Sexualized Saturdays: Playboys and Fluid Sexuality in Fanfiction

Bond-Silva-InterrogationToday I’d like to address a trope that has begun to bug me more and more recently. For me, it all started with Skyfall. Surprisingly engaged by the movie, and finding it surprisingly full of slash-bait, I drove home from the theater discussing the shipping possibilities with my friend and good-naturedly arguing over what exactly Bond meant when he said “What makes you think this is my first time?”

My friend pointed out, “Well, he is the quintessential playboy,” arguing that someone as addicted to the sensual pleasures as James Bond wouldn’t necessarily limit himself to experiencing those pleasures with just one gender.

I’ve also seen this a lot in Avengers slash fanfiction, especially about Tony Stark. It’s supposed to be unsurprising in these fics that he is bi, because hey, he sure does love having sex with women! Doesn’t it follow that he would love having sex with guys too?

Um, no. Not necessarily.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Sexualities in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2

A horror movie from the early 80’s may not seem like a likely choice for a discussion of sexuality, but when that movie is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, it’s quite a different story.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2Sex is a common element in horror movies; in fact it’s usually the main indicator of who’s going to die (sexually active people) and who’s going to live (virgins, or at least monogamous partners) but very rarely have horror movies explicitly depicted anything other than heterosexual relationships until recently. There have been exceptions, such as the cult classic Sleepaway Camp, but the second Nightmare film is probably one of the most mainstream horror films to have included not only homosexual subtext but also blatant, in-your-face homosexual text. Today I will discuss three of the main characters from the film: Coach Schneider, the Phys. Ed. teacher; Jesse, the lead; and Grady, the friend.

(WARNING: Under the cut is a lengthy and mildly NSFW article)

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Adventures in Geekdom or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comics

xkcd knows what’s up.

In my fifteen or so years of participation in geekdom, I’ve learned that there are two universal truths.

1. There are infinite shades of nerdity on the geek spectrum.
2. There are many people out there who still don’t get it.

Being a nerd was always part of my core identity, though I took pride in calling myself a “nerd” over “geek.” Geeks were socially awkward, not smart, like me (doesn’t that sentence just radiate hypocrisy?). I prided myself on being some kind of upper echelon of social outcast, defining myself through criticizing others. It didn’t matter that I never actually envisioned who that social outcast was who sat on the lower rung of the social ladder. I wasn’t like “those” weirdos, whoever they were.

So it really wasn’t a surprise when similar feelings resurfaced when I was invited to go check out Free Comic Book Day.

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Color-Coded Power Rangers

Power Rangers 1- Mighty MorphinSince the dawn of recorded time (aka: the early 90’s) the Power Rangers have fought the forces of evil with their flashy suits and even flashier fight scenes. Initially there were five Rangers, eventually joined by a sixth, and their characters seemed to be irrevocably entwined with the color of their suit. Not only did the characters wear street clothes of the same color as their Ranger suits, but as they left the team and their suits were taken on by new members, the character traits seemed to remain largely the same.

For example, the Red Ranger will invariably be the leader (unless some upstart punk joins the team late and decides he’s in charge now) and will typically be full of bravado and inspiring speeches. He will also always be male. The Pink Ranger will always be female and she will probably embody very traditional ideals of femininity: gentleness, a fondness for nature, grace, etc. The Yellow Ranger will typically be a spunky young woman, more spitfire than the girl donning the pink.

Despite the frequently changing Rangers, there always seemed to be a tie between the color of the suit and the personality of the one wearing it. It was often the case that the new team members seemed to be new variants of the person they were replacing. Not only do the colors seem to determine what kind of person will wear them, they also seem to be very gender-specific. For the majority of the Rangers’ history Yellow and Pink have been exclusively female while any and all other colors were reserved for the guys.

Even though the Japanese series on which the original Power Rangers were based had a male Yellow Ranger, the American version cast a female in the role instead. While it did offer more female representation on the show it also did something very limiting for women in the series by relegating them exclusively to the “girl colors” of Yellow and Pink from the get go while every other color seemed to be open to the men. Because Yellow and Pink were never the leaders of the team, female Rangers seemed to be precluded from this position, though one early exception to this rule came in the form of the Alien Rangers whose leader was a female White Ranger. They were a very special case though, coming from another planet and really only being around to help out Earth’s Rangers when they were incapacitated for an extended period.

For many years the Power Rangers continued on in this fashion until the Time Force Rangers saw the first Pink Ranger in the lead. Somehow, though, I don’t remember much about her being the leader…

I wonder why that is?

I wonder why that is?

It wasn’t until Power Rangers Ninja Storm that the Power Rangers really started breaking out of their color-coded gender norms. While the leader of the Rangers was still the Red Ranger there were two firsts: the first female Blue Ranger and the first male Yellow Ranger. Not only was a girl allowed to wear one of the traditionally male colors (and there’s probably no more male color in American culture than blue) but a man was actually allowed to wear one of the female colors which seems even more surprising.

