Marvel Monday :: on the parallel construction of Melinda May and Jack Thompson

3 Aug

So I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the parallel construction is one of my favorite things about the MCU.  There are instances of it all over, some of them obviously intentional and some of them possibly accidental, but what I’ve noticed is they all provide a really great place to jump into analytical meta.

And equally interesting is what I’ve tentatively termed reverse-parallel construction, where there are details that stand in direct opposite to each other to highlight the differences between surface-similar stories. One of these I’ve been thinking about since SHIELD’s 2.17, “Melinda,” is the sharp contrast between Melinda’s (Ming-Na Wen) backstory and Jack Thompson’s (Chad Michael Murray) in Agent Carter.

So here is our chart and here is our analysis.

When we first meet Melinda May in the pilot, she’s sitting at her desk doing paperwork. She’s wearing a white button up and she looks mildly content being left alone. Coulson comes over to ask her to drive the Bus, she agrees, and later we find out this was a pre-planned exchange as far as she was concerned but that’s not the point.  She’s coming out of retirement, as it were.

When we first meet Jack Thompson in the pilot, he’s in a meeting being essentially just another jackass in a room full of jackasses, only distinguished by the fact that we know that he’ll become a main character because he used to be on One Tree Hill and most of the jackasses are nobody.  He’s already at home in his world.

But as both of their stories progress, we learn that both characters have dramatic heroic pasts in the line of duty.  Here’s the first difference: we see Melinda both ran from hers and doesn’t want to talk about it (despite the legends built up around it), whereas Thompson has let the legends around him build.

Melinda’s known as “The Cavalry” because of a mysterious incident from her past, referred to as “Bahrain,” that caused her to quit fieldwork. It’s been sold as a legendary event, because few remember the actual mission and no one but Melinda knows what actually happened, and the rumors have become increasingly ridiculous (some involving an army, others involving a horse). When we finally learn the real story, it is neither ridiculous nor amusing: her team tried to retrieve a superpowered woman named Eva Belyakov, who took both a young girl, Katya, and the team of agents who attempted to rescue said girl hostage. Melinda went in alone and learned that the agents, who were now protecting Eva, were being mind-controlled, and that it was not Eva but Katya, her daughter, who was controlling them. Melinda tried to subdue her but eventually had no choice but to shoot the girl in self-defense, and the agents remembered nothing about their time until Katya’s control. Only Melinda knew what she had done, and it devastated her; she immediately requested a transfer to a desk job and her refusal to tell her then-husband what was hurting her led to their divorce. The episode gives it the gravity it deserves and really communicates Melinda’s agony to the audience.

Thompson’s angst-causing event, on the other hand, is revealed in a quiet moment as the characters sit around a fire. As he explains it, during a military operation in Okinawa, Japan, he was on guard duty and spotted a group of Japanese soldiers coming towards his camp and reacted without thinking, shooting them all. Only after they were all dead did he see that they were carrying a white flag, intending to surrender. He buried the white flag so that none of his fellow soldiers would see it and they treated the incident as if he had saved them. Later, he received a Navy Cross for his actions, and never told anyone the truth until his confession to Peggy and the other Commandos.

Melinda’s trauma comes from having to make a difficult choice in order to protect others and herself; Thompson’s from a mistake he made thinking he was in the right. Melinda feels shame for her actions and refuses to allow anyone to talk about it, while Thompson goes along with the assumption of his heroism because he wants to feel better about himself. Essentially, Melinda thought first, shot last, while Thompson shot first, thought last.

And then there’s the fact of how they let their respective traumas affect how they treat others.  Melinda is stoic, seemingly struggling to let others in, but she repeatedly risks her life to protect her teammates, even when they barely know each other at the series’ beginning.  She offers sympathy to Skye (Chloe Bennet) after the bomb about Ward is dropped and eventually takes her under her wing; she’s kind and careful with Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) at the beginning of season two when nobody else is getting through to him after his brain injury; she even goes so far as to tell Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) that she told Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and her “real SHIELD” about the fake data cube to protect her.  She lets her knowledge of the world serve as a motivator for her to protect others.

Thompson, meanwhile, continues to be the jackass we saw in his first scene.  He condescends to Peggy (Hayley Atwell) simply because she’s a woman; he makes fun of Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) for his disability and for his attempts at compassion toward others.  The only time he shows any other side of himself is when he tells the story about his trauma, and then he’s back to the same old guy.

It’s also interesting to look at how each of them responds to the idea of being in authority over others. In addition to having to be coaxed back into the field, Melinda is extremely reluctant to assume a position of authority. She doesn’t want to lead missions; she doesn’t want to give orders. She’s content just driving the Bus and occasionally shooting or punching people when asked. She wants to follow the mission parameters she’s given. In the episode with the Berserker staff, she ends up wielding it partially under protest; it’s clear she’s uncomfortable with being in the spotlight to that degree. And when “real SHIELD” makes themselves known and Gonzales offers her a position on the board, she declines. Melinda May does not want to be in charge of anything or anyone, because she doesn’t want to risk things going horrifically wrong again.

