The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Be a Woman, Not a Lady

porcelain ballerina figurine

There’s a song I heard on country radio the other day. Didn’t even hear the whole song, just a snippet. But it was enough to know what the rest of the song was about–it’s a sappy mushy country ballad, how deep is it going to go? All I really heard was “You’ll learn how to be a lady”.

This is, of course, “Lady” by Brett Young. If you read all the lyrics you see it’s more of a love letter to his wife. Not as directed at the daughter as songs like “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw or “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle

But I immediately had a visceral reaction. Learn how to be a lady? Fuck that. What makes you think a “lady” is the end goal for women? A “lady” is a token–a person in a pretty frilly dress whose only ambitions are gossip and who to marry. They’re little porcelain figures you put on a shelf as a decoration. Something that gets looked at, but never used, until you need to dust.

Don’t be a lady. Throw mud at a wall. Fight and scratch and yell. Ugly cry during a job interview. Hit a baseball. Get something pierced. Show off your body, including the scars, the pooch, the veins, the moles, the cellulite. Write terrible poetry about the guy who broke up with you. Connect people–get someone to talk to someone else. Have sex with people (except assholes; don’t reward assholes–sleep with good people you want to sleep with). Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Dance badly in the living room with the windows open. Don’t just have a period–squeeze that shit onto the pad. Wear bright lipstick. Be an orc, not an elf. Listen to Nine Inch Nails and Backstreet Boys and Ariana Grande and Nickelback. Be grossly pregnant–fart and vomit and fall asleep at inappropriate times and be sick. Get in a man’s face and scream at him for being a chauvinistic dick. Protest injustice. Become vice president of something. Hit with your fist, not a slap. Sprint at nineteen miles per hour and go viral.

Don’t be a lady because the world doesn’t need ladies. It needs women.

A Straight White Male’s Unnecessary Reaction to “Cat Person”

Felicia capcom darkstalkers

Here it is. The short story that everyone’s talking about lately. Mark your calendars. It’s a momentous occasion when a short story raises anyone’s hackles. Actually, it’s a momentous occasion when someone reads a short story. This one doesn’t even have any robots or murder in it. But it does have sex and female perspective, which seems common with a lot of short stories that garner controversy (“The Yellow Wallpaper“, “The Story of an Hour“, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall“, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?“)

Short summary: Margot, a twenty-year-old college student, goes on a date with Robert, a thirty-six-year-old socially awkward hipster she meets at a movie theater. They text a bit, she wonders what he’s thinking, how her actions are interpreted, how to interpret his, etc. Typical overanalyzing & overthinking. They have bad sex one night. Margot doesn’t know how to tell him she’s not interested. He texts her repeatedly with questions. She doesn’t answer. He calls her a whore. Story ends.

tattoo cat person
Also not the cat person we’re talking about, thank God
THE GUY

Thankfully, I am not one of the men who sees himself in Robert. Except maybe the sex. He’s having trouble keeping it up because he’s nervous — this doesn’t happen to him very often (the having of the sex). And all his knowledge comes from porno, which involves dirty talk and frequent position-switching and rough stuff. It all looks great on film but doesn’t translate in real life (because when you have sex in real life, it’s not for a viewing audience, it’s for yourself).

The guy reminds me of the WoW griefer in South Park’s “Make Love, Not Warcraft”. Slumped shoulders means he spends a lot of time on the computer. He demonstrates little ability to interact socially, especially with women, but he’s great on text. These are things I do have in common. When I was dating my wife, she fell in love with me more via AIM chat, not so much in real life. I was more talkative and funnier in text, because then I could gather my thoughts and didn’t have to worry about timing or body language. That’s why video chat has never and will never take off.

But as you see, I grew out of it. No way does our simpatico personalities excuse his behavior. This is what I was like fifteen years ago, not now. Not at the same age Robert’s at. Speaking as a thirty-six-year-old, having sex with a twenty-year-old sounds gross to me. I’m not one of those older men who’s like “ooh, young virginal flesh, yum, yum.” There’s so much porno dedicated to “eighteen and horny”, but they just look small, confused, and inexperienced. Too young looking and I’m like “that’s too close to my daughter”.

(Irrelevant side note: I’m still mystified by how Gianna Michaels and Jenna Haze are the same age. Genetic diversity is amazing. And you can tell by looking which one shows up under “MILF” tags and which one shows in “pretty young teens”)

gianna michaels jenna haze
Also thinly veiled excuse to show these two…

The reason the story is reaching so many people is that it’s so real. Like those other stories I mentioned, this is a modern “horror” story in disguise. In fact, it’s being mistaken as an essay or feature (because it’s in The New Yorker). I could totally believe this happened in real life. Especially the ending. I read psycho-texts like this on Imgur all the time (usually funny posts when they get a wrong number and keep obliviously texting and getting angrier). Some guy feels entitled after a few dates, gets ignored, and gets resentful. He’s lived a crappy average life, been given every opportunity and failed at it. Rather than blame themselves, they blame feminism or gold-diggers.

THE GIRL

Margot seems to be trying to convince herself that she likes this guy. Is she really so devoid of prospects as a twenty-year-old co-ed? (Not according to the websites I visit late at night 😼 ) Maybe there’s a subtlety here that I can’t wrap my head around, that of casual encounters. Might be something after my time or I’m incapable of grokking it.

But my point is more of the relationship takes place in Margot’s head than real life. She fills in the blanks when his reactions are confusing or off-putting, instead of taking them at face value. She fills the gaps with what she wants to happen. Even when having sex, she turns herself on by thinking of what he’s thinking. This is a classic mistake of believing there’s more complexity in the room than there is. That’s the whole point of the story — trying to figure out who Robert is through incomplete information. That’s why the story ends when she gets it.

man woman control panel buttons
Oversimplified, but still largely true

Thankfully, at the end of it all, she’s not scarred by the experience. And even as it’s going on, she’s thinking how she’s going to look back at it and laugh. Sadly, this is a best case scenario for the presented circumstances.

Here’s a pro-tip. If you are dating a man, and you’re getting a vibe that he’s like a skittish bear or a horse that needs to be calmed down, that’s a red flag. You want a human being, not a pet.

I question why Margot does not end this cleanly. Should we be more focused on her reluctance to give him any sort of response? I won’t say this is a character flaw because, in today’s society, it’s understandable. Every time a woman goes on a date with someone she doesn’t know well, she’s entering the lion’s den. She jokes about whether he’s going to murder her, but it’s only half a joke. That’s something men still need to grok about women. Women have a lot more to lose on the dating scene.

She gives herself two options — either a cut-and-dried rejection via text or an Irish exit. Let’s take a look at that golden oldie from 1996, up forty-two big notches to number eleven “Popular” by Nada Surf

Don’t put off breaking up when you know you want to. Prolonging the situation only makes it worse. Tell him honestly, simply, kindly, but firmly. Don’t make a big production, don’t make up an elaborate story. This will help you avoid a big tear-jerking scene. If you want to date other people, say so. Be prepared for the boy to feel hurt and rejected. Even if you’ve gone together for only a short time and haven’t been too serious, there’s still a feeling of rejection when someone says she prefers the company of others to your exclusive company. But if you’re honest and direct and avoid making a flowery emotional speech when you break the news, the boy will respect you for your frankness and, honestly, he’ll appreciate the kind of straightforward manner in which you told him your decision, unless he’s a real jerk or a crybaby.

Timeless wisdom from the age of Nirvana.

THE SEX

Women have the right to change their mind at any time. It would be better if they do it sooner than later, but still… Impolite or not, no one has any obligation to continue an activity they don’t want to. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to lead someone on then stop.

But there’s a difference when it comes to something as intimate as sex.

