This is not a Defense of JK Rowling

(but it is in favour of waiting and seeing, for me, anyway. You do what’s right for you.)

(imagine that the Jude Law Dumbledore leaning back with that slightly disappointed expression on his face is looking at that David Yates article and the entire way JKR handled Dumbledore’s sexuality reveal)

Re this.

If you’re inclined to be angry and disappointed because Yates said Dumbledore’s sexuality isn’t “explicitly” going to be in this upcoming HP extended universe movie, I understand. Maybe Yates spoke clumsily, maybe he means that Dumbledore’s complicated past with Grindelwald will be onscreen, just in a sneaky, hinty kind of way that maybe isn’t “explicit” but that doesn’t leave room for heteronormativity, but even so, it’s disappointing. Dumbledore is gay, he’s gay, he’s gay. There should be some way of placing that onscreen without jumping too far ahead into the Dumbledore/Grindelwald backstory or whatever.

Gay people don’t magically become heterosexual when they’re single or not infatuated/in love with someone. If Dumbledore is focused on other things and only sneaky/hinty focused on his past feelings for Grindelwald in this movie, there are other ways of throwing queer fans and viewers a bone and nodding to Dumbledore’s identity onscreen unambiguously because of course it’s well past time for that. It should have been in the books, explicitly.

But.

(OK first it was Yates who said everything. He’s the director. If “Dumbledore is gay make it clear” wasn’t written in the script he could certainly have added it in himself. He’s not getting a pile-on, I noticed. Nobody is “done forever” with David Yates. Just the successful lady writer. I’m not saying don’t call my favourites out for things because they’re women and my favourites, but do note that we seem to expect perfection from her and not really from him. Guys. Come on.)

(Second, everything everyone has said about “you need to be explicit otherwise no one will know they’re queer” is absolutely true but I kind of sort of a lot think in this case it… isn’t)

(Everyone knows Dumbledore is gay)

(Ask everyone you encounter tomorrow about Dumbledore; they all know he’s gay)

(In A Very Potter MusicalSequel, and Senior Year Dumbledore is explicitly gay. In the Epic Rap Battle between him and Gandalf, Dumbledore is explicitly gay. It’s like… a thing that everyone knows. Voldemort is bad, Dumbledore is good, and he’s gay)

(It wasn’t in any of the books or the movies explicitly and yet everyone knows he’s gay)

(Very few authors can pull that off. None of them should, really. It isn’t fair that it worked in this case. But it did. It doesn’t mean Dumbledore is great representation, because he isn’t. Because he can’t be, if the only confirmation of his identity is a footnote. But there is an overwhelming sense of “Well people just won’t know that the character is gay unless you state it explicitly,” and yes that’s true, in all cases but this one. This is the exception that proves the rule, and it’s the exception that proves that even if you can pull this off, you shouldn’t. His orientation should have been explicitly in the book. It wasn’t. It’s annoying. It’s heteronormative as hell and honestly it’s hurtful. But everyone knows Dumbledore is gay.)

(97% of the people who watch Grindelwald’s Crimes or whatever it’s called are going to be watching it knowing Dumbledore is gay even if there isn’t so much as a wistful glance in Grindelwald’s direction on Dumbledore’s part. Doesn’t let the filmmakers off the hook, but, we should be honest about that. Gives us a chance to say, hey, look, do the actual hard work of getting representation right rather than just having it be a footnote, because this isn’t good enough. Leaving it at “Dumbledore doesn’t count because it’s not explicitly in the text” will cause a lot of people who won’t do basic extrapolation (and you know they won’t… because you know you have to tell them in the book that the character is whatever marginalized identity explicitly for them to accept it, so of course they need this one thought all the way through for them as well) to look at this situation and think, “Um, everyone knows Dumbledore is gay so this is clearly wrong.” The problem isn’t that no one knows he’s gay. The problem is that JK Rowling, because of decades of heteronormativity, didn’t think it was necessary to make it explicitly clear in the book that Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald even though that sort of detail actually does add to the themes and character development, but it’s made explicitly clear that Madame Pince has a crush on Filch, which is not important at all. Dumbledore counts and is super useful to the representation conversation because he counts precisely as an example of how you do it wrong: yes, he’s gay, personally I think it’s generally good for the world that he’s gay, but his being gay is apparently an unimportant bit of trivia and doesn’t need to be known explicitly for readers to understand him, and that is the problem.)

All right. So. People seem to be under the impression that there won’t even be a nod to the complexities of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s romantic and/or sexual past in this movie, which is about, I think, the war between them. If that’s the case, yeah, that’s stupid. Personally, I think what Yates means is that Grindelwald and Dumbledore aren’t going to make out onscreen in this one. Because. Well. Grindelwald is a genocidal dick and Dumbledore isn’t. So.

Personally, I think it would be pretty much impossible for JKR and Yates to have made a movie about their war without nodding to the complex history of the two characters. I do on the other hand think it’s possible to say something worded badly in an interview about your upcoming movie that you can’t spoil because it isn’t out for another several months and you weren’t planning on detailing exactly how the complex relationship shows up onscreen because you want people to pay the money to see it. I’m not saying all the people complaining should shut up and wait and pay and go see, because it’s up to you what you spend your money on. I understand if you’d rather spend it on queer creators’ stuff. That’s great. That is obviously the better choice, especially considering that it’s pretty much a given that Dumbledore/Grindelwald is going to be problematic. It’s just that I’m struggling to understand how it’s even possible for there to be not even a nod to the context of the Dumbledore/Grindelwald past here, and I’ve landed on, “He just misspoke.”

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe they really did try to get away with depicting Dumbledore’s famous defeat of Grindelwald without any clear reference to their romantic history.

What I do know for sure is that if they ever actually get around to depicting that relationship, Dumbledore and Grindelwald is… not going to be a nice story.

But I’m still looking forward to it, I have to admit.

I’m looking forward to it because: it is going to be fascinating, fitting into a pattern of tragic romances that JK Rowling has already written into the main story as well as a couple of peripheral stories, all of which are heterosexual. It is going to be a bit of a mess, too, simply because this romance is going to be at the very least tragic and it’s probably going to be way worse than just “tragic,” and, well, why is the only gay relationship depicted in the Harry Potter universe going to be a tragic, toxic sludge? And once it is depicted, there will probably be specific aspects of this relationship that will fit into typical bad tropes and stereotypes about gay men and their relationships, unless JKR manages to pull off the frankly impossible and avoid all of those entirely. Ultimately, I think the whole thing will be useful to dissect and critique. Especially because, before I knew he was gay, I thought Dumbledore was ace. And I think, given what we know for sure about Dumbledore, he could still be somewhere on the ace-spec. THIS DOESN’T EXCUSE ANYTHING. I’m not trying to say that my head canon ace Dumbledore solves the problem of his gay identity not being explicit on the page because OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. I just mean that JK Rowling does interesting and maybe a little bit problematic and maybe still sort of intriguing things with her tragic romances, as far as ace and aro people are concerned, and this relationship is going to shed more light onto what and how I think about all of that.

(But yeah, I don’t like that Johnny Depp is in it. I don’t like that JK Rowling defended keeping him in the movie. I really don’t like that.)

And as much as I’m looking forward to the inevitable critiquing, I’m also extremely wary of how this is all going to turn out, with regards to Dumbledore himself. I love that he has flaws and weaknesses, yes. I’m worried that he’s going to turn into a tragedy, romantically speaking. He is a tragedy where his family is concerned, and that’s important and needs to stay. I don’t want him to be a romantic tragedy, though, and I kind of think that’s how this story ends.

I think that because I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I saw the extremely creepy, unsettling relationship between Grindelwald and Credence. I saw how Grindelwald was manipulating Credence’s obvious feelings for him. He used the word “friend.” They both used the word “friend.” But. I saw what I saw.

I was looking for it, too, because I also read Deathly Hallows. Yates, in his movie version, skimmed almost entirely over the Grindelwald/Dumbledore’s past thing, but I still remember the book. Dumbledore got all white-supremecyish as a young ‘un. Partly he was inclined towards that because of what happened to his sister.

