Thursday, May 31, 2012

Make It a Movie May: Storm

May is almost over, and so too is this article series coming to a close. Not because I ran out of material, mind you. More because I'm starting to feel like I'm repeating myself.

Blah blah interesting character blah compelling story blah blah male counterparts suck blah.

I think at this point most of you could write this article for me.

Still, there is one major character I didn't get to that I'd really like to tackle, and I think it's important to talk about her. So, last for now, but definitely not least: Storm.

Storm has the dubious pleasure of being one of the more recognizable X-Men, and one of the few characters from that vast universe already to be immortalized on film. I'm not saying they did a bad job with her character in the movies. 

I'm more saying that I want more.

Ororo Munroe has one of the coolest and, yeah, weirdest backstories in comics. Forget Wonder Woman, Ororo was stranded as a child in Africa, where her ability to control the weather had her worshipped as a god. That's right, the supernaturally serene Storm is that way because she spent her teenage years being told not to be angry, because her wrath might smite the unfortunate. And she is a kind god, not a capricious one.

There's some stuff in her background that's icky, stuff that comes and goes. In one version, she was sexually abused, and I think there's one where she was forced into a child marriage. All of that is painful, but it makes for a really good story. Storm rose above it, she got out, and she learned to teach other kids how to deal with their pasts.

She's a role model.

It's not just that Storm is powerful, and has a cool childhood, or even that she's a genuinely lovely person who from time to time actually leads the X-Men, but more that she's one of the few characters that falls into no obvious stereotypes. She's a character of color, superheroine, and eventually wife, but at no point is she stereotypically anything. She's just herself. And that's what makes her so amazing to read about.

Yeah, there have been missteps in the story, like the weird punk phase she had in the 1980s, when the writers were pretty obviously on cocaine, and sometimes she gets a little hippie-dippy for her own good, but still. She's pretty much always the most interesting girl in the room.

Give me Zoe Saldana, a couple of months in Africa, a healthy budget, and the cast from X-Men: First Class, and you'll get a hell of a movie.

Here's the other reason I saved Storm for last: she is the character out of all of these who is actually most likely to get her own movie.

With the X-Men franchise currently rebooting just about everything, they still want to find a way to squeeze some money out of the characters people are familiar with, but not necessarily sick of. A Storm movie would be the perfect way to do that, fitting in well between the events of First Class and the other X-Men movies. Origins didn't exist, obviously.

In terms of the whole project, though, there are lots of other characters that I would kill to see on the big screen. What about Kate Bishop from Young Avengers, who called herself Hawkeye in honor of our Jeremy Renner-shaped friend? Or She-Hulk, Bruce Banner's cousin who was infected via blood transfusion and is actually much better at keeping control than he is? Angie Harmon from Rizzoli and Isles has expressed interest in playing her.

There's Renee Montoya, The Question, as I mentioned in my post on Batwoman. There's actually Batgirl, the Cassie version, who's out of touch and angry and fighty and one of my favorite things. Hell, there's Ms. Marvel, even, who's a little dull sometimes, but always tries so damn hard that it just breaks your heart.

There aren't enough women in superhero movies, and that sucks, because women, just as much as men, and sometimes more, need heroes to show us who to be. And our daughters need to dream.

How does this fabulousness not have a franchise?! [Hawkeye II]

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Thing About Genderswapping (Why I'm Iffy on Elementary)

I speak here of the fabled genderswapping, when a writer takes an established character, like, say, Dr. John Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories, and makes him a woman. That's genderswapping. That's also a not-so-subtle reference to the upcoming CBS drama, Elementary.

I have mixed feelings about Elementary and media like it because, on the one hand, I like things that shake up our gender paradigm, and girl!Watson certainly does that, but on the other, I do feel like something is lost when the genderswapping is not applied unilaterally. Allow me to explain.

There are two genders, see? And society favors one of them more than the other. Let's, for the sake of argument, call these favored souls "men". The less appreciated gender, perhaps called "women", therefore experience a different world than "men", seeing the world in a slightly different way. They must be constantly alert to the slight discrimination around them in order to succeed above it. They must also be watchful that they do not act in a way that society deems inappropriate for them, because that would possibly damage their stature even more than it has been already by being born "women".

Harry Potter. [Artist unknown]
So too, "men" have little knowledge of the difficulties that "women" face, being more comfortable as the dominant sex. They take the rights and privileges of this for granted, sometimes even going so far as to discount the "women" as people and dismiss their complaining as whining and shrill shrieking.

Now imagine in your mind a love story between two of these characters, a "man" and a "woman". The "man" is clever, rich, but lacks a certain kindness in his life. The "woman" is sweet and gentle, but has no money and no cunning to make her way in the world.

It's a story, and it's not a very good one.

Now switch the two of them. With the "woman" now the rich, clever, unkind character, it makes a more compelling story, especially as concerns her position in society. She's rich, but she's a "woman", and therefore lesser than the "man", who is gentle and poor, completely without the wits to survive in the world. That is a good story.

And that's good genderswapping. The best genderswapping is used to inform the story, to bring out the characters in a new light, with new characteristics embraced in full view of the strictures placed on us by society and our genders.

So what about Elementary?

