Tag Archives: WomeninFilm

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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Mad Max: Furiosa’s Road

Since first seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, I have not been able to get it out of my mind. Now, after multiple viewings, a week of blaring nothing but the soundtrack, and raving about it with anyone that will listen, I’ve talked myself out of shaving my head and driving a war rig across the desert, and have finally been able to put my thoughts into coherent words. Spoilers lie ahead!

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What a lovely day!

The latest Mad Max sequel/reboot is a full-throttle triumph, kicking into high gear and keeping its foot on the accelerator until the credits roll two hours later. A beautiful piece of cinema which is only heightened by breath-taking live-action stunts and a rocking soundtrack, Fury Road hits you like a sudden adrenaline rush, becoming everything you want in a summer popcorn movie, and then some. Behind the fast cars, the stunning scenery, the outlandish explosions and high-flying stunts is real depth. After two viewings, I still barely feel as if I have scratched the surface. But what I can tell you is there are lessons to be learned from this blockbuster.

Who killed the world?

Mad Max: Fury Road would surely have served better being titled Furiosa’s Road, because that’s exactly what it is. George Miller’s return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the future is Imperator Furiosa’s story – Mad Max is merely along for the ride. In fact, his one big heroic action scene in which he confronts and kills the Bullet Farmer happens off-screen as the audience stays with Furiosa and the girls.

Charlize Theron steals the show as Imperator Furiosa: the one-armed badass on a mission of redemption. Lesson One: George Miller knows how to write women – like they’re people. Usually in action movies, the heroine is either hyper-feminised: running in heels and firing weapons without a hair out of place; or masculinised until it may as well be a guy in drag. Not in Fury Road. Instead we have a whole host of amazing characters who are surprisingly fleshed out in a movie with such a lack of dialogue.

Furiosa is not held back by her femininity. Instead, it pushes her forward: it is her source of power. In a world where everything has died, where warlords rule the roads, she cares about making a change; about pursuing a non-barbaric life. Her mission to rescue Immortan Joe’s wives and take them to the fabled Green Place is not only a maternal drive, but it is one which longs to create new life.

This is true of all the women in the movie. Their hope and capability to start again keeps them driven under extreme circumstances. It’s a responsibility. From their ability to have children – which “will not be warlords” – to their carrying of seeds. New life lies within these women, and they’re capable of making it happen. They just need to win the world back from the warlords.

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It’s repeatedly asked throughout the movie: “who killed the world?” The answer? Toxic masculinity. (That is: a harmful patriarchy which is violent, unemotional, and sexually aggressive). This is clear from the nature of the movie itself: the thrill the warboys get from brutal kills, the excessive violence, the extreme explosions. Joe’s son, Rictus, expresses anger by firing bullets repeatedly into the air rather than communicating. Indeed, it’s interesting that male characters, including Max, are muzzled during the movie, and many communicate in little more than grunts. Perhaps a comment on the modern day approach of attacking first and asking questions later. Max himself recognises his place in this new world. At the end of the movie, Max doesn’t stay with the girls at the citadel. Why? Because he knows he doesn’t belong in their new world of creation, growth, and renewal. His “world is one of fire. Of blood.”

It’s incredibly refreshing for a movie to portray a variety of women, each representing different things, but are definitely more than just a body to ogle at. When the wives are originally revealed, unclipping their belts, freeing themselves from Joe’s ownership, an unnerving sense of ‘here we go’ settled over the room. Eye-rolling ensued. Max is going to have to save them there bimbos. But no. Fury Road gives a big middle finger to typical action movie tropes before darting off in the opposite direction. We know the terrible circumstances these women are running from without having to be shown. You don’t need to abuse women on screen for entertainment: the idea should be – and is – bad enough. There’s no relationships or romance, only compassion and respect. These girls are completely competent in handling themselves, stepping up when it’s needed. Because that’s what Fury Road is about: survival.

Just as the stereotypical roles of women in action movies veers into the unexpected, the tropes of the male action hero are also confronted. Max is not the lone soldier, punching his way through a world alone. He can’t be. His solo escape attempt failed. In this world, survival is the only objective. Gender, race, class, sexuality – none of it matters. Instead, it’s people helping other people escape from unthinkable circumstances. If Furiosa needs to use Max’s shoulder to steady her gun, so be it. Get the job done, no matter what.

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The Anti-Seed: “Plant it and watch something die.”

In a post-apocalyptic world, where little but sand and salt are left on the earth, bullets are in ample supply. The destructive nature of humanity takes hold, and the power-hungry thrive. Fury Road acts as a warning. Who killed the world? We did.

It’s no surprise the higher up the power-chain you see in Fury Road, the more grotesque people are. The literal fat cats. War destroys beauty. But it also makes beauty valuable, hence Immortan Joe’s pride in his wives. These girls will help him father healthy male heirs whilst being his prized possessions – one even has all of her teeth!  Their value is particularly well demonstrated when Splendid uses her pregnant body as a human shield. She knows Joe will not sacrifice his favourite wife, particularly as she is carrying an heir. This idea is paralleled in the warboys, who are portrayed as being ultimately disposable. As one anonymous warboy dives in front of a bullet to save Immortan Joe, his body is shaken from the car, and his sacrifice goes seemingly unnoticed. He is deemed less valuable than Splendid, or any of the other wives.

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I cannot fully express my admiration and adoration for Mad Max: Fury Road, but I do believe it has opened doors for a new wave of action movie, and that’s a great thing. We may now see the rise of the realistic female action hero; a new portrayal of how men and women can work side by side, no matter their gender, for a common goal. Fury Road has blasted right through the expectations that men won’t go and see female-fronted action movies, or that they’d hate every second of it. And it disproves that women just don’t like that kind of thing. Well, Hollywood, I for one would much rather sit through Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times a day than Pitch Perfect 2 just once (I imagine it’s just more laughing at the fat one, but it’s okay, cause she laughs at her being fat as well, right?!). Who killed the world? We might. But there’s still time to save it.