The other part of his anti-Muggle bigotry is that he was in love with Grindelwald. And Grindelwald, it was strongly hinted at, had manipulated Dumbledore.

My prediction for their relationship onscreen is that it’s going to be extremely toxic. We know it ends horrifically. The details of it that we have so far seem to suggest that it fits into a pattern of romantic tragedies that are already explicitly detailed in the books as romantic tragedies.

There are several of them. And they’re all heterosexual and explicitly and unmistakably romances in the actual text. So. Yeah. Here are the ones I remember off the top of my head:

Snape and Lily

Super toxic. Snape is definitely in love with Lily, his best friend, but he’s also convinced that becoming a Death Eater is the only way forward for him. He wants power, being so powerless himself. He chooses that over her. Because it’s a book, of course it’s literally him who gives Voldemort the information he needs to eventually kill Lily. Snape begs for her life, which is why she’s able to die and save Harry.

As far as we know, he wasn’t in love with anyone else, ever. He maybe never had a romantic and/or sexual partner, ever. I’ve seen a lot of people criticize that for being juvenile or unlikely but, no, it fucking isn’t. It happens, it’s a thing, for a lot of different reasons. And sometimes people rarely or never feel those feelings that compel someone to seek out those relationships to begin with.

(JK Rowling seems to know that without really knowing that there’s a word for it. See Charlie Weasley for the best example. This is a periphery story, just like Dumbledore’s sexuality is. I know people like to read opportunism into her post-publication declaration of Dumbledore’s being gay, but I’ve always seen Rowling as curating a huge amount of backstory information for all of her characters. I believe her when she says she always saw Dumbledore as gay. I assume she knew he was in love with Grindelwald before she name-dropped the dude on the Chocolate Frog card in Philosopher’s Stone. I don’t think she was trying to score “ally points.” I think she was just being clueless. Which is not an excuse, but there is a difference. But apparently these things, like Dumbledore being gay and Charlie being ace, are not explicitly stated in the text because she considers those details to be trivia, irrelevant to plot and theme. That’s a pretty large problem because, first, Dumbledore being in love with Grindelwald absolutely changes how we read that history. Dumbledore being romantically in love with Grindelwald explicitly absolutely would have enriched the thematic resonance and all of the character development we were getting there with him. And second, I think most of us these days understand that separately from theme and plot, a fictional character’s identity matters. And that JK Rowling seems to not understand that, or that she seems to not understand that there’s work that authors need to do to ensure that people don’t just read white, straight, cis, able-bodied, thin, allo, and so on and so forth into every single character because they’ve been trained to do that through decades of the huge white canon, is the actual problem here. Dumbledore could easily have said to Harry, “… oh and I was also in love with him.” It would have worked, it would have been explicit, it would have been easy, and ultimately it seems that JK Rowling didn’t think it was important to make sure the readers knew what she was implying, whereas in other, hetero, quick little romance stories it’s absolutely clear that it’s a romance.)

(Honestly, though, considering how many characters of hers I can read ace into, I maybe have a little niggling about a certain author and a certain ace-spectrum and I’m not even a little bit sorry)

(If she is an ace egg, that doesn’t excuse any of this, of course. And I know we’re complaining about needing more than just our head canons. Still. It’s not often that fictional characters fit so easily into being read like this and I can’t separate it from how I interpret all of the romance, tragic and not tragic, implied and explicit, in the story.) 

On the other hand, maybe the tragedy of Snape’s first and only love compelled him to live a life of self-loathing and self-loathing–induced celibacy. Which is kind of silly, or it’s kind of Arthurian Romantic, take your pick.

I’m picking a-spec Snape because it makes more sense and is less sad, but you do you.

The Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron

We get this one in a whirlwind reveal while Hogwarts collapses around Harry and company. The Grey Lady was beautiful, narcissistic, and a thief in life. The Bloody Baron was some guy who was in love with her in life. He confessed dramatically, she was like, “Ew,” and then he murdered her. And then, overcome with remorse, he killed himself.

What sticks out to me for this one is that Rowena Ravenclaw was the Grey Lady’s mom and the broken relationship between her and her daughter was the actual tragedy here, rather than the Bloody Baron being terrible, which is kind of nice.

Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle

Merope is a victim of constant abuse. She brews a love potion in order to catch Tom Riddle’s attention. It works. It’s a love potion. It’s rape.

They get married, have a baby, she stops feeding him love potion, maybe, Dumbledore speculates, out of remorse, or maybe she was hopeful that he might really have fallen in love with her by then.

But no. It was rape.

Voldemort had been conceived, though. Tom Riddle leaves, Merope gives birth and lets herself die from heartbreak after naming the baby after his father.

Voldemort grows up not understanding “the power of love.” Deliberately, I think. I think somehow he understood that hopeless, delusional love for his father was ultimately a horrible experience for his mother, and that a love potion had taken away his father’s ability to choose, and that both of his parents chose not to love him because it was too much. I’m open to other interpretations, because Voldie was a bad dude even when he was a little kid, but Dumbledore gives him a bit of the benefit of the doubt while he is a student at Hogwarts and I think that means he was capable of turning out differently, but, upon learning the sad, twisted story of his family, he started making some wretched, soul-mutilaty choices to try to avoid the same fate as his parents.

I think JK Rowling is saying, with these three doomed love stories, that love is painful. It’s hard. It’s almost not worth it, except, in the end, it is. Because even if you mess up and then you have to live as a regret-ghost because you did a terrible thing, or as a regret-living person because you did a terrible thing, your only other option is to cut your soul into eight pieces and your greatest ambition in life becomes trying to murder a baby, so, love people however you do that, and try not to get them killed indirectly/directly murder them.

There are also lots of non romantic, non sexual, also doomed love stories that aren’t tragic in the same way as those romantic ones are:

Harry and Lily

It all comes back to this, again and again. Lily loved her son enough to die for him, of course she did. She saved him doing it. Eventually he emulates her and dies for everyone he loves as well, to save them. Lily’s last moments are horrifying and not your typical awesome, self-sacrificing hero standing between a monster and the innocent. She’s begging, crying, powerless without a wand. She endures it anyway, dies anyway, because she loves her son, and it’s what saves the wizarding world, eventually.

Sirius and James

I think Sirius is aroace. You want him to be gay? Go for it. But I think all of the telling “not interested in the hopeful girl in the exam” and “pasted posters of Muggle women and motorcycles to annoy bigoted parents, not out of interest towards the women” hints can be read either way. And either way, Sirius loves his friends. He thinks he’s doing the right thing, making Peter be the secret keeper. When it turns out he was wrong and his mistake gets Lily and James killed, Sirius pretty much gives up on his own life. A lot of factors beyond Sirius’s control come together to land him unfairly in Azkaban, but those factors that he can control he misuses out of rage and grief.

When he escapes, he does a lot of sulking and almost ruins his newfound relationship with his godson because he won’t grow up and be responsible. It’s very understandable. The murder of his best friend ruined his life. Still, it’s clear, made clear all the time, every time Sirius talks about James, that having James in his life makes it worth living for Sirius, who had been miserable right up until he met and was accepted by James on the train. Love is messy and Sirius doesn’t navigate it as gracefully as he could have, but ultimately it’s his core, making him different in all the ways that matter from his evil cousin as she kills him.

Harry and Hedwig

I’m not over this.

Harry and Dobby

I’m not over this either.

What Harry keeps learning, every time someone dies, is that love is awful. But worth it anyway. Knowing that you might very well lose the people you love doesn’t mean shutting yourself off from them and choosing not to love.

But do note that in the romances, Snape doesn’t love again, ever. The Bloody Baron certainly doesn’t. Merope couldn’t even love her son after Tom left. Tragedies, the lot of them.

So… what’s going to happen to Dumbledore, after Grindelwald?