Here's the thing. Genderswapping works best in two instances. When, one, it's used to highlight a certain solitary character and show that character in a new world and new gender, it's great. Imagine The Three Musketeers done with d'Artagnan really a girl dressing up as a man in order to join the Musketeers she's always dreamed of. I would watch the shit out of that.

The second instance is when you have a pair or group of characters who all work together as a cohesive mold. In those cases, genderswapping the whole lot creates a really interesting, brand new dynamic. Imagine a version of Oliver Twist where Oliver, the Artful Dodger, Fagin, even Bill Sykes are all women. And Nancy and Mrs. Bedwin are men. That story would be awesome!

The problem with Elementary, as I see it, is that changing just one character, especially one character of a partnership as nuanced and close as Holmes and Watson, changes the balance of power. While before they were both men, and therefore equals in dominance, and while I would totally love on a version of the story where they're both women, and therefore equals in discrimination, I don't like the idea of making them lopsided.

Glee. [Artist unknown]
I like even less the fact that they've made Watson the woman. Yes, Lucy Liu is fabulous, and I saw the trailer, liked it, and am probably going to watch the show, but there's a power imbalance here where there wasn't before. Before, Watson and Holmes were equal in every way but that of the mind. And even there, Watson constantly surpassed Holmes with his abilities with people. Here, they are equals nowhere, held together by obligation and the tenuous suggestion that Joan Watson might someday succumb to Sherlock's temptation and sleep with him.

Again, it could be a great show. But the imbalance of power makes me queasy, and I feel like the show has lost out on the opportunity to make something amazing here, with a Charlotte Holmes being chased by her adoring Joan, throwing the whole world out of their way.

[Special Thanks to my mother, who kindly came up with examples and looked things up on wikipedia when I yelled across the downstairs that I was stuck.]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Gaying of Peter Guillam (In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

If you haven't seen the amazing movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I highly suggest that you stop reading this right now and go watch it. Seriously. The internet will still be here when you get back.

If you aren't going to follow my sage advice, here's the basic plot. It's about the British Secret Service, or Circus, and takes place in the height of the Cold War. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is brought back from retirement to quietly investigate the service and find the mole that's selling them out to the KGB. Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of the few men he can trust to help him. It's a hell of a lot more complicated than that in a lot of places, but basically, that's the plot.

The thing to remember, though, as you're watching the movie, is that this is not the first version of this story. Nope, both this and the 1970s miniseries starring Alec Guinness (from Star Wars, but he really preferred to be known from this or anything else that wasn't that "bloody sci-fi drivel") derive from the 1970s novel of the same name, by John LeCarré. The novel is popular, the miniseries was successful, but, for me, the movie is where the story hit its stride.

It's also where they made the biggest changes, most notably to the character of Peter Guillam. How? They made him gay.

Except they never actually said it. Like everything else in this beautiful film, you have to infer his gayness, based on the information you're given. Observe.

In his introduction we see Peter both watch a woman walk away, and then go with Colin Firth's character (Bill Hadyn) to "check out" the new secretary, Belinda. This is before we know almost anything about him or what his role in the Circus is.

Then, later, he comes into the Circus and has this short discussion with the guard at the desk. At this point, we really know nothing of Peter outside of work and his interactions with Smiley.

Guard: "How's the family?"

Peter: "Fine."

Since Peter is clearly in his mid-thirties, it seems unlikely that the guard would be asking after his parents. Therefore we can only assume that he is asking after Peter's wife and children. And the warmth and familiarity with which he speaks highly imply that he has done so before. Peter doesn't have a ring on his finger, but since it wasn't uncommon for men in the 1970s to decline to wear a wedding ring, this wasn't unusual. And Peter doesn't say anything to encourage the notion, he just lets the guard assume what he will.

Also note in the same sequence how deftly Peter shuts down the secretary. She fancies him, it's obvious, and he's a spy. He's established himself as capable of noticing the smallest things. A woman's regard for him is not beyond his purview. No, he puts her off because he doesn't want to go out with her, referring to having to spend his weekend with "visiting aunts." Why? She's hot, he's hot, and we really have no idea at this point whether he's married or not. So why the brush off?

No, the real problem becomes apparent later. As he's leaving Smiley, Peter is told to take care of "anything [he needs] tidied up." So, we see through a window as Peter enters a flat. There's a man sitting at the table, who starts talking the moment Peter walks in. He keeps talking, though Peter stays silent. And then the scene shifts, and we're looking at the bedroom. The man is packing. Peter sits at the table, his face just devastated. The man says a few things about wanting to know if there's someone else, and being able to handle it, then he drops his keys and leaves. Peter just cries.

End examination. I think we can assume from hereon out that in the film, at least, Peter is gay.

But why? It's much, much more common for a character who's gay in the book to be straightened out in the movie (or TV show, as seen with Chuck on Gossip Girl). Why would they choose to make a historically straight character gay?

One word: drama.

Peter Guillam's character in the original doesn't have any internal conflict. He's constantly reassuring himself that even though things are hard, he can go home and have sex with that violinist he's been seeing. He thinks at length in the book about how attractive she is. It's titillating, but not very dramatic. In making the movie, though, they made the strong choice to give every character, even the more minor ones, an inner conflict and therefore inner sense of drama. Even though it's only shown in a couple of scenes, they chose to make Peter gay because it made his part of the story so much more compelling.

