Television Tuesday :: and so our watch[ing] has ended, part 1.

21 May

Of an indeterminate number.

Oh, spoilers.

So Game of Thrones finished. I’m going to be frank with you, I – and you know how much a part of me this canon has been – actually didn’t watch the last three episodes. Once drift partner (who has been so good through all of this, putting up with a show she didn’t care about that hurt her over and over to help me deal with feeling hurt by it as well) heard the morning before s8e04 what was going to happen to Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) I made the decision to absent myself and just catch the Twitter/etc. highlight reel because you know freaking what, I don’t need to do that to myself, and I definitely didn’t want to do that to drift partner (who’s been holding onto Missandei for dear life since the absolute travesty that was the Sand Snakes). So yeah, some of what I’m mad about is coming secondhand.

But I’m real mad. Mad enough that I think I’m going to need to take another week or two to really sort through my complex emotions about it before I share with y’all. And look, it’s not just that it “didn’t end like I wanted it to” specifically regarding Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). I’m not just pitching a fit because I didn’t get my way. (I know my mom meant well when she apologized for that being the case, and I know she didn’t mean that I was pitching a fit, but it stuck with me in a way I just figured out how to articulate. Sorry, Mom.) I’m somewhat pitching a fit because I didn’t get my way in the most insulting ways possible, but I’m also pitching a fit because I’ve sat through this show breaking my heart dozens of times over and I thought that maybe, just maybe, it would turn out to be worth it in the end.

(Yes, I’m happy for Sansa [Sophie Turner]. I have some opinions about her writing this season, but I am happy for her. I’m also happy for Arya [Maisie Williams]. It’s not that I’m completely mad about every single end result. It’s that I’m mad about most of the end results and also how they were achieved.)

But today, I’m still processing, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the messages that one could conceivably take away from the way this show was written. And because attempting to be funny is helping me not scream, I’m going to present these to you as:

facts about humanity that space aliens would discern if their only exposure to human behavior was specifically watching all of Game of Thrones (as recounted by said aliens, obviously)

  • The females of the species are largely forbidden from wearing pants or carrying weapons, despite the frequent usefulness of such things. The females that challenge this norm are regarded with disdain until a male who wears pants or carries weapons publicly approves of them.
  • The females of the species are sorted into three categories based on social status, inclination, and behavior patterns: the few norm-challengers mentioned in the above point; those who either passively or actively adhere to the patriarchal structure of society; and those who supposedly exist to please men domestically and/or sexually. Those in the latter two categories are, as a rule, gentle and even subservient, as confidence is a trait that is only considered acceptable in women who wear pants and/or carry weapons and have received approval. Confidence presented by any females who wear skirts and/or do not carry weapons, or who are considered conventionally attractive, frightens and angers the males.
  • Conventional attractiveness in females is important to the males of the species, and they will often degrade those females who do not meet their standards; however, conventionally attractive females have a higher risk of being underestimated and/or deemed somehow mentally/emotionally unsuitable.
  • In addition to the females wearing pants and/or carrying weapons who have received approval, females who have not reached sexual maturity and/or some females who do have intercourse are mostly considered non-threatening. (Note: females who choose not to have intercourse for reasons associated with their spiritual beliefs may pose other so-called threats. Those that choose not to have intercourse for other reasons are subject to case-by-case approval or disapproval.)
  • Power can be directly related to one’s biological family, one’s biological gender, and/or how many arbitrarily valuable possessions or small metal discs (currency) one possesses. (Note: males of the species will often use females of the species as currency. If the two parties are biological or marital family, this is not considered slave trade.)
  • Slavery is one person exchanging people who are not their biological or marital family for possessions or small metal discs (currency). In some parts of the world, this is considered unacceptable, while in others it is common practice; however, many of those who consider it unacceptable care little about stopping it elsewhere.
  • There is also a difference between slavery and a feudal economy (the latter is widely considered acceptable and unchangeable).
  • Many females who have fewer arbitrarily valuable possessions or small metal discs (currency) will engage in intercourse with males in order to obtain more of the small metal discs (currency). This is generally looked down upon despite many males regarding these females’ physical availability as necessary for their survival.
  • Males of the species often regard any female who has reached sexual maturity (and some who have not) as physically available to them. Some males rely on someone like their romantic partner for physical availability, others exchange small metal discs (currency) with females in order for them to be physically available, and others still will force physical contact on any female they deem appealing. The third of these categories is generally considered undesirable, but no cultural shifts toward stopping this practice or punishing those who partake in it have been made.
  • Females survive forced physical contact of a sexual or violent nature more frequently than is strictly necessary; however, surviving these things often has the unfortunate side effect of making the females in question become manipulative, unkind toward other women, and/or a violent lunatic.
  • Both males and females may develop a dependence on alcoholic beverages; this may inspire males to force physical contact of a sexual orviolent nature on others or it may inspire an increase in humor and/or wit. Females will likely have the worst aspects of their personality (i.e. manipulativeness) exaggerated.
  • Some males who do abhorrent things are considered villainous and are disposed of as needed, but others are given the chance to redeem themselves and either live or die heroically. Females who do abhorrent things are almost exlusively disposed of.
  • Those whose bodies differ from the species norm will be identified primarily by that difference. Those whose minds differ from the species norm will be thought poorly of and also often disposed of.
  • Males of the species consider themselves superior to females; males and females with pale skin consider themselves superior to those with darker skin. There are no marked differences between any of these groups, save those inflicted on them by social conditioning.
  • A great deal of the social conditioning placed upon people seems designed to tear them apart and enforce arbitrary power hierarchies.