Dumbledore and Grindelwald

I’m convinced we’re going to see this onscreen. And here’s how I think it will go.

They probably are going to have a whirlwind romance. It might be cute. For a bit. But they start feeding off of each other’s bigotry, and eventually it will become clear that Grindelwald is manipulating Dumbledore’s feelings for him in a way that is disturbing but not as disturbing as the Credence thing because at least here they’re the same age and neither of them are troubled, abused teenage boys.

Dumbledore cuts off their relationship when he realizes that he doesn’t actually want to be an “Enslave the Muggles” kind of guy. Or is that why he cuts it off?

Is it actually only when Arianna almost kills them all, and when one of them, accidentally, maybe, kills her, that Dumbledore ends it?

And then Dumbledore is idle. He won’t confront Grindelwald as he begins his atrocities, because he is terrified that Grindelwald will confirm that it was Dumbledore’s spell that killed his own sister. Probably also because of all of the complex romantic/sexual feelings, too.

When I was a kid and had no idea that asexuality was a thing, I still always picked up on and paid special attention to characters that didn’t have romances. Dumbledore was an old guy, unmarried. It seemed right to me, that he should be unmarried. At some point I thought to myself, “I just don’t think he feels that way about people, and that’s why he never got married.”

And then JK Rowling said he was gay.

I think Dumbledore can be a-spec too. Maybe the type of feelings he has for Grindelwald are rare or almost absent, and for him they strike only once. Because while it’s possible that post-Grindelwald Dumbledore did some dating and romance and stuff (which he could still have done even if he is actually some sort of ace and/or aro), I kind of sort of a lot think he absolutely didn’t. Maybe it’s because he usually doesn’t think of people in romantic and sexual ways, like I thought when I was a kid.

Or, maybe, and I think this is the winner here, it’s because it fits into the pattern those other tragic romances all fit into and he fell in love young with a guy who turned out to be manipulative on the one hand and genocidal on the other and they got into a fight that killed his sister, and as punishment for himself, he chose to never love again. Something like my interpretation of Voldemort, but much less extreme. He chose to never pursue romantic love again, because he didn’t consider himself worthy of it.

That’s what I’m expecting, anyway.

Based on all the Harry Potter I’ve consumed throughout the years, I think I’ve picked up on Rowling’s Harry Potter love and tragic love and tragic romantic love patterns. As much as I think she’s kind of writing her way around the a-specs, I think she really does love a tragic romance where it goes bad and the one partner decides never to do it again maybe because they’re broken now, and maybe it’s because they’re still trying to grapple with the after-effects, and maybe it’s because they only feel those things rarely and it just doesn’t happen again for them. All of that is there, possible, to read into these romances. When we finally get Dumbledore and Grindelwald it will probably be there too.

There’s a lot to say about this story, the way I’m expecting it to happen. There’s good stuff there, maybe, and there’s some problematic stuff as well. Maybe it will happen completely differently. Maybe Dumbledore did love other men afterwards and it was never discussed because it wasn’t relevant to the plot but, like, pepperup potion is though. And also firecrabs. And flobberworms. And Sir Cadogan. THERE IS A HINT AT A ROMANCE BETWEEN MADAME PINCE AND FILCH. SO.

Whatever happens, it’s kind of crucial that Dumbledore is stated to be gay, and that this statement comes separately from his complicated and very likely toxic relationship with Grindelwald. Because the Dumbledore/Grindelwald love story is a tragedy, and Dumbledore being gay is not a tragedy.

I’m looking forward to analyzing this love story, critiquing it, wondering about what went wrong and what could have been better and what, hopefully, works about the portrayal of this relationship. But Dumbledore’s identity should be its own thing, not only onscreen tied to a toxic romance. That I can say right now, without waiting to see any of the movies or waiting to see how the relationship itself is portrayed.

I hope Yates apologizes to Rowling about that interview, btw. Also I hope both of them do the thing, or that they have done it already, because it honestly isn’t that much to ask for. And I hope we all keep reading and recommending stories that are explicitly about queer people and those that are written by queer authors, because that is always a good thing. This tag contains all the ones I read last year. So far, this year, I’ve read Let’s Talk About Love which has a biromantic asexual protagonist, and I’m reading Beneath the Sugar Sky of the Wayward Children series which features an ensemble that includes a trans boy, an ace girl, and maybe the lesbian girl shows up again. I’m only halfway through but I’m hopeful because she’s my favourite.

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30 Days of Avatar: Boy Hero VS Girl Hero

Week 8: Aang VS Korra

Day 22: Boy Hero VS Girl Hero
Day 23: Consequences
Day 24: Limitations

Day 22 is for reluctance, confidence, gender identities, and hero moments.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

Airbender

“Why didn’t you tell us you’re the Avatar?”

“Because… I never wanted to be.”

aang never wanted to be avatar

Korra

“What makes you so sure your daughter is the one?”

“I’m the Avatar, you gotta deal with it!”

Presented without comment.

OK, not really.

When it comes right down to it, Aang and Korra’s genders have nothing to do with their respective approaches to being the Avatar, and, even before that, dealing with finding out and accepting that they are the Avatar. HOWEVER, we thought it would be interesting to look at how Aang and Korra deal with being the Avatar in their different ways through the lens of their genders to make just a little teeny tiny point about representation.

In Book 1, Aang has two entire episodes that explore, either briefly or at length, that learning that he is the Avatar at such a young age really messed him up. Here are some various images of him moping:

aang mopingaang ashamedaang ashamed 2

This is not to say that he should just get over himself, because, of course not. He wasn’t just told too early for no reason. The monks decided to tell him four years before he turned 16 because Fire Lord Sozin was becoming an increasing threat, and they wanted to speed up the process of turning him into a fully realized Avatar so that they could take care of it.

So, you’re 12 years old, you’re told that the balance of the world is in serious peril, and you need to grow up fast and stop doing the things you enjoy and being around the people you love because it’s on you to deal with it. Of course he mopes.

Also, he runs away, and almost dies, and freezes himself for 100 years. While he’s frozen, his entire nation gets destroyed. So. Mope away, baby Aang. 😦

But there’s also the fact that Aang is reluctant to learn fire bending. Well. Not at first.

kataraburn1kataraburn3kataraburn4

After he accidentally burns Katara because he’s not being a respectful, patient student, he vows never to fire bend again. Guru Pathik helps him overcome this, as does Zuko, who understands that fire is dangerous and then some, but this whole thing is a pretty big deal.

And when Aang isn’t doing so well with earth bending, he just gets kind of sad and tries to avoid Toph.

Come to think of it, even when he’s trying to master water bending he’s more interested in snowman bending and playing with Momo.

And then there’s Korra.

Korra is a bending prodigy and never runs from a challenge. She struggles big time with air bending, but rather than mope about it like Aang would, she burns a bunch of stuff and yells in Tenzin’s face that she is bad at air bending because, 1. He’s a bad teacher, and 2. She doesn’t even need it anyway.

That goes away, of course, but she’s always determined to perfect her bending. She seeks out a metal bending tutor in Su Beifong, and is eager to learn how to use bending to purify angry spirits from Unalaq.

Later on she does reject the Avatar label, but that’s a conversation for another day.

How Korra is as a student and how Aang is seems pretty significantly different. She’s eager and determined, and easily, easily frustrated. Aang is fairly eager, but he’s more patient and at least slightly less determined than Korra is. A lot of that may be the age difference… but let’s look at how they both found out they’re the Avatar to begin with.

Aang is 12 when the monks tell him, Korra looks like a toddler and can already bend three elements. Korra was probably the first person in the world to realize that she is the Avatar and is clearly delighted by the prospect. Again, Aang has lots of reasons to not be so happy about it, and Korra definitely doesn’t at that young age. If Korra was growing up already on fantastic stories of Aang’s saving of the world, then why wouldn’t she be thrilled to discover that it’s her turn now?