Imagine if Peter had gone home to a woman. If she'd smiled, and he'd relaxed. It would have sucked the tension right out of the movie. Or perhaps if we hadn't seen what Peter went home to. But then we would wonder why, and he would be diminished as a character in our eyes, because we would have seen less of him, and therefore would care less about him. We need to see what Guillam's hiding in order to trust him. He wasn't hiding anything before, so we had no reason to trust his stake in the story.

It makes Peter Guillam twenty times more interesting. He's a gay spy back in a time when homosexuality was still illegal, and not too long after Alan Turing, inventor of the computer and instrumental in cracking the codes that won WWII, killed himself when he was driven out of science and intelligence work for being gay. Peter has everything to lose if his secret gets out, and this makes us root for him, and even gives a touch of insight into why he might have chosen to be a spy in the first place. Where better to hide than in amongst the other liars and cheats, after all?

But perhaps what I find most interesting about the gaying of Peter Guillam was how absolutely unremarkable it was. I didn't see it mentioned in any papers, no articles about it popped up on my GoogleReader, and Entertainment Weekly definitely didn't do a report on ways the book differed from the movie with "MAJOR GAY CHARACTER" at the top of the list.

In fact, it wasn't until I investigated the book myself that I found out he was straight in it. I just assumed that if he was gay in the movie, he was gay in the book. I was a little surprised.

Whatever their reason for doing so, I'm very glad that the screenwriters behind Tinker Tailor chose to go this route, and I think it shows a more nuanced character than we would have otherwise seen.

I also think that Benedict Cumberbatch deserved a Supporting Oscar Nom for his work. But that's probably asking too much. Man hasn't even won a BAFTA yet.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day (A Salute to the Military Women of the Multi-Verse)

It's Memorial Day today, and I'd like to take a moment to honor the women who've served and protected humanity across the multi-verse. They have made our worlds better, safer places to be, with their courage and sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds.

To them, and to the real veterans who actually exist in our reality, we say thank you.

Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica)

She served as a pilot in what was essentially the air force, daily risking her life to go up against the Cylon drones. Her mission in life was to keep the people of the human fleet safe, and she sacrificed many times to do so. Defiant to the end, we can only be happy that Starbuck finally got her happy(-ish) ending, and is (probably) at peace now, having lived to not have to fight another day.

Peggy Carter (Captain America)

She might have been a non-combatant, but Agent Carter saw more of the front than most officers, and was instrumental in troop movements against HYDRA in WWII. Constantly fighting against sexism and proving herself to be a masterful tactician and planner, she helped bring the division through WWII, and went on to be a co-founder of SHIELD. She wasn't just Captain America's girlfriend, if anything, he was just her boyfriend.

Kate Kane (Batwoman)

Kate Kane didn't get the chance to see combat, so she took to the streets to live out her oath. She swore to protect the American people as a member of the United States Military, and when denied the opportunity to do so officially, she does it anyway. Her purpose is not personal, or revenge, or even a thrill-seeking need for adventure, but rather a desire to protect those around her from crime and anything that might threaten them. For staying true to the goals of the military even after being discharged, we salute her.

Zoe Washburne (Firefly and Serenity)

A veteran of the Independence, Zoe fought for the liberation of the outer rim planets from the tyrannical rule of the inner core planets. She didn't fight because it was fun, or because she wanted glory, but because she wanted to preserve the way of life and the liberty of her home. She fought on to the last, even when it was clear that they had lost, that their war was over, and that they would have to live on in a world that increasingly pressed in at the borders. Zoe fought because she believed in the cause, and even six years on would fight that same war again.

Eowyn (The Lord of the Rings)

Unsatisfied to stay at home and mind the city while her brother and uncle rode off to war, Eowyn followed them and fought alongside, because she knew that she could fight better than most men, and that her sword was needed in the battle to protect everything they held dear. Why wait and hope the battle has been won, if you know that you can help win the battle? And by killing the Witch King, she proved that not only was she needed on the field, but that her sword had quite literally saved the day.

There are many other fake heroes, and a lot of other real ones we honor today. So, with a nod to Dr. John Watson, John Winchester, and Michelle Rodriguez in like half the movies she does, let's toast to the people who keep us safe, and the prayer that someday they won't have to.

Technically a veteran.
Happy Memorial Day, everybody.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Links (Gay Superheroes Getting Married and More!)

Starbuck and Starbuck in Starbucks. Boom. Your brain just exploded.
I don't have a lot for you this week, folks, partly because I was busy going out and being awesome (and seeing Conan O'Brien give a talk at the JFK library, which was very fun), but also because there wasn't a whole lot that caught my eye this week.

So here are this week's top picks.

1. In that-took-a-while news, DC has announced that one of their major established characters will be revealed to be gay in the New 52, which could almost make me want to start reading it...if I wasn't so sure it was going to be handled terribly. Still, read about the announcement here.