People are dancing around the consent factor in the sex scene. Margot could have said no at any time, but didn’t. This makes people confused as to whether the sex was consensual. It can be argued what makes refusal or negative consent, but you have to do something if you’re not under any threat. You have to make some kind of flag that says any reasonable person would understand as “I want to stop”. (Assuming that you can. If you do not have the ability to do so, like if you’re unconscious, it’s an automatic no.) Enthusiastic consent is a great idea, but it’s not legally binding. She may have been drunk, but that doesn’t mean you lose your volition (as court cases involving “Girls Gone Wild” have proven).

And you can’t tell a guy after he’s taken his shirt off that you don’t want to have sex anymore. That’ll destroy him. That’s when Margot’s turning point occurs. Even Ann Landers would agree with me there. Pro-tip: fake a sudden sickness. Say you drank so much you’re sick, or the dinner turned on you.

dad bod seth rogen
Possible casting for “Cat Person: The Movie”
CONCLUSION

Someone needs to write a story from the cat’s point of view.

Eating My Words on Wonder Woman

eat words

Oh, look at all these words. Oh… yum… gulp… so delicious… so meaty. So good… so good to eat… so scrumptious… I’ve never eaten words as good as this before. This is delicious. Scrumpf… glomp… chew… oh so good… so satisfying… filling…can’t get enough…

So in 2012, I wrote a blog about how we’d never see a Wonder Woman movie, or at least a good one. Let’s take a look at some of the points I made and why I was wrong.

“…to make Wonder Woman translate to today’s audiences, you would have to alter her so radically that she wouldn’t resemble Wonder Woman anymore. … Someone’s going to leave unhappy — either the fanboys or the casuals.” 

Well, what I didn’t count on was that the movie was going to make someone else happy — women. Not just geek women or romcom women or intellectual women. Just… women. They kept the character… mm, I hate to say it but “generic” enough so that everyone could project on to her. One tweet said “Is this why men watch superhero movies? Because I feel like taking on an army after seeing Wonder Woman.”

And why wouldn’t you be excited? How nice would it be to not be afraid of men? Someone who didn’t have to hold her keys in her fist walking through the parking lot, who doesn’t have some bald man staring at her on the subway, who can sit in a bar without some drunk stranger telling her to “smile more”. Wonder Woman doesn’t let anyone shut her down or interrupt her.

This is the flaw in DC movies — they try too hard to please everyone and rely too much on focus groups. Hence the movies are bland and messy and deviate too much from source characters (e.g. Suicide Squad, Man of Steel, Superman v. Batman). As a result, the movies have no flavor. They’re bland. As colorless as… as… well, as a DC movie (come on guys, you gotta do color correction!) Wonder Woman is not an exception. It’s as gray as a warfare first-person shooter. But it did the best it could. And one hopes that the Justice League, which has some characters who aren’t so grimdark (Aquaman, Flash), will pick up that slack too.

But my point is, they didn’t radically change Wonder Woman. In fact, they didn’t make much of her at all. Didn’t take any risks. Didn’t add any flavor. They didn’t change a McDonald’s hamburger recipe. She was built for a
task, she goes out to fulfill that task. No dead cancer mother or
alcoholism or past life as a criminal. She doesn’t have any flaws (being naive doesn’t count) that make her broken. In fact, her role is to nurture the broken — the Irish guy with PTSD and the Blackfoot exiled from his tribe. If Captain America is the father-figure of the Avengers, Wonder Woman is the mama lion of the Justice League.

“Wonder Woman is intrinsically bonded to its creators predilections towards bondage and female dominance. Wonder Woman is frequently shown either tying up criminals or being tied up.”

I had trouble separating the comic book from the character. For one thing, I think I wrote this around peak “but the comics were better” fanboyism. This was when The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man came out. Everyone else (I’m looking at you DC and Sony) screwed it up because they deviated too much from the source material. Batman couldn’t live up to The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man was receiving a too-soon reboot. Marvel planted its flag with The Avengers, but it still failed the Bechdel Test.

See up to this point, comic book movies always keeping women as sidekicks — Captain America: The Winter Soldier had Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy has Gamora, Thor has Jane, Iron Man has Pepper Potts. And being sidekicks, these women had little definition. Black Widow is “the spy”. Gamora is the “warrior-princess”. Pepper Potts is the sassy secretary. These are not characters, they’re archetypes. When you make a main character that character has to be “broken” in some way. And if you make a woman broken, you get flak saying “how dare you represent all women as [this condition]”.

Wonder Woman fights no criminals, pursues no bad guys. The movie is about World War I and takes a few pages from Apocalypse Now, traveling from the bureaucratic offices to the front lines. But where that storyline became darker and darker, Wonder Woman gives hope. Hope that, with courage and friends, you can take on anyone.

The concept of binding or being bound within the film is removed completely. There are no games and no rope play. Wonder Woman herself is never bound (in the comics, that’s her one weakness, so it’s surprising that doesn’t make it in). Moulston might not approve of the film, but he’s not here. And the world’s moved past that kind of Wonder Woman. Yes, it does stray from her original spirit, but it changes her character for the better.

“How would you even start the story?”

They did it the best way — simply. They left only the basics. Not too many characters get shoved into foreground because once Diana leaves the island, we never see them again. We stay on Wonder Woman the whole time. Even when we have to deviate with some backstory narration, it takes the form of her bedtime story.

“The problem is there’s a stigma around Amazons.”

wonder woman movie supporting cast
The right way
woman bodybuilder muscles
The wrong way

I worried that characters would become “entitled, bitchy woman with more masculinity than femininity who can’t form social relationships”. The concept is that this secret island holds Zeus’s ripping cool army just in case he ever needs it again. This avoids turning into a land of man-haters (because they’ve worked with men in the past). It also helps that the set and costume design comes from women. They knew how to make feminine warriors without being booblicious.

As far as Diana’s concerned, there’s a little of the “born sexy yesterday” trope. But her character’s development is more about the transition from classic-style honor-fighting to modern warfare. But she still likes babies and ice cream. She doesn’t have the mind of a child so she can hold a conversation without sounding like Sally from Third Rock From the Sun (not that I don’t hold respect for that character, but she was played for laughs). I saw a bit of Bones in her, but not in a disdainful way.

“The first thing you’d have to do is totally revamp the costume.” 

They did, but not very much. For one thing, you don’t see the costume until her iconic charge out of the trench. Until then, it’s cloaks and robes. After the big reveal, you can see they kept the color scheme, but made it grayed out metal.

There’s no explanation for WHY she’s wearing it, and that bothers me. In the plot, she stole some armor from the Themyscira vaults, but it has no context, nor explanation why it looks different from everyone else’s. But this movie’s made me pay more attention to the beauty of the outfits than all movies I’ve seen in the past thirty-six years (I’m 36) combined. They even manage to have a costume montage in the middle. But its more about where she can store her sword, not what’s tantalizing.

Still the best dressing montage there is.

“The biggest problem with Wonder Woman is that her weapons and tools just don’t make sense. … First, [the lasso of truth is] not a very exciting power. Second, it becomes a deus ex machina.”

There is actually surprisingly little of Wonder Woman wielding her signature weapon. She uses the sword, shield, and bracelets more. The few times she does use it is either for interrogation (and he is barely tied up) or as a whip. The plot doesn’t demand that she use it either. At the time, I was thinking of plots like The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3 that are full of deception and intrigue. But more to the point, she IS the weapon. She’s personified defense and offense, not strategy or intelligence (in the spy sense) or moral relativism or power through any means other than selflessness. Also, no silly invisible plane.

“[G]olden bracelets that can stop bullets. … The only things they could block are tiny cocktail swords. … [Y]our wrist bones would shatter as soon as a bullet hit.”

The bracelets are glossed over in the plot. I believe in the comics they’re formed of the shield of Aegis, which is like DC-adamantium. But she does use them and somehow has the reflexes to stop an incoming bullet. Is that explained? No. Her powers are kept ambiguous, which is a disadvantage because it makes her overpowered. They don’t even explain why she doesn’t age. I wouldn’t be surprised if some audience members thought her “god killer” power was the bracelets instead of within herself.

“[F]our words: aim for the legs. The well-exposed legs.”