Women getting to take on hero roles that were once mostly taken on by male characters is a thing now. It’s pretty contentious still for reasons that boggle the mind. There is some cynicism about it as well, like, the radical feminists are cautious about embracing female characters as role models and something to celebrate if they are just as violent and occasionally as fascist as your typical toxic masculine male action hero, also marxist critique would like to remind everyone that commercial art is commercial and rarely challenges the status quo in any meaningful way that will tear down capitalism or something, yadda yadda. Also, of course, it’s been mostly white women who get to do these hero things, and that needs to stop. Women of colour shouldn’t have to “wait their turn” or whatever it is that people are saying to try to justify why, if it isn’t a man, then it has to be a white woman. And we need plenty of characters representing men of colour as well. And that doesn’t even begin to discuss how there are genderqueer people who could use decent rep and trans women are still largely being played by cis men on screen which is absolutely ridiculous, and, really, men full stop could use more varied representation if we’re being honest. There’s a lot of good stuff that at least tries to detoxify masculinity if you look for it (we here humbly opine that Disney does it best) but we could always use some more.

But representation is seriously important. Last year, erm convinced Three to go and see girl Ghostbusters, and then this happened:

(the whole thing is good but it’s the Holtzman part especially, of course)

(just)

It’s hard to explain. A woman character doesn’t get to be cool like that unless she’s wearing something sexy and everything that’s happening has been choreographed specifically to enhance the sexiness. This was completely different.

Also this.

This is the scene making all the women cry in theatres. So.

We can talk about “commercial art” and “violence is bad,” but still, representation matters.

Korra’s declaration of Avatarness is really like a celebration of that. In the first series, we had a typical boy chosen one hero, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and only he could bring back the balance. We’re not knocking it, it was great. But in the second series, rather than have another beleaguered chosen one, we instead get this prodigy, thrilled to be the Avatar. Also, she’s a brown girl, so there’s that.

This is her, trying out her Avatarness for the first time against a street gang and clearly enjoying herself:

Korra has a lot to learn, and her eagerness is mainly a thing that helps her character growth end up being really rewarding and interesting. And this is what pushes Korra as a female hero beyond just “the Avatar but a girl now,” because she does actually have to learn how to Avatar responsibly and not just stomp around declaring that she’s the Avatar. But still, it’s fun to watch her have fun.

Also, notice how Aang isn’t overly involved with Korra’s Avatar training the way Roku was with him? Partly it’s because she’s not great at spirituality, but once she opens up that block, we think it’s because he took a quick peek at how things were going with her, made this face:

intimidated aang

and then said, “Eh. She’s got it covered.”

Superheroes, Lately

Let’s talk about three superhero movies that came out this year and the important things they did that superhero movies haven’t previously done in my opinion which is a good opinion and is a very informed opinion as always. (Hint – no, it’s not the latter and probably not the former either. But I think I’m on to a couple of things, at least.)

I’d watch Wonder WomanGuardians of the Galaxy 2, and Lego Batman before reading. Also I’d just watch all of those movies in general. So.

In brief:

Wonder Woman

Well, it’s about a female superhero. That alone isn’t new, but it’s also actually critically and financially successful, which is new for a woman-led superhero movie. It gives the love interest really important things to do, which makes it unique among the superhero movies I’ve seen. It’s also clearly actually about something, morality-wise. I’d argue that most of them aren’t, apart from maybe the responsibilities of power – and only if it’s one of the good Spider-Man movies. Most of them present some sort of simplistic good vs evil conflict that we’re supposed to just take at face value, because if we start questioning it it all starts to fall apart (why is Bruce Wayne so rich and can he please just stop, for example). They’re also more interested in being character-driven and all about the spectacle, which would be more than fine usually (superheroes are supposed to be fun, otherwise what’s the point). But with Marvel producing a billion a minute and with DC producing a bunch that are pretty impressively not entertaining or fun in the slightest, it’s getting super boring up in here without even basic introspection or bigger attempts to shake things up. But yeah, this one is about stuff. Pretty basic stuff but stuff nonetheless, and I’m interested to see if future Wonder Woman movies are also actually about stuff in more ways than this first one is.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This one paired up all of the characters (except Groot) and they all discussed their flaws and past mistakes and vulnerability with each other, to varying degrees. For me, the most intriguing pairs were Gamora/Nebula and Rocket/Yondu. Quill/Dickface was more important to the plot than it was important for character development (if I’m remembering correctly) and Drax/Mantis was comic-reliefy. But either way, I found it really engaging, and it meant that I liked this one waaaaay better than the first one, which I think is a minority opinion but I’m thrilled to have it even if I have to be alone.

Lego Batman

Finally, Batman is deservedly, deservedlydeservedly being mocked. Catharsis, at long last.

Also Voldemort was in it a lot. I told everyone who asked me how it was after I saw it that he was prominently featured and the reaction to that was, universally, “… what?”

Now, in length:

Superheroes are weird, and also Pixar movies make me feel all sorts of things

“Superhero movies aren’t about anything,” I just said, cruelly. I do understand why it has to be that way. There are lots of reasons but I think the main and obvious and boring one is that if you make a story be entirely about morality, it’s not going to be a good story. It doesn’t need to be said because it is pretty obvious, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: you need to strike a balance. Characters and the small, specific plot that they have to work their way through need to be at the forefront – but some sort of morality should be behind it and will be there whether you try to put it there or not – especially if it’s a story about powerful people trying to protect vulnerable people from other powerful people, which is supposedly what all superhero stories are.

My problem then is not that there isn’t morality in these movies, it’s more that I think these movies specifically would lend themselves to important morality discussions, but they tend to waste that opportunity. So now let’s talk about Pixar movies for a while.

I have what I suspect are silly problems with Wall-E that resemble my probably silly problems with superhero movies in general. But at the risk of sounding like a humorless moralist, I’ll go into it anyway. I think Wall-E has a moral that doesn’t go along with its plot. The moral is that you shouldn’t just do boring, repetitive things or you’ll miss out on life. And that’s fine, but there’s also the pesky thing where they have a plant, which, as far as anyone knows throughout the entire movie, is the only plant on earth. But the plant is treated as incidental. It’s why Eve shows up on earth and it’s what the captain, who is the best character, is invested in, but is otherwise unimportant. Wall-E and Eve’s love story is what’s centered, and the return to earth is just the subplot, as it should be. But the moment that Auto crushes Wall-E is the moment the moral plot gets swallowed by the love story, because now they aren’t going home to start taking responsibility for destroying it, but rather because the stupid robot needs to be repaired. Because the plant has previously been Eve’s sole directive but now Wall-E is and blaaaaaaah I don’t care, I’m too worried about the plant starting to wilt to care about the robot.

At this point I become a reluctant viewer. Because the entire moral of Wall-E is to forget about your job. Just, toss it aside in complete abandon so that you can do what’s important to you personally instead. For Mo, it’s cleaning Wall-E. For all of the broken robots, it’s being completely useless and somewhat dangerous, let’s be real. For Wall-E and Eve it’s holding hands.

BUT OMG EVE THE PLANT!!!!! THE WHOLE WORLD IS DEAD AND NOW YOU ALL HAVE A CHANCE TO CLEAN IT UP I DON’T CARE THAT YOU WANT TO HOLD HANDS YOU’RE JUST ROBOTS AND SOMETIMES YOUR JOBS ARE ACTUALLY VITAL AND YOU NEED TO DO THEM PROPERLY I MEAN GET THAT MASSAGE THERAPY ROBOT REPAIRED BEFORE THEY KILL SOMEBODY WHY DO I HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS

Maybe I have a heart of stone but Wall-E could have actually died and I wouldn’t have cared at all. I was way more invested in the return to earth for sake of, just, earth. That’s probably because seeing endless piles of garbage everywhere made me actually upset and I stopped being a passive audience-member and started being an environmentalist. But the sort of sentimentality they were going for with Wall-E and Eve works like a charm on me if the story meshes character and moral flawlessly, which Pixar does with Inside Out. The moral is that sadness is a good thing and that being relentlessly happy in every context can be thoroughly damaging, which is pretty revolutionary. I think Bing Bong’s death is… let’s just say it’s sad. Very sad. I care about that one. And that’s coming from me, the person who thought, as soon as Bing Bong showed up on screen, “OMG that character has to die before the end or this movie will have no integrity.” And I stand by that opinion.