The aliens don’t have a particularly high opinion of humanity based on this.

–your fangirl heroine.

yuck

Spoiler Alert Saturday :: my thoughts on Avengers: Endgame

4 May

Let the past die.

Drift partner whispered this line from The Last Jedi to me during Endgame in regards to a particular scene, but the more I think about it the more it sums up my thoughts about the movie and honestly the MCU at large.

Per the avid requests for no undesirable spoiler reveals I’m going to preface this discussion with the fact that this has a lot of spoilers. Not all of them, but a lot.

I’m not referring to the actual death in the film when I say the aforementioned Star Wars thing. I can think of slightly worse ways for Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) to have gone out, but I have the kind of morbid mind that comes from living in Buffy and Game of Thrones. (At least it was more Anya than Tara, more Ygritte than Ros. “At least.”) Suffice to say I’m actually angrier about that today than I was the day I saw the film. Many more reupatble publications and bloggers have gone into this in more detail and all I have to add is speculation that I’m going to withhold out of supersition. I’m not making drift partner get into it beacause she’s even angerier and in an even more personal way (I’m exempting her from this review altogether for this reason). But one of the biggest reasons that it’s incredibly annoying is that while it’s technically an active heroic choice made by the character, it’s narratively more about the impact it has on the old guard of white boys than it is about her as a character and a woman.

That’s the past I’m saying should die.

They finally let Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) die, and while it was drawn out it’s done. (Sorry, pals. Friendly reminder that this is not a Tony Stark-friendly blog.) Steve (Chris Evans) too is out of the game, thanks to wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey shenanigans that I can’t even be mad about because when I heard the spoiler I was prepared for it to be a lot dumber and more insulting. Plus, Steve’s my big brother. I want him to have happiness and a good nap, or whatever.

So of said old guard, that leaves Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – who is the subject of a lot of really unacceptable weight-related jokes – and Clint (Jeremy Renner) – who spends the entire movie doing completely unnecessary and often slightly racist things out of his manpain – and Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) – who has integrated with the Hulk and spends most of the movie explaining things or being explained to. The former goes off with the Guardians at the end, which will be fun if it’s not just one futile dick-measuring contest (futile because, c’mon Quill, Thor will win any contest with you but especially one about your alleged prowess) and the latter two are at least tentatively slated for Disney+ shows. Now, Clint matters not at all, but his show will bring in his successor-Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, so that’s useful. (We have theories about the Disney+ lineup, but again, not sharing widely from supersition.) But even if 3/5 of the old guard of white boys still stands, I want to talk about the new guard, some of whom come from Avengers 2.0 (post-Ultron) and some of whom appeared after.