It’s one thing for a woman to be shown with masculine characteristics, that’s usually associated with strength in the media, but a man, especially a straight man, taking on feminine characteristics is usually seen as degrading since being female is given so little respect in our culture.

Thankfully the Power Rangers have shown some growth in their many years fighting evil. Hopefully they will do so even more as they continue their battles. Maybe one day we’ll see a female Red Ranger or even a male Pink Ranger! The former seems more likely than the latter, but one can dream! I think the Ninja Storm Rangers showed us that the gender-restrictive color-coding should be defied more often because they were a kick-ass team.

Power Rangers 5- Ninja Storm

The Moeblob vs. the Strong Female Character

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about anime, but this is something that really annoys me about anime’s popular female characters. Some vocabulary before we start:

moeblobMoeblob, via urbandictionary: “A character who is moe to the point of lacking almost any other definable traits, physically or character-wise. Cuteness taken to an unappealing level.”

Strong Female Characters, (as opposed to strong female characters), also via urbandictionary: “A hostile, violent, and shallow female character based around what a cynical male writer thinks is “female empowerment”. Such characters usually dress in some kind of fetish outfit…” These are best illustrated by Kate Beaton, from whom I’ve also lifted the capital letter-wielding nomenclature.

kate beaton strong female characters sexism is overOkay, so now that we’re all up to speed, here’s the thing that grinds my gears about popular female characters in anime: they’re almost guaranteed to be a moeblob or a SFC. And while both of these types have some positive aspects, neither of them constitutes a realistic portrayal of a female character, and both perpetuate irritating mindsets and stereotypes. Continue reading

Web Crush Wednesdays: MyMusic

MyMusic is an interactive online source of entertainment brought to us by The Fine Bros. The primary location for this entertainment is YouTube, where four videos are uploaded weekly: Mondays- LIVE show, Wednesdays- Music News, Fridays- Q&A, and Sundays- Sitcom Webseries.

I found out about this project from my past Web Crush, Grace Helbig, who plays one of the characters in the webseries. It chronicles a budding music production company staffed by personified stereotypes of music fans. Every worker is identified only by the style of music they like and behaves as broadly-drawn caricatures of these personalities. For example, the company was founded by Indie, a hipster who can’t stand anything mainstream and prides himself on loving and understanding the obscure. Grace plays Idol, the head of social media outreach who loves anything popular on the radio. Other staffers include Metal, Hip Hop, Techno, Dubstep, Scene, and Intern 2 (Intern 2 likes a little bit of everything and infuriates Indie for not being able to be put in a box and defined by preconceived notions so he’s the group punching bag).

At first I only watched the weekly webseries on Sundays and enjoyed it, but once I subscribed to the channel I really got much more into the whole project. The weekday shows are just as entertaining as the Sunday webisodes and the inclusion of fans and special guests keeps the show fresh and interesting. I’m always at work during the live shows, unfortunately, but I watch them later and it’s pretty fun seeing the cast respond to people as they comment/tweet the show.

The weekly series is very fun and I especially love Techno and Dubstep who, though sometimes pushed into the background of the show, have a beautiful friendship and are always enjoyable. The show honestly got a bit drab for me after a while, though. I know it was all for comedy but a show populated entirely by shallow stereotypes can only be interesting for so long. Thankfully, one of the team members was revealed to actually be a poser, only pretending to be a walking stereotype in order to hold on to the job at the company and appease Indie, and this character’s storyline has instantly become more engaging and the show has picked up since.

I’m tuning in weekly, will you?

P.S.

If you need further convincing, I’ll just mention that Felicia Day guest starred.

Sexualized Saturdays: Lucy Heartfilia

Fairy Tail is set in the imaginary kingdom of Fiore, and because of this, you can’t necessarily make assumptions about their ideas of sexuality—that is, they may differ from the way sexuality is perceived in the real world.

However, a hundred and thirty episodes and 200+ episodes in, the only character who is obviously written gay in the stereotypical flirtatious effeminate anime style is Bob, the leader of the Blue Pegasus guild. And honestly, I’m a little tired of this being practically the only way queer characters are portrayed in anime. You get the predatory girlish gay guys, and the predatory tomboyish lesbian girls, and that’s about it. So today I’m going to look at Lucy Heartfilia, one of Fairy Tail’s main characters, and speculate that she’s not entirely straight, and think wishfully about the future of the anime and manga world.

Before we go any farther and I start any shipping wars, let me lay something on the table. Lucy is going to end up with Natsu. This is a shounen anime to the hilt, and looking at the way shounen heroes get paired off with shounen heroines, I can tell you: Lucy is going to end up with Natsu. In the same way Supernatural‘s writers will never have the balls to actually put Dean and Cas in a relationship (EVEN THOUGH IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE GAWD), Mashima Hiro is never gonna pair off his leading lady with anyone but his hero, just because that’s the way anime/manga work in this day and age.