Sorry. As well as being more likely to get attached to a plant in a shoe than a personified romance robot, I have a major problem with Pixar relentlessly valuing the infantilizing of female characters. I hate – HATE – the Jessie/Emily scene in TS2. I hate it so much. I shouldn’t hate it as much as I do but by golly I hate that scene. To be fair, they do this with male characters too and I hate it then also, but I find it particularly insidious when it’s girls. I liked my childhood; I look back on it fondly. But I’m also super glad that I got to grow up and I get really mad when people treat me like a child despite the fact that I achieved adulthood and it’s a thing that happens to women all the time. So Pixar needs to stop. And they did when Bing Bong died and Riley gets to experience new, complicated, reaching-age-of-maturity emotions without clinging to things that were only relevant to her as a toddler, and it’s amazing that he recognizes this and that he can still be helpful to her by sacrificing himself to get Joy back to where she belongs, but his death is still really, really sad.

To summarize: meshing character/plot/morality is crucial and easy to get wrong and it’s going to make different people respond differently to different movies because your mileage may vary, of course. But I think that this sort of thing should, in theory, be easy in superhero stories, maybe even easier in superhero movies than Pixar films. Superheroes are effortlessly cool, and they also kind of have to be about the good/evil binary, so, really they should just write themselves.

And yet, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. I’m only going by recent movies, though. I’m sure the old Superman movies did a reasonably good job with this. I’ve heard of the one that tries to take on the nuke issue and does a kind of naive job of it, but at least, as far as I’m concerned, it took on that issue. Because lately I haven’t seen actual morality discussed in superhero movies and I think they could use those discussions. And what I mean by that starts at Superhero Ethics 101: Should You Even Be Doing This At All I Mean Really You Can So Easily Kill So Many People Just By Doing This Stuff Please Think About it Carefully at Least Once in the Run Time. And then there’s Superhero Ethics 102: What to do When “Some Lunatic Comes Along with a Sadistic Choice.” We’ll get to that one in a minute.

Uncle Ben’s “With great power comes great responsibility,” is the closest thing recent superhero movies come to examining what responsibilities superheroes have. Peter learns the lesson on a very personal level, since his spite is indirectly responsible for Uncle Ben’s death, and then I guess he vows to fight crime, because he can, being a wall-climber. I’d like to see a little more focus on the commitment to do-goodery. It’s often taken as a given, and goes unquestioned. It stops at that one quote. “With great power comes great responsibility.” But I have no idea what that means to any of these dudes personally, beyond, “Let’s fight petty crime in this city and wait around for a supervillain to show up and then fight that guy too.” What are their values, these superdudes? Why petty crime, specifically? And why is it so passive, the hanging out fighting petty crime until some other costumed dude shows up? Why are superheroes not more proactive about any of this stuff? How exactly are they committed to making the world a better place, other than stopping crimes that are conveniently in progress right when they show up?

Focusing on Spider-Man, I could ask: are spider powers really the best way to protect New Yorkers from crime? I get that spider powers are the coolest visual way to fight crime in New York, but is it really just car chases and muggings and bank robberies and fires and back alley rapists that Peter should be focusing on, to live up to Uncle Ben’s expectations about taking responsibility? There’s other stuff going on, too, like police brutality. Or homelessness. Has – has a superhero ever done something for a homeless person, in a movie? Maybe some self-reflection would be nice, occasionally. Part of the reason that doesn’t happen is the supervillains, who apart from being super villainous, are also super convenient. The heroes are just out and about, doing small-time hero work, stopping cliché crime people, and I assume they go home and contemplate their strategies and maybe look into ways to get rid of the causes of petty crime rather than just whipping around putting bank robbers in huge spiderwebs, because Peter needs to pay the rent and also eventually he’s going to get older and he won’t be able to do this anymore so maybe trying to make the crime rate go down in ways that don’t require his physical presence and prowess would be prudent, and then maybe poverty-stricken Peter Parker starts thinking about different ways he could try to use his powers to shelter homeless people or to combat crimes that don’t generally get treated like crimes because society is annoying – like what are the superhero ethics of going against the police to stop them hurting people they’re arresting, whether they’re arresting them rightly or wrongly, and not just going against the police because it looks cool (TBF it probably shouldn’t be a white character who does that but Miles Morales – I’m just saying)? I really want to see all of that stuff explored, but inevitably right at that point in all of these movies is when the supervillain shows up and all of the interesting stuff that could have happened just doesn’t happen.

Also I know Watchmen exists but it doesn’t count. It’s too cynical to be included in this discussion. I strongly believe that superhero stories don’t have to be cynical in order to take on interesting, thought-provoking, real-world relevant morality issues. Not to disparage Watchmen because it is very good, but it isn’t useful here.

Speaking of cynicism, the first Guardians movie briefly does a thing in which the characters debate whether they should risk their lives to literally save the galaxy – the big scene about this is probably the best scene in there. This happens on and off throughout the movie but when it comes right down to it, they barely even contemplate the possibility of trying to run, because despite how cynical most of them are, they believe in friendship and stuff – shockingly, it has to be said. And it is the power of friendship that both saves their lives, and then the galaxy, in the span of maybe five or ten minutes.

But there isn’t really any commentary there about making a tough choice because it’s the right one. There probably shouldn’t be, because the movie is supposed to be mostly comedic but then sincere at the end, so it has to remain comedic enough throughout to allow for the sincerity of the climax to actually work without coming across as being as stupid and insincere as everything else these characters do. But that still means they aren’t really saying much about this stuff.

wonder woman

Wonder Woman doesn’t say all of the sophisticated and complex things it could have said about WWI or war in general. When Steve says, “I’m one of the good guys… those are the bad guys,” he’s not wrong, because those guys are specifically trying to return stolen plans for a devastating gas attack, an attack that would kill people on both sides, but the futility of the Allies/Central Powers conflict, and how a lot of posturing and egomania led to millions of deaths and plenty of devastation (not to mention that twenty years later an even worse one broke out that was directly a consequence of how badly the first one’s end was managed) is one heck of a discussion that could have happened and does not happen. It’s hard to have that discussion and still root for… anyone, to be fair. But because Wonder Woman does a broader thing at the end where she declares that she’s going to try, and keep trying, whether humanity deserves her labour or not, it still is sort of making a point about war. Despite how banal and commonplace and empowered real evil is during wars and leading up to them, she’s committed to trying to influence the world towards eventual peace. That makes her one of a kind, recently, and previously I do suspect it’s only Superman and the Naive Cold War Stuff that has tried to take on a cause worthy of a freaking superhero. I mean really.

Importantly – I don’t want to see superheroes taking on the Holocaust, or anything like that, because that would be in pretty bad taste and would be way more naive than Superman vs the Nukes. I just think that the movies set in modern times could stand to say something bold and useful about what people in various places of privilege should maybe sort of try to do with their privilege, since we have it.

But. Diana is proactive. She believes, fiercely, in her responsibility to the entire freaking world. She believes in protecting mankind even though she isn’t one of them. And the final decision she makes is to continue to pursue her goal of peace for everyone despite the fact that people are flawed. Her determination and belief are presented as naive and occasionally reckless, but ultimately she succeeds. Because, sure, Ares wasn’t disguised as that German guy, but he does exist and he does show up and she does have to kill him. And then there’s that no-man’s land scene where her idealism turns out to be perfectly fine, because she can back it up with superpowers. I’ve also seen a bit of griping about how Diana is constantly set up to learn things from Steve, but I actually think that they learn from each other fairly evenly. Sure, her boldness messes things up a couple of times, but he follows her into situations he declares are too risky like a billion times (OK fine, it’s maybe once or twice, but shut up) and it turns out to be fine, and she was right after all. Also this has nothing to do with superhero ethics but early on there’s this perfect moment where he tries to set himself up as a potential educator for her, since she’s a woman from an island filled only with women, and therefore obviously she wouldn’t know anything about this, on the subject of sexual pleasure. I think that’s what he’s trying to do, anyway. He says he’s virile because he’s a spy (lol?). And she’s like, “Dude, please.”