This still stands, but it’s a problem among many movies. It happens several times to Captain America and no one bats an eye, so I guess we’re all agreeing to ignore it? Rule of cool?

“Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman had the screwed-up relationship of “I Dream of Jeannie”. Wonder Woman’s got all this power and ability, yet she feels incomplete without him.”

In this movie, Wonder Woman absolutely does not NEED Steve Trevor. Well, she does NEED him, in the sense that he’s her liaison into the world of men. But if she got a map to the front or some notes on how British government works, she’d be fine on her own. This is probably the biggest deviation from the comics, but also the most welcome. And it would have been the easiest pit to fall into.

Diana does not have a romance with Steve and Steve doesn’t treat Diana as anything but a peer. A fellow soldier and a means to an end. They both want to end the war. Steve doesn’t necessarily believe in this Ares nonsense, but he’s seen her take on a boat full of Nazis, so he’s got the proof and the pudding.

“Etta Candy? Who is she supposed to be? Comic relief? Is she like the Theodore of this triumvirate?”

Etta Candy is a pleasant cameo, but little more. She’s really the only other woman in the cast who’s not a Themysciran action figure. And they give her dignity. She’s not food-obsessed or man-obsessed. They did her right by not giving her a stereotype or archetype. She doesn’t have a “thing”, unless you count being delightfully British.

“[T]he biggest problem with the supporting characters is that Wonder Woman has no memorable villains.”

I think this still stands. I could see the Ares thing a mile a way and General Thunderbolt is just another Red Skull/Bane/Popeye pastiche taking Super Serum (don’t you know you never get high off your own stash?) The same thing happens in the first Thor, the first Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and the first Spider-Man. But it does avoid the “designated girl fight” and doesn’t go on too long. Dr. Poison was the most interesting (I imagined her like Dr. Tenenbaum from Bioshock) and it’s a shame she got such an uninteresting ending. But we got thrown cars and explosions, so how much can you complain about it?

Final thoughts: Yes, thumbs-up. I am bullish on Wonder Woman stock. I really hope this gets directors and producers to realize that yes, women-led movies, both in front and behind the camera, can make money. And even better, they make good art.

Titles For Women that Need to Change

women's champion ring wrestling title

I recently wrote about insulting and derogatory words and how they need to change, because they all imply femininity, which is not a negative trait. The idea that women are weak and sinful is out of date. But language is not evolving fast enough.

Titles for women aren’t so great either. They’re based on medieval notions and misconceptions about women’s authority, usually based on who they were married to rather than their rank. Let’s take a look.

“ma’am” – Short for “madam” which carries a certain definition that, well, I don’t need to explain. It’s supposed to be the equivalent of the male’s “sir”. But whereas that one is associated with knights, “madam” is associated with overseeing brothels and prostitution. Madams don’t get good reputations. Case in point: Madam Tussauds, Madam Butterfly, Madam Thenardier.

The sad part is it’s supposed to be the nominal appellation for women of power — Madam Justice, Madam Speaker, Madam President. It’s got the word “mad” in there, which is unpleasant. And no one knows if the long form is supposed to be “madam” or “madame”. Negative points for failing to be consistent. I blame the French.

“milady” – I like the sound of this one, but there’s that “my”, which implies possession. That “you are mine”. No one says “my sir” or “my gent”. It adds to the idea that women are property.

“dame” – I think this is the technical title for a female knight. But it’s stupid. When I think of dames I think of old British ladies (like REALLY old… like competing with Jabba the Hutt for most wrinkles) or 1920s mobsters (or equivalent pastiche in Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers).

Wait, I just thought of this. Is “madame” a portmanteau of “my dame”? Like “milady”/”my lady”? Jeez, maybe there really is only one word for everything.

“Mrs.” or “Misses” – This is what you call your teacher. And for some stupid reason the variations (“ms.”, “miss”) are based on marital status. This is a big problem if you’re job seeking and writing cover letters. How am I supposed to know if someone I’ve never met is married? It’s hard enough telling what gender a person these days, let alone their Tindr profile. Not to mention the double standard implied — “mister” doesn’t have any variations because who cares if they’re attached.

“lady” – I guess it’s the equivalent of “gentleman” which is out of vogue in the first place. It often appears as a title, but I’m guessing it’s not high, like baroness or duchess. Nonetheless, it’s a simple noun, not a descriptor. She’s not a gentle lady or anything like that.

“mistress” – I mean, come on. This is the word for someone a guy is having an affair with. Don’t even try and insult me.

So do I have replacements? No. No, I do not. All these words are rooted in old timey terms of respect and formality. Foreign languages won’t help us (try calling someone a “Frau” or “signora”). I kinda like matron as it implies leadership, but it also implies you’re taking care of kids.

Ideally, titles would be either gender-neutral or closer in nobility and standing to males (like “sir”). I guess we’ll have to make some up like they’re doing for pronouns. “Now introducing Sir Derek and Xelatos Margaret.”

Tropes vs. Anita Part Deux

anita sarkessian women video games

Oh look, Anita Sarkeesian made a new video. That only took her, what, two months and twenty-one days? And she’s got 12 videos to make? Fantastic. At this rate, she’ll be done by November 2015. Good investment for all those kickstarter contributors.



I feel like I should offer a critique like I did before, but I actually have fewer bones to pick with this one. The same issues I had with the last video remain. Like cherry-picking data — she’s starting with her point and then finding just the evidence that proves it. She doesn’t consider the medium as a whole. If you only use movies like “A Serbian Tale” and “The Human Centipede”, of course you’re going to have a skewed view of patterns in the medium.

If I wanted to, I could make a great case about the representation of fathers vs. mothers in the same medium. We’re vilified as being incompetent, evil, or unnecessary. Any movie about fatherhood is either “Daddy Day Care” or “Taken“. But I won’t because I’m already playing on the easiest level.

Then there’s the failure to take into consideration the culture of origin for the games, i.e., Japan vs. America. Japan is not great with its feminism in the first place. They value style over substance. They don’t make many original stories or take creative risks. “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down”. Just look at the Final Fantasy or Godzilla.

Then there’s knowing the audience. A dark and gritty game centered on violence/combat as the chief mechanic is going to cater to males. Nuff said. Video game companies do not make these with women in mind. Women simply are not the market for those games. I’m not saying women don’t like those games. But their dark and gritty tends more towards Jacqueline Carey, Mira Grant, The Hunger Games, or various animes.

And that’s what she’s focusing on today. Instead of looking at any game from 2001-2013 that’s sexist, she focuses on those “dark and gritty” games like The Darkness, Castlevania, and Shadows of the Damned. The damsel in distress has become the damsel stuffed in the refrigerator.

She did sum up the problem nicely. You give the protagonist a revenge motivation at the start or a savior motivation to work towards. It’s a common way to heighten dramatic tension when the “damsel in distress” has been done to death. You simply up the stakes. Not only is she kidnapped, but she’s dead. Not only is she dead, but her soul is trapped in limbo. Not only is her soul trapped in limbo, but it’s become fused to a demon. Not only is she fused to a demon, but the only way to kill the demon is to kill her.

This makes it seem like the violence is for her own good, which is a common rationalization for violence against women. And sometimes it’s the only way to “win”. It’s strange that even in this time of advanced games, mechanics and player choice, there are still games that don’t allow you to move forward unless you pull a trigger. When you look at each individual instance, each game, it’s not as meaningful. But multiple games together you see the common threads.

Side note: I love how when she’s talking about Bionic Commando she first: totally spoils it (thanks for the warning Anita — thank god you didn’t mention Bioshock: Infinite), and second: fake laughs when she says that your departed wife is the central AI in your bionic arm. Lady, if that’s what makes you lose your shit, you haven’t begun to scratch the surface of real geek culture.

My main issue is that I don’t really see a way around it. Female disempowerment goes hand in hand with dark and gritty. It doesn’t necessarily have to, like in “Sin City” or Spawn. But for every Angela, there’s a Wanda Blake. For every Miho, there’s a Nancy.

