By: Amanda Wallace (This commentary is going to include some spoilers for the film Mad Max: Fury Road. If you haven’t seen it yet: what are you waiting for?)
If you’ve seen the film Mad Max: Fury Road you’ve probably gotten excited about Imperator Furiosa, the tough, bald-headed driver of the War Rig played by the indomitable Charlize Theron. Even before Fury Road came out, there was talk that Furiosa stole the show from the movie’s namesake and there’s a certain level of validity to that idea.
New non-profit organizations pop up all the time, particularly ones with celebrities. Red Nose Day is another such endeavor that aims to raise money for youth in poverty through making people laugh. To do so the organization is teaming up with NBC to launch a 3-hour long special on May 21, featuring tons of celebrities and (hopefully) tons of laughter. To give us a preview of what to expect, NBC released an Indiana Jones reboot spoof, complete with Anna Kendrick as Indiana Jones.
It goes without mentioning that I am not pleased with the treatment of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron. That said, I decided to take a break from the gender issues in the movie (which the ever excellent Amanda Wallace covered for us) and take a look at an even bigger problem in AoU: the Tony Stark/Iron Man problem.
Every since WeLoveFine came out with Ghostbuster’s rompers, they’ve been my go-to online clothing store for geek madness. This week, they continue to impress by launching pre-orders for their Age of Fashion collection, which is clothing based off the Avengers.
They’ve got women of all shapes and sizes dressed as Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America and Loki. When I go and watch Age of Ultron this weekend, I know that I’m going to be wishing for an all-female cast the whole time. Continue Reading
This week, the first images of Eddie Redmayne were revealed from his upcoming film, the Danish Girl. Redmayne will be playing the role of Lili Elbe, a transgender pioneer. The Danish Girl is the latest in a long series of Hollywood misgendering in casting, where instead of finding a transgender actress they find a man and put a wig on him.
This isn’t a jibe towards Redmayne, who is a talented actor, both in his high-camp performance in Jupiter Ascending, as well as his Oscar winning role as Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything. The issue with this casting is two-fold: the exclusion of trans actresses from a role that they were literally born to play and the media coverage of the film itself.
Take the Daily Mail coverage which uses phrases describing Elbe’s “transition into a woman” or describes Elbe herself as “a man who became a woman.” “Oh Eddie, you do make a wonderful woman,” the headline reads. But Eddie isn’t a woman. He isn’t a trans woman. He’s a straight man, and this colors coverage of the film. They repeatedly deadname Elbe as Einar Wegener, and they ignore her gender — something that she literally died for, repeatedly referring to her as a man.
Redmayne talks about the role being his most “sensitive,” yet sensitivity is something Redmayne’s casting lacks. Coverage becomes a discussion of Redmayne’s alteration, the same way someone would discuss Charlize Theron’s missing eyebrows for Monster or Christian Bale’s weight loss for Machinist. Gender is an article of clothing that they can take on and put off, a sacrifice for their artistic vision, but ultimately these sacrifices are disconnected from who they are.
Gender though, especially in an age where people are committing suicide or being murdered in relation to it, is a fundamental aspect of personhood. Lili Elbe was a woman, the first known person to get gender reassignment surgery, who wanted so much to be a mother that she underwent surgery to be transplanted with another woman’s ovaries. But we aren’t talking about her struggle. Instead, discussion is about how pretty Redmayne is as a woman and how “brave” he is for undertaking the role.
The other primary issue is inclusion. The argument has been “can you name a trans actress of the caliber of Eddie Redmayne?” But this is a false argument. Four years ago, I couldn’t have told you that Laverne Cox existed, but that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t there. It’s also the same argument used to explain why Native American roles aren’t being given to Native Americans, a conceit proven more ridiculous by the fact that the Twilight sequel, New Moon managed to cast an entire wolf pack of Native lineage actors. That means a teenage romance managed more sensitive casting than a clear Oscar bait title.
Casting like this is erasure. It whispers insidiously in your ear that “there just wasn’t the right trans actress for the role. “C’mon,” it cajoles, “Can you even name a white trans actress?” Instead we replace the roles designed for trans women with straight men, replace their experience with a touch of make-up and a wig. Ultimately it replaces the image of trans women, opting for imitation rather than representation.
On Twitter, Ijeoma Oluo wrote it best:
“Right now there are trans women and men risking their lives every day to simply be who they are. Suffering abuse, discrimination, imprisonment, poverty, invisibility. So if you can’t understand why seeing your “likeness” portrayed by someone with the sexual assignment you risked your life to be free from by people who not once have felt the pain and fear u do. By people who look just like those kicking the shit out of u on the street. And to see that person be lauded as “so brave, so talented” that he would don a wig and impersonate such an exotic creature. And he removes his wig, accepts his Oscar. Tearfully dedicates it to your murdered brothers and sisters who he now fully understands. And returns to his mansion, to his safety, his financial security, his civil rights, his fully represented and accepted life.”