Later when they do have sex, it’s preceded by her explicitly asking him to tell her what typical long-term committed heteronormative romantic relationships are like and he says he has no idea, which I think is a good summary of who’s teaching who what. They’re both in extraordinary circumstances and are constantly having their ideas about what they and the people around them should or shouldn’t or can or can’t do challenged which is EXACTLY what superhero movies need more of. I think the reason this movie seems to achieve this so effortlessly is that it necessarily has to confront gender roles throughout the run time, so all of the not-specifically-gender-role-related things just naturally get the same treatment because they’re already conscious of and trying to challenge norms.

At the end as Diana battles her supervillain, the literal god of war, it’s not really him that’s the danger to her, or, crucially, to the people around her who she is supposed to be protecting, and influencing. She’s just battling herself. She has believed for most of the movie that guiding humanity toward peace is her job, so now that she has discovered that it’s going to be a lot harder for her to accomplish than she thought, and it might be impossible, does she want to do difficult work for people who may not be inherently good without an external evil influence after all? And then she decides that, yes, she does, and then that’s that.

She’s not only committed to physically ending war but to being an influential figure for the good, always. The influential figure part of her identity is also an aspect of superheroes that doesn’t get highlighted enough. There are some kids in Raimi’s Spider-Man movies and those parts are always really good, and I know Gotham-Joffrey is in Batman Begins and wannabe-Batmans are in The Dark Knight and there are orphans (or at least, a discussion about orphans) in The Dark Knight Rises, so it does happen, but it’s a thing that should happen more. Superheroes should more often actually reflect on the fact that their actions will inspire lots of people. If they make a mistake, they may unintentionally endorse a lot of terrible stuff and that’s a story line I already know I’d like better than “oh no Doc Oc has robot arms and stuff.” It’s also much, much better than another type of story that tends to emerge: “oh no, all of the ordinary people hate and fear these massively overpowered metahumans among them and they’re trying to stop them waaaah.” Sometimes that can be OK, like in any given X-men story, but personally I don’t think “superpowers as stand-ins for marginalization” works very well for good discussions about what marginalization is and how it works and why it needs to stop. It’s better for making marginalized people feel empowered, which is no small thing. But if your identity is marginalized because you can move all the metal around you at will, well, maybe you’re actually the privileged one, now. And they attempt to explore that with Magneto but it’s never a clear exploration of these ideas because they never fully own that the X-men literally are extremely dangerous to everyone else, if they choose to be, and that even the hatemongering rises out of an actually legitimate concern. They can’t. It would ruin the whole thing. So.

Also sometimes it isn’t OK. That part of the story in The Incredibles is important for setting up the plot and raising the stakes, but it’s also kind of uncomfortable, if you think about it long enough. And everyone who ever expressed a concern over Batman’s vigilantism was right and I hope they’re eventually vindicated. What Bruce needs is a good therapist.

I haven’t seen the most recent Captain America movie but I heard that it was about Iron Man deciding that maybe the Avengers need to be more careful about the things they do and the unintentional damage they cause, but the movie seems to think that’s silly and takes Cap’s side, which is, weirdly, “Nah.” So if I’d watched it I could go into more detail but that seems like it’s close to what I’m looking for – introspection-wise, at least. But it also sounds like it’s a clear rejection of the premise that maybe superheroes need to take several steps back in every situation, because they are way too powerful for comfort.

Someone on twitter talked briefly about how weird it is that superheroes are actually pretty fascist, if you think about it, and that no one talks about this. Well, hey, I think the movies themselves should talk about it. I think that might make an interesting superhero movie. Take just one conflict that often arises in these movies: the, “oh no, the supervillain is going to make the hero choose between x and the screaming female love interest because he can only save one in time!” And the hero always is actually able to save both. Here’s a thought: have the hero choose the love interest. Have the hero really own that selfish choice, and have to live with how they made a selfish choice that benefits only them and the person they love at the expense of others and they made the choice because they can. And if the hero chooses whatever x is? Well that isn’t much better. Why did the hero knowingly place a vulnerable person in a dangerous situation? Why didn’t they just make like Don Quixote and choose “to love, pure and chaste, from afar?” (I know that isn’t fair for Peter in the first movie because MJ being in danger is all Harry’s fault but still, even having lived through this experience, in the later movies he decides that it’s worth the risk to be with her, so…) Why do these movies always make it really easy on these characters – why do they get to have it both ways? Why are they never responsible for the actual damage they cause? Why are they not responsible for the conflicts they choose not to try to get involved with?

Beeeeecause superhero movies are, to a one, uniformly morally dull. It’s enough to make a marxist critic out of me, honestly. Why are we celebrating all of these silly-costumed ubermensches anyway, if they can’t even be bothered to do something about homelessness?

The stuff in Wonder Woman is definitely not as complex as I would have liked – and it doesn’t address the fascism thing, I mean, she’s literally a god – but I did write this paragraph once when I was talking about how Starkid keeps scooping mainstream popular culture:

My thing is a Harley Quinn movie where she dumps the Joker for good and that’s all. Throw some Batman cameos in there, maybe have Poison Ivy be the love interest, Catwoman cameos too because Catwoman is my queen. My thing is live-action Kim PossibleTeen Titans and literally no one is white. Superheroes fight grassroots battles too, like Beast Boy fights against the meat industry or Cyborg joins BLM. Superheroes literally stop wars. Those are the things I want.”

It seems to me that Wonder Woman is the closest thing to that last thing that I’ll be getting. And right now, I’m OK with that. It ever-so-slightly began a conversation about superhero responsibility and it took on a real, actual, gigantic issue that isn’t the stupid Joker again. And while sure, there’s never a discussion about “Hey Diana, use your powers judiciously maybe, people are delicate,” the entire final conflict is her clearly stating her intention to fight for people rather than ignore them because they aren’t perfect. I think this clear statement is kinder than the sorts of things that happen in movies like The Incredibles or The Dark Knight or whatever went on in Batman V Superman. It does highlight Diana’s decision to not drop a tank on Dr. Poison, even though she is awful. That’s promising, as far as I’m concerned.

And of course it centers a woman doing superhero things, and just like when I saw The Force Awakens, I hadn’t realized until I actually saw it happening how big of a deal it is, letting female characters be centered in the sorts of stories where previously only male characters have been centered.

So also, we need to start doing that with people of colour. It’s happening a little bit, but it needs to happen more. Stat. In Wonder Woman there are black Amazons which is great, but unfortunately because there’s only so much time we can spend on Amazon island it’s only Diana’s mother and aunt who get to say and do plot and thematically important things, and that’s too bad. Sameer is also a bit of a stereotype, which seems extremely unnecessary. This movie could have done a better job with this stuff, too, but what’s really important is those movies that will center superheroes who are POC. Black Panther looks good, eh? But that doesn’t excuse Marvel for not just having Miles Morales be their Spider-Man because we have enough Peter Parker movies, and some of them are really good. Come on.

One little side note before I move on: Big Hero 6 and Megamind both have better, more clearly stated, and more thematically relevant examinations of what it means to be a superhero and the responsibilities inherent in it than most (… all?) live action superhero movies do (I hesitate to say that maybe Wonder Woman does this pretty flawlessly too, because I think it does, but I’ve only seen it once and it’s still too fresh). And sure, a lot of that is that the better family films always more clearly state their moral while still embedding it nicely in the surrounding plot, and the morals are usually a lot simpler, but still.

