I’ve always loved the movie Jumanji, although I’m definitely aware of its problems. And as always, I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to reboots—but I’ve already got a few concerns about this one.
As I recently read S. Jae-Jones’s YA novel Wintersong, I noticed something troubling. The book seemed designed to appeal to me: it was a fantasy romance with strong (really strong) inspiration from both the movie Labyrinth and my favorite poem, Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market. However, something about Liesl, the main character, bugged me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because I thought that, in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017, we had done away with the “not like other girls” trope.
It’s a tale as old as time: a girl who’s just ~not like~ the other girls around her, against all odds, wins the day. These stories are appealing to us because these girls are framed as the outcasts; we can relate to their being bookish or plain or unpopular. But a problem that uniquely affects the female characters who fit these roles is that they often succeed or achieve victory at the expense of other women and girls, or by denigrating traditional femininity (or both). Liesl is an on-the-nose example of this trope: she is terribly jealous of her sister’s physical beauty, a trait Liesl lacks and constantly laments. Liesl is a genius composer, but her skills are downplayed or overlooked because of her gender. Meanwhile, it feels like her gorgeous sister is set up to be resented, as she at least can win men’s attention with her looks.
However, when offered a beautiful fae gown by the servants of the Goblin King, Liesl instead chooses a plain dress, and this is played like Indiana Jones correctly picking the right Holy Grail. But instead of just rejecting the wealth and majesty of the other dresses, it reads as though Liesl is casting a value judgment on the majority of the other women in the book, who did choose to wear frills and finery.
This is just the latest example of this issue, rather than the only one. Pop culture has a long and varied history of celebrating these not-like-other-girls, from formative Disney flicks all the way up to watch-at-your-own-risk premium television like Game of Thrones. These portrayals enforce a terrible message: that there’s only one right way to be a girl, and that it’s totally acceptable to tear down other girls who don’t meet those standards. Continue reading
Like many fanbases, the Bioware fanbase/playerbase is a trash fire at any given time. Said fanbase didn’t even let Mass Effect: Andromeda get off the ground before lambasting it for various graphical inadequacies and stilted line delivery. However, while there do exist some graphical glitches, weird bugs, and a disappointing character creator, ME: A is not that bad. Since I’m not even halfway through the game yet (no spoilers!) this isn’t going to be a full review, but rather a look at a troubling reaction by Mass Effect’s audience. After already being labeled as “SJW propaganda” by people who loathe anything that looks like a diverse cast, it’s absolutely no surprise that there’s such negativity surrounding a woman in charge; even less surprising when that woman is Black. While there’s absolutely fault on the fanbase for the unfair treatment surrounding her, in what I’ve seen and experienced I can only come up with one conclusion: Bioware set up Sloane Kelly to fail.
Spoilers beneath the cut.
Today’s topic came about from conversations I’ve been having with Lady Geek Girl. We both love Lucifer, the TV show which follows the devil’s shenanigans in L.A. and which just returned for its second season. I enjoy the show because I’m a sucker for procedural shows and I have a lack of immunity towards charming jerks. But today I want to talk about one matter that both intrigues me and worries me—how the portrayal of Lucifer’s masculinity relates to the fact that being near one specific woman makes Lucifer, who otherwise cannot be harmed by humans, physically vulnerable. What intrigues me is how Lucifer deals with the emotions this causes, but the potential messages of toxic masculinity and misogyny are quite disconcerting.
Some mild spoilers for the show below.
All too often when engaging with fantasy worlds, female characters are hard to come by. Sadly, when they are introduced, they’re often nowhere near as well written as their male counterparts. Female characters tend to have less agency than other characters, and their motivation and development as a result can be rather unrealistic. There are most definitely numerous reasons for this. One of them, though, is the use of misogyny as a background decoration. What I mean by this is that writers are often too busy including pointless misogyny to spend any actual time developing their female characters, because misogyny simply offers them an excuse to include gratuitous sexism without considering what message their story is going to send.
Trigger warning for rape and sexual violence ahead.
Today I want to tell you about a book called The Devil’s Intern by Donna Hosie. It’s the first book in The Devil’s series. Everything I heard about it was positive and my friends loved it. The premise sounds really cool too—a teen boy who died a tragic random death and went to Hell decides to travel back in time and prevent it. Don’t let the apparent morbidity of this fool you, though; it’s actually a very humorous book. With everything sounding so great, I started this book expecting to love it. But while the premise delivers and the dark humor works well, it’s so full of casual misogynistic tropes and so lacking in diversity that I couldn’t really enjoy it.
Spoilers after the jump!
Fire Emblem Fates has finally released state-side, to the joy of many and chagrin of many others. The translated and localized version unsurprisingly still suffers from the problems that it had in its original release, but I don’t believe those watching the game were that surprised with how it came out. While those problems deserve discussion, and talk of how the translated dialogue itself also deserves some scrutiny, today I’m not looking at any of those. (And probably won’t until I finish all three games.)
In the previous installment of Fire Emblem—Awakening—the player character had to help the royalty of their world to put an end to a war; not a particularly new theme to the series, but neither is it a theme that suffers from possible interesting and poignant takes on it. Again, in Fates, the player character must help to bring an end to a war that will devastate the world if allowed to go on. I don’t have a problem that Fates is using the same plot again—though I would say the writers added a sort of nuance to Fates that Awakening didn’t have—but I do have a problem that its catalyst for the characters getting “serious” is the same. That is to say, the war really only comes to a head over the death of a woman.
Spoilers for Awakening and Fates (Birthright and Conquest), and a trigger warning for suicide under the cut.
I love Netflix’s Jessica Jones—even though the themes of rape, abuse, control, and PTSD make it very difficult to watch. Despite the fact that stories about female characters who have been violated is an overused and misogynistic trope, I think the way the creators of Jessica Jones approach these issues without romanticizing them is pretty great. I especially appreciate the fact these female experiences are the focus of the story and that this story doesn’t serve merely as a backstory for a “strong female character”, even though Jessica is certainly strong in more than one way. The show explores Jessica’s character and post-trauma experiences in an intimate and chilling way and that makes Jessica quite unique as a female character.
Some spoilers for Netflix’s Jessica Jones below. Also, trigger warning for rape, PTSD, alcoholism, self-harm, and abuse.
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.
Hollywood has recently gotten a lot of attention for its diversity problem—only about 14% of TV directors are female, and that number gets worse (9%) when we go to the silver screen. That doesn’t even get into Hollywood’s problems with age, race, and sexuality, nor does it discuss the many respected actors (Matt Damon) who try their best to shout loudly over anyone who might attempt to explain or educate on these issues. But just having the statistics on this demographic breakdown doesn’t explain how these numbers came to be. Fortunately, a site launched this year to highlight the rampant sexism and misogyny faced by women in the movie- and TV-making fields.