The other thing is this is not so much violence or victimization of women, but lazy writing. These are all games where the only way to express anything is with a gun. And the only way to express love through a gun would be a mercy killing. I don’t believe it causes violence against women, as Sarkeesian seems to imply, but treating a symptom doesn’t cure the disease. No one goes out and beats women because they saw it in a video game. The same reason no one goes and shoots up a school because of a video game. (for more, see this)

If you play nothing but games like Infamous, Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, and Dante’s Inferno, will you get desensitized to it? Yes. But if you are victimizing women, there was something wrong in the first place. Video games like these are part escapist fantasy and part effects of the issue, not the causes.

By the way, it was about 6:25 when she first mentioned God of War. Although it wasn’t in the sense I thought she would. Come on, you missed the multiple gratuitous sex scenes and Pandora’s sacrifice? Anita, you’re dropping the ball.

The Books I Read: September – October 2012

bookshelf books

the last unicorn peter s. beagle
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

My mom was surprised I’d never read it. And I saw the movie, which I loved for its campy 80’s-ness and animation that wasn’t Disney. The book follows the movie pretty damn well. It’s almost word-for-word. So much that I’m afraid my experience with the movie colored my opinion of the book. I guess it’s like when you hear the remix to a song first, then you hear the original version. But the remix was the first one you heard so you like that better. I’m sure there’s a name for that phenomenon.

Anyway, I wish I could say I enjoyed it and could recommend it, but the fact is, I think I got more out of the movie than the book. Sorry to be that way. Maybe it was meant for the seventies. Maybe it was supposed to be old-world satirical, like “The Once and Future King”.

For instance, one of the bandits eats a taco. I had to read that several times and look it up to make sure taco didn’t have some weird etymology. And there are other weird anachronisms like the Rastafarian butterfly, Jewish names, and magic that works when the story needs it to.

But I also didn’t like “The Once and Future King”. I guess if you’re going to make a humorous fantasy novel, you gotta go whole hog like “The Princess Bride”. The movie felt more alive, with bright colors and good voice acting and better tension. But I’m glad I read it.

stardust graphic novel neil gaiman charlie vess
Stardust by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charlie Vess

I picked this up in the graphic novel section of my library by mistake. It’s actually the novel’s full text, saturated with illustrations, in the shape and size of a graphic novel. At first I wasn’t going to read it — I’d already seen the movie and it’s one of Gaiman’s very first forays into text, which are always stumbling. But then I thought, well, it’s Neil Gaiman, so what the heck.

Like “The Last Unicorn”, this might be a case of “first version” syndrome. I saw the movie first, and it follows so closely, I feel like that’s my preferred version. The movie has more — Robert DeNiro is a gay sky pirate, crying Claire Danes, and there’s an awesome climax battle.

In the book, it feels like the plotlines aren’t woven together, but in the movie, they are. Plus the added bonus of the visuals. Maybe that’s why they turned it into a graphic novel.

wild cheryl strayed
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Oh boy. Grab a cup of tea for this review. I got a lot to say.

When this book was assigned for book club, my first thought was that it was going to be like Eat, Pray, Love. Instead of shirking her responsibilities to work and family and spending a bunch of money she doesn’t have so she can eat grubs with toothless monks and have sex with strange European men, Cheryl Strayed takes a short cut and just hikes the Pacific Crest trail.

This kind of story is always bullshit. I couldn’t get past the introduction without immediately disliking her.

In the first section, she presents herself as divorced, a drug user, an adulterer, homecoming queen, and cheerleader. And to boot, she colors Minnesotans as north woods cabin-dwellers with no electricity or running water. And I’m supposed to root for her?

In the first chapter, she’s already hating her husband of four years (who she married at twenty) for no reason, despite the fact that he has been calling her every day (out of concern) while she’s at the hospital with her dying mother. But nope, whatever connection she thinks they had broke. No reason why, it just happened. No reason to make an effort to try and put things back together either. Solid. You sound like a good person to me.

Especially after you leave your husband and start doing heroin. Then he drives eight hours across the country to intervention you away from this asshole. With nothing to gain from it — out of the goodness of his heart he does this. After a few months of dealing with the divorce and the death of her mom (and not having a job or source of income), she decides on a whim that she’ll hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Based solely on a book she picked up.

Listen to me. You are not courageous. You are a fuck-up that doesn’t know you’re a fuck-up, and then wonders why there’s consequences for your actions. You’ve been acting selfish all your life, then go out and do something selfish under the guise of “finding yourself”, then write a book all about it because you can’t fuel your ego enough.

You hiking up the Pacific seaboard without learning how to hike properly is not a struggle. It’s you being stupid. Your sole source of information was a book published in 1989 (hike took place in 2006) and the pimple-face at REI. You don’t know how to wear boots or pack a bag. I read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. That means I’m more qualified than she was.

But Strayed makes sure to mention each and every other book she reads on the trail (before she burns them for campfire fuel). Not that any of them help her — it’s all pretentious literary bullshit like “As I Lay Dying”, “Dubliners” and “The Novel”. And just in case we forget that she’s “well-read”, there’s a handy list at the back of the book.

She’s surprised that there’s no such thing as a bad hair day on the trail. She’s no longer worried about the intricacies of being thin or fat. Women have been discovering that for decades. Do you think Mia Hamm or the female American Gladiators worry about their hair? (Well, the gladiators might. They’re on TV, after all.) This women is so deep in her self, the idea that anyone around her might have already discovered these gems or feels the same way never occurs to her. She thinks she’s finding all these things herself for the first time. And then she doesn’t even learn anything. She still has sex with anonymous partners. Just to experience “what a man feels like again”.

And if that’s not enough, if you get the Oprah Book Club edition, you can enjoy all of Queen O’s laudations and notes about how she’s so courageous, how she’s such a good writer, all the passages she loves about “past-bloom flowers in the wind” and being in love with words. Make me puke.

The biggest example of her idiocy occurs midway through the book. A man in a car stops up and asks to her interview her for Hobo Times. “But I’m not a hobo,” she says, “I’m a backpacker.”
“Do you have a permanent home?” he asks.
“Nope.”
“Are you walking on the road?”
“Yep.”
“How many times have you slept with a roof over your head in the past month?”
“Three.”
“Is your backpack all you have in the world?”
“Are you getting around by hitchhiking?”
“Yes.”
“Then please take this standard hobo care package.”

Which she does. Nice. Way to stay true to your convictions. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck…

This book perpetuates the same idea I had in Merm-8, that people who break the rules get it all, while the people who follow the rules, go to work every day and do their job, get shafted. Please, women. Please don’t look up to self-absorbed people like this for your inspiration.

mogworld yahtzee croshaw
Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw

After that book I had to get something a little more my style. Mogworld is the first book written by the very awesome creator of the very awesome video game review series “Zero Punctuation”. Imagine the Angry Video Game Nerd on speed and Australian.

All Jim wanted was a little peace and quiet. Not much to ask for, being dead after all. But after a necromancer raises him for his unholy army of the night (with a nice health-care package), Jim tries everything to get back to his crypt. But things keep getting in the way, like the zealot priest, “Slippery John”, the crafty thief who keeps referring to himself in third person, and the Deleters — mysterious, ghost-like apparitions that seem to have more control over the world than anyone really should.

Okay, I don’t know why I just wrote a query for this book (a bad one, at that). The book combines a little Terry Pratchett and a little Video Game Memebase. There are so few books out there that treat video games as legit (like Ready Player One) it’s a pleasure to find something that’s this well-written. My only beef is that it’s so satirical and biting that there aren’t enough really likable characters in it. Like a lot of nerd humor, it relies on Asperger’s syndrome or douche-bag characters for its humor.

pulling up stakes peter david
Pulling Up Stakes (Part 1) by Peter David

I love Peter David, and this book was only $.99 so why not? The problem as I soon discovered is that this is only part one. I’m not even sure if it’s the first half. (I think it is, cause the end blurb says “Coming Soon: the conclusion”) There’s no indication that this is just the first part, and no indication where the second half is or if it’s even forthcoming.