Lego Zatana, is what I’m thinking. I don’t know much about Zatana but I’m willing to learn, people who make the Lego movies. And Disney animated women of colour Marvel superheroines that I don’t know the names of because I’m unfamiliar with comics generally and we don’t have any of those in the movie Marvelverse despite having an Ant Man, a Doctor Strange, and three Thor movies. I’m not nearly the first to point that out and yet it’s still 100% true.

One other little side note: a story where an ubermensch uses their mystical, magical powers ALWAYS with the greater good and responsibilities of power in mind and front and center is Avatar, both The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Which is part of why this blog is going to be clogged with posts about it for most of the summer. But yeah, Avatars are the true heroes that Gotham needs, and deserves. To be perfectly honest I have no fucking clue what that “hero that Gotham needs right now vs hero that Gotham deserves” thing even means, and I don’t even know how the sentence actually goes, and I don’t think I ever will.

All right I won’t write as much about Guardians 2

When I saw the first Guardians movie I was really annoyed about how it used Nebula. I thought she had an interesting backstory because it was exactly the same as Gamora’s, except with a bit of an inferiority complex thrown in, and I wanted to see some sympathy thrown her way but she just propped up the boring villain, got shot at by Drax, and then she took off. So then I saw the second Guardians movie.

Boy howdy.

I don’t even think that the Nebula/Gamora thing was that prominent, but it was actually satisfyingly addressed. I honestly didn’t think it would be until it actually started happening, but it was! Look at me, getting what I want out of a Marvel movie for once.

What the Gamora/Nebula pairing up also accomplishes is that it takes Gamora away from Quill for a bit. Their relationship is all right, but it’s also kind of really not. She’s humorless, he’s not, she doesn’t dance, he does, but also she’s much more of an idealist than he is, or at least, it seems that way because of his performative carefree carelessness, whoo, haven’t seen that one before. She’s both a melting ice queen and the inspiration he needs to give a damn. It’s fine, it’s just also really predictable and hard to care about. Gamora in the first movie does interact with the other Guardians besides Quill, but not in any meaningful way. Her character development happens solely around him, whereas he gets to have deeper discussions with Yondu and he’s the one who sees Rocket’s back all mutilated and nonverbally reacts with at least some sympathy. Not to mention his whole backstory with his mom, which we see happen onscreen at the beginning of the movie, whereas Gamora’s childhood/adolescence is just stated in a heated conversation. Rocket and Drax also don’t have their backstories depicted onscreen, but they do get into a huge, violent fight about it and later sort of make up. Gamora is just there, supposedly feeling a lot of things but not sharing them with anyone, except, reluctantly, with Quill sometimes.

But now that her sister shows up, Gamora has someone else to open up to and feel sympathy for. They provide each other with the opportunity for character development that isn’t tied up in a heteronormative romance subplot. Bechdel for the win, guys.

Can we have superhero movies about a team-up of sisters? Or mother-daughter team-ups? Or girlfriends, or girl friend-friends?

Then there’s the Yondu and Rocket pairing. Both of these dudes are in some serious pain in this movie. Rocket cries again. It’s important to me that Rocket cries in both movies. Yondu actually says things that are supposed to be supportive to Quill. I might argue that Yondu and Rocket are the most hypermasculine characters here (let’s set Drax aside, he’s just here for the ride in this movie). Yondu gets all stoicly quiet-defeated-sad (… I would too, what happens to him is pretty horrific), and Rocket just relentlessly lashes out at everyone around him, but then they help each other deal and then they express their feelings in ways that are still a little muted, but at least they’re expressing their feelings.

Yeah I liked this movie.

And finally, making fun of Batman because he is the worst

I think Batman is officially the world’s most popular superhero. I get it. He used to be my favourite, too. Mostly that was because he was closely associated with Catwoman but I did like him on his own as well.

My love for Batman started to ebb away because I thought the politics of The Dark Knight Rises were stupid, and not even the magnificent fact that Catwoman appears in that movie could fix that. There are also a lot of internet personalities who I followed who were beginning to lament how cold and macho and unfun Batman had become in the Nolan movies, and I sort of agreed.

Then Holy Musical B@man! happened. Here are some lyrics:

I was seeing a girl for a while.
A couple days, anyway, and I told her I loved her.
She said, “You’re such a good friend, that rash is bad.
You should probably go see a doctor.”

Then she just disappeared, sent me some text
About bad timing and my love being selfish. [Pout]
Then my doctor called up, and the blood came back,
and as it turned out, I’m allergic to peanuts and shellfish.
(I loved peanuts and shellfish, once.)

I’m falling apart, I’m lacking punch.
I can barely eat. This morning I BARELY TOUCHED MY BRUNCH.
Two spoons of oatmeal, a couple of nuts, and half a banana.
And like my soul, the banana was bruised and black.

Those are from a song where Batman is talking about how he wants a friend, for a lot of reasons but chief among them is that he needs a co-captain for the Friendship Ship (or maybe just the Friend Ship). Later Robin shows up. Honestly, this story is almost exactly like Lego Batman in everything including random, not-officially Batman-related characters showing up.

I can’t exactly remember but I think Lego Batman makes at least sort of a point about Batman’s violence being a little over the top and in need of some introspection. I do know that the musical does this explicitly. There’s a cutesy song about Batman and Robin’s budding friendship that keeps taking pauses so that they can scream a lot and beat criminals into submission. So.

But where Lego Batman goes beyond even Holy Musical B@man! is that part near the beginning where Barbara Gordon declares that they should try a new approach to dealing with crime, because the typical “let Batman handle it by beating people up” approach has become kind of unnecessary. That is so cool. I’m pretty sure that even the comics haven’t done a “what would happen if Bruce just tried *not* doing it the ultraviolence-in-the-backalleys-of-Gotham way” story, and I’m pretty sure the comics have done a lot of different, incredibly wacky things, to the point where maybe they’ve exhausted all of the wacky premises for Batman stories and maybe they should try to re-imagine how a superhero story might work and be revolutionary, for a change.

I don’t know how to conclude so here are some pictures of Nigel dressed as Wonder Woman

nige and gender

The only push back I got on that was, “But does he like wearing any clothes?” Which is fair enough. He doesn’t. But he likes to go outside and clothes mean he gets to go outside so he’s fine.

Guest Blogger: The Importance of Representation in Media

Good morning followers!

We enjoy reblogging as much as the next guy, but there’s something extra fun about collaborating with people we like and having them write a blog post for us to feature. To kick things off, my good friend Erin agreed to let us feature her story about how positive representation in media changed her life. Enjoy!

– three

“My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me” – Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black

It isn’t, not by a long shot. It is, however, one of the parts of my identity that I have been navigating through a lot recently. One of the biggest influences of this journey has been the basic portray of sexualities other than straight in books, television, and movies.

Up until a year ago I struggled with coming up with a synonym to describe my heterosexuality and the fact that, while I had always been attracted to men, whenever one started to show a bit of interest, I panicked and shut down all forms of communication.

I remember telling Three one exam season, when we were both procrastinating at completing those super fun accounting practice exams, that I thought I had finally nailed it down. I was demi-heterosexual. I felt like I had to build up a strong emotional connection with someone before I felt I could be attracted to and want to date them. It fit, I felt content with it and I ran with it. I will add that another part of my identity includes severe social anxiety (an illness I am now after many years of suffering being treated for) which makes building strong relationships with new people extremely difficult. I accepted the fact that I would probably be single forever.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015. My sister recommended the book Black Iris by Elliot Wake (written under the name Leah Raeder) which is about a mentally ill, but also bisexual girl named Laney. It features the scene that kicked off my serious questioning phase where Laney was involved in a threesome with her two best friends Blythe and Armin. The entire time I read that scene I could not shake the fact that I was way more interested in the interaction between L and B and that I would be happy if A was not there at all.

Weeks later while attending the wedding of a friend’s aunt, I drunkenly voiced those questioning thoughts to that friend’s sister. Could I be straight and also think that some girls were pretty? Was the fact that I related so much to this character proof that I might also be bisexual?

