intertribal: (leather)
Oh, and while I'm at it: Godzilla --

-- was not as good as Cloverfield or Pacific Rim.  By a long-shot, in my opinion.  The trailer is a lot better than the movie - there's an apocalyptic solemnity in the trailer that's quite convincing, but lacking in the movie, which feels like a throwback to the 1990s' style of fluffy blockbuster without any of the humor or star power.  I really didn't understand what was going on with the plot, even though I suspect it was very simple - the movie rushed through its clumsily-delivered explanations.

The audience didn't take it too seriously either - everyone could not help laughing when Ken Watanabe ominously intoned, "Gojira," and everyone clapped for Godzilla's power move kill shot at the end.  It was the kind of movie that had L. suggesting that Godzilla should have just gone ahead and done a little salute at the end.  It was corny.

What I love about Pacific Rim is that it's scary, and it builds its world extremely well.  I bought the world of Pacific Rim as a world in which these gigantic monsters keep popping up and destroying cities, for years and years on end, and humanity has more or less altered to live with it.  The indie movie Monsters is the best example of this sort of creativity, but Pacific Rim has a bold, neon, all-in shamelessness in its world-building that I loved.  (Also, Raleigh and Mako ugh I can't)  I mean, for God's sake, the entire Ron Perlman character. Godzilla has none of that. Godzilla is bland - camo-toned and humorless and flat.

And what I love about Cloverfield is its sincere, hysterical emotion.  You hate those stupid yuppies but damn if they don't seem like real people.  Damn if this doesn't seem like what would actually fucking happen if you were living in New York City and a monster attacked.  What struck me about Godzilla was how utterly calm everyone seemed to be.  The military, the civilians - it was almost like people had to be reminded to run, to scream, to act scared.  Bryan Cranston was the only person who seemed to be articulating his emotions, and as a result actually looked a little out-of-place.

In other words, Godzilla didn't seem to believe in itself.  Which is too bad.

I will say, though, I would love to watch a giant monster movie compilation set to Iggy Azalea's "Change Your Life" ("pop out your past life and I'll renovate your future/ yeah I love your hustle baby, just let me add a little bit of muscle, baby").  Seriously, something like this set to "Change Your Life"?  Would be amazing.

iggy muscle
intertribal: (meow)
"Miles and miles of perfect skin, I swear I do, I fit right in.  Miles and miles of perfect sin, I swear, I said, I fit right in, I fit right in your perfect skin."
- Hole, "Reasons to Be Beautiful"

This is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I'm actually going to respond to it: Can Male Writers Successfully Write Female Characters? Rod Rees defends his female characters in a way that makes you really appreciate Cormac McCarthy's refusal to write female characters, because he just knows he can't pull it off.  Because if there's one thing worse than a man who claims all women are incomprehensible, it's the man who claims to understand all women!

The old adage is write what you know and living in a house with two hi-achieving, confident and very ambitious teenage girls and having an intelligent and thoughtful wife (who happens to be beautiful to boot!) gave me, I thought, something of an insight into the female mindset.

Beautiful to boot!  I'm sure that makes her easier to try to understand.  Based on his descriptions of them, his female protagonists tend to be young, feisty, and ready and able to market themselves to men.  They admire their breasts in the mirror, use their sexual wiles to get themselves out of a tight corner (the backseat of a Volkswagen?), and call themselves "a lush thrush with a tight tush."  Rees protests that women do, indeed, objectify themselves.  And yes, many women do - many women are constantly preoccupied with their bodies, but about 80-90% of the time, such preoccupation comes from a very scary place of self-hatred and envy.  Even my most confident friends say things like, "bad news, I got fat :(" and when they tell their mirror selves, out loud, "I look hot," it's to combat the years and years of negative internal dialogue, their relatives' nitpicking, their boyfriends' secret stash of porn featuring women that look nothing like them, and of course, that ol' bugaboo, the media.