If I hadn’t paid just a buck for it, I might be pissed. I know how books are — sometimes it can be months or years between sequels (George R. R. Martin). Sometimes the writers never come back to those works — they just don’t feel like writing them anymore (Anne Rice). Sometimes they get made but never get published because of market demands (Fiona Apple).

What I do not like is getting half a story, no matter how cheap it was. I’m a bit of a completionist, and knowing that the story might be hanging out there forever, like a song that never reaches its final chord, does not make me a happy customer. It’s like making a recipe, but you can only make part of it now — the rest of the ingredients will come later. When maybe you don’t feel like eating anymore.

the book thief marcus zusak
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Sigh. I wanted to like this, but I guess I’m a meat-and-potatoes guy when it comes to books. I like my plot and I like my characters. Any fancy dressing or style tends to get in the way for me. I don’t like all this weird flowery roundabout writing, or lacy descriptions, or jumping around between events, or being narrated to by Death, who should be omniscient and godlike. But he/she gets presented as a human being concerned with the day-to-days of a single ant. It’s not plausible for me.

Not to mention I already had a certain level of prejudice. “Number the Stars” was recently finished and I’d seen Anne Frank a few times. How many different ways can you tell the story of a young girl in the Nazi occupation? Without the stylistics and obfuscations of what’s going on, the core story is really quite bland. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. Maybe I’m not the target audience.

The novel has its strengths and weaknesses. Near the end, I actually did like the idea of Death as a narrator, but I would have rather Death was an actual character, a protagonist a la Neil Gaiman (but that might be my bias showing through). I like the frequent uses of colored skies, and how they relate to the novel, but I can’t get out of my head that that’s something a high schooler would do. An author’s first duty is to the story. And it would have been stronger with the fat boiled away.

Sexy Batman Villains

poison ivy harley quinn catwoman

I’ve been looking for porn about thinking about Poison Ivy, the Batman villain. She’s a good character, but for being a plant-woman, she sure exudes sexuality. In fact, that got me thinking about all the Batman villains, especially the difference between the guys and the girls.

I love Batman’s villains because they all represent fractured psyches of the hero. Unlike just about any other comic book villain who are just about power, revenge, or greed. Enemies like the Joker represent chaos opposed to Batman’s order. Bane is what happens when you have too much power. Two-Face is the double identity getting away from you. Scarecrow is fear (which Batman uses for good, but it’s a double-edged sword). Riddler represents obsession. The Penguin represents… uh, deformity? Indulgence? Umbrellas? I’ll get back to you on that one. Anyway, my point is the men are pretty diverse, all shapes and sizes.

The girls all represent some fractured psyche as well. Poison Ivy is the repressed schoolgirl becoming liberated. Catwoman is Batman’s intellectual equal in the criminal world (bat rhymes with cat, you know). Harley Quinn is the female side of Joker’s dementia, forever victim to his whims. Problem is, they’re also all sex objects.

batman arkham city catwoman
This is Catwoman’s slide in Batman: Arkham City, where Batman has a practical feet-first soccer sweep.

They didn’t start that way, but they’ve gotten way worse, and I don’t like it. I can’t find one picture Poison Ivy without her titties bouncing out as big as pumpkins. I don’t know, maybe it’s part of her character, something about flowers and vaginas. But all the others are the same way too. Harley Quinn is a Lolita — pigtails and a gymnast’s body with a skin-tight suit. Plus it’s implied that she has a sexual relationship with Joker. Catwoman is the Lois Lane — regular-sized, regular hair, regular boobs. The problem is she always wears skin-tight leather, carries a whip, and is constantly making innuendos.

batman arkham city catwoman
You know it’s always snowing in Arkham City, right?

The sad part (not the saddest part, I’ll get to that) is that they didn’t always used to be that way. Poison Ivy used to be just a seductress. Then she became an eco-terrorist, then a mad scientist. Then her storyline changed to her having the ability to create and resist poisons, then she could control plants a la Swamp Thing. The only thing she wears is a few conveniently placed leaves. Harley Quinn started on a children’s cartoon show. And Catwoman didn’t even wear a costume.

catwoman first appearance comic
Catwoman’s first appearance

But somehow, over the years, each of these characters went from being respectable to downright whorish. Catwoman went from Jean Harlow wearing a long purple dress to Michelle Pfeiffer’s S & M fantasy. Harley Quinn went from comic relief to pedophile fodder. And Poison Ivy’s just a porn actress now.

batman harley quinn arkham city
Harley’s outfit in Arkham City.  Somewhat different from her original incarnation.

The saddest part is that these three are about it. There are no other female villains in the Batman universe. And actually there aren’t that many females period in the Batman universe. Oracle/Batgirl and Vicki Vale and that’s it.

batman poison ivy comic
Poison Ivy’s first look

Make no mistake. Batman is a male power fantasy so this is not unexpected. Ridiculous, but not unexpected. You don’t need to make women into strippers to retain interest. In fact, it becomes implausible to have a cat burglar with her jacket halfway unzipped, or someone whose breasts are too big for her prison shirt to be closed.

poison ivy arkham city
Seriously, they let her get away with this outfit in Arkham Asylum?  Or maybe she needs skin exposed for photosynthesis.

In fact, I think of all the superheroes, he might be the most “Republican-like”. And I don’t enjoy saying that. But he’s a multi-billionaire philanthropist who inherited his money. For all intents and purposes, there’s no way he could maintain his lifestyle and business and should have had his identity uncovered a long time ago (but again, fantasy). He has power and women, but a chip on his shoulder from mom and dad, and he’s always trying to redeem himself for them.

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The Dark Knight Returns had a significant poor vs. rich arc.

Most of his adventures don’t focus so much on saving the victim as catching the criminal. His enemies are extremist in character and represent chaos, power, and liberation. Not often greed or revenge. Batman is always trying to put things back the way they were. Victims tend to be faceless (and there’s a few storylines where this is one of the messages) and the criminal is never ambiguous. It’s always quite clear that they’re doing bad.

Personally, I’d want to see a superhero who deals with those less ambiguous guys (people who interfere with legal abortion clinics, people on Ashley-Madison, obviously corrupt politicians who game the system, sexual predators who slip through the cracks). That’s what I wanted the Supergirl movie to have. That’s what superheroes are meant for — saving people when the system fails.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my torrent is done.

UPDATE: I totally forgot about Talia al Ghul for some reason. Idiot. She’s kind of a clone of Catwoman anyway: antiheroine/villain, off-again, on-again romance with Batman, and always wearing skin-tight leather.

Talia Al Ghul Batman comics
Ninja boobies!

How I Would Write a Supergirl Movie

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A few nights ago I foolishly kept myself up late in bed, thinking of how I would write a Supergirl movie.  I’ve already talked about how Supergirl is an interesting character, and I believe, unlike Wonder Woman, she’s got a lot of story potential.  Certainly more than Superman, who’s a bland, God-like, force of nature with no personality, no weaknesses, and nothing to lose.

The unfortunate part is that most Supergirl’s vulnerabilities extend from being a “kept” woman.  In the comic books, most of her storyline conflicts are about keeping her identity secret.  At least in the silver age.  Superman’s got the same problem but her’s are a little more crucial because she’s “forbidden” from doing any active superheroing.  By Superman (fuck that guy).

Then Supergirl’s origins changed dramatically, but to the point where she wasn’t really Supergirl anymore.  She was Matrix or Power Girl or something.  Supergirl’s best place is as Superman’s female counterpart, so how do you do that without writing Superman with boobs?

Step the First: The Themes

Maybe I’m wrong for starting with this, as good writers say that themes develop from story, not the other way around.  But it’s so easy to fall into trappings of bygone days that you need some ground rules before you start forming a story, because it is so easy to make a terrible female superhero.  Movies need to be about something.  The trick is to stay conservative with the themes, not go heavy-handed, and know what to avoid.