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Agent Carter

I was rather sceptical about watching Marvel’s Agent Carter, given that it was heavily promoted as ‘Peggy’s life after Cap’. Perhaps I was afraid I was going to be offered 8 episodes of sulking and crying, with some other soldier swooping in and showing her it’s okay: there’s still a fella out there for her! But with all the Age of Ultron backlash, I was determined to find something out there that Marvel had gotten “right”. And boy, have they got Agent Carter right!

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I instantly fell in love with the series. Instead of being everything I feared it would be, it was everything I was hoping it would be – and then some! Yes, we pick up Peggy right where Cap left her, and of course she’s upset. But this dame ain’t got no time for wallowing, see. We’re whirled straight into post-war 1940s America, where the boys are returning home and the women are being pushed out of their jobs. The one and only left clinging onto the SSR, in hope of making some kind of difference, is Agent Peggy Carter.

Agent Carter tackles a lot of the issues post-war America faced, particularly focusing on how the people were effected: everyone, not just the women. Injuries merely scratch the surface in this show, as Marvel delves deeper into the impact of emotional trauma and mental stress that soldiers faced in the warzone: seeing their friends die, killing – and all for what? It’s brave for a television show, particularly one led by a female, to focus on men being afraid, or startled, or upset by their experiences. But it only adds to the power of the show. It’s okay for boys to be upset, to feel frightened, or to need help. It’s not weak – it’s human.

Similarly, the show focuses heavily on the consequential return of women to the home as men return from war looking for work.  As Peggy continues to boldly walk into work every day, she not only faces the challenges of being an agent, but being a woman in the workplace. Instead of being given assignments, she’s told to make the coffee or get the lunch order; to do the paperwork and maintain the files. She’s reduced to little more than a secretary despite her capabilities. But it’s not only in the workplace that we see these changes – it’s also demonstrated in post-war accommodation for single women who no longer lived with family in women’s hotel, The Griffith. The ‘independent’ women living within these walls were anything but. Governed by an old crone who dictated their visitors, commanded their eating hours, kept a close eye on all of their actions and comings-and-goings, it was incredibly difficult to be your own woman in the 1940s. Luckily, the girls in Agent Carter have that fun rebellious side, mimicking the naughty adolescent behaviour you’d likely see in a classroom as children sneak sweets in class as their headmistress’ back is turned.

“No man will ever consider you as an equal… It’s sad, but it’s true.”

My biggest admiration in regards to Agent Carter was how apt, appropriate and relative it was. Despite being set in the 1940s, much of the message felt rather familiar. As Peggy battled daily to be taken seriously, to do something right, and to live her own life, she was continually undermined and ridiculed. Despite her amazing abilities as an agent, she just could not break that glass ceiling.

One episode I found to be particularly poignant in subtly reflecting the portrayal of women was in the second episode, throughout which the popular radio show: The Captain America Adventure Program was frequently ‘aired’. In it, Betty Carver (Peggy’s pop-culture portrayal) was a weak, whimpering woman: the damsel in distress the media so often enjoys portraying ladies as being. However, during one broadcast, as Captain America beats up the Nazis to save Betty, Peggy is busy beating up the real bad guys in real time to save the world. The parallel yet paradoxical nature of this scene was incredibly effective. We see the real woman pitted against what the media wants us, the audience, to perceive as real. And it’s through this power the media holds over us that our preconceptions of gender are born. But here we see the reality, head on confronting and contradicting what we’re supposed to believe – and it’s amazing.

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“There’s a difference between being an independent woman and a spinster.”

There is no love interest for Agent Carter. Her heart belongs completely to Steve Rogers, and he’s sadly on ice. But that means Peggy is not driven by love, or trying to impress a boy. And how refreshing that is! Instead, she’s determined, driven by her desire to honour Captain America’s memory, do the right thing, and uphold democracy. That’s not to say heroines don’t need a partner to be awesome. Let’s just look at Black Widow in Age of Ultron (yes, I went there. And I think the above quote is particularly apt in that argument!). But to not be solely driven by the desire to impress a mate is so rarely seen in film and television, particularly those targeted at a female audience, that it added a whole new dimension to Agent Carter.

Any hints of objectification are also absent. The show is so classy, I could see my face in its neatly polished shoes. Hayley Atwell is absolutely stunning, and it’s amazing to see that she has a figure. Not just a stick in a dress, there are actual curves which accentuates the gorgeous style of the 1940s. I aspire to one day pull off wearing a skirt suit like her! In the one scene where Peggy is caught changing, there’s no creepy lingering on her body, or a close up of her backside, or anything remotely sexualised. Instead, it focuses on her battlescars. Women can be beautiful with ‘imperfections’, and they don’t need to parade around half naked! So many healthy life-lessons!

One of my favourite aspects was the stereotype-swaps in the series. Two of our leading male protagonists, Howard Stark and Jarvis, donned the typical roles of women in TV series. In Howard, we found the damsel – the man needing to be saved. Of course, he also embodies the ‘slut’, but that’s the Starks for you. And in Jarvis, we have the whipped house-wife with a strict routine of cooking and cleaning for his wife before they settle down and listen to their radio shows before a prompt bedtime. He even knows how to sew buttons. The bumbling butler stereotype has been done before, but Jarvis in Agent Carter presents something truly different. And although he may take on the guise of the ‘weak’ house-wife figure, he also emerges a hero, empowered by his adventures with Peggy, proving anyone can be a hero as long as they’re fighting for the right thing.

I would urge every person reading this to please watch Agent Carter. Watch it yourselves, pass it to your friends and family, show it to your children. Only eight episodes long, with a second series on the way, it is vital this show gains and maintains the support it deserves. Not only is it a thrilling adventure series about spies and secret agents, but it’s potentially the strongest piece of work Marvel has created for the television or movie theatres so far. A charming show with class, style, and sophistication, its characters are more than punching bags: they’re complex – the men and women – showing the difficulties and trauma caused by war. What this show does for everyone is open doors. It’s okay to be upset, or need help. It’s okay to be a man, and it’s okay to be a woman.  There’s been a lot of outcry online recently about how poorly represented women are in the Marvel cinematic universe. Well, here she is. Agent Carter is right at the other end of your remote control. A woman who is strong, in control, and a role model to anyone: I’d say Marvel have got this totally right.