Rees also protests that women - grown-up women, that is, in the "visceral world of adult fiction" - use their sexual wiles.  Yeah, also true; some women do.  But again, it's accompanied by a whole host of other issues: flashbacks to uncomfortable/negative/non-consensual sexual experiences, fear of "something going wrong," and of course, the above body shame.  There's also the issue of personality shame: "I'm too awkward," "I scare people away," "no one likes me," "I'm not popular."  I'm not saying guys don't have this too - they do - but that this is a real insecurity experienced by many, many women (pretty much every woman I know) who are under pressure to be the kind of socially-adept coquettes that Rees apparently thinks is standard adult female behavior.  And as I argued in my essay on Shirley Jackson, women who fail to play the social roles assigned to them rarely if ever appear in fiction, and almost never as heroines.  This doesn't mean there's not a hunger for them, among both men and women, which is why fucked-up, maladroit women like Kara "Starbuck" Thrace and Lisbeth Salander have proved so popular, and why I've got high hopes for Sonya Cross on "The Bridge."  The issue, for me, isn't that Rees writes about women who don't exist.  I'm sure they do, somewhere - there's a lot of women in the world - and they're probably fucked-up in ways that Rees can't imagine.  The issue is that female characters like his are so obviously a male fantasy, and all they really do is contribute to the huge pile of excrement that is The Portrayal of Women in Media.

What it comes down to is this: spending your life looking at women does not give you insight into what it's like to be a woman, to think like one, to act like one.  All it does is enable you to create avatars who fetishize themselves.  When temporarily transformed into a woman for a movie, Dustin Hoffman came to the astonishing conclusion that the world was full of interesting women that he had not deigned to talk to, because they didn't meet "his" standard of beauty - because he had been brainwashed.  This is a really important discovery that more men need to make.  To some extent, it goes both ways, but men have more social tools at their disposal: wealth, power, seniority, wit, or even just being "not creepy."  By in large, women are still defined and judged by their physical characteristics.

Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype doesn’t work and hence struggle. Just a thought.

The stereotype, by the way, is the "ideal" heroine who doesn't "see herself as an object of male sexual interest" and doesn't "use her sexual charisma as a means of achieving an objective."  This is probably the most woeful, enraging assertion of all, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Rees hasn't read a lot of books, or stories, or songs written by women.  I mean, if he's really suggesting female writers write female characters who have no idea they're objects of male sexual interest, he really needs to listen to Courtney Love's entire ouevre, for one, and Catherine Breillat's, and Sylvia Plath's.  Believe me: we know.  And actually, there are female writers who write his type of self-fetishizing female characters: teenage girls writing bad fanfiction, copying what they've seen in some romance novels, some erotica, and male-gaze sex scenes.  He's got plenty of company. 
intertribal: (meow)
... this one just came out of the swamp."
- Radiohead, "Optimistic"

Orson Scott Card is no longer contributing to the Superman mythos, and people are very happy about that because of his stance on gay marriage and homosexuality in general (being a Mormon).  This being the first I'd heard about any Card/Superman shenanigans, my reaction was "Well, of course he wants to write about Superman.  Superman is probably perfect for him.  He probably thinks Superman is the perfect Mormon, just like Stephanie Meyer wrote vampires as the perfect Mormons."

This blog, for instance, explains that Card should not write Superman because "I do not think that an admitted bigot, whether bigoted for religious reasons or no, is qualified to write for the comic universe’s greatest symbol of truth, justice, and equality."  I don't read Superman or Card, but I'm sure - sure - that Card thinks he's got at least truth and justice on his side.  Most people with strong beliefs don't think they're fighting for injustice and falsehood.  Here's an example of the defunct British political party, Veritas (note their primary policy, liberals).  Here is the famous USSR paper, Pravda.  Islamist Justice Parties are all over the place, like Indonesia's own Prosperous Justice Party - and most Western liberals don't think of Islamic law as the foundation for justice.  Truth, Justice, it just sounds like a good place to start.  And a character like Superman - who to me is the boyscout superhero with an unshakable dedication to all that is good - is going to be an appealing totem for any movement that thinks it's got righteousness on its side.

I don't begrudge Chris Sprouse, the would-be illustrator, his decision not to work with Card.  I don't begrudge not supporting Card.  I don't begrudge liking Superman.  I'm not even saying there is no absolute Truth or Justice.  But Superman is a symbol anybody can claim.  Card writing Superman is not like a misogynist writing Wonder Woman, because Superman's not gay.  Superman is a boy from a farm in Kansas who just wants to help people with his incredible strength. Sounds like a good place to start.  Boys Wanna Be Him, Girls Wanna Be Him.  DBZ fandom was the same way - jam-packed with conservatives and libertarians who read totally different messages in what I thought was The Great Post-Colonial Disaster.  Stephen Chow explained it very graciously: "the airy and unstrained story leaves much room for creation."  The main reason I'm writing this is because I am familiar with the feeling of frustration you get when something you love is terribly "misread."