What you need to avoid is making Supergirl a strong, independent warrior woman.  Supergirl is not Red Sonja or Lara Croft or She-Ra.  She’s not too aloof or “masculine” to form social relationships (see my evaluation of Emma in “Once Upon a Time”).  It’s an overused stereotype and it’s boring.

Nor is she a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, because she’s a naive alien (more on the alien thing in a bit).  The movie made her this effervescent Madonna, wide-eyed and flowery, like Alice in Wonderland.  Problem: Alice is a wimp.  She’s not proactive, she’s reactive.  And what we really care about is the setting — the funny things happening around her.  I don’t give a shit if she gets out of Wonderland (in fact, I’d prefer if she didn’t, so more wackiness can ensue).  Alice in Wonderland does not fit with a noble warrior persona.  You can’t force one story into something so totally different in genre and spirit.  That’s like forcing A Tale of Two Cities into Batman.  Wait a minute…

Buffy might be a good place to start.  But Buffy has it’s flaws too — she may be the valley girl suddenly granted the power to beat the nasty back, but she’s still a valley girl.  Arya Stark might be a good model too.  The key here is that I want Supergirl to be a role model that girls can look up to, not some sex fantasy like Starfire.  She’s the one that inspires women to stand up to the bullies, fight the system.  Women need all the role models they can get.  We’re living in a world where our national leaders forbid you from saying the word “vagina” and believe the female body can detect rape and “shut down”.

I swear, I’m going somewhere with this.  I want to make sure that Supergirl is not portrayed as “female Superman”.  Nor as a Superman substitute.  Nor as a sex object and nor as an idiot.  I want to be sure she’s her own person, with personality traits and character.  Distinct like Iron Man or Wolverine or Robin.  She has friends, she has likes and dislikes, she has problems, she has opinions.  She should be a protagonist.  Protagonists start from one point and change by the end.  And from what point do we start?

Step the Second: The Origin Story

Every good hero has a good origin story that involves crisis of character.  Most superhero movies are origin stories, because that vehicle has the most character development and struggle.  This one should be no different.  You could start Supergirl totally different — it is a reboot after all.  But I’d keep her traditional take-off — living on a chunk of Krypton floating in space after the planet was destroyed.  It’s a little bizarre, but so is heat vision and freeze breath if you think about it.

Now obviously, we should use this opportunity to show Kryptonian lifestyle.  Ask any joe on the street, he can’t tell you a thing about Krypton, besides they used a lot of crystals and wobbly hula hoops instead of handcuffs.  It’s also important because without context or foundation for Supergirl’s former life, everything else falls flat.  It certainly falls flat for Superman.

How do we get the plot moving?  In the movie, the bubble city suddenly explodes because of… reasons.  I say this is an excellent opportunity to bring in our villain.  A good villain is intrinsically tied to the hero.  Joker and Batman, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Sarah Connor and the Terminator, Cloud and Sephiroth.  Seems a no-brainer to make the villain the person who A) starts the plot B) is attached in some way to Supergirl.

Now we come to a problem.  When Superman plops to Earth, he’s a baby.  His parents have some difficulty raising a toddler that can raise them (pun!), but they manage with good, wholesome American values.  Supergirl won’t have that.

Supergirl is going to be a teenager ripped away from her home, ending up on a strange planet where no one can communicate with her (come on, you think they speak English on Krypton?).  She’s going to be really confused, really scared, and really not in control of her powers.  She’s going to scramble and run away from the scary people who speak in pops and clicks.  She might end up hurting people in the process.  She doesn’t know she can fly or how to fly.  She might run away, then start floating and panic.

Somehow, she’s got to get stopped, probably by accident (a la Cars) since no one’s going to have kryptonite handy.  I imagine that she’s eventually brought inside, maybe by a woman who appeals to her with chocolate chip cookies (they don’t have those on Krypton).  Smash cut to her in the kitchen table, intensely studying an abridged dictionary (and eating a plateful of chocolate chip cookies).  That’s how she learns the language.  I figure she can do that in a night — she’s part of advanced alien race.

After that, I’m not sure.  Who takes care of her?  In the comics, I think she’s in an orphanage.  Maybe she gets adopted?  Maybe the head of the orphanage is one of the villains, who sees her as a potential opportunity to seize power (kinda like Hugo Strange).  He coerces her to keep her power secret.  That’s a bit cliche, but I’m brainstorming here.  And through all this, when and what happens when she sees Superman and says “hey, that guy’s like me!”

Step the Third: The Villain

Two key items here.  One, Supergirl and the villain have to know each other.  They have to have a personal relationship on some level (or they get to over the course of the story).  I hate Lex Luthor as a villain — he’s such a clown.  And if you have an “out-there” villain like in Green Lantern, it falls flat.  There’s nothing personally at stake for the hero.  It should be someone Supergirl knows and knows well.  Someone she has to stop to save both the planet and herself.

Second key item, the villain has to tie into the themes of the movie.  All stories are about overcoming something, and most superhero stories fit a mold of overcoming an intelligent force representing that thing.  Joker represents Batman’s possible craziness or the element of chaos while Batman is order.  Darth Vader is about the guy who took the wrong path, and the hero’s possible fate the same way.

I don’t care who it is.  It could be her former fiancee.  Could be her extremist sister who blew up the city to get Kryptonians moving towards progress again (you tend to stagnate when you’re just a city).  Maybe it’s the Hugo Strange pastiche who got too much power and became dictatorial over everyone (good for a “war on women” expy).  Could be someone from Earth who’s working to exploit Supergirl (a la The Powerpuff Girls Movie).  There’s lots of good possibilities.

It’s not a fucking witch.  It’s not a manly-man who wants her for his bride.  It’s not some generic sicko who licks her cheek and tells her she smells like strawberries.

Step the Fourth: Supergirl’s Character Development

This will be a big section, because when you’re talking about character development, you’re pretty much talking about the whole rest of the movie.  So I’ll condense to bullet points.  Large ones, albeit.

· Supergirl is an alien.  There’s a fundamental difference between Superman and Supergirl that never gets exploited — Superman was raised on Earth, so he’s basically a human with super powers.  Kara Zor-El spent her primary developmental years on Krypton.  And if you change that up while she’s still growing as a person, you can have a lot of conflict.  But you don’t want her too young, or you just fall into cloning the Superman story again.  Thirteen or so is a good age, I think.  That way, when she grows up she’s not completely clueless about Earth, but she’s still an outsider.

This gives us a great opportunity for some humor, something sorely lacking from most female-audience movies, and certainly female superhero movies.  You could have lines like:

SUPERGIRL opens a closet and sees a enough shoes to make Carrie Bradshaw jealous.
SUPERGIRL
Why do you need so many shoes?  You only have one pair of feet.
ROOMMATE
You really ARE an alien, aren’t you?

· That brings up supporting characters.  I’m thinking about some kind of roommate or casual friend, like Batman has Alfred, but in an equal position.  A foil, someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, a shoulder to cry on.  Most studios are going to want to give her some kind of boyfriend/romantic interest, but I’m REALLY hesitant about that.  Cause then you’re in Wonder Woman territory, where she can lift a plane, but still depends on some man to validate her existence.  That’s the OPPOSITE of what I want Supergirl, or any girl hero, to be.  But I guess Superman has his Lois Lane.  Iron Man has his Pepper Potts.

· No fucking kryptonite.  It was a cop-out then, it’s a cop-out now.

· No rape scene.  I bet anything the studios would want to add some kind of scene where she’s sexually assaulted to add edginess or tension.  I want to take sexuality out of this.  There’s too many female superheroes who are just sex fantasies in the first place.  And there’s no more cliche or overused way to show that a strong woman is vulnerable than raping her.  No.  No.  No.  That’s lazy, that’s not creative, it’s been done to death.  Find another way. (See Seanan McGuire’s statement about it).