Those questions went unanswered until I started watching Orange is the New Black (I know I was super behind on Netflix) in September. Episode 9, Fucksgiving, was my Gay AwakeningTM. I felt so much pain for Piper when she was brutally thrown in the SHU after dancing slightly provocatively with Alex. The entire episode I was rooting for her to not stash those feelings away. My reward was witnessing Piper walk confidently down the hallway to the song Walking Backwards by Leagues (which I immediately downloaded after) and started making out with Alex in the chapel. There was no going back after that realization.

For the next week I felt nothing but euphoria. I went to work like normal, sat down beside my Trump supporting, now quit-before-he-got-fired seat mate, and went about my day. To everyone around me I looked as I always had, but I felt like a weight had been lifted inside of me, I could finally breathe easier. I felt like I was so much closer to understanding who I was.

Three was the first person I came out to, and it was the next day. I came out as bisexual and while I cannot remember her exact words, she was super supportive and said everything right (not the typical responses you normally hear). I waited a week before telling anyone else to make sure that I was still comfortable with the label.

I identified as bisexual for the rest of that year. After a little soul searching, I thought that pansexual fit better and switched over to that. It still did not feel like I was finished navigating through all of the feelings I was having. So I started to consume wlw (women who love women) media like there was no tomorrow.

My collection of fem slash books grew astronomically, I joined fandoms for television shows on tumblr, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a strong connection with a large group of people I shared similar interests with. It was during this stage of my so called coming-out that I stuck on a new label, homo-romantic. While I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was attracted to men, trans people, and those who didn’t identify themselves with the gender binary, I only felt romantic attraction, I.E. to date women or people who identified more feminine.

Since then I have felt a lot of heartbreak over the treatment of queer women characters in television (a blogpost on its own), felt so much love from the online community of wlw, and have been inspired to write my own fem slash books. It has been such an emotionally hard, but rewarding journey. I’ve met some pretty great (and some not so great) queer women using the dating app Her, and feel very excited about starting my dating life.

While there were many real life moment where I could have explored my sexuality, having a gay best friend for grade 11 and 12, having an out bisexual girl hit on me in chemistry class, or even living with a pansexual girl and a trans guy for two years in university, I never felt safe in the so called real world doing so. Media representation allowed me to imagine myself in different scenarios. It gave me the safe place I needed as a sufferer of anxiety to explore within myself. I cannot thank those who included queer characters in their stories enough. And I hope to help create even more media for all of the queer girls who deserve to see proper representation in mainstream media so they can explore their sexuality as well.

About the Author:

Hats I wear: INFJ, vegetarian, feminist, pansexual/homoromantic, Slytherpuff, animal lover, nerdfighter, reader, writer, clexa lexark trash, proud fangirl … the list goes on and is constantly evolving

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My 9-year-old Self Defends the Hobbit Movies

The Hobbit was supposed to be my (erm’s) introduction to high fantasy, which is my father’s realm. My mother isn’t a big fan, or even a fan of high fantasy at all, but even she insisted that I read The Hobbit, as she too had read it as a kid and had liked it.

I was reluctant because my favourite books were The Unicorns of Balinor series, which I had read over and over, and some of the Bailey School Kids books as well. My teachers insisted that I could read levels above that stuff, so I should get cracking or my reading comprehension skills wouldn’t be further developed. My parents took this to heart and thrust The Hobbit at me.

I started out annoyed. I wanted to read about supernatural creatures staffing the entirety of Bailey School or unicorns ruling Balinor over again, because I liked them and they were familiar. But I was compelled to read The Hobbit, and this I did.

I hated it. I think I went in planning to hate it, but JRR didn’t help himself any. His narrator in this book is patronizing as hell, sort of like what you’d find in a Jane Yolen book. Occasionally he (and it has to be a he, there are no women in this book) interjects to scold the reader for doubting Bilbo. When I was in university and had to reread it for a class, I found the narrator charming and whimsical, but I was told by my prof that Tolkien later regretted the tone and intrusiveness of the narrator. I think for me at age nine, forced to read a book I didn’t want to read by every adult authority figure in my life, having another narrative authority tell me what to think about the story I was reading was the death knell in my ability to enjoy any of it.

So the movies: there are three of them, and we all know that this is excessive. After all, each book from The Lord of the Rings trilogy only got one movie, and they are all longer than little old The Hobbit. But stretching the book into three movies means that the filmmakers could add some things, and some of these additions and other changes, when taken together, actually fix every criticism of The Hobbit my nine-year-old self had made.

  1. The narrator: as I mentioned, I wanted to punch the narrator for telling me what to think. Happily the movies have no narrator, and problem solved.
  2. Gandalf: buddy was pretty useless in the book. He kept leaving at convenient moments so that Bilbo and the dwarves would have to face serious danger without the easy solution of having a wizard in their company. The movies give Gandalf a subplot, so that in each example of this (apart from when they meet the trolls) we know why Gandalf isn’t with them.
  3. The Dwarves: this was a treasure hunt, and I hate treasure hunts. The dwarves wanted to march off to the dragon Smaug’s keep to take all of his gold and they needed a burglar. I wasn’t invested at all in their quest. I thought they ought to leave the dragon alone with his fortune.
  4. Bilbo: as a direct consequence of his being the burglar on this quest, I wasn’t happy about Bilbo being a thief. The worst part was Gollum – I was already rooting for Bilbo to get eaten, but instead Bilbo bested Gollum rather unfairly and took his one possession in the world, leaving him despairing. I continued to hate Bilbo until the movie version, mostly out of spite, but the movies changed all of that because Martin Freeman.
  5. The ponies: the fact that the ponies all got eaten by the goblins but the greedy dwarves and Bilbo got to escape with their lives made me VERY mad. There’s a reason animal sidekicks (usually) never die in Disney movies, Tolkien. I am being serious, though, it upset me. All it did was emphasize that their quest was dangerous and unimportant, and the only victims of it at this point were the innocent ponies. The moment the smarmy narrator informed me they were to be eaten, I began hoping the dragon would kill them all, knowing that he wouldn’t, suspecting that instead the group, or maybe Gandalf, would kill the dragon instead and it would be incorrectly labelled a victory by that same insufferable narrator.
  6. So the dragon: I loved the part where Smaug makes fun of Bilbo. I didn’t expect him to talk and was happily surprised by that. I awaited, resigned, that moment where Gandalf (it would probably be Gandalf, right?) would slay Smaug and the dwarves could swim around in gold and jewels. And then what happened? Well, Random, son of Random, from Random’s Ville who graced like three pages of this book grabbed some random arrow and shot it so that it pierced Smaug in some random weak spot in his jewelry armor. I can’t even describe how cheated I felt about that.
  7. Um how about that there are no women in this mess.

The movies changed all of this. Bilbo I admit was mostly just me getting over myself, but giving Gandalf somewhere to be, giving the dwarves a good reason to want to get rid of Smaug and get the treasure, making the ponies run away instead of getting eaten, giving Bard a family and a backstory and lots of screentime, and the addition of several women, but Tauriel especially, fixed all of my problems.

I know people have complained about Tauriel being a Mary Sue and look, I could have done without the romance plot too. But if this character, love triangle or no love triangle, had been in the book, I may have been able to look past all of my other problems, because she would have been a lovely self-image fantasy for all of us girl types. Bilbo doesn’t cut it, though he was either supposed to cut it or Tolkien and his publishers weren’t interested in girls reading it. When I began reading about how people of colour and LGBT people were asking for more representation the biggest reason I empathized immediately was my memories of how tiresome it was reading this particular book. Even though I had my Disney movies and my Balinor books, being told I had to move on, and that this was the sort of stuff I would be expected to read from now on was maddening.

My parents asked me how I liked it once I reported to them that I was done, even though every time they checked in with me previously I had said, “It’s boring. I don’t like it.” They just replied with, “You just have to keep reading and wait for the good parts.”

I said, “I read and read and read, and I was waiting for the good parts, and then it ended.”

They didn’t force other books on me again, but I’m sure they would have eventually.

If it hadn’t been for Harry Potter.