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My Week in Comics: Secret Wars and Not So Secret Awesome Titles

Secret Wars and Swords of Sorrow

Summer’s officially kicking off in the comics’ world, with crossovers a plenty.

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First up is Marvel’s big event, in which the company is pressing the big red reset button, shaking up the multi-verse, and condensing it. It all starts with Secret Wars #1. Admittedly, there’s a lot to take in with this, even for a regular Marvel reader. This ultimately means that the “biggest event in the Marvel Comics Universe” may not be the friendliest jumping on point for new readers. Worlds are ending, but it’s not entirely clear who survives. Perhaps it will work best as a completed series. That being said, Jonathan Hickman’s writing is fantastic, and feels epic and poignant. The book is visually beautiful, with wonderful art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, with an eerie grace to the violent, catastrophic events that unfold. But from the ashes of Secret Wars, a new universe will arrive. In June 2015, a whole new range of #1’s will be released, marking the beginning of a new era for Marvel. We have Guardians of Knowhere, Years of Future Past, Korvac Saga, X-Tinction Agenda, Groot, Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde, Thors, Marvel Zombies, 1872, Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos, and Future Imperfect – to name but a few! I, personally, am most excited for Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1! Thus, Secret Wars could essentially be considered as the big Marvel tidy-up event, where they tighten up their universe, make it more manageable and new-reader friendly. But who are we going to end up saying goodbye to on the way?

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Also on the crossover list was Swords of Sorrow, Dynamite’s big crossover event which teams together their toughest ladies in a fight which is yet to be properly revealed. Having never read any of Dynamite’s female led series, I entered fairly ignorantly. This, combined with little but set-up for the event, sadly opened the doors to criticism rather than curiosity as I struggled through the issue. Swords of Sorrow teams up the likes of Red Sonja, Vampirella, Jungle Girl, Irene Adler, and Lady Zorro (amongst others), which you would think would make a riveting read, particularly when penned by Gail Simone. Unfortunately, it didn’t read that way.

I hoped the cover image of four women dressed in nothing but, well, no, actually – not really anything at all, would be a sales gimmick to attract a male audience to read a female-centred event with a female creative team. Particularly with the awkward poses – Jungle Girl has gone a little Manara Spider-Womany, and the black woman in the silver (I have no idea of her name, as there’s no one resembling her within the pages of the comic?!) has gone for the red carpet ‘over-the-shoulder’ pout. Red Sonja might be wielding a sword, but with her stomach held in like that, she looks unhealthy, and kind of like she’s holding in uncomfortable wind. Unfortunately I quickly discovered that this is, in fact, standard costume if you are to be a leading lady in Dynamite’s comics, Irene Adler, Lady Greystoke, and Kato aside.

So, impractical clothing for warrior women to one side, does this comic show these women kicking ass? Standing up to a real villain? Proving that girls are just as powerful and awesome as boys without waving a big red flag that reads “HEY, GUESS WHAT?! WOMEN ARE GOOD TOO!”? Well, not really.

First of all, it appears that the villain of the piece is an egocentric male, who thrives on controlling women who ‘love’ him – probably not in the true sense of the word, but in that ‘worship-me-so-I-feel-like-I-have-power’ kinda way. And do you know what he does? He calls forward ‘the shard men, the soulless victims’ to ‘Avenge me…against ALL women’. Wow. Literal woman hating. To me, this seems a bit like one guy who’s been hurt by one woman, and is now on a tirade against all of woman-kind. Something that can be considered a bit too close to home in today’s world – admittedly, Elliot Rodger’s vendetta against women in May 2014 sprung instantly to mind –  and potentially stands as a more dangerous idea to be playing with than standard ‘world domination’ for wanting to be a villain. I expected better from Simone, and frankly I was disappointed by the underlining themes running throughout the issue. Surely there’s more reason than a misogynist for women to team-up in comics? And surely they can do it whilst wearing clothes? It will be interesting to see how the all-female Avengers A-Force bring a team of women together to save the day: will Thanos be peeved about being dumped and wage war on all womankind, or will they band together simply to try and make the world a better place for everyone?

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5

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How do you continue a series after defeating the biggest bad in all the galaxy? Luckily that’s not an issue The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has to worry about. SG manages to continue being a truly entertaining read whilst openly mocking its own position in the comics’ world. In #5 we take a step back from the action and hang out with some hostages whilst heroes of NYC try to save them from a dinosaur attack. In their time together, the hostages discuss tales of Squirrel Girl which they’ve heard in attempts to prove that they know who she is, prodding fun at the comics’ own position on the store shelf: the Unrecognised Squirrel Girl. As per usual, hilarity ensues, and I’m fairly sure Simon Pegg made a guest appearance. If you’re not reading Squirrel Girl, #5 is a perfect place to jump on board – don’t end up like the losers in the Statue of Liberty, confusing Squirrel Girl for Spider-Man (doy!) – be someone who knows Doreen Green is the real deal!

The Spiders Web

I think Silk might just be my favourite of all the spider-women just now (sorry, Gwen!). It’s such a beautiful comic in all senses of the word. It’s captivating, relatable, and intriguing. We’re beginning to learn so much more about Cindy’s past, and it doesn’t look to shiny and happy, which helps her to not only stop the villain, but try to convince them to turn their life around. Silk is so much more than beating up the bad guy. It’s a voyage of self-discovery for a young woman AND a super-hero. And Cindy is so easy to sympathise with. Perhaps it’s her tone, or her bewilderment by a lot of things now she’s back in the world, but she’s got something a lot of superheroes tend to miss.

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Similarly, Spider-Gwen has developed a truly accessible connection with its audience, particularly in its fourth issue. We really slow down and get a peek behind the mask. It’s clear Gwen’s been dealing with a lot of guilt, and not dealing particularly well… But this issue confronts that head on. We see her return to some sense of normal life. She visits Ben and May, and they discuss the loss of Peter in some particularly moving panels. I loved the connection between Peter and Spider-heroism: something he’s always drawn to, no matter which universe – the freedom to do the right thing.