2. In hey-we've-had-gay-characters-for-years news, Marvel decided not to let DC get all the credit, and is now planning a wedding serial for Northstar, the gay member of the X-Men. Again, I have nothing against this, and I do trust Marvel a bit more, but it'll be interesting to see how this one plays out. At least they're competing against each other on something a little healthier? Check out the announcement for this one here.

3. In yes-I-would-like-to-see-that news, the Feminist Frequency, which I so often reference, is looking to expand their videos on tropes about women from just films to a series on videogames. This is a great cause and well-worth supporting, so check it out and give generously here.

4. In not-very-feminist-but-absolutely-hysterical news, the blog "Conversations in Marvel" has become one of my new favorites. It's based on the idea that all of the characters from X-Men: First Class and The Avengers exist in the same time stream, roughly now, and have access to current technology. And drink a lot. So totally worth it. Read it here.

5. Finally, I don't have a super-new video to share this week, but because Amanda Palmer is always cool, and because she's using Kickstarter to raise money for her new album (check it out here), enjoy this video of one of her more...intriguing songs.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you on Monday, with some Memorial Day themed nerd thoughts!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Power of the Triangle (in YA Fiction)

I don't steal pics with watermarks, nooooo.
Sometimes, there are days when I just want to read a silly book. I genuinely hope you know what I mean. When I want to walk to the library, or a bookstore, or just my own obscenely over-stocked shelves and pluck out a story that will whisk me off to foreign lands, tell me about great love and triumph over oppressive odds, and is well below my reading level.

I read a lot of young adult fantasy fiction.

It's weird because the books clearly aren't written with me in mind, but it's cool because sometimes the YA novels are doing the more interesting, innovative things in storytelling. Sometimes.

But I'd like to talk about a trope that I've seen cropping up more and more lately, and what I think it might mean psychologically for young girls. Because that's who most YA fiction is geared towards. Girls.

Boys get the movies (Transformers, Battleship, Men in Black), but girls are the target audience for books. I could go into why, but I don't really know. Society has weird expectations of our genders, and one of them appears to be that boys like movies and girls like books. Not necessarily true, but not our current issue.

It's rather good.
A lot of the books I've been reading lately have featured a strong female heroine of vaguely teenage years, caught up in either a dystopian world or a supernatural battle, and forced to choose between two awesome guys who both want her to be theirs.

Katniss, from Hunger Games, is the example most obviously on most people's minds, and they're right. She's competent, cool, and fully able to take care of herself, yet she's torn between the boy she's known all her life and the boy who keeps surprising her. Katniss' choice between the two of them shows us as much about her character as it does about our shifting ideas of what is desirable in men.

Invariably in these love triangles, the girl must choose between the slightly more mysterious, brooding and slightly dangerous man (Edward from Twilight, Ky from Matched, etc) and the more traditional good-guy who she's been friends with for ages (Jacob from Twilight, Xander from Matched, etc). What makes it really interesting, though, is that the men these girls choose are not the masculine, strong, friend-types. They choose the mysterious loners.


Some people have decried this movement in fiction as step backwards for women, citing the Bella/Edward relationship as a sign of seriously misaligned values.

Do not want.
While I don't really disagree with them on that one (he's creepy, she's codependent, it's weird), I do recognize that this isn't the problem we make it out to be. Girls seem to be drawn to boys who are more sensitive and soulful, rather than traditionally masculine.

Isn't that...good?

If teenage girls are attracted to boys who are in touch with their emotions and capable of speaking them clearly and cogently to the women they love, as Peeta does many times, or Ky, or even Edward (but seriously, screw that guy), shouldn't we encourage that behavior? We want young girls to understand that their feelings are valuable. No, they shouldn't be taken in by them entirely, but the desire for a mate who values emotion is a worthy one. We should applaud it.

And the rejection of the brawny friends-from-birth doesn't strike me as a terrifying outbreak of "friend-zoning", but rather an understanding that friend-love is not the same as romantic-love, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Young Adult novels, keep doing what you're doing, showing young girls that it's okay to want a mate who speaks their feelings, and that it's even better to be a girl who saves the world.

I'm just saying. The third one comes out in November. You have time to catch up.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Booklist Rundown

Okay, here's the skinny. I try to update this blog every day, because I love it, and I want to make sure that I'm keeping myself honest and really working towards better writing and reporting.

But it's really late, and I just got back on the train, and I haven't been near a computer all day, and I'm tired.

So I'm just going to tell you all about what I've read lately, and what I'm planning on reading in the near future. Suggestions are welcome!

1. United States of Arugula, just finished

Very interesting book, with a cool take on the history of American cooking. I highly recommend it if you are at all compelled by the idea of food revolution or American history. If you aren't, read it for the nummy descriptions.

2. Alanna: The First Adventure, just finished

At heart, I am a horribly awkward thirteen year old, clasping stories of brave girls and understanding boys to my chest and crying that Eomer doesn't love me back.

Also, I read the Trickster books, also by Tamora Pierce, when I was in college, and adored them, so I thought I'd give some of her older stuff a try. The writing style was clearly a bit more raw, but the story's interesting, the character is cool (another female to male crossdressing story, so very dear to me), and I like the way the series appears to be going. It's fantasy, it's YA, and it's fun.

3. Crossed, almost done

I read the first book in this trilogy by Ally Condie when I was working for a production company, and they were considering optioning the book. I told them they would be crazy not to, and they promptly ignored me.