I also know that with that feeling of indignation is a little hint deep inside that maybe you're the the one misreading things all along.  There was once a xenophobic facebook group, for example, that used The Lord of the Rings and Aragorn's "I Bid You Stand, Men of the West" in particular as its mascot.  I love LOTR, and I love Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn, and that is not what they represent to me, but I'm not going to pretend there is no xenophobia in that story, and that the facebook group creators were totally coming out of left (right) field.  l do think there's something about simple hero epics that appeals to a more conservative - and more ideological, on either side - audience overall.  It's the absolutism, I'd guess, and the masculinity.  So I also think Superman is a symbol someone like Orson Scott Card can easily claim.  Hooray.

Also, this is why I study -isms like fascism and nationalism: because there's a reason people sign onto these things.  These are words, ideas, symbols, codes that work.

This song helped me come to terms with this.  Hope it helps:

Thor

May. 11th, 2011 11:31 am
intertribal: (baby got heart attacks)
This was entertaining, much more so than most superhero or pseudo-superhero movies.  It's not particularly subversive, and the humor is kind of slapstick, but oh well.  The bad guys (to the extent that there even are bad guys...) are all aliens, so at least there's no demonization of human cultures going on.  The parts that take place on Earth are way more fun than the parts that take place on, uh, Thor's home planet.  Overall, alternated between funny and campy!dramatic, but in a very non-annoying way - and we all know how easy it is to annoy me.

I thought they actually did a really nice job with the everyday folk in this one - Natalie Portman's character was very likable and relatable and cute (and everything about Thor was filtered through her perspective, which was awesome, because it almost felt more like he was the love interest, not her - which is really fucking rare in action movies, to allow women to show desire - usually it's just like, Exasperated Love Interest Suddenly Becomes Willing To Make Out With Hero, How Did That Happen? Don't Ask), with her main adjective probably being "clever."  Her assistant, Darcy - the political science student - was the comic relief, and was a riot.  Then their beleaguered scientist mentor dude was Stellan Skarsgard, and he did a good job; I generally like Skarsgard anyway.  It all takes place in a very desertified New Mexico.

The aliens - Thor's people, and their enemies the Frost Giants - are a little headscratchy.  They have a nice-looking planet, sure, with the cosmos as their sky and a long psychedelic crystal highway that leads out to the rainbow bifrost bridge - kind of like something off a sketchy "space art" web site.  And their attire reminded more of Saint Seiya than anything else, did anybody watch that show?  Disturbing anime, that.  Anyway, they're all completely identical to humans aside from their ridiculous armor, which was played for some laughs when they eventually came to Earth.  The Frost Giants are corpse-gray with red eyes and live in a desolate ice world.  Character development in this "realm," as Thor would say, was a little weak, but I think is a good example of what I was saying the other day - heroic heroes are more interesting than antiheroes. 

Thor comes straight out of Hero Mold, you see.  He is a total stupid dumbfuck when he first becomes an adult, but his flaws are hero flaws - wants to go after the enemy and teach them a lesson, doesn't want to wait for diplomacy, must defend honor, blah blah blah - a lot of sound and fury and prideful bombast, but he doesn't angst or consider switching sides or even behave all that reprehensibly.  There was one part where I thought he might suffer A Very Painful Lesson (TM) because he's smashing all these Frost Giants with his whack-a-mole hammer while miles away his friends are about to get eaten by a gigantic ice Balrog/Troll, but no, he sees that they're in danger and saves them.  He has some character defects, but they're heroic defects.  And he becomes much less of a dumbfuck as the movie progresses.  But thank God, you know, thank God that he wasn't "I'm just a loser and I'm sad about my average life but holy shit look I have superpowers now I am uber cool woohoo."  I am so done with that kind of superhero.  With Thor, at least we've moved beyond the standard "what does this power mean?" conversations, because you know, Thor knows he has power.  He's been groomed to be a leader all his life.  So instead of "you too can be a leader" claptrap you can actually concentrate on what good leadership is (not that this movie is very deep, but eh).  And if that means that fewer boys in the audience can "relate" to Thor, too damn bad for them.  Captain America looks right up their alley.

Loki, his brother, the "bad guy," is a whole bucket of crazy.  He's kind of sympathetic, and he's certainly Thor's shadow-self, and he doesn't seem to be motivated by Unrepenting Evil or whatever, but neither his motives nor his personality are consistent.  I don't mean that he develops as a character like Thor does - he's just wildly inconsistent.  I accept that he's keeping his true motives and plan to himself, but towards the end I kept going like "Loki, why are you doing that?  I thought that's what you wanted!" and "Loki, what the fuck?"  Unlike Thor, you never really figure out what Loki believes or values - we get that he values himself, yeah, but he seems to have literally no opinions or belief system beyond that - which is just as bad as the villain that is evil Just Because.  