In covering Jared Leto’s turn as transgendered character Rayon in the Dallas Buyers Club, Time writer Steve Freiss writes: “’Dallas Buyers Club’ has garnered praise for the actor’s supposedly brave portrayal of a transgender woman. Don’t expect anyone to find it admirable 20 years from now.” While Leto played a fictionalized woman in what was otherwise a biopic, the same will undoubtedly be true for Redmayne. Whether a measured performance or a caricature of the human experience (as Leto’s Rayon is often criticized to be), Redmayne’s Lili is tarnished by the casting decisions made long before the performance was captured on film. It turns the trans experience into something exotic and foreign, something as alien to the performer as a space-faring prince, and with a story as potentially powerful as Lili Elbe’s this is perhaps the greatest failing.
Amanda Wallace is an amazing associate editor for Gameskinny.com, and runs her own websites Storycade andWasabi Crunk that look at niche aspects of the gaming world (interactive fiction and indie games respectively). The best way to follow her work is via twitter, @barelyconcealed, where you’ll find great articles and witty banter.
By: Amanda Wallace
The strength of Jupiter Ascending is complicated, because it doesn’t rely on the main actors or even the fairy tale plot.The shoehorned romantic sub-plot promises to be little more than eye-rollingly bad (“I love dogs.”), the fight sequences are robotic, and the world is so crazy that it is more suited for an HBO series than a two hour film. Yet despite this (and not because of it) the movie’s strength is its ability to subvert expectations of traditionally gendered action/science fiction movies.
The tropes and characters may have been re-skinned for this space opera, but we immediately recognize their roles. We have our hero, well into the opening stages of her journey, complete with a magical facet that makes her more important than anyone else in the galaxy. She’s joined by a grizzled veteran, encounters an oedipal brother, and she eventually must face down the evil queen.These are all characters and tropes that we are familiar with, aware of, but they are subverted as surely as the laws of physics.
I’ve heard people repeatedly knock Jupiter Ascending because Jupiter is saved by Kaine’s alien werewolf angel multiple times, but that’s a narrow view of the story. In this film Jupiter Jones is our Luke Skywalker, another hero that arose from inauspicious beginnings.
In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker is a whining farmboy who survives, not because of any particular skillset he may possess, but because of the people he is allied with. How many times alone Obi Wan save Luke’s life before they’ve even left Tattooine? Similarly wolf-boy Kaine aides January Jones through the first act of her hero’s journey.
Kaine, despite his muscles and action sequences, does very little to move the plot forward, often dealing with Jupiter’s scraps. For example towards the end, Kaine is relegated to facing off against a second tier villain and moving Jupiter’s family to safety while Jupiter herself faces off against the Big Bad.
So, just because help comes in one super attractive package doesn’t mean that Jupiter is a damsel in distress, a trope that is all too familiar in American popular culture. Instead the movie showcases Jupiter’s heroic arc. By the end of the movie it’s Jupiter, not Kaine, who faces off against the villain, and it is Jupiter’s existence that draws the rest of the characters in orbit.
Kaine Wise as Manic Pixie Dream Girl
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, TV Tropes has a pretty fitting description:
She’s stunningly attractive, high on life, full of wacky quirks and idiosyncrasies (generally including childlike playfulness and a tendency towards petty crime), often with a touch of wild hair dye. She’s inexplicably obsessed with our stuffed-shirt hero, on whom she will focus her kuh-razy antics until he learns to live freely and love madly.
A MPDG lives for the main character and the stunningly attractive Kaine lives to help Jupiter reach her goals at the exclusion of his own reach their goals at the exclusion of his own. Of course, aside from his desire for wings and a disdain for nobles, Kaine doesn’t have much in the way of life goals.
He does have a pair of rockets boots though, which in addition to the wolf DNA in his lineage make Kaine the quirkiest MPDG you’ve never seen before or since. Most importantly though, he’s inexplicably attracted to Jupiter, despite the fact that they have the chemistry of a wet blanket.
The movie delights in eroticizing the male form, and it does this most frequently with Kaine, played by Channing Tatum, an actor known for his roles as eye candy. The camera treats Kaine like he’s a popsicle it wants to lick. His presence is eye candy as surely as Natalie Portman’s casting in Garden State, except instead of asking us to listen to the Shins we watch him skate around on rocket boots.
Balam Abraxas as Evil Queen
In the world of Jupiter Ascending, Balam Abaraxas is Jupiter’s son, yet he comes off like her evil step-mother. It’s clear that he is partially modeled after Charlize Theron’s portrayal of the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman. Her shrieking rage and cold power, tied inextricably to her aloof sexuality is a mold for the trope.