It's another one of those YA, love triangle, Hunger Games-esque books, set in a futuristic dystopian society, where everything's ruled by an omniscient government and resistance is futile. Where Hunger Games went for the rebellion route whole hog, though, the Matched series relies more heavily on the romance angle, letting the romance build to the rebellion.

I have to say I really like it so far, and I'm excited to read the third one.

4. Supergods, barely started

This is a nonfiction book by comics legend and legendary crazy person Grant Morrison. It's on one of my favorite topics, superheroes, and how they have taken the place of gods in our society. A compelling topic, and one that I plan on reading more about, if I ever stop getting sucked into these infernal YA novels!

5. Otaku: Japan's Database Animals, like a third through?

I feel a little bad that this is still on my list, because a friend lent it to me in January, and it's really interesting know how books lose something in translation sometimes? This one lost it. Interesting ideas, cool theories, dull as crap to read.

And I read Hegel. For fun.

6. Outlaw School, haven't touched it

I bought this at a used bookstore because the blurb sounded insane and interesting, like Margaret Atwood on acid, and I'm super curious to see how it turns out. I mean, it has good reviews, I've never heard of it, and the cover is very clearly early 2000s, so we'll see how this goes.

Cyberpunk dystopian feminist sci-fi. Oh I am so in.

Amy Pond screencaps courtesy of last time I had spare time on my computer.

And that's really it for tonight, folks. Check back tomorrow when I'll be doing two whole posts (!), and let me know if you have any suggestions for what I should read next.

[Edit: I didn't do two posts. I lied. I'M SO ASHAMED.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So, About that Glee Finale... (But Mostly About Quinn)

Mike Chang's not even in this picture.
I don't think I've ever confessed this before, because I really prefer not to think about it, but I was really into Glee when it first came out. Like super-duper into it. It had all the hallmarks of a thing I knew I would love. It was a cynical comedy about awkward losers reaching desperately for one last chance at fame before being swallowed up by the crushing emptiness of adulthood.* There was singing, and dancing, but all of that only served to undercut the fact that we were watching a group of lovable misfits and the world's worst teacher attempt to win at something that wasn't even worth devoting their time to. All while they all had much bigger problems they were ignoring. Trust me, I was totally into it.

And then season one happened. I stuck by it, because I was a theater kid in high school, so I still related, and every once in a while they would pile on the cynicism again and I would feel right at home. When Puck realized that even being in the same room as kids from Glee was giving him contact-nerd, that felt real. When Quinn kept disseminating on who her baby-daddy was, and being kind of a bitch about it all, I liked that. When Will's wife made up a fake pregnancy...that was just weird.

But I kept watching, because lots of my favorite shows have taken a while to even out (*cough* Supernatural *cough*), and I wasn't going to give up because of a few bad episodes.

And then season two happened. And shit got real.

Just add theme weeks!
Or, well, I should say, shit got fake. Like, really fake. All of a sudden, Kurt went from being a relatable, realistic gay kid with just about the same number of problems as everyone else, to Saint Kurt, only on screen to give out the heartwarming message about tolerance and acceptance. The cynicism was gone, and in its place was a terrifying earnestness and preachiness that made it impossible to enjoy the show without feeling like you were watching an after school special created just to torment you.

I don't like season two.

By season three, I just straight up wasn't watching anymore, except for the occasional Santana/Brittany scene, because those two are my favorite. But that was it. While some people have said that season three really got a lot better, I suggest they remove the "a lot" from that sentence, and counter their "better" with a "well it couldn't get worse, could it?"

This brings us now to the season three finale of last night, which I watched because I was one, masochistic, and two, mildly curious about Santana and Brittany's fate.

It wasn't worth it.

I mean, I could have guessed that, but the finale really cemented for me everything that I hate about the show. It's become a non-stop stream of "teaching moments" and musical shout outs, and plot is a boogeyman the writers tell their children about at night to scare them.

Really, I can say everything I need to about how much I really dislike the show right now by talking about Quinn.

Remember Quinn? In season one she was a classic cheerleader mean girl. She was rich, blonde, dating the quarterback, and in serious hate with Rachel Berry, who she thought just might be a rival for her boyfriend's affection. Then Quinn got drunk, slept with her boyfriend's best friend, and got pregnant, all in short order. She lied about who the father was, because she quite reasonably understood that telling the truth would brand her a slut, and was kicked out of her house when Finn, her boyfriend but not the father, told her parents she was pregnant. She lived with him for a while, until he found out he wasn't the father, then she lived with Puck, who was the father, until Mercedes took her in. Then she went into labor at Regionals, had a baby, gave it up for adoption, and went back to live with her mother.


Quinn had a rough season one, but it was clear how she changed as a person. She became a deeper, more interesting person, who understood hardship in a way that few of the other glee kids did, and was able to speak to them from experience. She got it. And she wasn't afraid to tell them when she thought they were being stupid, or petty.

Fast forward to season two. Now pretend none of that ever happened. Quinn is back to being blonde, pretty, rich and thin, and she wants nothing more than to be a cheerleader again. Her emotional growth is behind her, as is her life-changing friendship with Mercedes and love for Puck. Nope, now she's jamming on Sam, the new kid in school, and scheming about how to be the new power couple. Bleh.