· Superman has a fortress of solitude, way up in the frozen north, containing nothing but trophies and robot butlers.  Do you think that’s the kind of place a girl would want to be?  It’s the ultimate man cave.  Supergirl would want to be around people.  Moreso because she’s a stranger in a strange land.  Supergirl is an allegory for going to college — she has to adapt, she has to make new friends, she has to fit in.  And there’ll be stumbling blocks along the way.

· Speaking of Superman, have her interact with him.  In Supergirl stories, you rarely see them together and they’re the last two people of their kind!  And they’re cousins!  Yet she’s always Superman’s back-up, or his “secret weapon”.  I say fuck that: let her get down and dirty with the bad guys.  There’s no reason to let her tinker around with college when she can blast an aircraft carrier in two.  The problem is that “cousins” have such an ambiguously defined relationship.  Do they have a father-daughter thing?  Is he a brother figure?  Are they fucking? (They are only two of their species, after all.)  Superman should act as her mentor — advising her on her secret identity, how to blend in, the code of conduct.

· Costuming: It’s quite possible to be sexy without being all thrusting boobs and rubbery butt.  Look at this cover for Jim C. Hines’s Codex Reborn.

She’s not twisted in some geometric shape.  Her clothes aren’t stretched, tattered, or contain less than .05 square inches of fabric.  In fact, I’d say go further than this — don’t show any midriff at all.  No need to make women feel terrible about their bodies.  I might keep the skirt — it’s pretty iconic.  Or, you could just scrap the whole thing and give her something completely new.

· How does it end?  Well, that depends on what kind of villain we end up with.  Personally, I’m not concerned about that.  I’m sure it’ll be a big special effects hoopla with broken buildings, flying debris, and lots of CG.  That’s fine.  I’m more concerned about the denouement which brings up the question: where does Supergirl go from here?  She’s pigeonholed into the supposedly weaker half of the population, the one that makes a fraction of the income, has little governmental representation, and has less rights and choices.  And you have the powers of a God?  What do you do?

It’s pretty easy to give Supergirl the choice — do I use this power to shape this society so it’s more fair?  That road is dangerous — absolute power corrupts.  Superman turned away from that road.  But I say, let Supergirl try and tread that line.

Here’s what I envision: There’s some minor bad guy who’s against some women’s issue, like Senator Robert Kelly in X-Men.  Someone old and pompous.  Maybe it could even be the orphanage director (I’m just throwing shit out there).  And Supergirl, in her secret identity as Linda Lee with brunette pigtails, has to set up his podium (because she’s in the college A/V club or something), and listen to his speech.  Maybe he’s a Rush Limbaugh character who just says idiotic things for shock value or to drum up money.

She’s spent the entire movie being a human woman, the good and the bad, and she’s been dealing with trying not to use her powers or her identity to go apeshit on everyone.  She knows there’s good men and bad men.  But she also knows that it’s still a really unfair world, where just being female ups the difficulty at life (“You suck at math” vs. “Girls suck at math”).

Then she gets fed up with it.  Maybe her roommate pleads with her to take this guy out.  And she almost wants to, but she remembers what Superman said.  Humans have freedom of speech.  They have the right to say whatever they want.

Then when he’s done talking, amidst the boos and hisses, she lifts off her wig, comes up behind him, and lifts him up, saying “You may have freedom of speech.  But you don’t have freedom from the consequences of that speech.”  And then she flies him to an island or flings him in the ocean or something.  Then she takes the mic (she comes back at super speed) takes her wig off and gives her spiel.

“I am Kara Zor-El.  I came to this planet from Krypton, etc. etc. My cousin is Superman, etc. etc.  I have seen such and such.  I can lift a two-ton car, and I like to bake.  I can fly faster than the speed of light, but I can’t get birth control.  I like wearing pink and I like wearing blue.  I don’t understand make-up, but I like pretty dresses.  I can set people on fire with my eyes.  I can throw three people gang-raping a girl into jail, but I’ll cry in my shower later that night.  There are even certain commercials that make me tear up.  But it doesn’t stop me from going out the next night.  And I believe that the chocolate chip cookie is the greatest invention in the universe.  My cousin fights for truth, justice, and the American Way.  I pledge to you I will fight for that too.  But I will fight for everyone.  Just because something’s legal doesn’t make it right.  I will do everything in my power to defend the defenseless, to right wrongs, and make people feel safe.  My name is Supergirl.”

And hell, I might even name her “Superwoman” — why is Superman a man, but Supergirl is a girl?

I guess my philosophy behind this is this is what I would want my daughters to see.  Not Electra or Catwoman.  Not Rainbow Brite or Sailor Moon.  I’d rather they learn about being a woman outside the context of being validated by a man.

Clearly, I’m no screenwriter.  I’m barely an amateur writer.  On the other hand, if any Hollywood producers see this and want to shoot me an e-mail, my address, the comment box is right there…

Some Bits about Feminism

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PART 1: Males Get Stereotyped For Their Gender Too (But It’s Not Nearly As Bad As What Women Get)

Every time I make a post about a controversial subject, I get page views. So here’s one. A few videos and other recent events have me thinking about things. None of the thoughts really have a cohesive theme, so here’s just a list.

Whenever people talk about gender platitudes, they always talk about those that aren’t in the majority — non-straight, non-white, non-male. Females are known for suffering from “gender boxing”, but males do too. There are male stereotypes too, both positive and negative.

But the consequences aren’t NEARLY as harsh. Straight white males have it the easiest — they have all the power, so they make the rules. When males get generalized or made fun of, all that happens is we feel bad. What happens to women is that they’re declared pregnant two weeks before they become pregnant. They get hit on on the subway then vituperated when they want to be left alone. They’re forbidden from using the word “vagina” in congress because… reasons? They have to bow their heads to anti-rape legislation formed under the belief that their body “shuts down” to reject the unwanted sperm, while thirteen-year-old girls vloggers on YouTube get countless commenters saying they’re going to break into their house put a baby inside them.

Here’s a choice quote: “We didn’t have the $250 it would cost to pay a bonafide illegal abortionist so the only option was amateur hour. There was no real discussion. … I knew I was alone with the consequences whatever they would be. My boyfriend could walk away and no one would ever know. He was free. I was cornered.”

Male stereotypes aren’t nearly as devastating to our life choices. Male stereotypes focus on being tough, being strong, and being a winner. They’re not supposed to cry. They’re shallow, dumb, and do anything to avoid work. We don’t get stuff about how someone’s going to put a dick inside us if we wear something that shows off our body.

Women’s tropes are more about what they’re supposed to do with their lives and limits their options. They have to like children, have to have babies, and have to be responsible all the time. They shouldn’t work, but clean the house, shut up, and look sexy all the time.

This article (from which comes a lot of this information and inspired this post) proposes an interesting hypothesis, called Ozy’s Law. It states that, in a binary system, the stereotype of one type begets a stereotype of the opposite. For example, women are clever and clean, so men are dumb slobs. Women are killjoys, so men must have irresponsible fun all the time. Women want children, men don’t like parenting. My big thought is which comes first?

PART 2: Anti-Masculinism and Flaws in Feminism

I think that Bronies (male fans of My Little Pony, like myself) are a movement/rebellion against masculinism. For years, women have progressively assimilated and participated in what was once exclusively male: sports, jobs, politics, video games, horror movies, gross-out humor, science fiction, war, motorcycles, handyman stuff, Dungeons & Dragons, rock music. I have no problem with this, but it’s never really gone the other way, because for males, associating with anything female-centric is negative.

Until now. There’s no question that My Little Pony is aimed at girls. And not just girls, but 6-12 year olds. But the Brony Phenomenon is huge. I wonder if there are more Bronies than fans in the target demographic. I’ve already mentioned why I love the show — good animation, writing, humor, and voice acting — but those are generic. Why so many college age guys?