Thompson, on the other hand, assumes authority even when he hasn’t been asked to. He operates under the assumption that the person with the greatest will to power should be in charge, which is generally him. And regardless of how the other people in the party feel about it, he will attempt to hold onto his tenuous authority at all costs.

The reverse-parallel of Melinda May and Jack Thompson is also keenly illustrated by the closing shots of them at the end of the most recent seasons.  Melinda is seen heading off on a presumably tropical vacation by herself, smiling because she’s finally feeling some semblance of comfort with herself and with what she’s done. Thompson is seen being again congratulated by bureaucrats for something that he didn’t entirely do – certainly he helped in the final mission, but he’s being given credit for Peggy’s work and not dissuading those giving said credit.  He too is smiling, but because of external motivations that aren’t based in truth.

Essentially, Melinda is finally starting to see herself as a potential hero, while the very act of Thompson’s being lauded as one makes him the opposite.

–your fangirl heroines.

Sundry Sunday :: my urban dictionary: Hope Van Dyne done

2 Aug

Def.: Being as done with everything as Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) was for the majority of Ant-Man.  Which is to say, very seriously done.

Usage: Somewhat ironically, I am Hope Van Dyne done with compulsive heteronormativity as was displayed with the Hope and Scott kiss at the film’s end.

–your fangirl heroine.

Spoiler Alert Saturday :: my thoughts on Ant-Man

1 Aug
  • Peggy (Hayley Atwell) looking gorgeous in her age makeup that is chronologically too young for how old she’d be at that point but whatever.
  • At one point Scott (Paul Rudd) declares “I’m expendable!”  I actually snorted.
  • I saw a gif set of Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb) doing the news that pertained to Ant-Man.  I was very upset that this was not actually in the film.
  • Hope (Evangeline Lilly) spent a majority of her screen time being sarcastic, rolling her eyes, criticizing the plan the boys came up with, and fighting dudes.  Mostly looking incredibly disdainful.  That was nice.
  • Hope kissing Scott… was less nice.
  • Hank (Michael Douglas) was less nice also.
  • Sam (Anthony Mackie) was nice though!  It was kind of lame that he lost their little fight, but his line about don’t tell Captain America about this was kind of cute.
  • Okay, so this story… kind of made sense to the overall scheme of the universe.  I guess.  Shocker, someone else thinks the Starks and the Avengers are jerks.  Ooohhhh.  Shocker, shady assholes do business with Hydra.  In my opinion the only essential thing in this movie was Hope, but, y’know, whatever.
  • The dialogue was sparse and not great, though.

–your fangirl heroine.

Fashion Friday :: I guess I should probably do this.

31 Jul

For fairness’ sake, Coulson (Clark Gregg) in pinup.

Spotted on the Street Blazer

It feels wrong to not base this around a blazer, honestly.  Spotted on the Street Blazer, ModCloth.

Day Off to a Great Start Top

Basics.  That’s what this is.  Day Off to a Great Start Top, ModCloth.

Nautical Nuances Skirt

And to match (and play into the dots in the blazer), this.  Nautical Nuances Skirt in Navy, ModCloth.

Dependably Darling Heel in Black

Straightforward.  Dependably Darling Heel in Black, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

Theatre Thursday :: the ladyqueer Grease

30 Jul

So a friend (the lovely defineinteresting) of ours saw a production of Grease this weekend and frantically texted about how very queer it was played, in this case regarding Rizzo having feelings for Sandy.  Her arguments were (quoted from a text):

  • Rizzo aggressively showing dislike for Sandy from the get go
  • the stage version of Rizzo singing “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” with just her and Sandy on stage
  • Rizzo’s only other solo number being literally all about Sandy, albeit making fun of her

Now, I’ve seen Grease multiple times but it’s not my favorite of shows, as I’m sure I’ve said before, but this theory would make me significantly more interested.  Involving queer girls makes me more interested in most things, possibly just because I’m starving for them.  And this is not the only viable way to queer this show up, either!

There’s a tumblr post about genderswapping Danny, so you have a tough rebel girl (possibly a tomboy, the gang could be genderswapped or not at your leisure) falling in love with a sweet cheerleader type. The secret dream of my heart is for someone to just cast Kristen Stewart because you’d have to rework the songs for a lower key, but she’d be so perfect. I’m also having not-fully-formed joke thoughts about the proverbial “she wears short shorts, I wear t-shirts, she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers” formula, also tumblr-popular, wherein that dichotomy sets up not a rivalry but a romance.