Quinn didn't really do a lot in season two, and I have to say that I'm kind of happy about that. Season two was awful, and the less she had to do with it, the better.

That having been said...

In season three, Quinn starts out with serious attitude problems, a classic bad girl thing going, and pink hair. She's not into glee, mad at the world, and smokes out behind the bleachers. So, pretty much a normal seventeen year old reaction to the crap she's been through in the past couple of years. This is, of course, until her baby's adoptive mother starts to teach at the school, and Quinn realizes that she wishes she hadn't given her daughter up for adoption. This is treated like she has just declared war on kittens, and not like the completely understandable hormonal reaction of a confused and angry seventeen year old. She starts to scheme to get her baby back.

Not far off from how I looked in hs, and college.
Along in here, Mr. Schue, the glee teacher, takes Quinn aside and tells her that her behavior is unforgivable. Having pink hair and smoking are terrible life choices, and she's being really selfish and horrible to think that she could do that. She hasn't been through anything! (Except a teen pregnancy, being homeless, giving up a child, and then foundering without any emotional support for a year, but, whatevs.)

Quinn tries for a while to get her daughter back, culminating in a plan to expose her daughter's adoptive mother, Shelby, for the affair she's having with Puck. This would cause Shelby to be fired, a bunch of bad stuff to happen, and Quinn to ultimately get her daughter.

She stops, eventually, swayed by some folderoll about maturity and being young and that crap, which blinds you to the really important thing here.

Shelby, a teacher, is having an affair with Puck, a student. Quinn is COMPLETELY WITHIN HER RIGHTS to find this objectionable and report it. In fact, she has a moral obligation to do so. Just because Puck is 18 and stupid, doesn't make this not a breach of trust and very wrong.

With that, Quinn mends her ways and becomes the swami to the glee club once more. When Rachel and Finn decide to get married, Quinn tells them not to, because teenage weddings are a terrible idea. Rachel is hurt by this because Quinn is supposed to support everything she chooses to do, but Quinn maintains her issues, even though she comes to the wedding.

Then she gets hit by a car.

So, to recap, she has now gotten pregnant, been homeless, given up a baby, tried to get the baby back, and is now paralyzed from the waist down.


Her storyline for the next couple of episodes focuses on the fact that Quinn is paralyzed, but convinced she won't be paralyzed forever, getting physical therapy, then, at prom, Rachel finding out that Quinn has been faking her injury. I'm sorry, what? She likes the attention? What? How is that crack, writers? Is it good?

All of this brings us to the finale, where Quinn finally graduates from high school, and goes off to college at Yale Drama. It's an impressive ending for her, and one that I think she well and truly deserves.

So, how much of the ending actually addresses it?

Almost none.

There are a couple of scenes where she comforts Rachel, a scene where she helps Puck, general scenes where she continues being wise Quinn, and one, count em, one scene with Coach Sue where she actually talks about being excited for college.

And then in the last five minutes of the show, everyone shows up to wish Rachel well as she gets on a train for New York.

Riiight, because *they're* the most interesting characters.
We ignore the fact that Santana is also going to New York, that Quinn is going to New Haven, that Mike is going somewhere cool, Mercedes is going to LA, and that Kurt and Finn were dumb enough to only apply to one college? It all ends with Rachel, schmaltz, some over-sentimentality as we force out a few tears for an ending that is about as genuine as Dolly Parton's face, and so many crammed in numbers around an arbitrary theme that I wanted to hurl.

What the hell, show, what the hell?

I think, in a way, this really sums up my feelings about Glee. We, the viewers, are Quinn. We've been battered and bruised, and every time we try to react the way we realistically would in the situation, we're told that we're wrong. When we start to get some perspective, we're smacked right back down to the beginning.

No more, Glee, no more.

And you know the best part? Ryan Murphy has said that all of the graduating cast will be back next season anyway.

Of. Course.

Allow the epicness of Naya Rivera and Gloria Estefan to make up for all of that bile. Better now?

*No, I don't have emotional problems, why do you ask?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Make It a Movie May: Batwoman

As I've already covered in this series, there are some pretty obvious choices for movies out there in the comicsverse. Oracle has the whole women-superhero squad thing going for her, Jenny Sparks is a legendary figure of awesomeness, and Wonder Woman is, well, Wonder Woman.

So, I'd like to delve a little further afield and bring back another woman who I think would benefit greatly from her own movie: Batwoman.

"Batwoman?" I hear you say, "But isn't she just a pale imitation of Batman, or maybe Batgirl all grown up or something? I thought she was just trying to get in Bruce Wayne's pants."


Batwoman was introduced on the Batman TV show in the 60s as a female foil for Batman, yes, but she was a lot more than that. Admittedly, she was a little silly, but so were most things about that show. What she really served to do was establish the credibility of female caped crusaders in the Batman universe.

She faded from popularity after that, and was reincarnated in her present(-ish) form in the mid-2000s. I'm ignoring whatever has happened to her in New 52 because I hate New 52, in case that wasn't already abundantly clear.