THAT SAID: I think there’s a fair case to be made for Lucy’s bisexuality.

In the very first episode we see her fangirling over a magazine’s feature on Fairy Tail (the guild)—but she is particularly squee-filled about the centerfold of FT’s at-that-time-spokesmodel, Mirajane. I don’t know many straight girls who get excited about how hot a booby chick in a bikini looks, so that’s what started me wondering.

Her fangirl crush on Mira continues well into the following episodes, that is, after she joins the guild. She is also often in awe of Erza—although that may in fairness be because Erza is objectively awesome, not necessarily because Lucy is crushing. In one of the OVAs, though, (which lol are toooootally canon >.>), the Fairy Tail girls’ dorm does decide in a poll that the Lucy’s best love-match is Erza.

Although it’s sort of baby steps, and although I think that Mashima Hiro is probably not sitting around in his studio wondering what kind of strides he can make in portraying queer characters today as he draws next week’s Fairy Tail chapter, it is nice that, however unintentionally, Lucy is a girl in a well-known anime who can appear to like other girls without being portrayed like, well, this:

Thanks for being a beacon of stereotypically pervy assault-y queerness to the masses, Chizuru from Bleach, it’s totally appreciated.

Theatre Thursdays: A Trip to the Ballet

So I love the ballet.  (Going to it, that is – the extent of my dancing is an ability to do para para.) I’m lucky enough to live in a city with a very talented company, and also lucky enough to have a mom who’s had season tickets since before I could spell ballet. Because of all of these reasons, I was able to see their performance of Coppelia about a fortnight ago.

The production was, of course, lovely, and I greatly enjoyed it (I’m a sucker for the formulaic ways of classical ballet, and the company is truly excellent).

Coppelia is a ballet in three acts about a small town (German or Austrian, I think).  Anyway, there’s a young couple in love (Franz and Swanilda), a mysterious girl on a balcony (the tiitular Coppelia), and a grumpy old inventor (Dr. Coppelius). Franz, despite his love for Swanilda, is intrigued by the girl who sits on the Coppelius’ balcony every day, silently reading her book and paying no attention whatsoever to the outside world.  Swanilda, who’s a bit of a firebrand, gives her boyfriend all sorts of shit for swooning over this bookworm.  Dr. Coppelius thinks the whole town is a nuisance, caring more about his inventions (no one in the town knows exactly what he does).

One day upon leaving his house, the good Doctor drops his key.  Swanilda finds it, and she and her friends sneak into his house to see what exactly goes on there, what with all the mysterious bangs and explosions and whatnot. At the same time, Franz succumbs to curiosity and climbs up to Coppelia’s window.  To the group’s great amusement, they discover that Coppelius makes toys – life size dolls – and that the pretty girl in the window is no more than a pretty puppet.   Swanilda switches clothes with the doll and plays a trick on Coppelius when he returns, making him believe his beloved creation has come to life.  Eventually she grows tired of it, reveals the doll’s body behind a curtain, and she and her posse make their escape as Coppelius laments his persnickety-old-person forever-aloneness.

The entire third act is Franz and Swanilda’s wedding.  Yes, this is a classical ballet, and that is how it is done. There is corps dancing, there is a grand pas de deux, and curtain call.

 

There’s a lot to unpack when looking at ballet from a feminist perspective – the dedication to a purported ‘ideal’ body type; the superhero-comic-like double standard of males portraying a masculine power ideal while women portray a male’s sexual ideal; the annoying stereotype that any man dancing ballet is gay and any man attending ballet is either gay or really really wants to get some; and the stereotypical hetero fairy-tale-esque love story that ends with a happily-ever-after marriage.

However, I think it’s also worthwhile to point out that ballet is a venue where stories about women tend to take preference, where women’s roles are the ones that get top billing, and where, more often than not, the girls and women who are portrayed in these stories are imaginative adventurers with dreams and (like Swanilda) sassy, not-exactly-a-damsel-in-distress personalities.

What are your thoughts on ballet, dear readers?

GTFO of My Fandom: The Curious Case of the Hambeast

Fandom. If you’ve spent any decent amount of time on the web outside of Facebook, chances are you have run into at least some aspect of this. Fanart, fanfiction, costumes, blogs, roleplaying; the list is literally endless. And why not? Getting inspired by a work is one thing, but being able to share it with other people is the delicious topping of your choice on the proverbial sundae. It’s a great place to meet friends, improve as an artist, and just in general enjoy yourself. As you can probably tell, I could go on and on at lengths about the benefits of fandom in general, but this isn’t about that. No, sir. Welcome to the “dark side” of fandom.

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