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This is exactly what makes these female-fronted spider comics so appealing. It’s not all about punching the bad guy, but about being complex, flawed characters who make mistakes and must learn to get past them. And by getting closer to the character behind the mask, it’s increasingly obvious that you don’t need to wear a costume to be a hero.

Non-Compliant

Bitch Planet is quite possibly the most important comic book out there right now. Kelly Sue’s no prisoners approach to confronting feminism, conformity, and the corruption of power in the Western World is second to none, and truly eye opening. And these issues extend further than the strip itself. The back cover of every issue is covered with fake ads like this, which almost translate the real ads we see on magazines into its true blunt language:

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And perhaps the most important thing we can take from Bitch Planet is that the powerful reputation it has built, with a strong fan-base after just four issues, shows that it isn’t about the book.

And it really isn’t about the book. It’s about everything it stands for. It’s about oppression of the true self, the struggle minorities face every day. And the fact someone is speaking out about this so bluntly in a medium that is accessible to everyone is fantastic. It’s why so many have already got non-compliant tattoos; why cosplayers are dawning BP overalls. The message is powerful, and the demand is great. If anything, it shows there’s a real issue of equality in modern society when a fan-base reacts so passionately so quickly towards a confrontational comic. Bitch Planet has the power to initiate change, and it’s getting the message out there. It’s up to the non-compliant to carry the message forward.

Not far behind Bitch Planet in the world of strong feminism in comics is Rat Queens, and the second volume is out now! Another no-nonsense comic when depicting it’s female characters, Rat Queens is the rock ‘n’ roll fantasy comic you ought to be reading!

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In this second volume, we learn more about the fearsome four’s history, adding further layers to their histories. It steps back slightly from the reckless romps of the first volume and gives the world a lot more heart, building upon the foundations already set. The humour, action, adventure, sex, and drugs are all still there, but this time there was something more – something complex.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Rat Queens is the fact it depicts real women. Yes, they’re in a fantasy world and battle orcs and do magic, but these women are as real as they come. They have all the lumps and bumps in the right places. Their hair is regularly out of place. They are athletic, not anorexic. They are themselves, despite being social outcasts from their hometowns. And the message portrayed in Rat Queens to female readers is spot on. Vi’s father congratulates her on looking “strong.” Not beautiful, not slim – strong. Hannah’s mother encourages her to have “not a fear of knowledge, but embracing every facet of it.” Even the addition of eyeliner in the costume-wearing montage scene is bad-ass, because it’s not vain, it’s a sign that femininity is strong. And I love that: women can look beautiful, embrace themselves for who they are, be smart, and tough. These are the women who are true heroes, in the comics’ world and the real world.

A comic which depicts a man as the damsel in distress being saved by an army of women that is still popular by both male and female readers is an amazing feat, and shows that female warriors are not emasculating. And the fact that said comic is created by men?! Hallelujah! I think we’re making progress!

Now is the perfect time to read Rat Queens if you haven’t already: with the first two trades available you can catch up quick! For fans of fantasy adventure who aren’t easily offended by bad language, nudity, and straight talking women.

Age of Ultron: Upon a Second Viewing

I have been to see Age of Ultron again, and with the ‘feminist’ (I use the word loosely) outrage fresh in my mind, I decided to really pay attention to those issues which sparked such an angry response towards the movie.

First, we have Black Widow’s declaration as being a monster.

The online argument: the fact she can’t have children makes her a monster. How dare you, Joss Whedon!

Upon a Second Viewing: In this scene we see a frustrated Banner emotionally explain to Romanoff that he “physically can’t have kids”, desperately upset that he himself cannot father children. This is Natasha’s chance to open up. Her choice to have children has also been taken away. The word ‘monster’ does not leave her mouth until she states that the sterilization project is meant to make it “easier to kill”. Now, it might just be me, but I think her monstrosity is referring to that red on her ledger Loki mentioned in the first movie: all that blood on her hands. The fact that everything she worked towards in her life prior to the Avengers was to make it easier to kill. Let’s look at this further.

Black Widow seemingly joined the Avengers to redeem herself, to clear her ledger and wash away the red. And that’s what she’s doing. Scenes where she opens up shows progression. We see that she’s not the stone cold assassin she was trained to be, but is capable of being loving. Empathising with Banner’s loss doesn’t make her weak, it makes her human. And that’s progress. She’s more than the quick-quip, relatively cold spy of the Avengers, and more open than the “whoever you want me to be” Natasha of the Winter Soldier. Here we see her lay herself bare: someone who has been raised to keep secrets and kill is opening up and experiencing empathy. The sterilization was meant to remove any kind of maternal-instinct, that loving tie to humanity us ladies are lucky to have built into our very bodies, has clearly not killed off this capability of caring and emotion in Natasha. We see that through her connection with Barton’s children, and how fantastic she can be as “Auntie Nat”. Yes, perhaps a mistake was made in sterilizing Romanoff, but I think we have to remember that her choice was removed: not her desire. She’s not calling herself a monster because she is infertile. She’s calling herself a monster because she then chose to continue killing for years.

Second, we have Vision saving Scarlet Witch from certain death.

The online argument: Why did Vision have to save Scarlet Witch? I bet she could’ve made it out alive by herself. How dare you, Whedon!

Upon a Second Viewing: Absolutely nothing about this scene is ‘weak’ or misogynistic. Nothing. Scarlet Witch had literally just torn the heart from the strongest Ultron body with her bare hands. The world was caving in around her, and with no ability to fly, or run at super speed, it’s pretty certain she would have been crushed: particularly in her state of mind. Having just lost her brother, it’s unlikely she would’ve been in the best state to try and save herself. Vision swooping in wasn’t some kind of Prince Charming move: it was what any of the heroes would have done if any of the others had been in the same position. Example: Quicksilver swooped in to save Hawkeye from being shot. Case and point.

My biggest issue with this argument is that it suggests it’s weak to ask for help. It’s not. It’s absolutely not. I understand we’re in a position where women, particularly women in film and media, need to be increasingly portrayed as being tough and independent, because that’s what real women are, but everyone needs help sometimes. Do we really want to teach the next generation that they have to struggle through life alone? That having a problem or worrying about something or nearly being crushed to death by falling debris is something you have to deal with by yourself, because otherwise you’re weak and always being saved by men? No. It’s important to be tough, and independent, and to believe in yourself, but girls: listen up: IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP – YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH LIFE ALONE.