That’s:

  • Rhodey, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), a disabled black man whose suit is functionally identical to Tony’s but who’s genuinely a more likable person
  • Sam, aka Falcon, maybe aka Captain America (Anthony Mackie), a black man with PTSD who inherited Cap’s shield and already had his moral compass (and is already slated for another Disney+ show with…)
  • Bucky, fka the Winter Soldier, maybe aka the White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), a disabled white man with PTSD who’s sort of a narrative and skillset-related blank slate since we still mostly only know him as a cipher
  • Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), a white girl with PTSD (who’s Jewish and also several shades of mentally ill even if the MCU never acknowledges it), who’s one of three (3) characters strong enough to hurt Thanos using only her innate abilities (and who is also slated for a Disney+ show)
  • Scott, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), a white man who hits some previously-established power quotas on the team and Trojan-horses in his daughter Cassie (part of the aforementioned speculation) and already Trojan-horsed in
  • Hope, aka the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), a white woman who gets all the shit done and also seems like a likely candidate to bankroll it
  • Peter P., aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland), a white boy (who should/could be Jewish) who just wants to help!! (already slated for a second solo film)
  • T’Challa, aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a black man who’s the literal king of the coolest nation on Earth (already slated for a second solo film)
  • Shuri, maybe also aka Black Panther (Letitia Wright), a black woman who’s the smartest person on Earth and a literal princess
  • Okoye, general of the Dora Milaje (Danai Gurira), a black woman who leads the best and also coolests femael squadron of frighters
  • Valkyrie, fka Brunnhilde (Tessa Thompson), a bisexual and multiracial (black/Latina/white) woman with PTSD who’s functionally immortal, now the warrior queen of Asgard, and rides a fucking pegasus
  • Carol, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), a white woman with PTSD (who’s coded very queerly) who’s the second of three (3) people strong enough to take out Thanos and also basically anyone, who defends the entirety of space like a badass (going to have a second solo film)
  • Pepper, aka Rescue (Gwyneth Paltrow), a white woman just starting out in the hero game but those of us who knew this was a possibility screamed with delight because we have been shouting for this since Iron Man 3
  • the collective Guardians (Peter Quill [Chris Pratt] the white boy, Rocket [Bradley Cooper] the gun raccoon, Groot [Vin Diesel] the deus ex tree, Drax [Dave Bautista] the brawler who’s a Filipino man under all that alien makeup, Nebula [Karen Gillan] the angry blue disabled abuse survivor, Mantis [Pom Klementieff] the aggressively optimistic empath who’s the third of three [3] people strong enough to affect Thanos and technically a Korean woman – who also have another film coming)

Do you see my point? My hope is that Endgame was Marvel killing the structure of the past, the fact that the narrative was so white/male-centered. That now we’ll be able to tell more of the stories that the rest of us want to hear, the stories that reprsent a more genuine universe. (I will point out that the first POC headlining hero and first female headlining hero are among those with more films coming and that both Guardians and Spider-Man have fairly diverse casts despite being about white guys named Peter.)

But for example: on one hand that shot of all of the female fighters was sort of pandering (you want this, eat it up) and it stung that Black Widow wasn’t present, but I still got a giddy little thrill seeing so many of my faves coexisting powerfully. It’s the giddy thrill that I got during so much of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, except since so much of this movie (which in my opinion is technically overall better than Infinity War despite its more glaringly obvious flaws) was less exciting it felt almost more thrilling by comparison. Finally! Things going in the right direction.

And I’m not even discussing the characters in the greater MCU that weren’t in the final battle. There’s Maria (Lashanna Lynch) and Monica Rambeau, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), MJ (Zendaya Coleman) and Ned (Jacob Batalon), everyone from the television shows that deserve more love and attention. We’re on a precipice, is my point.

We’ve been going slowly torward something greater. I just hope and pray Marvel is smart enough to see that they’re already late getting there.

–your fangirl heroine.

smirk

I just realized that I got to the end of this review and forgot to mention Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Suffer.

Music Monday :: my thoughts on Amidst the Chaos

8 Apr

Hi, Sara! Hi, music reviews that are surprisingly difficult to find time to do the way I do them but this one is very important.

“Fire.” So this is one of the pre-releases, but I’m still going to give you ALL of my thoughts on it. First of all being: dayum, Sara, the only thing you’ve ever missed from your music is a little bit of Delta Rae and here it freaking is. Which is to say deep soul, Southern Gothic-y hum-hum, twang, harmonies… here we are. Also, fire. This is a perfect example of an imperfect romance song as Sara specializes in. It’s not a love song, but it’s still got a little optimism. I learned a lesson from this ultimately short-time romance, kind of thing. I’ve, you know, not had that experience myself, but it’s really interesting to hear a song about and I’m sure it relates to a lot of people and it’s also really useful for thematic reasons. Also it’s just gorgeous.

“No Such Thing.” Beginning with a bit more twinkle in the piano, but the thing I love about Sara is that by virtue of the timbre of her voice she’s never totally twinkle, and also her twinkle doesn’t always go with chipper songs. It balances out. Oof. This one is also useful for thematic reasons, being as it’s about not being able to get over someone. Also, even though she doesn’t twinkle sometimes her high notes soar. The thing is you can tell that Sara is someone with a theatre background by the way she sings. This is something I am very much in favor of.

“Armor.” Another pre-release, and already what we dubbed “the most Sara song ever.” We begin by revisiting the Eden story (which she’s touched on before) and some jazzy riffs, and then suddenly feminism! So much feminism. “Strength means blessed with an enemy.” That’s really beautiful. This is not a song about taking the high road, exactly, but it’s a song about growing from the shit that life throws at you, basically. Historical feminism, now, and more harmony and this low piano that sounds honestly not unlike a vintage James Bond theme in some ways but, you know, 100% better. Taking strenght from adversity and also from the Earth and other inspirational people around you and… ugh. Sara, I’m so glad of you.

“If I Can’t Have You.” And here comes something much softer and warmer in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of gospel to this one, too, and bafflingly Google Play even classifies this as R&B/soul – look, there’s a lot of soul in this, but R&B is something that Sara is not. Sara is mainstream-accessible baroque pop. This is also interesting because it’s a love song that’s post-love. It’s a post-love song. Leaving with the good memories, etcetera.

“Eyes on You.” Guitar? That’s a bit rock’n’roll of you. But this is completely a theatre song, good grief. That’s not a bad thing, I just mean – this is very Jason Robert Brown. This is a song cycle song if I’ve ever heard one. This is at least 30% “I Can Do Better Than That” from The Last 5 Years. It’s not quite a story song, but it’s a song that tells a very specific story. It can’t be divorced from its context.

“Miss Simone.” Full disclaimer: I would be incredibly wary of this guitar riff if the vocals were a boy. It’s got just the right sensitive twang. But it’s Sara, and therefore this is pleasant and slow to listen to. Feels a bit Spring Standards-y, a bit Ingrid Michaelson (I’m not surprised about the latter, since they’re pals and all).

“Wicked Love.” Fireflies in a jar, twisting vines, stars. I was expecting something a little darker with this title, honestly, but it’s just more Sara being Sara. That’s not a bad thing. Sara is the best Sara and I’m here for all of it. The beautiful thing about her is that I was about to say “she is just so done now” but, honestly, she’s always been so done. She’s just saying what she thinks and giving no fucks, and she’s doing it with a smile. That’s pure gold. Revenge is a dish best served with whipped cream and a cherry on top, basically.

“Orpheus.” Oh, good, now I’ll just crawl into my feelings. *Titular line, also. Ugh. This is beautiful and I’m not sure if Sara meant it but I’m really relating to this song as a queer woman. “We will not give up on love now.” That’s the whole thing. Being queer, being a queer person, is an act of defiance in a lot of ways. Sometimes it’s hard, because there are people out there that literally think that just our existence and our love is criminal, sinful, whatever – but to keep doing it is an act of quiet strength and to keep fighting for the right to do it makes it so people after us can do it a little easier.

“Poetry by Dead Men.” I am less emotional about this one, but it is nonetheless beautiful. Drift partner mentioned that a lot of this album reminds her of Carol and Maria from Captain Marvel, and yeah, here it is. I get that for sure.

“Someone Who Loves Me.” We’re winding down, I can feel it. I don’t mind. This is pleasant and good and I’m glad that by the end of the album Sara finally has someone she can be so comfortable with. “The weight of all the world can blind me to its beauty” uh same. Sara Bareilles voice of a generation. A generation of very tired women stuck cleaning up other people’s messes who just want to curl up and be loved and love in return and have a nice day despite things sometimes being rough.

“Saint Honesty.” Oh, this is just classic. This is also a bittersweet slow dance. I’m just going to be here mentally swaying and half-smiling. This sounds kind of churchy but not in a bad way, like the lyrics aren’t particularly churchy I feel like. It just has that kind of sound. The bridge and the way she’s riffing and the piano and all.

“A Safe Place to Land.” Not to be confused (per drift partner) with the Waitress song “A Soft Place to Land,” although that’s very silly, Sara. Oh, hello, John Legend! Jesus Christ Superstar was sure a thing that happened to my face, but he’s a nice fellow and I’m glad they’re friends who have continued to collaborate. This isn’t the kind of song I have a lot of thoughts about on first listen, but it’s very pleasant and nice.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Fashion Friday :: the inevitable.

29 Mar

mv5bodlhogm4mgmtyjbjmi00mwq2ltk4owutyzq2yze0nwzkodlkxkeyxkfqcgdeqw1yb3nzzxi40._v1_cr25101419798_al_uy268_cr840477268_al_

By which I mean, doing vaguely pinup Captain Marvel was inevitable because I love both things and this needs to happen.

bow

So like, this is kind of ridiculous and a little bit drama bitch, but it’s vintage-y and also, at no point is in inappropriate to make anyone in a Marvel property a little bit drama bitch. Bow-Tied Beauty Cropped Sweater in Burgundy, Collectif at ModCloth.

sleek

She’s wearing pants, of course, because she may be pinup but she’s also butch as hell. Sleek Mainstay High-Waisted Skinny Jeans in Navy, Collectif at ModCloth.

off

I dunno, I just feel really good about the vibe of these. Off and Cunning Oxford Heel, ModCloth.

drop

There’s the gold stars, but also there’s rainbows BECAUSE CAROL IS QUITE GAY. Drop In Anytime Rainbow Earrings, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Captain Marvel

24 Mar

Captain Marvel (which we did see opening weekend but were busy preparing for Emerald City Comicon and therefore didn’t blog about, and then I was a lazyass who also didn’t blog about that yet because adulthood is exhausting) is a pretty good movie, with a few absolutely brilliant scenes and some structural issues that make it a little exposition-heavy in the first third especially. In a lot of ways, it’s an important movie, especially for young girls and young women. I like it quite a bit – and I find it frustrating in some ways too. But overall, I think it’s definitely worth a watch, and hopefully a step in the right direction for Marvel regarding female characters.

Now, my issues with the movie. First, the marketing and buzz really went hard on the “girl power” angle, which I think was a smart business decision. After all, this is Marvel’s first female-led movie (after eleven years of the MCU, which is…certainly a thing to note), and one of the first mainstream movies about female superheroes since 2004’s infamous Catwoman seemed to largely kill studios’ enthusiasm for them. DC’s Wonder Woman had a similar marketing strategy, to great effect. However, one thing I find frustrating about both movies is that they both star and center white women. The issue with this is that making the movie all about “girl power” and suggesting that all girls and women who watch the movie can identify with Carol and Diana can feel alienating to some women of color. (I am biracial Chinese and personally I related to Arthur in Aquaman more than either Diana or Carol, though I like all three movies and characters a lot.) Wonder Woman is a little more technically egregious about this, given that the only significant women of color are some of the Amazons, who mostly don’t have speaking parts. Captain Marvel does have Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Carol’s best friend, and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), who play more significant roles. (There’s also Gemma Chan’s Minn-Erva, who has about ten minutes total of screentime and is the second Asian actress recently cast in an MCU movie who has a secondary role as an alien with “alien” skin color. This is not a great look, Marvel.) The Rambeaus are delightful, and welcome additions to the MCU, but the “black best friend” trope is a repeated one in the MCU (Steve and Sam, Tony and Rhodey, etc.). Maria’s role in the film is largely to be an emotional touchstone for Carol, to remind her of her life on earth and cheer her on. This isn’t necessarily a problem, especially given the MCU’s relative lack of significant female friendships, but it is part of a troubling pattern that should be discussed. Hopefully, future films will allow Maria and/or Monica to have their own character arcs and storylines. I have seen a lot of women and girls of all races express their excitement about Carol, Monica, and Maria, which is great, but I also want to be sure to acknowledge the discomfort or exclusion felt by some others.

Additionally, viewers unfamiliar with Monica Rambeau as a character may not know that she was actually the first female character to take the Captain Marvel title in the comics. This article by Court Danee does a decent job breaking down the issues with this, and as the article is written by a black woman, it’s important to acknowledge the optics in choosing Carol over Monica. Marvel deliberately chose to tell the story of a blonde white Captain Marvel over a black Captain Marvel. This, again, was partially a business decision – by 2013, when the film began its first stages of development, Carol had been established as the new Captain Marvel, and the comics would continue to promote her under this moniker for the next few years. I can certainly see the logic in wanting to tell a story about Carol, while also including Monica as a secondary character and likely setting her up to take the mantle in future movies. (Further complicating things is that the Ms. Marvel title, which Carol had previously held for several decades, has also been passed down to the teenage Kamala Khan as of 2013. Trying to establish Carol-as-Ms.-Marvel in a movie, only to have her change her name later, would likely confuse and alienate audiences who are not as familiar with legacy characters and the ever-changing codenames of many superheroes.) However, it is important to question why Marvel felt that a movie about a white character rather than a black character would be more marketable. And as mentioned, it does tie back into the “girl power” marketing – because Marvel wanted Carol to be as relatable as possible, they played into the idea of whiteness as default. There is a frustrating tendency for even franchises that attempt to be progressive or court new female fans to cast white actresses for their leading roles. The Thirteenth Doctor in series 11 of Doctor Who is played by Jodie Whittaker, who is a joy to watch – and she is a blonde, thin white woman. The 2016 Ghostbusters film did a bit better, as Leslie Jones is one of the four titular Ghostbusters and Melissa McCarthy (as a fat woman) does not fit the stereotypical Hollywood leading lady stereotype (and Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann is playing a clearly neuroatypical, queer woman), but three out of four team members are still white. It is a frustrating tendency in female-led geek properties that the leading ladies are white and often blonde. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, expecting all women to relate to a white female character can feel exclusionary and even grating, especially when it is marketed as a triumph of representation for “all” women. So, while I can understand why they chose to use Carol for this story, I feel that it’s also important to consider why they did, and the implications therein. (Full disclosure, I actually “met” Monica in comics years before I met Carol, and I’ve been fond of her ever since, so I’d love to see her get her due in the movies too! She’s a significant character in Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. if you want something fairly short and fun.)

Anyway, though. There are a lot of parts of this movie that are good, and it’s an experience that I (original heroine, as drift partner was explaining the downsides – not because I don’t see them, I do, but because she’s better at articulating those points, and because I, a white woman, shouldn’t really be the one getting into them anyway) found overall positive. First, let’s talk about Brie Larson. Brie Larson is an absolute fucking delight as she always is, and as I’ve found her for nearly a decade (I feel like I’ve been on the Brie Larson train longer than a lot of people, because of United States of Tara and then Scott Pilgrim, so I am oddly invested in her success). A great deal of Carol’s story is wrapped up in her own identity: when we meet her, she’s “Vers,” a Kree warrior-in-training who doesn’t remember her past and struggles with powers she can’t always control. (Spoiler: that’s Kree interference. I knew this immediately upon seeing the regulator on her neck, similar to but not the same as the one that freaking Kasius – a Kree – put on Daisy and the other Inhumans in season 5a of Agents of SHIELD. Considering drift partner and I were possibly the only people in our theater who watch SHIELD, there were no murmurs of recognition, and it’s possible this evaded most people, but the fact that it’s interference is ultimately revealed and it didn’t really matter if you knew it or not. I just felt sort of smug for knowing in that way I sometimes do when I can tell that I picked up on something that, for example, gatekeeping geek boys maybe didn’t.) Vers is openly troubled by her amnesia, but she’s also been training with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law, setting off alarms from the get-go) and wants to impress him and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence. She pushes to be involved in Starforce and specifically his team, which through a series of happenings leads her to Earth, and once on Earth, well… she learns some things about herself in the past and then struggles simultaneously with reconciling them with what she knows about herself in the present, what she believes, and what she feels. Yon-Rogg is also constantly telling Carol that she’s too emotional, trying to get her to operate less for herself and more for the greater good of the Kree, and she’s therefore constantly battling between those emotions and what she’s been taught is logical and correct behavior. Brie Larson does a very, very good job portraying this. People have criticized her for not emoting enough, ironically, but the thing is that she’s emoting very subtly at any given moment. At no point in this film did I look at her face and find myself confused by her expression or doubting her sincerity. She just looked like someone who was trying to play down what she was feeling because she felt like she had to.

(All of this, incidentally, is part of a pretty standard warrior narrative, but it’s also interesting on a meta level because of Carol being a woman, who are very often being criticized for being too emotional, for being temperamental or irrational. I, a woman who is very used to playing down emotions so as not to cause trouble or let people read me in ways I don’t want them to, found all of this actually very familiar.)

Sammy L. was clearly having a great time in this film, and it’s fun seeing Fury interacting with someone he’s not having to babysit (i.e. the Avengers) or not not co-babysitting with (Maria Hill, Melinda May). He’s getting to have a lot of fun, and you definitely see a softer side of him. He loves Goose the cat*! He also helps wash dishes after dinner, which has incited men’s rage.

Maria and Monica, despite the aforementioned problems, are wonderful. They join Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) in the small pantheon of excellent MCU mother-daughter relationships, and beyond that they’re both such valuable characters. Neither of them doubt themselves, they just follow their hearts and desires: Maria helps Carol do cool spoiler stuff, Monica gets as involved as a ten-year-old possibly can. They both emote deeply and meaningfully and create a real, positive home and family.

And then there’s Minn-Erva. We love Gemma Chan, so we automatically loved Minn-Erva, but make no mistake: she’s a pretty awful person when all is said and done. She’s a villain in the comics, apparently, and she’s definitely closer to that than a hero in the movie, but she’s so damn funny when she gets the chance to be. She’s snide, she rolls her eyes, she talks to Carol like they’re characters in Mean Girls. She should have had more to do, but she’s a delight.

I was about to write a paragraph about all of the soundtrack choices, too, but then I realized that you should probably get to experience those fun surprises for yourself. Those and a lot of other cultural touchstones made it so 90s that for us, two people who were children in the 90s, it could be either delightfully nostalgic or uncomfortably familiar (pre-90s computers just make me laugh, but as someone who has memories of 90s computers, seeing them in action evokes a weird emotional response). A lot of the story has to be experienced, too. None of it is entirely surprising, but it’s worth a definite watch.

Also, there’s a cat*, and Goose is the best damn cat* you’ll see in a film this year.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Film Friday :: movies that should have been Sapphic [Bring It On]

1 Mar

I know I’ve mentioned before that I had a pretty serious Bring It On phase. In junior high, my three best friends and I were so into it that we decided we wanted to be cheerleaders, and funnily enough I was the only one of us that decided not to actually do that once we got into high school. We also wrote (meaning we all collectively brainstormed and I actually wrote) a very stupid movie that was initially a parody-amalgam of teen movies and ended up being a parody-amalgam of every movie we’d watched in the last several years (I’ll have to tell you this whole gory story someday, it was pretty hilariously dumb), and rival cheerleading squads were one of the central plot points.

But I’m pretty sure none of them loved this movie in the way I did. In a gay way.

Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time. I first saw Bring It On when I was like ten. It was one of the first big-girl (read: PG-13) movies I rented from Blockbuster. I owned it on VHS and I owned the soundtrack on CD. I would watch it with my friends, on VHS, in what I still called “the playroom” because it had once housed my Barbie Dream House and Hot Wheels tracks and Lego table. I would listen to the soundtrack on my Walkman. I didn’t get all of the sex jokes, or I figured them out along the way but definitely missed them initially.

But while all of my friends seemed like they wanted to be Kirsten Dunst’s Torrance, or someone like her (the popular but still good-hearted typical cheerleader type), I wanted to be Eliza Dushku’s Missy. I had no illusions that I would ever be able to perform gymnastic stunts like her (I could not, and still cannot, even do a handstand) but while I was hypothetically interested in the group activity of cheerleading I also inherently came with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

And, of course, I was incredibly unbelievably gay for Eliza Dushku. I’m fairly certain she, in this movie, is my first solid distinct crush ever (except a boy I knew in kindergarten that I remember nothing about except for that I thought his last name was Glasses, which I am positive it was not). I wanted to hang out with her (I didn’t do well with Popular types, but snarky assholes with affinities for doodling on themselves were my speed) and, though I didn’t realize it, I thought she was very attractive.

I also, in retrospect, read her character very queer-coded. When Missy joins the squad, she’s the sarcastic quasi-punk girl who wants fuck-all to do with the politics of cheerleading (“I transferred from Los Angeles, your school has no gymnastics team, this is a last resort”). She quickly becomes friends with Torrance, the kind of friends who have one-on-one sleepovers (in my experience, this was something you only did with really close friends), and she’s sort of accidentally instrumental in Torrance’s learning to be a better person or whatever while Torrance gets her to be a little bit less of an asshole.

Torrance also, unfortunately, develops a crush on/relationship with Missy’s brother Cliff (Jesse Bradford) and it’s stupid and heterosexual.

But look. Missy is the alternative one. I’ve known many heterosexual alternative kids, but I’ve also known many queer alternative kids, and a disproportionate amount of cinematic queer girls are alternative. Missy also, at no point in the movie, flirts with a boy, expresses any interest in doing so, expresses any jealousy over another girl doing so, or is characterized as being too innocent to want to do so. There are a lot of background characters in this movie who don’t have visible romance plots, but Missy is the second female lead! In most high school movies, she’d be shoehorned into a relationship for optics or at least have more of a lovingly jealous opinion of Torrance’s relationship. (Hypothetically. Not literally, since it’s with her brother. Twin brother? I was never clear, since they were in the same year at school but also Cliff looks like he got held back at least two grades not for stupidity but just for refusing to put in any effort.) ALSO, Torrance ends up with Missy’s brother. Narratively the boy version of Missy. That always struck me as really odd in a way I couldn’t articulate.

I can now. It’s transference, plain and simple. It’s “well, the nice normal cute one can’t end up with the punk girl because that would be gay, but that makes narrative sense so, uh, here’s a boy who can fill the same function.” It’s like how ASOIAF fandom will cheerfully marry Sansa off to Willas Tyrell not because he’s a character they know and love (or in fact have ever met, since he’s only been mentioned thus far) but because they know they like Sansa and Margaery together but they don’t want to be gay. (Which is ridiculous. Sansa and Margaery are freaking lesbians. But I digress.)

Also, there are definitely some interactions between Torrance and Missy that I found not weird but odd at the time, and I realize now this is because they were weirdly flirtatious. Sometimes they’re just talking like buddies, but sometimes they’re still friendly but talking in ways I didn’t associate with how I talked to my friends or how other friends in things I consumed talked to each other. It was best marked by a certain funny feeling in my chest, unscientific as that is, and the way I can tell that this is a Gay Feeling is that I also got it in my chest while watching my first should-have-been-Sapphic movie, All I Wanna Do. (The fact that both of these instances involved Kirsten Dunst is actually a coincidence, given that by herself and in other roles she doesn’t particularly set off my Sapphic alarms like, say, Eliza Dushku does. [And that, in turn, is not meant to speculate about the woman’s personal life, just that she plays characters that vibe that way like who. And also I, a Sapphic person, am attracted to her.])

Imagine: it’s exactly the same movie. I mean, shit, Torrance can even still use Cliff’s shitty rock song he wrote for her in the cheerleading competition finale. But instead of her kissing him at the end, she kisses Missy. I feel like that would ring much truer.

(I can see how one might, incidentally, also frenemies-ship Torrance and Isis [Gabrielle Union], the rival cheerleading captain. I don’t, particularly, and there’s less solid evidence, which is why I didn’t really get into it. But it could be done. I just know it’s not the gay that I always subconsciously needed from this movie.)

–your fangirl heroine.

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Superlative Monday :: the 2019 Oscars

25 Feb

Y’all, I don’t think I can express to you enough how unenthusiastic I am about award shows anymore. I still like looking at pictures of pretty people in pretty dresses and suits (speaking of: get it, Billy Porter) and I’m still really happy when deserving people win, but the idea of doing what I used to and trying to see As Many Oscar Movies As Possible exhausts and saddens me and I don’t think I could sit through the whole show without crying from pain or boredom.

That said: no, I didn’t watch. But I do have some feelings.

Black Panther (Costume Design [Ruth Carter], Production Design [Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart], Score [Ludwig Goransson])
These guys can get it too. I’m beyond thrilled they took visual creative categories, not just because it’s historic but because honestly, this is in my top 5 of visually stunning movies. I still viscerally yearn to make some of the costumes for someone (not myself, obviously) because they’re gorgeous. The landscapes of this movie are things you could frame and hang on your wall as art. Also, the score is amazing and that’s great.

Have not seen The Favourite yet but Olivia Coleman seems awesome so good on her. Also, she was in Hot Fuzz, which means she is even more likely to be awesome.

Have not seen Green Book and do not intend to (fuck it, fuck it very very much – I literally know nobody who saw or liked it, I have heard nothing about it except that it’s cringey about race and there’s a bunch of racist bullshit around it) but I’m proud of Mahershala Ali and will be till the end of time.

Have not seen If Beale Street Could Talk but I am also proud of Regina King.

Roma (Cinematography [Alfonso Cuaron], Foreign Language Film, Director [Alfonso Cuaron])
I have not seen this yet, either, but I really want to, and I am always glad Alfonso Cuaron gets props because he does great work.

Into the Spider-Verse (Animated Feature)
We haven’t actually talked about this yet but we saw it and holy shit it is a groundbreaking life-changing cartoon. I’m not even a big Spider-man person like drift partner is and I was blown away. This was the only viable option.

–your fangirl heroine.

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