Another option is, much like Carmilla, to just swap everyone’s gender so that they’re all or mostly girls. The creators of Carmilla have stated multiple times that the majority of the cast, with the possible exception of Perry, Kirsch, and JP, are queer, and the majority of onscreen relationships/attractions have been f/f. If they took this approach, the T-Birds could be butch, the Pink Ladies femme/hard femme, and Sandy could be pulled into hanging with the straight kids even though she’s not straight. That actually sounds like a compelling story with interesting social politics involved.

–your fangirl heroines.

Whimsy Wednesday :: in which heterosexuality.

29 Jul

Uranus and Neptune have all the class and sass in the world.

I find it fascinating how much time they spend studying for exams but how little time they spend… actually at school.

three-way battle you say~~~

…is this episode going to be aggressively heterosexual to make up for the lack thereof previously?

“If you love him, why haven’t you kissed” or whatever?

AH THE AGGRESSIVE GAY RESUMES with roses.  “Dreaming of a kiss… how cute.”  And Michiru tells them of Adam and Eve’s first kiss.  “There are different kinds of kisses.”

Which is NOT in the Bible, as I recall??? I mean, whatever, but Bible fanfic is weird.

“You know a lot, Haruka.”

“Haruka and Michiru are so mature.”  As they exit accompanied by rose petals.

“It’s sweet how cute those girls are.”  Michiru.  Michiru.

COLORED PENCILS

And the same footage of Doctor Daddy Dearest and Sexy Doctor Melisandre with new dialogue again.  OOP HE BROKE THINGS WHILE LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY

WHAT THE TITS IS THAT

That is a sexy elephant vacuum cleaner!

“Ami were you really planning on studying at Unazukis place?” “Shouldn’t I?”

“I’m so glad I’m fitted with a dust mite sensor!”

As Unazuki zombielikely attempts to kiss anyone.  “When her pure heart was stolen, she became impure?” Ami muses.

Neptune also has the best shoes.

The Daimon just… pulled a cord-whip out of her ass.  Basically.

“A pure heart doesn’t match someone with a filthy heart!” Uh, thanks?

As he sits on a pile of sad dirty toys.

It’s always bothered me that Uranus’ butt bow doesn’t match her boobs bow.  But y’know, whatevs.

Michiru getting emotional about the talisman not being the kiss girl’s pure heart.  Gosh.

And Minako winks talking about kisses.  Yup.

Welp starting this episode off with a needle that’s super fun guys.

“Fried shrimp made with love, tears, and sweat!” uhhhhh they’re not onions dude

Ew Umino why did you eat the shrimp’s tail.

“If the two share their feelings for another, it’ll be all right!” or something like that.  Doing so at an affection contest is a terrible idea, but talking it out is a great idea.  Talking is very useful and good!  That is wise, Rei.

…heteros?

This is exceptionally silly even for middle schoolers.

“I thought I might learn something!” Ami explains.

“Two girls?  But from here they look like a couple!”  WELL LET’S TELL Y’ALL SOMETHING, KIDS

“Michiru!  You look wonderful!”  much much hetero.

Haruka found Michiru’s hand first.  Gooooosh.

“I wonder if those two are really in that kind of relationship,” Ami muses.  Everyone else seems shocked by this, and she blushes.  Of course Ami guessed at their relationship first.  Biromantic demi Ami Mizuno may not do much romance, but she’s good at picking up on things that others may not.

“I think it’s wonderful that he can be so serious,” Michiru says of Umino, making Haruka make a lineface.

“The three-legged race of love.”  Love karaoke.  Look at these lesbians

“If we stayed, we’d probably win.  Victory should go to true love.  Love is… love is everything.”  And Haruka and Michiru make a grand exit holy shit.  The real true love tbh.

IIIIIII’D CATCH A GRENAAAAADE FOR YOOOOOUUUUU

The love you share as middle schoolers, mind.  No wonder it turns into a monster honestly.

Omg does she have a heart on her butt crack?

Did Usagi and Naru ever have that serious talk they were going to have about serious things?  I expect they didn’t.

“The Cupid, the god of love” Yes because that’s how they say it.

“Girls should behave like girls,” says Sexy Doctor Melisandre, causing her Daimon to… conjure up some matching monsterboys to dance with the girls, because that’s behaving like a girl.

“Die-Heart, find these girls dance partners.”  “We’ll find our own dance partners.”  Because we’re lesbians and have no time for your heteronormative games.

That’s actually really clever, the more I think about it.  Also, autonomy!

–your fangirl heroines.

Television Tuesday :: a wishlist for summer television

28 Jul

These are things that should be in summer-aired television programs.

  1. POC characters.
  2. Queer characters (especially girls).
  3. Friendship.
  4. Positive family relationships, blood or no.
  5. Dogs.
  6. Horses.
  7. Some variety of non-cliche travel.
  8. Justice.
  9. The occasional frothy musical scene.
  10. Puns.

–your fangirl heroines.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers