Tag Archives: Opinion

Bustin’ makes the Internet Mad.

I love Ghostbusters. The original movies are some of my all-time favourite films (with “I collect spores, moles, and fungus” being one of my favourite quotes in any film ever.) I grew up adoring The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and grew to love everyone’s favourite ghoul, Slimer. I’ve bought the merch and t-shirts, Ray Parker Jr’s hit theme song was my alarm tone for a looooong time. I was genuinely devastated when comedy legend, Harold Ramis, passed. I completely respect the franchise.

When the news of a reboot was announced in January 2015, I was hugely skeptical. We live in an era of reboots. There’s a distinct lack of originality in Hollywood today. A Ghostbusters update is neither something I wanted or needed – it’s completely unnecessary. However, with the rebooting of pretty much every movie ever (see: Robocop, Terminator, Fant4stic, Godzilla, Mad Max, Star Wars – the list goes on…), I was hardly surprised to hear that Ghostbusters would be added to the line-up. With an all-female cast announced, I was particularly intrigued to see how this would work. A reboot with a twist – instead of bringing the original cast back after 30 years, they’re switching things up.

So it was with an open mind I watched the trailer yesterday. A trailer that, I was surprised to find, caused such venomous division.

The trailer wasn’t terrible. It didn’t build fist-pumping excitement, but it certainly wasn’t the biggest crime in cinematic history. Yes, the jokes were flat, misguided, and clichéd. The CGI wasn’t outstanding, especially considering the budget Sony poured into this. And yes, Patty is probably way more stereotyped than she should be in a movie that is making a conscious effort to break new ground. A female-fronted sci-fi/action/comedy is totally new. And this is where the pros kick in: the leads look bad-ass. Their aesthetic is cool, and the way Wiig and McKinnon carry themselves is classy and confident. They’re in no way sexualised -and neither is the ‘hot male’ side-kick. Wow! A comedy, where four female leads are fighting ghosts, and not fighting each other over dresses and Chris Hemsworth? Let’s immediately toss the “Ghostbusters is ruined – this is a chick flick” argument out the window.

But this is exactly why I’m confused. Usually, highly anticipated trailers get people really excited, or just create a disappointed murmur of indifference. Just look at Zoolander 2, or the Total Recall remake (which we will never speak of again), or even the first two BvS trailers. Not great introductory trailers, but there was no aggressively outraged reaction either. So why the passionate hate for Ghostbusters?

Argument 1: It’s ruining the franchise!

Ghostbusters is probably one of the best loved franchises from the 80s. It’s held dearly in the hearts of many – myself included. A reboot of a classic such as this, particularly when we’re stuck in a reboot rut, is frustrating and unnecessary. However, nothing from the trailer gave me the impression that the franchise would be forever ruined. The main cast are an SNL four-piece that work well together (like the original). The humour is deadpan, silly, and in the same vein as the originals, albeit with more slapstick. They bust ghosts, which is what – if I remember correctly –Ghostbusters do. Plus, Slimer is there! There’s a whole bunch of respectful easter eggs paying homage to the original. (The “That’s a big Twinkie” bill-board in Times Square is my personal favourite.) I don’t see anything in the trailer that’s setting the franchise to ‘crash-and-burn’, other than the furious response. There’s an angry mob with pitchforks waiting to destroy the very thing they adore.

Argument 2: Women Can’t.

Ghostbusters is a non-gendered word.

There’s a shocking amount of toys being thrown from the pram due to the fact the gender roles in this version have swapped. The leads are female, Janine is male, and Slimer is still up for debate. In 2016, gender should not matter, but the backlash here proves that it does – and that there’s still a problem. If we’re living in a world where people are so enraged that four FICTIONAL females are Ghostbusters – a FICTIONAL job – there’s no wonder that we still have such a problem with real life sexism today.

The cast is compiled of solid comic talent. Admittedly, Leslie Jones’ comedy style doesn’t tickle my funny bone, but it does for some folk. And that’s what’s great about this cast: it’s diverse, and is turning (some) Hollywood conventions on its head. From the few short snippets we’ve seen, the women seem real – they’re not overly-sexualised supermodels, or bimbos who can’t hold their own. They’re normal, street-smart, nerdy, flawed, scientifically-minded girls. It’s clear from the trailer that they are all different too – individual personalities uniting to fight ghosts. If anyone can give me a reason as to why exactly a group of smart women shouldn’t be allowed to fight ghosts, I’d be delighted to hear it.

I can’t help but wonder if the same trailer had been released with the original cast (with respect to Harold Ramis and his family), OR with today’s favourite lad comedy team-ups: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, etc – would the reaction be quite so hostile? It still wouldn’t be a good trailer, but would it be something swept under the rug with mediocre reviews and attention, alongside steady box-office ratings like the other reboots, with everyone in silent mutual agreement to pretend that it didn’t happen and carry on with our lives? Similarly, if, 30 years ago, the unthinkable happened and Ghostbusters didn’t exist – would the trailer be so widely despised if this was a brand new concept?

Looking at the trailer as an homage to the original, rather than a reboot or remake, I’d say ‘Ghostbustin’? Yes she can!’

Argument 3: Race.

I fully understand why there is so much outrage here. Patty being a subway worker with access to a hearse may well be a reflection of Winston’s history of feeling left out for not being a scientist throughout most of the franchise. However, from the trailer, she’s a huge walking stereotype in a movie clearly trying to make a point and break new ground. The team definitely could have worked harder to incorporate a new, well-rounded character rather than the age-old version of the loud, sassy WoC we’re all so familiar with thanks to Hollywood. If white women of various backgrounds, appearance, and talents are being represented, it’s only fair women of other races have that same opportunity.

I have no arguments to support the trailer here. With her character being described by Sony as a qualified Historian, perhaps the movie will turn that cliché around. It’s well known by now that Paul Feig’s trailers can be misleading.

So while I’m not going to be first in line to see Ghostbusters, I am a little excited by it. It may be more forgettable than the originals and the cartoon, but I’m certain it’ll be a good time. We have to remember, this is just a trailer. It has a solid creative team behind it, too – many of whom probably wouldn’t have signed up for it unless they saw it as a risk worth taking. And no, it’s not the original – because that’s exactly what refreshes are meant to be: an updated twist on a classic to introduce new audiences to a franchise: something both Star Wars and Mad Max have done incredibly well. It’s probably not going to please the old-timers, or the die-hard loyal fans, or those who probably decided they were going to hate it long before the trailer came out. It may not induce the belly-laughs we got from the originals, but there’ll be a few chuckles. What it probably will do, which is fantastic, is open a world of action-fantasy film to young girls across the globe who will learn that they don’t have to be afraid of no ghosts either – and that’s what really matters.

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ugHP-yZXw

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The Trouble with Twitter: The Joss Whedon Debate

The internet is a fantastic thing. Without it, millions of voices from around the globe would not have had the chance to be heard, my own included. It’s a wonderful tool in which ideas and opinions and experiences can be shared via the clacking of some keys and the click of a ‘post’ button. And that is amazing: how many fabulous movements and ideals have stemmed from the internet – one post a small seed planted in the wild jungle of the worldwide web.

But a jungle is exactly what the internet is; whilst it’s filled with beauty and creativity and wonder, it’s also filled with dangerous predators stalking their prey.

Yes, I’m referring to Joss Whedon’s departure from Twitter today. I was not so much upset by the news – given that it’s a promotional platform in which fans have the notion of being that bit closer to their heroes – as I was irked by the ideas brought up by all of the speculation. And I should state that Whedon’s reasons for leaving Twitter behind is exactly that: speculation. No one but Whedon, and probably his nearest and dearest, knows why he chose to leave the world of hashtagging behind, but really – it’s no one else’s business.

Directly opposing all of the fantastic opportunity the internet provides us are those who use the power for evil. Instead of embracing all the internet has to offer, many use it as a tool for hate. And I find Twitter to be the worst breeding ground for this kind of behaviour. Many a morning have I woken up to be disgusted by a hashtag which caught fire and trended globally over-night. Just the other week #feministsareugly topped the trending charts. Fortunately, most responded by posting gorgeous selfies of themselves and their feminist heroes, asking ‘Is this ugly?’ But still, a few rose to the bait, and a war of bitter bile-spewing begins.

Back yonder, before the Twitter era, if a celebrity was annoying, or people were outraged by an idea, or didn’t enjoy a new film or album, healthy discussion would break out between friends, arguing their corner before carrying on with the day. But today, the hate can grow, and fester. Today, you can be online with the click of a button and find a whole group of people who hate the same things you do, and discuss why you hate it. Today – you can directly target the subjects of your dislike.

This is where the danger lies. It’s okay to dislike something: you can’t love it all. But that invisible barrier the internet seemingly puts up between the writer and the receiver dulls any sense of humility. We forget that after we hit the share button, our opinions are there for anyone to see: especially those we victimise. We’re no longer having a healthy discussion; but become vile viral bullies.

We all know by now the all-too-real consequences for cyberbulling: deactivated accounts to arrests and imprisonment to suicide. It effects people on a deeply emotional and personal level. And celebrities or activist topics seem to be becoming increasingly under-fire. Why? Are the bullies behind the keyboards really so desperate to see someone’s life fall apart? What drives someone to that level?

One of the most damaging things that cyberbulling and trolling can do, outside of the personal level, is detract from the real issues at hand. Let’s look at Joss Whedon’s apparent reason for departure as an example:

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The above image is rumoured to be one of the reasons Whedon deactivated his account. Because he made a terrible movie that did nothing for Marvel and is the worst feminist ever (to sum-up).

Okay – no. I’ve covered this in my past two posts now. Whedon is one of the most influential and progressive figures in both Marvel and in supporting feminism. So really really look at your argument before calling him out as a backwards woman-hater. All this vocal aggression does is set people actively looking for real change backwards about 500 steps. Feminism is about equality, not men hating or superiority. It’s no wonder feminists receive the hatred they do when people respond to issues like this, aggressively calling out males in positions of power or public prowess whenever they slip up; and it’s understandable why many would be embarrassed to call themselves feminists, which is consequently damaging for the movement as a whole. Perhaps instead of telling the person you disagree with to “die” or that they’re the “scum of the earth” or that they “ruined your life”, think about how you can learn from their mistakes, use it to your best advantage for your cause, and progress forward positively. Change needs to happen but, as the old saying goes, violence doesn’t solve anything – and that includes a violently confrontational attitude.

It’s not just feminism that is set back every time a cruel post is directed towards someone or something: issues have effected everyone from gamers to cosplayers to LGBT community to politicians to musicians to athletes to teachers to activists to the kitchen sink. No one is safe on the internet. And whilst a level playing field is fantastic in some respects, it makes it the perfect ground for scoring cheap points. We can taunt beautiful people by calling them ugly or fat; demand that strangers change because we don’t like their opinions or something they’ve created; tell those we disagree with to kill themselves. Is it really so hard to see how damaging this is?

The internet is a cave of wonders waiting to be explored. But it has a cold, cruel heart at its centre: one that could corrode the rest of the magic and drag the good intent down with it. There’s a reason trolls live under dank, dark bridges: maybe it’s time they come out and live their lives in the sun. Or perhaps we should all take a leaf out of Whedon’s book and rejoin the real world.

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Hillary 2016

Wonder Women isn’t all about comics. As the superheroes teach us, heroes come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, capable of anything. So this week, let’s do something a little different.

Three days ago, Hillary Clinton announced her bid to run as President for the Democratic party in the upcoming US elections – the first person to announce themselves as a candidate. Now, I’m not going to claim to be any kind of expert on American politics or, in fact, any kind of politics. I’m not. I am, however, very excited that the notion of a female president is being considered and – in many cases – celebrated. Clinton’s become the real-life Leslie Knope breaking into the boys club.

Before beginning, I should note that being a Scot living in London, completely uninvolved in American politics, this is merely an opinion piece, celebrating women breaking boundaries in male-dominated areas. The quality of policies, the candidates, and the final vote is for America to decide on polling day.

hillary clinton

With her campaign set to kick into full-throttle in May, Hillary Clinton has already received an overwhelming response to her candidacy – most of it positive – from across the globe. Whilst her policies are mostly underwraps for now, she’s made her stance on a few key points perfectly clear. She wants further recognition of women, children and families in the United States – to help and encourage their growth in various ways; and she wants to reform the traditional means of US political funding, which means distancing herself from the wealthy elite of the US and planting herself firmly amongst the people. A clever move, given the unjust nature of America’s government. One of the most significant things a person of power can do is demonstrate that they’re on your side; that they’re human. And I think Hillary could pull that off.

Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.

This obviously isn’t Clinton’s first step into the political limelight. A well-known name and face for many years, her political career has been ongoing since 1992. And although she first entered the White House as First Lady, this didn’t stop her from becoming politically active herself. During Bill’s first term as President, Hillary fought to establish the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has reportedly halved the number of uninsured children in the US. (Although why a country like the US would need their children’s health to be insured is another matter for another time altogether.) In 2000, she was elected to US Senate, becoming New York’s first ever female senator. Her response to aid the public and, most importantly, the victims of the tragic 9/11 attacks were a remarkable feat in a country where handouts are rare, but she ensured money was raised and help was given to those who needed it. During her time as NY Senator, Clinton fought to provide better healthcare, and aid small businesses in rural areas. She’s served aside Obama during his presidency as Secretary of State, and has been active in campaigns for human rights throughout her career.

As a woman in power, Clinton has attended events across the globe. Perhaps most notable was her speech at the UN Fourth World Conference on women in Beijing in 1995. This speech sparked global movements for women’s’ rights, inspiring healthy feminist activism, and tones of Clinton’s speech remain noticeable in today’s fantastic UN Women’s rights campaign, He For She. Women’s rights is everyone’s problem and everyone can help.

For my generation, Clinton is probably most recognisable from facing off against Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential campaign. This is perhaps why I’m so keen to focus on Clinton and her campaign this week. Not to promote Clinton and her ideologies. But to examine the response to that campaign. In 2008, not one but two women wanted to be president. Their ideas were at the opposing end of the spectrum, but there was one element they could undoubtedly agree on. The bias coverage of their candidacy in the media. Two women striving to be in positions of power – nay, already in positions of power – were being openly mocked, ridiculed and objectified by reporters across the globe. The more power women gain, the more backlash there seems to be. Why?

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Cynicism at the ready with the Hillary2016 Campaign everydaysexism Bingo Card.

Throughout their campaigns, Clinton and Palin were not taken seriously. Reporters looked at their aesthetics rather than their political stance and substance. Their outfits were scrutinised, they were considered as emasculating their male company and competitors, they were deemed emotional whenever they were passionate in a speech. This is where gendered language becomes dangerous, and why it needs to stop. Rarely is a man considered bitchy or whiny or sexy or giggly. I’ve also never seen a political debate where a man’s been asked what he’s wearing, or told it was too frumpy. We all know that if politics was based on appearance, Ed Miliband would not be in the running to be Labour PM in May! But Sarah Palin was undignified by the media, whilst Clinton was considered a ‘ball-buster’. It seemed they couldn’t be equally masculine and feminine, they became hyper-feminised – the polar extremes of “what it means to be a woman.”

And this is important. When we do this to women in power, particularly via the media, we create a message for the younger generation that is incredibly damaging. “Sure you can be President, sweetheart, but you gotta stay slim, dress nice, and just nod along with whatever policies your puppet master gives you. Don’t think for yourself.” By dictating our idea of the “norm”, we’re only pushing ourselves further back. Instead of condemning Clinton for running for President; blaming her for being emasculating; questioning her femininity; or dissing her outfit, we should be celebrating the fact that she believes in herself enough to take a stand. She has ideas, and she believes in them. She’s confident enough to stand up in front of every person on the planet to aim for the biggest hot seat in the world – not just once, but twice. That is amazing.

Over the next few months, it’s down to the people of America to decide whether or not they want another groundbreaking presidency. But when polling day comes, remember to judge Hillary Clinton on her policies, not her gender.

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Embrace the Fandom

This post isn’t so much a TV or movie review as it is a commentary on fandom. Last week, the BBC aired a documentary called Tom Felton Meets the Superfans, and last night I watched the season five finale of The Walking Dead – and while I want to revisit The Walking Dead as a show and a comic in more depth later on, watching both so close together got my brain-cogs turning. What is it about film, TV and comic books that really captivates us? Why does fandom impact our lives the way it does?

I love The Walking Dead. Nay, I am borderline obsessive. (Okay, I’m way past the line, running as if a herd of walkers were hot on my tail). I adore both the show and the comics so much that I dedicated a year of my life writing my masters dissertation on the subject, and I continue to read and watch and purchase and consume as much as possible. And I know I’m not the only one out there with this passion for something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be The Walking Dead: it could be Game of Thrones, Batman, Breaking Bad, Saga, Doctor Who, Star Wars, The Hunger Games – the list is honestly endless. So what is it that drives us to love something that we really have no visible connection to?

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The BBC’s documentary was insightful to the world of Harry Potter (given that Felton was a Potter child-actor, playing Draco Malfoy.) I give credit to Felton in his whole-hearted attempt to embrace whatever it was that fans feel – that drives them in pursuing actors, collecting memorabilia, cosplaying, wanting a quick selfie with their hero. And he really gave his all when he could be free as a cosplayer – without being recognised, he wasn’t held back and could fully immerse himself in the cosplay community. Thus, this was the only aspect of fandom I felt Felton could truly embrace. He couldn’t connect with the fan who used Potter as a means of escaping from bullying throughout his childhood; nor the fan who found help in the books and movies when suffering from depression; nor the fan who would wait for hours in the cold for an autograph and picture with celebrities, just to be recognised for an instant: for that adrenaline rush to be close to stardom. And ultimately, the documentary felt slightly pointless because of that. It barely scratched the surface of why fandom exists for all the various fandoms that do exist. Of course, that’s because it would take forever. But surely it would be better for the superfans to tell their stories, rather than have their idols try and work it out?

Over the years, I’ve been an unashamed superfan of many things. I tend to like a lot of things, but occasionally something will come along that I fall in love with – and I’ll stick with it, through thick and thin. So, where do these personal attachments to fandoms stem from?

Example One: Fobsession

I’ve always been ridiculed for naming Fall Out Boy as my all-time favourite band. Sure, they’re not the coolest. But being cool isn’t why I like them, or any band for that matter. It’s the experiences I’ve shared with them. Their songs were part of my most formative years, and they held my hand through the difficult stages of being a teenager right into my twenties. A constant factor in turbulent times. The underdog band for the weird, quiet kid. I remember barely being able to function when I won a meet-and-greet, and even more so when they announced their hiatus. And when they returned a couple of years ago? I cried down the phone to my mum so heavily she thought something was wrong. For me, they came back at a perfect time, just as I began floundering again, finishing my undergrad degree, leaving friends behind, facing a future of uncertainty. And I can’t explain the feeling I have for FOB. It’s not like “ermigerd, they’re so hot, I want to marry them all” fangirly (except, Patrick, I wouldn’t say no – call me!). It’s a genuine love and respect from deep down in my gut. Their songs move me, and have impacted me heavily over the years. What exactly it is, I can’t put my finger on. But they’re important to me.

Example Two: Vote Leslie Knope

The same goes for Parks and Recreation. I discovered Parks and Rec when I was going through a particularly unpleasant time in my life. I strongly believe Amy Poehler and Leslie Knope are two of the strongest factors that drive me forward to this day. Through her (their?) enthusiasm, I found something to fight for: reason returned. Not only did I believe in myself, whether I publish comics or build a park over a pit, but I could do it while laughing. And it truly sparked my feminist flame. (Amy Poehler and Leslie Knope will both feature in their very own Wonder Women columns, so stay tuned!) Ron Swanson’s tough outer-shell concealed some fantastic words of wisdom which I had written on post-it notes around my flat and saved on my laptop screen so I would see them every day and be reminded that things would be better. And because of this adoration of the show, I quote it constantly, I buy the quirky merch, and sing the stupid songs (byeeee byeee lil’ Sebastian), force those I care about to watch it, and I cried the whole way through the season finale. Not because it was sad, but because it was perfect. There will never be new Parks and Rec, but the legacy will live on for me, and that’s what matters.

ronswanson

Example Three: We Are The Walking Dead

Perhaps my biggest superfan addiction, however, is The Walking Dead. No TV show should move me like it does. No comic book should make me as upset as it does. No video game should destroy my feelings as much as this does. But The Walking Dead has had a big impact on my life, and I’ve recently asked myself: why?

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I still recall binge-watching the first two seasons in less than a week. It was amazing. Like someone had turned a light on. That Christmas, I got the two comic book compendiums, and read them each in a day. I’ve watched and re-watched all the seasons more times than I should probably admit, and I’ve re-read all issues of the comics multiple times, and not just because I decided to study it. What particularly interests me in The Walking Dead is the human condition and how we cope in times of stress; the relationships that form and deteriorate; the capabilities of people when they’re pushed to the extremes. Sure, I love a good zombie flick, but nothing compares to the deep, heartfelt emotion of The Walking Dead. It’s haunting, and powerful, and terrifying, and disturbing because it’s real – it’s people. Not monsters, or robots, or superhumans. People.

Perhaps the biggest impact the Walking Dead had on me was it fully ignited my love of comics. When I began to read the series, I realised I loved what comics could do. It’s the first comic that ever made me gasp, cry, cringe, laugh – truly connect with the characters. I’d never before realised the true power of comics. And I think that’s why it’s sparked such a deep-rooted admiration for me, and probably set me firmly on the path I’m on today. And the show is a triumph – I truly care about the characters and what they’re going through. I’m saddened whenever there’s a loss. Rewatching the series, and re-reading the comics, and buying the merchandise isn’t because I’m obsessive and need to collect everything associated: it’s a sign of admiration and appreciation – my attempt to be closer to something which has made such an impact on my life.

And that goes for my love of all the actors and creators too. Steven Yeun is fantastic. He’s truly brought (my personal favourite) Glenn to life for me: from comic panel to TV screen. I’d love to meet him, to shake his hand, and to have a picture. Not because I have a weird fascination with Steven Yeun himself, but because I’m so grateful for the work he does. The season five finale really brought this to light for me, as I seriously stressed out that he was going to get the chop. All week, I brewed up conspiracy theories (“Well, he’s been around a lotta baseball bats.”) No television show should cause the amount of stress I’ve felt for the past week.

Similarly, meeting Charlie Adlard at LSCC was amazing – I got to meet the guy who created these characters I’ve followed so closely for years now. That was huge! A brief encounter for 30 seconds as he signed my artbook and said hello made my week, if not my month. If I ever met Kirkman… who knows what would happen!? (I’d probably scold him for issue 100, let’s be real!)

So my point? Not an indulgent rant about the things that I love, but that everyone has their own reasons for superfandom. And that’s not something a 60 minute documentary with a Harry Potter actor can discover. It’s something the fans have to ask of themselves. For me, my biggest fame and fiction loves are closely tied to big moments in my life; experiences that will stay with me forever; people and characters and creators who have helped shape my life. It’s becoming part of a community, in which you share a particular passion, where you’re in on the in-jokes. And celebrating a band or show or comic or series or game or whatever that has helped you or made you happy in some way isn’t weird – it’s an attempt to get closer to this thing that means a lot to you. No-one would scold you for wanting photos with your parents, or meeting your friends, or collecting memorabilia from moments with a loved one. Celebrate the ones that mean the most to you: whether it be your friends, family, or a fantastical world of characters.

Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have five seasons of The Walking Dead to rewatch before it all starts again in October!

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