Batwoman, or Kate Kane as she is sometimes called, is sort of a mirror version of Batman, it's true. She rose to prominence in Gotham when Batman was dead (long story), but when he came back, she refused to just fade into the shadows like a good little girl. She kept on fighting crime, and doing it with a lot stronger hold to her secret identity than most heroes are able to keep.

Kate's background prepared her uniquely for deciding to stalk the night. Independently wealthy, like Batman, she enjoys a close relationship with her father, and, like him, attended West Point. She was highly regarded and on her way to a very decorated career when she was outed as a lesbian and dishonorably discharged. After that she floundered for a while, playing the dilettante heir, and even dating another Gotham hero, The Question (Renee Montoya). Renee eventually got fed up with Kate's recklessness, and demanded she clean her act up. They aren't together anymore, but Kate finally got herself back on her feet and found a new war to fight. One on crime.

What makes her compelling? Well, differently from Batman, Kate isn't fighting any obvious personal demons. Her family was attacked when she was a child, a fact that comes up later in the comics, especially in the brilliant collection Batwoman: Elegy, which I've already reviewed here, but Kate isn't motivated by a need to fix that or to wipe it from her memory. She does good because she needs to do something, and because fighting crime is a war worth winning.

As far as movie potential goes, Batwoman is appealing in a lot of the same ways Batman is. You've got your cover identity, with Kate swanning off to galas, only with a twist, because she's always hitting on the prettiest woman in the room. You've got your secret lair where she works on her gadgets, only twisted because her military-trained father is the one who helps her, and they're up in a treehouse, essentially. And fundamentally, where Batman broods and angsts about his past, Batwoman just gets the job done.

Her villains are just as crazy, her stories are just as epic, but she's a touch more fun, and a lot more interesting.

The only question left in my mind is who the heck could play her.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Anne McCaffrey's Women (Dragons and Harpers and Holders, Oh My!)

Today I'm going to take a little break from my usual rantings about comics and television to mention something else very dear to my heart. And by this, I refer to Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series.*

If you're not familiar with the Dragonriders series, let me lay out the premise for you. There are dragons.

Okay, it's a little more complicated than that, but really I've already told you everything that you needed to tell me when I was twelve in order to get me interested. Dragonriders boldly straddles the line between sci-fi and fantasy. Taking place on another planet, called Pern, the human inhabitants struggle to eke out a pretty medieval existence. Unfortunately for them, however, they are under constant danger from another rogue planet that comes back into orbit near them once every 200 years or so. This planet, which is never given a very official name, carries a terrifying mindless creature called Thread, that falls from the sky once the planets get close enough.

Thread is a basic organism that has one purpose: devour everything. If left unchecked it will ravage the planet and kill all of the inhabitants, or just their food. But that's not really better.

How do you kill Thread? I'm glad you asked. It involves dragons.

You see, Thread is invulnerable to everything but water (it can drown, but it takes a while) and fire. And since flying Squirtles would be dumb, Pern is equipped with dragons to keep everyone safe.**


But why, you might ask, am I talking about this series when other than its bitchin' premise, it doesn't seem to have much to do with the plot of this blog? The answer is simple: the female characters are awesome.

Let me show you just three examples, and I think you'll get the picture.

1. Lessa

Lessa is the main character in the very first three books, so she really set the tone for the series. Back before it even was a series, we had this wild-haired woman dragged into the weyr and called to stand before a dragon-hatching. There are a couple of things that are important to know here, that show just how neatly McCaffrey made this series pro-feminism. First, dragons are matriarchal. The most important and rare dragons (also the largest) are Gold Dragons. They're the Queens who lay clutches, and keep the weyr healthy.

Second, dragons are telepathic. They bond with their riders, and the bond is so strong that it can only be severed by death. Even then, dragonless riders are known to commit suicide, and riderless dragons always do. But what this means for our story is that dragons choose to bond only to compatible minds, that ensures that Queen dragons always bond with women.

Third, since the dragons are all led by their Queen, the dragonriders are all led by the Queen's rider. This means that in the weyr, the Queen's rider is the most powerful figure, and in a world that needs to be protected by dragons, the Queen and her rider pretty much rule the roost.

Which is awesome.

The thing is, McCaffrey doesn't set her story in some all-lady magical utopia. She sets her story to start in a time when it's been too long in between Thread passes. People have forgotten why they even have dragons, and they think the way that the weyrs demand tribute to be too much, and taxing. The weyrs have dwindled down from five to one, and some people worry that the Queen egg won't even hatch. The old Queen is dead. Patriarchy rules the day.

Into that world comes Lessa, who is chosen by the Queen egg, becomes ruler of the last weyr, and finally realizes that with Thread on its way, the only thing she can do is go back in time and bring the other weyrs from the past.

Along the way she manages to snag the best rider in the weyr for her mate, and absolutely kicks some patriarchal ass.

All in a day's work.

2. Menolly

Menolly came a little later in the series, and she explores a very different part of the world. Menolly is a musician, or Harper, as they're known on Pern. The problem? Only men can be Harpers, and even though Menolly is crazy talented, her family of fishermen and sea-faring people think she's a disgrace. Menolly runs away and plans to never return to civilization.