Age of Ultron is a fantastic movie, but I can’t help but feel that people are expecting too much from it. It’s an action movie. If people were just a third as passionate about issues like equal pay, objectification, and equal representation as they were about Whedon’s “destruction” of the Black Widow character, and absolute sacrilege of having Scarlet Witch even being helped up by a man (who is an android anyway, guys!) never mind actually having her life saved, we’d probably be far more successful in solving real world issues.

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My Week in Comics: Avengers Assemble

The moment has arrived. The follow up to 2009 smash hit blockbuster has officially landed in cinemas. Grossing $44.8 million at the international box office in just two days, Age of Ultron is already a hulk-sized success, so it’s no surprise that this week the majority of comics’ news is centred around the Marvel super-group!

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

My past week has focused almost exclusively on the return of the Avengers. As the team assembled in London this week for the international premiere, my sights were set on getting a glimpse of the stars in person. (Not as a creepy stalker: see previous post on fandom here: https://faceittiger.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/embrace-the-fandom/.)

On Tuesday night, I scored a ticket to the filming of the Graham Norton show, which promised Avengers star guests. Of course, I was front and centre – and I wasn’t disappointed as Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Elizabeth Olsen settled themselves on the infamous red couch. Straight from the premiere at Shepherd’s Bush, the trio were in good form, and shared some fantastic stories. We were in the studio for well over 2 hours, but you can see the cut version now on iplayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05s769y/the-graham-norton-show-series-17-episode-3.

There have been a number of heated talking points around the Avengers’ various press junkets this past week. From sexist slurs to unprofessional and inappropriate journalism, it’s all been covered, making the Avengers a bigger talking point than just a new movie.

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Let’s begin with the area that bothered me the most. The sexism. May I begin by pointing out that Black Widow has once again been left off all the Age of Ultron merchandise? There are no toys, no t-shirts, no lunchboxes. She’s a big part of the movies, and even has a more independent storyline in this instalment (with rumours of her own film surfacing once again – yes please!), and the only major female connection girls have into the MCU Avengers franchise. So why is she not being included? There’s a market for it – a loud and proud one – so why is Black Widow being pushed to the side in favour of Iron Man, Cap, and Hawkeye (seriously – HAWKEYE.)

This leads nicely into Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans’ ignorant response regarding Black Widow in an interview earlier in the week. The pair were asked about Black Widow’s new relationship in the movie, and how surprised the interviewer was that it wasn’t with Hawkeye or Captain America, given their close relationships in past movies. Renner and Evans responded in a juvenile manner, explaining that Johansson’s character is a “whore” and “slut”, laughing the question off. Now, press junkets must be boring. I can’t even imagine how tedious it must be to answer the same questions repeatedly throughout a press tour around the globe. So, yes, I understand how having a laugh probably eases the monotony of this. But – these people have a responsibility. Particularly when you’re embodying Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in one of the biggest franchises of our time. It’s not okay to speak about women – or anyone – like that. They need to remember they are role models and real life heroes for so many people.

Their comments were particularly damaging considering what I’ve already stated about Black Widow’s underrepresentation. It’s only further highlighting the problems we have with the representation of women in media, particularly in comics and film. It seems Johansson’s character can’t be defined by her ass-kicking ability, her dark history and how she’s overcome it, or her independent character. Nope, it’s about men and who she’s dating. And the response didn’t even acknowledge the fact that she’s her own person: an independent woman capable of making her own choices that don’t need to be justified to anyone. I have to admit, I wasn’t overly surprised Renner was involved in this, and his insincere apology has only furthered this opinion on the actor. But Chris Evans is a different story. A strong actor who interviews well (this incident aside…) and comes across favourably in social media, Evans is one of the last men on earth I want to be upset with. He’s Captain America for goodness sake! He has since apologised for the comments, and seems to understand how damaging they can be. Want to read more? There’s a fantastic article on Nerdist recapping the incident and its impact which you can read here: http://nerdist.com/yes-jeremy-renner-and-chris-evans-black-widow-comments-are-problematic/

Sometimes it’s the interviewer, rather than the interviewee, who can get it totally wrong. Yes, I’m talking about channel 4’s interview with Robert Downey Jr, conducted by Krishnan Guru-Murphy. Now, warning signals tend to go off whenever Guru-Murphy’s involved. A terrible “journalist” who seeks to provoke rather than investigate, he appears to be increasingly relying on controversy to remain relevant and, well, on TV rather than actually doing a good job as a reporter. From provoking Tarantino on his use of violence in movies (when he should have been talking about Django Unchained), to questioning Richard Ayoade about being a black man in the British entertainment industry (when he should’ve been talking about Ayoade’s book), he frequently strays from the topic at hand to provoke and annoy his interviewees. Tarantino famously “shut his butt down”, and Ayoade handled it very well, flipping the interview onto Guru-Murphy, clearly making him uncomfortable with his own journalistic “style” – or lack thereof. Perhaps he’s gunning to be the Katie Hopkins of Channel 4. But, next on his hit list was Robert Downey Jr. In the press room to promote Age of Ultron, Downey Jr gladly answered questions about Iron Man and his relationship with the character. The interview was going well, and Downey Jr was perfectly polite and responsive to the questions. But then it turned, Guru-Murphy hulked out – but not in a cool, green, building-smashing giant way. In a completely idiotic way: a way that he knew would get him thousands of hits on youtube (it’s interesting to note Channel 4 have disabled comments from being posted on the video).

Now, what I find totally, completely and utterly inappropriate about this is not that he’s questioning Robert Downey Jr about his difficult and dark past – a topic which has been covered a zillion times before. But the fact that he wanted to pry into his family life, asking if he still blames his father for his drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not investigative journalism, or professional etiquette in the slightest. That’s poking a bear with a pointy stick in the hope it attacks. RDJ was totally right to walk out. He wasn’t rude or unjustified. The actor has pulled himself out of a difficult place and really made something of himself. He’s secured himself in a successful franchise, and started a family. He regularly does charity work, and he supports independent films to aid rising stars of the industry. If you really need to reopen the scar which has been picked at for years now, ask him how he feels about the change he’s made in his life and how he’s going to continue to improve. Provoking him by asking how he feels about his relationship with his father is unnecessary, irrelevant and unprofessional – particularly when he’s there to talk about the film.

But there are occasionally moments of brilliance in times of interviewing crisis. Cosmopolitan magazine (Yes, I was shocked too) decided to flip the table when talking to Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson this week, and it was great. They both entered into the spirit of it, and I think Ruffalo’s embracing and accepting of the idea was fantastic, fully acknowledging inherently sexist habits in celebrity interviews. Hopefully this will open the doors to a world where both men and women can answer the thought provoking questions, and no one will ever be asked again “who are you wearing?!” – because, really, who cares?

But the controversy doesn’t stop there! Nope, Age of Ultron has kicked up a storm! Some loud voices are angry at a comment made by Iron Man during the movie as he tries to lift Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. He refers to “reinstating Prima Nocta”, and the ‘mewling quim’ doors from the Avengers have been reopened and JOSS WHEDON IS A HORRIBLE SEXIST PIG!

No. Let’s calm down.

First of all – let’s have a show of hands of who, off the top of their heads, knows what Prima Nocta means? Who, as soon as the words slipped from Tony Starks’ mouth as he joked with his friends, stormed out of the cinema, cursing Whedon and his family?

Not being one of these people, I googled the phrase when I saw people were unhappy about it. Apparently best known for its use in the absolutely 100% historically accurate movie Braveheart, it refers to the practise of a nobleman being with a peasant woman on her wedding night instead of her new husband. These traditions have been referred to throughout history, but it’s disputed as to whether or not it was ever actually a real law, leaning closer to the ‘it’s not real’ camp.

Regardless, it was referenced in Age of Ultron, and voices have cried “rape!” It seems very unlikely to me that Whedon, the openly feminist writer and director who has created some of the most kick-ass women in film and television history (Buffy, hello!), would deliberately celebrate the idea of reinstating laws where a nobleman could take a peasant woman against her will on her wedding night. It could well be a poke at the idea Whedon didn’t know what ‘mewling quim’ meant when he wrote it into Avengers Assemble, using an old-world term of phrase that sounds impressive, but is incredibly tongue in cheek. It could be a reflection of Iron Man’s arrogance – and the fact he’s a notorious playboy. Or yes, it could be a throwaway rape joke that shouldn’t be there. Words are powerful and have meaning, but taken in the grander scheme of things, this has gotten a little out of hand. Rape jokes are not funny, and completely unnecessary, but in context of the film, that’s not what this is. It’s possibly people looking a bit too far into something which isn’t there. The lesson: don’t take Braveheart as gospel truth.

MARVELous

It’s not all Avenger news this week though! Let’s take a look at what else has been going on.

Netflix’s super series, Daredevil, has already been signed for a second season! Hopefully we won’t have to wait until the other Hells Kitchen shows have aired to meet the bigger bads in Daredevil’s world!

In All-New X-Men, Iceman (Bobby Drake) has officially come out! This has obviously caused some outrage and confusion amongst X-Men readers and fans, but the character’s sexuality has been in question since the late 1980’s. Exploring the internet, the outrage is evident: many are convinced it’s a marketing ploy, some believe it is exploiting sexuality to sell more issues, and others believe it’s the devils work. But it’s encouraging to see some embracing the change and celebrating the fact there’s an openly homosexual character in a popular comic book. Long-running comics like the X-Men pass through so many different hands of writers, artists, editors, and producers that change will happen; good and bad. I don’t believe it’s an event to sell more issues, but to reflect our changing times and how diverse and tolerant the Western World is becoming.

Marvel has also announced that they have officially teamed up with Telltale Games for a 2017 release! More news will be coming soon!

HAHAHA – Don’t Make Me Laugh

Jared Leto’s new look as the Joker in upcoming film, Suicide Squad, has officially been released. The internet doesn’t quite know how to feel – and to be honest, neither do I. The Joker has had so many changes and inconsistencies over the years, it’s difficult to say “that’s not the Joker”. His constant state of flux is a large part of his appeal. But it’s not the Joker. It’s an embarrassing attempt to be edgy. Yes, I understand at this point he will have been through years of mental and physical struggles, and yeah, he’s crazy. But who is dumb enough to tattoo the Joker – stick moving pins in and out of his skin?! I can’t really see him sitting in a chair for a few hours, or picking out fonts to have ‘Damaged’ scrolled across his forehead. I also don’t see him as believing himself to be damaged. If anyone with dyed hair and tattoos is a psychotic criminal, we should probably all be locked up. Although it’s clearly a reference to Brian Bolland’s art in The Killing Joke, it doesn’t work. Nope. I’m not a fan. But I’m reserving full judgement until we’ve seen the trailer.

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The Dark Knight Returns – AGAIN

It was announced yesterday that Frank Miller will be returning to DC for a third instalment of his Dark Knight books. Frequently hailed as some of the greatest Batman comics, fandom is abuzz with excitement to see what Miller does next. The Dark Knight III will be released Fall 2015

Drop Outs and Sign Ups

When DC manage to take a step forward, they end up backtracking about 20 steps, particularly in their movie franchises. Wonder Woman’s Emmy-award winning director, Michelle McLaren, dropped out of the project for undisclosed reasons. She has been replaced by Patty Jenkins, so it’s a relief to see a woman is still in charge of the first female-led superhero blockbuster. However, McLaren’s departure is concerning. Hopefully this switch of director means we’ll still see Wonder Woman on the big screen in 2017.

Keen to keep DC on their toes, Marvel has found its writers for Captain Marvel in Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out). They’re determined to have strong female voices resonate throughout every aspect of the film, which is very pleasing to hear. Rumour has it Angelina Jolie is forerunner for the 2018 female led-features’ director.

REVIEWS

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

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If you’ve not picked up Squirrel Girl yet, you’re seriously missing out. It’s so much fun, I even enjoy reading the Previously page! Yes, it’s silly, but it’s also fantastic. There’s real heart behind the nuts. This issue confronts the ridiculousness of gendered language, as well as the meaning of being a hero (okay, that second one is in, like, every supers book…). But where else can you find a fun, family-friendly, female led superhero comic, where the heroine in question can defeat both Galactus and Thanos – and doesn’t always need to punch people into oblivion to do it?! Smarts, not scars. That should be her slogan!

Thor #7

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Why are you reading this instead of Thor? Stop – go pick it up now!

I particularly loved the final page of this issue, where Thor Odinson has rounded up the mightiest heroes he knows, and it’s the women of the Marvel universe. I need it as a poster to display proudly on my wall. I’m so excited for issue 8 – where we finally learn her identity!

What I particularly love about this new Thor is the fact that she is confronting the idea of being a strong female superhero, and why she constantly has to justify it. Why shouldn’t a woman be worthy of holding the power of Thor? It’s also great to see that she’s consistently drawn as muscular and athletic. I would kill for her arms. But she’s not scrawny, or scantily dressed. She’s how a female God of Thunder – or anyone who throws a heavy hammer around while beating the bad guys – would look.

Giant Days #2

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BOOM!’s new book, Giant Days, finds its stride in this second issue, which I enjoyed a lot more than the first. Confronting the horrific realities of Freshers Flu, the comic is genuinely funny and has a great dynamic. It’s a very real look at female friendships, whilst all the characters have their own independent struggles. I think this is a book which will grow more in each issue, and I plan to keep reading. The art is fantastic – a nice change from a lot of the styles in popular comics today. BOOM’s creator owned line is growing to be very strong, and I look forward to seeing what else they throw at us.

Archie vs Predator

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Well, this is a cross-over I didn’t believe until I saw it sitting on the shelf. It works, in a very weird way. Archie and the gang win a holiday to a tropical island, and accidentally bring home a Predator – literally. The idea and execution is so ridiculous that it’s fantastic. The Archie element is like a teen soap-opera from the 1940s, but the addition of Predator makes that a little more bearable and intriguing.

My only concern with AvP is that I sincerely hope it’s a parody. Having never read Archie comics, I don’t know how the usual group dynamic normally reads, but I pray it’s not like this. If it is a parody, AvP does a great job at portraying the stereotypical tropes found in the horror genre when a group of young friends go exploring together, only to run into danger. The guys are slick and sleazy, and the girls live to impress them and dress in amazing clothes. This is funny – if it’s a joke. But what troubled me is that it may not be. Archie comics could be about this world of couples, where the girls only live to impress the guys and the guys chase whatever girl looks prettiest. If that’s the case, it should have stayed in the 1940s when that was the American dream. Even when you’re fighting monstrous space creatures, your audience needs to be taken into account, no matter how crisp and clean your stories are.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2

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Another re-imagining of a classic series from Archie comics, but very different from AvP, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a chilling old-school horror/folklore feel to it. It’s creepy and reads like a Grimm fairytale. Similarly, the art style is anything but the clean lines you’d expect from Archie. Instead it’s scratchy and distressed, harking back to EC horror comics of the 1940s. This isn’t a recreation of the Melissa Joan Hart series I watched growing up as a child, but rather a dark tale of witchcraft and devilry. It almost read like an old romance comic that had gone wrong, warning the dangers of a woman scorned. I found Chilling Adventures of Sabrina neither good nor bad, but intriguing. I’m interested to see what direction they take with it long-term. Plus, you can’t fault anything with sassy Salem the cat!

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Veronica Mars with Brains – Literally!

Last week I sat myself down and talked myself into watching the CW’s new comic adaptation, iZombie. Based (loosely) on the Vertigo comic book series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, the show’s received positive reviews and fan interest, but I have to admit – I was a very reluctant viewer.

The premise alone sounds cheesy. Liv – whose life is going super-duper-dandy (perfect fiancé, amazing job, super pretty, fantastic everything) – gets caught up in an isolated zombie attack. She awakens to find that she’s now a zombie, who can prevent turning into a complete monster as long as she snacks regularly on brains. Side-effect: by eating these brains, she connects with the person it belonged to – a literal you-are-what-you-eat. So, she uses this for good. She works in the morgue (free snacks) and helps solve crimes. Without much more information than that, it sounds like an awful version of Chew.

But, to my pleasant surprise, iZombie turned out to be so much more than that. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, today – my experience watching the first 3 episodes.

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Oh God, this really is super cheesy.

The first five minutes of iZombie embodies everything I feared the show would be. It’s cheesy, it’s embarrassing, it’s just…. No. But luckily, the whole Liv-becoming-the-unLiving thing is turned around pretty quick. There’s no dwelling on those six months where she tries to figure her life out. We jump straight in to where the good stuff is. We know she broke up with her fiancé to keep him safe, she sunk into a zombie-like depression, and she struggled to get herself on track. But that’s it. We find ourselves confronting Liv’s life when she realises she can use this undead thing to her advantage. She can actually help people.

Okay, I take it back – this is great.

Before I knew it, I was actually settled in and enjoying it. I was laughing – out loud – at the jokes. It’s essentially a police drama with a twist – and a fun one at that, even if it’s slightly silly. But iZombie knows it’s silly, and that’s what’s great! It’s comedy-drama with a heart – nothing groundbreaking, but one that you can sink into for 40 minutes, enjoy, and then carry on with your day. (Plus, the title sequence is really cool).

Rose McIver is fantastic as Liv. She completely owns the snarky, slightly-confused-by-the-whole-situation character Liv needs to be relatable. And every one of her accompanying cast members are as strong. There’s no annoying, whiny, idiotic characters – they all add depth. They’re not all likeable – oh no – I hate Blaine who is clearly up to something, but in that fantastic way that I love to hate him, rather than it making the show unbearable. The cast are so clearly in to what they’re doing, it makes it all the more fun to watch.

It’s also great to have a show that doesn’t skimp on the drama in favour of pushing other plot points through. iZombie successfully combines Liv’s personal struggles with the police drama, and both are thrown into the mixing pot with something that’s clearly so much bigger. But it’s not overwhelming – there’s just enough to be procedural but with an ever expanding intrigue. And it’s incredibly fast-paced. There’s no major dwelling points, no pausing for 10 minutes to have an argument about something. Even when Liv’s been upset, it’s been a passing voiceover – yet not passé. And so far, she’s always overcome her problems. She has an amazingly positive outlook for a zombie, and is able to transfer her energy into doing something productive.

My one complaint is that the show must be sponsored by Instagram. Seriously – how many times can you mention it in one episode?! Having said that, the show successfully uses social media in portraying the difficulties in growing up in the digital age.

I wanted to keep the events of the show as minimal as possible. I entered the show relatively blind, and came out with a positive view. I suggest you do the same. Shake off the worries, keep in mind the first five minutes are just the first five minutes, and embrace the life of the undead!

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In the Flat, Everyone Can Hear You Scream.

I’m not covering new ground here. In fact, I’m re-treading very very old ground that we all know the story to. But how better to start Face It, Tiger’s weekly film review than with one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, which just so happens to be led – nay – dominated by a woman?!

I begin with a confession. Until a few weeks ago, I had never seen Alien. In fact, I didn’t even really know what it was about. Sure, there was a stomach churning belly-bursting scene, and I was pretty sure it had something to do with space, but that was about it. To geeks, sci-fi enthusiasts, and film buffs everywhere, I apologise. But the entire experience was a sheer thrill-ride for me. It instantly became firmly lodged in my all-time favourite movies list, and I felt an instant compulsion to put the second one on straight away – which I did. And I loved that too, though I felt it lost its edge slightly: and for that reason, Aliens will feature in a second post some point in the future – but maybe not 57 years from now…

Because this is such a classic, I won’t bore you with ‘here’s what happens, this is who made it, yadda yadda yadda’. Instead, I want to focus on precisely why Alien resonated so strongly with me: why is it so important? So, let’s begin.

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Is there no sound in this film?

Alien seriously creeped me out from the get-go. I was (stupidly) sitting in a dark room, at night, on my own. But the overbearing intensity of the opening scenes, silently panning around key areas of Nostromo created a knot in my stomach as I realised what I’d let myself in for. Atmospheric horror. The kind that lingers, stays with you. I expected the creature to jump out at me instantly – I wanted it to, to relieve the aching silence. Instead, the silence stayed, and the tension grew. As we met the characters and learned their traits, the anxiety receded, but I was still very aware that it wasn’t the end.

No – don’t go near that thing! Run away!

It was all too obvious that Kane was going to get an alien to the face. To be honest, he kind of deserved it for his blatant stupidity. Rule number one: don’t investigate pulsing egg things on an alien planet, especially if they’re inside a giant alien skeleton. This is where watching through fingers and shouting at the screen began for me. It was also where I realised that Ellen Ripley was hugely important: listen to the woman who wants to keep the man with an alien stuck to his face in quarantine!

I honestly thought this would be where hell broke loose. Aliens would come screaming from the rafters, and guns would be blazing – clearly showing that I’ve grown up under the influence of Michael Bay’s era of cinema. But instead, silence. That quiet tension. Building.

Stop looking for the damn cat!

Honestly, if an alien breaks out of my co-workers belly, runs off, and turns into a seven-foot creature, finding the ship’s cat would be the least of my worries. But this crew is LOYAL. They will find that cat and save all nine of its lives!

I think Alien ranks as one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. I watched it through my fingers, scared but captivated. The cinematography was fantastic. Slow, but gritty. The sound was perfect: silent and ominous, with subtle builds at the right moments. I loved the quickening heartbeat as tension would gradually increase. And I was genuinely scared of the creature itself. I obviously knew what it looked like – it’s iconic. But, every time it lingered on screen, I felt myself recoiling.

The special effects have even aged well. There’s something truly magical about the movies of the 1970s and 1980s where the effects were real. Android Ash was super creepy when he was torn apart, dripping milky goo stuff (also: major twist! Who saw that one coming?!). However, I did laugh when Dallas ran into the creature in the air vent. It was less ‘menacing monster scare’ and more ‘eeeey, how y’doin’, buddy?’

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But that was the only flaw I could pick with the movie. It was tense, terrifying and terrific.

The Ripley Effect

Now, the most significant reason I wanted to begin with Alien.

Ellen Ripley.

Wow.

Here we have one of the most beloved, critically acclaimed movies of all time – and it is carried by a woman. A magnificent, strong, determined woman. When you think about it, we’ve seen Alien‘s basic premise a thousand times in movies: a monster tears through an isolated group, leaving one helpless female until last. But Ripley isn’t helpless. She’s anything but. She’s a leader. If they’d listened to her from the beginning, all of the crew would be alive (well, maybe not Kane). Ripley not only saves herself, but manages to outwit her predator – AND save her cat.

ripley

Let’s take a slightly closer look at Ellen Ripley. First off, she’s an astronaut! How cool is that!? Okay, okay, technically a warrant officer, but she can fly, control and command a ship – in space! Second – she’s a complete badass. She immediately earned a place on my zombie apocalypse team. Having no qualms about facing unknown creatures, firing guns and wielding axes, and blasting an alien out of a shuttle, it’s fair to say she’s happy to get her hands dirty if it means survival for her and her crew. Which also means she’s not driven by romance and relationships. At no point throughout the entire film is she busy sucking on some guys face: “I’m doing this for you, bae.” Ellen Ripley is being an amazing badass for herself. She doesn’t need to prove anything, to anyone. And that is so important: she is not defined by her male peers. She defines herself. She’s not the damsel, the sidekick, or the hot object. She’s the hero.

Which leads me to conclude with a question. Why aren’t there more Ellen Ripley’s in cinema? Only around 15% of Hollywood protagonists are female and, more shockingly, only 30% of female characters have speaking parts in film. We have stories to tell too, so why aren’t we telling them? We aren’t all like the chick-flick diva, always the bridesmaid and never the bride; the style-savvy fashion goddesses a la Sex and the City; the sassy sidekick to the muscular male superman. We can be fighters; we can be heroes; we can be leaders. We can be Ripleys. We are Ripleys. We just need someone to tell our stories.

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