Part of the parallel drawn between Redmayne and Theron is due to Redmayne’s performance, a serpentine and slick villain who spend the movie alternatively speaking in harsh whispers and angry yells. Another key ingredient to Balam’s role as evil queen is simply that the role of evil king has already been taken by Titus, Jupiter’s son (and Balam’s brother) that attempts to wed her. Yet an evil queen is defined by her displacement of the traditional, “good”, power structure.
One way this displacement takes place is through the infinite youth that both Redmayne’s Balam and Theron’s Queen enjoy. In Snow White and the Huntsman the audience is given a glimpse of Theron emerging nude from a milk bath, her vitality (and sex appeal) restored through ill-gotten means. In Jupiter Ascending we are treated to a similar scene where Balam Abraxas emerges from a bath (fueled by billions of human deaths) looking youthful and, well, hot.
In Balam’s world, his Empress mother (and her subsequent desire for death) is that “good” and natural order, and it is her will that he is subverting long after her death.
The Bottom Line
Jupiter Ascending is a high camp romp, a journey into a fully realized world that only the Wachowski’s could have built. It’s ridiculous and fantastical and full of life, and for any one of those reasons it would be worth viewing. But what really, truly sets the movie apart from the most recent fare of adapted YA is how it challenges expectations of science fiction. How it challenges the gendered roles that so often dominate popular culture.
Don’t watch Jupiter Ascending because it’s a hot mess. Watch it because it’s a welcome surprise.
Amanda Wallace is an amazing associate editor for Gameskinny.com, and runs her own websites Storycade and Wasabi Crunk that look at niche aspects of the gaming world (interactive fiction and indie games respectively). The best way to follow her work is via twitter, @barelyconcealed, where you’ll find great articles and witty banter.
Today, DC Comics let loose with their June comic slate, introducing twenty four new titles to appear with twenty five returning titles. While that still doesn’t bring their line-up to a total of 52, DC promises that these new comics will usher us into a new generation of love, acceptance, and inclusivity. Wellllll they didn’t say that exactly, try parsing their announcement for yourself, or read this quote:
This summer, DC Entertainment launches a bold new direction for the DC Universe (DCU) that is even more inclusive and accessible to a wider group of readers as the publisher continues to evolve comic storytelling for its next generation of fans.
This new line-up, which includes three humor-oriented titles (Bat-Mite, Bizarro, Prez) seeks to enrich and expand the standard “dark and grim” tonality of DC, while offering new characters DC hopes will appeal to a broader fan-base, something Marvel comics has been doing gradually through the past two years.
So how well do these new 24 titles reflect “society around us”? Probably not well, given that this is a comics universe, but there are several titles starring women and/or poc, and each day this week we’ll take a moment to examine them in more detail.
Last May, Paul Dini and Joe Quinones published Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell, an original graphic novel for fans who missed seeing this characters regularly in the DC line-up. This was a lightweight and fun book, pitched pre-New 52. From the looks of it, this book from Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl, Gotham Academy) and artists Annie Wu (Hawkeye) and Irene Koh (Secret Origins: Batgirl). This creative team is absolutely bonkers, in the best way possible.
Brenden Fletcher has already been writing two books for DC comics that have a lot to offer in terms of diversity. Along with Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr, Fletcher joined the Batgirl book with #25, which includes what io9 has described as “The Best Damn Superheroine Outfit Ever“.
Simultaneously, Fletcher has been co-writing Gotham Academy with Becky Cloonan, which may have the most diverse cast of characters I’ve ever seen on the cover of a DC title. Black Canary will be Fletcher’s first solo-writing gig, which couldn’t be more exciting!
Let’s not forget both of the lady artists who will join Fletcher, Annie Wu and Irene Koh are seriously talented and I couldn’t imagine a better choice for the style of the book. Both women have histories with DC (Wu worked on Batgirl Beyond and Koh the upcoming Secret Origins: Batgirl) and their respective styles will hopefully make Black Canary as striking as she deserves.
So is this a hit in terms of diversity? Irrefutably yes. Every member of the creative team has experience writing or drawing women for successful books featuring women. Also, two members of the creative team are women. A smart team for a fan-favorite character.
Starting January 1st, myself and thousands of other Netflix users began binge-watching the classic 90’s sit-com Friends. It’s been fun re-living the wacky antics of Joey, Phoebe, Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Chandler. I’ve never seen all the episodes in order before, and I actually get all the sexual innuendos this time around.
Still, I didn’t really know what fandom was or how to really engage in a show back in those Friends days. Since I do now, I immediately wanted to sort the cast into Hogwarts houses; since fandom is obviously about mashing properties together to make them stronger.
Once this decision was made, there were a few choices that stood out immediately. The first of which is obviously Phoebe Buffay in….HUFFLEPUFF!