Unfortunately for her, though, she's injured, and just so happens upon a clutch of firelizard eggs right as they're hatching. (Firelizards are like tiny, adorable dragons.) She bonds with nine of them, mostly accidentally, and they help her survive in the wild. Then she's picked up by a dragonrider out looking for Thread, and after a series of adventures, manages to find her way to the Harper Hall, land of the Harpers.

Even though it's clear from the start that Menolly is a musical prodigy, and everyone she's run into along her journey other than her family has acknowledged it, Menolly is still treated like crap back at the Harper Hall. She's the only female apprentice, and the Masterharper's favoritism just makes it worse.

Menolly doesn't buckle under the pressure, though, and over the course of three books she finds herself rising up in the Harper ranks, and eventually, becomes a Master Harper. She also becomes a Journeyman in just a week after arriving at the hall, and is part of the movement to abolish Thread once and for all.

3. Nerilka

Nerilka comes from a different part of the timeline than Lessa and Menolly (who know each other, vaguely). Nerilka is from the past, and her story takes place during a great plague that sweeps through Pern. Her story runs parallel to another great epic, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. What I like about Nerilka though, or Rill, is that her story is the grounded, simple version.

Rill is the daughter of Holders, which means that she is essentially a feudal lord. When the plague comes, though, Rill gives up her place of status in favor of helping the sick and trying to find a cure. She's not glamorized, and not even described as particularly beautiful (actually, neither is Menolly), but she has an amazing drive to fix what's wrong in the world and to keep it turning.

When Moreta makes a great heroic sacrifice, Rill just keeps going, calmly caring for those around her and picking up the pieces. What's cooler than that?

The gist...

It all comes down to a simple fact: Dragonriders of Pern was the first series I ever read that I could wholly relate to. Yes, Lord of the Rings was epic and grand, but I didn't see myself in most of the characters (except Eowyn, as I've mentioned). In Dragonriders, though, I saw myself everywhere. I was Menolly, genius but misunderstood. I was Lessa, trying to reclaim my birthright and power when everyone was trying to push me down. And I was Rill, going even when everything looked hopeless and someone much prettier than me was getting all the glory.

It was the first time that I realized that science-fiction and fantasy could be about me, they didn't have to be about some boy I was never going to be or understand. I was enough, and these stories were all mine. 

Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for populating my life with such wonderful women, and for teaching me that sometimes the most important thing is not credit, or fame, it's being recognized for exactly who you are, and knowing that what you've done is worthwhile.

Thank you.

*Actually, pretty much anything she ever wrote, but people don't really know her other series as well, and my absolute favorite, Nimisha's Ship is about as well known as my high school band. If you are interested in science-fiction tales of space travel, strange aliens, and dangerous escapes, then you should definitely pick it up.

**How is this science-fiction? Well, we later discover that the original settlers of Pern actually came from Earth, and that their broken spaceship still orbits the planet. They genetically engineered dragons and firelizards to fight the Thread, before time and decay destroyed all of their technology, and it was forgotten. There is a revival, though, in the main story of the books, in which Lessa and Menolly play a huge part.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Links of Spring (She-Hulk, Samus Aran on Gay Marriage, and More!)

Again, I have no idea who the artist is. If you do, let me know!

Happy Linksday, everyone! I've been traveling a lot back and forth this week, so I feel like it's my turn to enjoy a well-earned rest. While I chill out and snooze, enjoy some fun links from around the webernets.

1. In gosh-I-wish-I'd-said-it-this-well news, Jason Richards over at The Atlantic wrote a fantastic piece on Smurfette and the maiden/crone dichotomy last year, right when the movie was coming out. Check it out here (and try not to think unkindly of my version, which is a touch less scholarly!).

2. In hey-that-ties-in-nicely news, it turns out that actress Angie Harmon of Rizzoli and Isles really, really wants to play She-Hulk. And I have to say, I can see it. Plus, She-Hulk is coming up in my series on female characters who should totally have their own movies, so it's nice to see that there could be some traction here! Check out the interview here.

3. In the-internet-is-hilarious news, the fabulous tumblr page "Is This Feminist" is my new favorite thing. It shows pictures of women in stock photos, then asks the all-important question "is this feminist?", coming up with wonderfully ridiculous answers. Check it out here. You're welcome.

4. In important-work news, there's a new safehouse for victims of human-trafficking opening up in the Boston area. Amirah, the organization, is committed to ending human-trafficking, and giving the women involved a safe place to stay and recover, as well as to raising the profile of modern slavery and making it an issue we can no longer ignore. Check them out and support them here.

5. In yeah-yeah-shut-up-about-the-Avengers-already news, the sequel has been officially announced, and Entertainment Weekly did a short piece about whether or not another woman might join the squad, and if so, who. Check it out here.

6. And in well-that's-certainly-a-way-to-raise-the-issue news, Timothy McSweeney has written a fantastic piece from the perspective of Metroid's Samus Aran, about the importance and value of gay marriage. Check it out here, it's well worth the read.

7. Finally, sex educator Laci Greene talks about the silliness of masculinizing traditionally feminine products like loofahs and irons. It's hilarious, and she's lovely.

That's all for this week, but tune in on Monday to catch a continuation of Make It a Movie May, bromances versus romances, and more!