I think Bronyism is a bite of the thumb to that “winner, tough, strong” mentality. MLP:FiM has no vulgarity, no violence, no taunting (jovial or otherwise), no big-tittied women, nothing you commonly see in “guy movies”. It’s a show about making friends, about inviting people in, creativity and work-ethic, and strong communication. Males are not taught these things. They’re taught to be aloof in the hoof. And bronies aren’t just withdrawn Internet geeks. They’re in the military, they’re rockers like Andrew W.K. and MC Chris, celebrities like Stephen Colbert, and other people you don’t expect.

I think guys are starting to see the masculine stereotypes, myself included, and getting sick of them. I hate sitcoms, because they portray every male as lazy, abrasive, inept at parenting, and out of touch. Commercials for cleaning products don’t feature males, even though I always clean the bathrooms and take out the garbage. And babies? I was the one who changed my firstborn’s first diaper, thank you very much. So yes, I’d rather watch “My Little Pony” than “According to Jim”. At least the characters on that show like each other.

I don’t know which show this is from. Could be “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “The War at Home”, “$h*! My Dad Says”, “The King of Queens”, “The George Lopez Show”, take your pick.

Someone smarter than me needs to write a paper on this. There’s definitely a correlation between bronies and fighting against male stereotypes.

I have certain manners of behavior, given to me by my gender, which I cannot control. To wit, Lindsay Ellis’s recent critique of Charlie’s Angels featured Lindsay in a burqa (niqab?) as commentary on the contradictory nature of sexy, ass-kicking women. Fellow NChickers Elisa Hansen and Nella Inserra, jumped out, hoping they could join in the making fun. Elisa was dressed in a nightie/corset and Nella, who is not a small girl, was dressed as Power Girl, complete with the “window”…

…upon which my reaction was…

BOCCE BALLS!

And proceeded to stare at the screen, slack-jawed and drooling at every jiggle. I’m mentioning this because this often happens when I’m out and about.

I have wandering eyes. They will often drift to passing women and parts of those passing women which I find attractive and pleasant to look at. Eye candy as it were. If I have sunglasses, it’s game on. But if I know people can see me and my eyes are exposed, I will try to keep it to abbreviated glances. But let’s face it ladies, you know I’m looking, even if it’s brief. You can see someone’s eyes move and what they’re looking at, from thirty feet away. Don’t believe me? Try it. So if it’s on a computer screen and they can’t see me, I’m going to stare at Nella’s cleavage and do this.

“GUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH…”

I cannot control my eyes, but I can control what I say and what I do. I may stare at a woman for sexual reasons, I may extrapolate what she looks like without clothes, I may even imagine doing vulgar things to her, but for god’s sake, I keep my thoughts to myself. Not like the poor people who approach Stoya (porn star-turned-aerialist). Dear god, when the guys who buy replicas of your vagina are better behaved than the people on the street, there is something wrong.

I’ve made mistakes about feminism in the past. I’m probably making some now. But I like women and I like talking about women. I like them more than men. Men are intimidating. They’re mean and “yelly”.

But as much as I like women, I have trouble figuring them out and what they want. I think they do too. To that end, I need some kind of general philosophy or guideline to follow so I know if I’m doing something wrong.

Right now, my guiding motto is “If it stops someone from doing something or evaluates based on something they can’t control, it’s bad”. This doesn’t clear anything up about abortion or hot button issues like that, so it’s not perfect. But it clears up the snafu of being able to have opinions regarding women while not diminishing them.

For example, you can make opinions on a woman’s appearance, but you cannot relate that to the quality of what they produce There was an article, legitimate journalism, about a female cellist that was more about about how she looked than about how she performed. (I can’t find it now, otherwise I’d link to it.)

That is what not to do. If you’re judging them by something that does not impact what they do or they’re not in control of, you’re incorrect. For example, take this music video by Karmin:

Now if I said stuff about how her outfit and hair are ridiculous or that she looks/acts like a British Katy Perry, that would be wrong. Because that doesn’t have anything to do with her music. BUT, I could say that she does nothing in this video but stand by the phone, wearing progressively slutty outfits. Or I could say something about the white girl rap interludes or the “cheerio” lyric. That’s relevant to the performance. It’s about the verbs, not the nouns or adjectives.

Feminism won’t succeed without strong male support. Because they have the power. One thing I never hear from feminists is how giving females more power benefits men. Because it does.

Less restrictions on their bodies and behavior means less work we all have to do. Giving up power won’t change anything — it’ll have the same effects it has for giving it up to anybody. Women in power do stupid, corrupt things too. When women get options, men get more options, instead of always having to be the breadwinner or the one who kills spiders or gets stuff down from the shelf. There’s less babies to take care of. Less child support checks. Happier wives and girlfriends because they’re doing what they want and are satisfied.

Support is there — Gone with the Wind and the WNBA wouldn’t and couldn’t be successful unless men liked them too. Lindsay Ellis recently said “The hard thing about social activism is staying civil and not alienating potential allies; tumblr does this often.”

Feminism also won’t succeed without a unified front. NOTHING succeeds without a unified front. That’s why Native Americans tribes failed to refuse relocation. That’s why China has not yet taken over (with their numbers, they could do anything with the, but how are you going to get a billion people united?). Nazi Germany fell because too many of their own people tried to sabotage their efforts (its hard to get support when your mission statement involves wanton murder and kidnapping your next-door neighbors). And it’s why America could not win the Vietnam War — they had their people focused and working toward a goal, we didn’t.

Feminist leaders keep making contradictory statements on certain core issues. Someone needs to write a manifesto, or be a figurehead that we can all rally behind. If you’ve got a football team and some players are doing a run play, some are doing a pass play, and some are punting, that ball’s not going to get down the field. When we get to a point where we can all agree about Booth Babes, we’ll know it’s on its way.

Hot Girls You Don’t Know About: Morgan Smith Goodwin (The Wendy’s Girl)

Morgan Smith Goodwin

Here on “The Hot Girls You Don’t Know About”, we aren’t just about highlighting attractive and talented women, we’re also about discovery, and exposing truth where you might not think about it.

Take the new Wendy’s girl. If you’ve never thought about this new fresh-face is, here’s the skinny. This woman is Morgan Smith Goodwin, but her Facebook says she’s Maggie Mae Morgan. She’s an actress/singer, but I don’t see any IMDB page for her. Her website is supposed to be here, but I get a 404. Does this woman exist?

Aside from information more contradictory than the bible, she’s from the south and been in a few plays/musicals. And she’s a big fan of Celine Dion.

She’s really a blonde. This surprised me. I mean, I know her hair color is artificial, but I didn’t it was that artificial. I don’t know why she had to have red hair — her connection to the freckled girl on the Frosty cup is tenuous at best. Just because you have an image doesn’t mean that image has to be your ad man.

Still there’s something transfixing about her. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. The way she encourages the girl to pick a fresh Wendy’s salad instead of one at the supermarket is cute.

Then sometimes she’s passing by a garage sale she has no association with, tempting the guy in the Lay-Z-Boy with a Baconator in his face.

wendy's morgan smith goodwin face deep in a baconator

In the most recent one, she trolls the hipster who keeps spoiling the ending to movies they’re trying to watch. Something about the deadness in her eyes as she tosses the keys to him, saying they’re driving to Wendy’s, I can’t turn away from.

But isn’t that the mark of a good spokesperson? That they keep you captivated, paying attention. She has great delivery, great charisma, and great energy.

I’m not sure if I want to keep seeing her in Wendy’s commercials. Her first ones she had a cute Alyson Hannigan vibe, offering alternatives to cruddy food. Now she’s become like a temptress. The Jezebel of fast food.

Also, they are starting to get a little samey, especially the endings. She overlooks the victims of her trysts, stuffing their faces with greasy carbohydrated cow meat or hormone-laden chicken parts. She smiles smugly, satisfied. Like a king’s concubine who’s just finished her service, again proving why she’s his favorite, as she says “Now that’s better.”

I’m just kidding about the whore thing, of course. I’m sure she’s very nice.