But more than a house full of patient, hard-working, loyal people – Hufflepuff is a house that will take the leftovers of the other three. Phoebe would never be in Slytherin, where people would make fun of her for being a muggle orphan, nor would she be in Ravenclaw where they seek knowledge. She could be brave in Gryffindor, but Phoebe doesn’t necessarily like to show off and she’s very even tempered.
Yet like all Hufflepuffs we’re introduced to, Phoebe is kind and stands up for what is right and always tries to do good for others. In one episode she ends up giving away over $1000 to a homeless woman because Phoebe earned it in error. Yet she’s also like her favorite song, “Smelly Cat”, a weird rejected thing that’s hard to love. Ergo, Hufflepuff.
Now, another easy pick is this: Ross Geller in….RAVENCLAW!
Ross Gellar basically studies fossils and old stuff. Yet to get to his level of expertise (he has a doctorate from Columbia University) you’ve got to like like learning. Seriously though, I only made my way through a Masters degree and that was a special kind of hell, and a doctorate adds at least four years more of schooling. Ross is an academic BAMF.
In case that argument isn’t convincing enough, he also made a comics called “Scientist Boy” as a child. LIVELONG DEVOTION TO SCIENCE RIGHT THERE. Plus, you know he’s a Ravenclaw since he takes so much pleasure explaining things/correcting people.
While siblings don’t always get sorted into the same house, in the case of Monica Geller…..RAVENCLAW!
We see several times in the Harry Potter series that a person’s desires do influence the sorting. Since Ross was always the apple of his parents’s eyes, Monica would most likely want to be placed in Ravenclaw to demonstrate that she’s living up to her brother’s legacy.
Along with a personal drive to be sorted into Ravenclaw, Monica also demonstrates her thirst for knowledge through her profession as a chef. She basically conducts experiments on food on a daily basis, and tests the results on her innocent friends. She might just be the evilest scientist yet!
Next up, it-girl Rachel Green, the woman who inspired thousands of decadetastic haircuts. She was one of the hardest to place, but ultimately she goes in…..SLYTHERIN.
Now, I’m not calling Rachel Green evil. So get that our of your head. What I am saying, is that Rachel is a smart – cunning – woman from a well-bred family, who hasn’t always been above using people to achieve success.
However, over the series, like Regulus Black, she changes for the better. Rachel uses her innate Slytherin qualities in positive ways working her way up the corporate ladder, becoming a good mommy, and learning to be a her own person apart from her family’s desires. Finally someone gives a good name to the Slytherin house.
Let’s be honest, it’s quite possible that Joey might fail out of Hogwarts. But to fail out, Joey would first have to be admitted so let’s put him in….GRYFFINDOR!
Joey is not the brightest bulb in the box, but that’s okay because Gryffindor’s value bravery and nerve, which often come off as peacocking and recklesses. Joey has both of these qualities in droves. He’s very secure in his looks and powers over women (“How you doin’?”) and he’s not afraid to show off his wealth when he briefly moves into his own apartment.
He’s also insanely devoted to his friends which he shows in adorable ways. Whether it’s breaking up with Ursula to save his friendship with Phoebe, or giving Chandler a ridiculous gold bracelet – he’ll always be there for you, his friends. This lion-hearted devotion alone confirms his admittance to Gryffindor.
It was really hard not putting Joey and Chandler in the same houses, but in the end we had to give him….RAVENCLAW!
At heart, Chandler is a smart, witty, conforming coward. Yet that sarcastic charm which defines his character relies upon a quick-thinking brain. Chandler has a line for everything and is smart enough to pick the right moments for them.
He’s also a numbers whiz, ingesting WENUS (Weekly Estimated Net Usage Statistics) and ANUS (Annual Net Usage Statistics) like a heavy-weight number cruncher. Though Chandler doesn’t desire knowledge per se, there’s no doubt that he’s full of it, making him the third in a series of Ravenclaws.
Now, with everyone sorted, let the arguing commence!
Before today, I had already decided on my Halloween costume. I’ve procured the skirt, shirt, hat, and backpack to go as Fiona from Adventure Time, but after I saw these new Ghostbusters Rompers from WeLoveFine….I’ve had a change of heart.
There are technically four separate rompers, each with a different Ghostbuster’s name on them. The only thing stopping me from nabbing a romper this very minute is the knowledge that I would inevitably wear it every day. I would go to work in my Ghostbusters romper, I would go to a dance club in the romper, and I would even wear it at my upcoming family reunion in front of my persnickety older relatives. If I buy the romper, there is no going back.
For those of you perhaps less obsessive than myself, these would make excellent Halloween costumes, and there are some quick and easy DIY proton pack instructions out there on the internet to help you complete your ensemble. Just ready yourself for the plethora of “Who you gonna call?” pick up lines you’ll be receiving as soon as you put it on.