But, oh well.  The movie ultimately comes down not on the side of genocide, which for an action blockbuster, is pretty good.
intertribal: (baby got heart attacks)
Is Superman A Traitor?  "in the short story “The Incident” in Action Comics #900, Superman is renouncing his American citizenship." 

Result: A Little Bit of Cosmic Rage.  Aside from the "I will never buy DC comics again!" declarations, there's actually a decent amount of soul-searching in those comments.  I have zero investment in Superman, and I'm sure this will be (a) contradicted by some previous incident, and/or (b) retconned, so I'm not sure if it's that big of a deal.  But commenter Daniella thinks it's a very big deal: "The reason he stands for truth justice and the American way is because those are God given morals. He wouldn't be Superman if he hadnt been raised by God fearing farmers from Kansas."

BUT, on a more serious note back at the first link, Bryan Reesman says: "Is Superman only considered so by us if he is an American? Is a hero only someone who allies himself with one side or one country? Isn’t a hero someone who commits selfless acts to save people, prevent catastrophe, stand up for important values or to improve people’s lives? And is a hero allowed to speak their mind and express their beliefs beyond their actions?"

That last sentence might actually be the most interesting (the other questions, and their answers, are a little too obvious for me).  That there's the kind of thing that fits mighty fine in my novel, the whole hero/puppet/golem thing.  And I love that it's being posed in the context of one of the most quintessentially heroic heroes instead of the antiheroes, who usually get this kind of introspection.  I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I've always found heroic heroes to be much more interesting than antiheroes, which is actually why I'll probably never get into GrimDark fantasy...

One of Reesman's commenters adds: "I must say that, as an Australian, I haven’t ever thought of Superman as a purely American hero. He has been a role model for people all around the globe. I don’t know if I would feel differently about this if I was American or not, but considering Superman came from ANOTHER PLANET entirely, I don’t see why people would complain."

Can I just say how much this reminds of various arguments in the DBZ fandom (which seems almost without exception to be extremely hawkish, often socially conservative - gee, I can't imagine why - as well as oddly religious)?  Rather delicious, really.
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
From a Ferretbrain review of Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear (review by Dan Hemmens):
What annoys me about Kvothe is not so much that he's a gratuitous Mary-Sue, but that despite this fact he is taken incredibly seriously by critics. People bitch about how unrealistic it is that everybody fancies Bella Swan [A/N: From the much-maligned Twilight series], about how stupid it is for teenage girls to indulge in a fantasy where powerful supernatural beings are sexually attracted to them. People laugh at characters like Sonea and Auraya [A/N: Heroines written by fantasy writer Trudi Canavan] because they're just magic sparkly princesses with super-speshul magic sparkle powers. But take all of those qualities – hidden magic power, ludicrously expanding skillset, effortless ability to attract the opposite sex despite specifically self-describing as being bad at dealing with them, and slap it on a male character, and suddenly we get the protagonist of one of the most serious, most critically acclaimed fantasy novels of the last decade.

Of course you can't ever really say, for certain, how a book would have been received if you reversed the genders of its author and protagonist, but something tells me that a book about a red-haired girl who plays the lute and becomes the most powerful sorceress who ever lived by the time she's seventeen, and who has a series of exciting sexy encounters with supernatural creatures, would not have been quite so readily inducted into the canon of a genre still very uncertain about its mainstream reputation.
This, by the way, is why I love Ferretbrain.  And have a very low tolerance for reflexive bashing of Twilight.  Some of it, I'm convinced, is straight up fear/disdain of catching girl cooties.  Some of it is under the guise of a "concerned citizen," in this case people who say it's "bad for girls" - it's bad for young girls to idolize unhealthy relationships, but apparently it's totally fine for young boys to idolize unhealthy relationships.  Female wish fulfillment must be guarded very tightly so that it doesn't go down bad paths and stays on a realistic straight-and-narrow, but male wish fulfillment?  Boys will be boys.  Or even better, that's just entertainment!  Or I guess in this case, that's the standard-bearer. 

Boy, when I become famous some day and someone asks me in some well-meaning interview which genre (out of science fiction/fantasy/horror) is the least hospitable to female writers and readers, it's going to be so hard to decide!

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