the end product is just another male fantasy. There’s no actual male because 1), it would cause problems for the male fans to see their favorite girls act that way with a real dude, and 2), the video isn’t really about females taking control, but the illusion of taking control.

Does this count as partial queerbating too, or…?

Does this count as partial queerbating too, or…?

Think of it as a video about one of the many tough girl tropes. This girl likes to be in control, do what she wants, but at the end of the day she’s still fawning over that dude and her strength evaporates because ‘the man’ has finally come into her life. There is no man in the video because it would be difficult to pretend that a guy could still reach the squishy-sweet submissive center of the tough girl if she was acting so dominant towards a real guy. By acting out this power fantasy with another woman, it still leaves it in the realms of fantasy for male viewers.

A bigger problem than that, however, is how the video is shot as a whole. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here, I 110% believe that women should be able to Girls Day Female Presidentdress however they want. Period. But when the first shot of the video is someone presumably stripping, and re-creating Flashdance behind a screen, it really makes me question the whole “empowerment” thing. Again, there’s nothing wrong with strippers or anything like that, but everything from the camera angles to the dance moves screams “male gaze.” In the end, the video is still made for the men watching it rather than the girls that are supposed to be empowered by it.

Also, for those who didn’t know, South Korea did elect their first female president, Geun-Hye Park, in February of this year. So there is an actual basis for this song. I really do think it’s great that an all-girl band wants to take an amazing event and further empower the female youth of their country to step up and realize that they can be just as powerful as any man. However, I wish that the song could have just been a general ‘girl power’ song rather than being about kissing boys.

If you only listen to the song, I think it’s fine for the most part: the hook is catchy as hell and while the lyrics don’t aspire to any great heights, it’s a start. The video is where it truly begins to fall apart in my eyes, as it seems to become more about the dudes than the ladies.

Rin Plays: Scarlet Blade

(Warning: the images in this post are NSFW)

I planned to write an article on this MMO while I was still playing it. Unfortunately, it seems as though the honeymoon period with this piece of work was shorter than I anticipated. As such, let’s consider this a postmortem judgment on our time together Scarlet Blade, and no, we are never ever getting back together.

Scarlet-BladeScarlet Blade takes place in the distant future where regular humans have all but been wiped from existence and instead we have Commanders, Arkana, and the baddies. Arkana are perfect beings forged by the one called ‘Mother’ to bring peace to the planet, but working for peace also means working only off the filtered information Mother gives you. Those that choose to fight under Mother’s militaristic rule and her protection become members of the Royal Guards, while the revolutionaries who value freedom and autonomy over all else fight under the name of Free Knights. However, there is corruption and betrayal on both sides of which the Arkana must unravel.

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So You Want to Read Comic Books 2.0: Fearless Defenders Review

comic_book_banner111I feel like I have been waiting all my life for an all-female Marvel team comic. Marvel doesn’t have the best history with female led titles. They cancelled some of their most popular titles like X-23 and She-Hulk, and some never even make it to a shelf when Marvel gets too nervous about “taking a risk” with a female-led title.

Because Marvel is less likely to take chances on new titles, for the longest time DC Comics has been wiping the floor with Marvel in terms of female-led titles. DC has always had THE female comic with Wonder Woman, but has followed that title up with other consistent female led titles like Birds of Prey, Batwoman, Batgirl, Supergirl, and several others. When it comes to female representation in comics, Marvel tends to pale in comparison—until now.

Recently, Marvel has been stepping up their game with titles like Captain Marvel, Red She-Hulk, and Journey into Mystery. Now finally, Marvel is giving us an all-female superhero team with Fearless Defenders!

Right now, the team is more of a duo as the comic writers attempt to set up and build the team. In this first issue, we meet heroes Valkyrie and Misty Knight who fight mercenaries and zombies. Hell yeah!

I personally never really knew much about Valkyrie and Misty Knight before this comic. I only knew a little of Valkyrie from Thor. Apparently, these characters were chosen to introduce the fans to some minor, but awesome characters.

We have a diverse cast developing with Misty Knight as an awesome black female character, while Valkyrie and Annabelle Riggs, an archaeologist and friend of Misty’s, seem to both be queer characters. The comic even provides us with an awesome lesbian kiss between Valkyrie and Annabelle.

The story is awesome and well written. It moves at a fast pace, keeping the reader entertained. Cullen Bunn, the writer, provides a feel for the characters so that readers who have never heard of Misty Knight or Valkyrie won’t be terribly confused.

My only and, quite honestly, biggest problem is with the art. The cover art is to die for, and I really wish Mark Brooks would have done the art for the comic book as well. Will Sliney, the main artist, constantly gives the characters annoying poses worthy of the Hawkeye Initiative, especially to poor Misty Knight who is really over-sexualized.

Aside from the sexist poses, I just really don’t like the art. During the awesome lesbian kiss I noticed that Valkyrie’s hand was really poorly drawn and defined. Her fingers were clumped together making her hand look like that of a Barbie doll.

But please, please, please, don’t let the art scare you away. Fearless Defenders truly is an awesome comic and it needs to be supported if Marvel is going to continue to publish it. It has diversity and a great story. It’s definitely a comic worth picking up.