100th Anniversary: Red Summer of 1919.

Interestingly, the Red Summer of 1919 happened to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first slave ships, from West Africa, to America. This has been chronicled in this year’s 1619 Project.
(There is also a PDF version for those who do not wish to subscribe to the NY Times.)
Two days after Thanksgiving this was posted on Twitter, by historian David Neiwert, in reference to the first episode of the Watchmen television series.  This is pretty long for a series of tweets, but the entire post has been collected at Tweet Threads.
Black people were not the only ones to suffer through this kind of behavior from Whites, Native Americans did as well. And yes, I still maintain that these were not riots.
This was ethnic cleansing!
This is what is meant when we discuss White people’s nostalgia for the past, or what Maga Hat wearing ignoramuses talk about when saying Make America Great Again. This is also what is meant by anyone you hear talking about starting a race war. They don’t want a war, because in a war they would have skin in the game, and be  as susceptible to being killed as their victims. What they want, is  the freedom to  massacre Black people again, without any consequences. We must face the idea that there are  sections of White America who are gleefully, and cheerfully bloodthirsty, when it comes to the destruction of Black lives, and they always have been.
Racial terrorism and expulsion, by Whites,  is at least one of the  explanations for why Blacks migrated out of rural areas, and primarily live in cities, today. My own family (grandmother) left the rural south, in the 1950’s, to live in the Northeast. Not that these so-called “race riots” didn’t occur in large cities, they were just less likely.
Pay close attention to the actions of law enforcement, in this thread, as well. In some cases, not only did the police do nothing to prevent the violence, but in many cases, they actually aided and abetted the attackers. What is surprising are the times law enforcement  sought to protect their charges, from White mobs, and spirit them to safety. Pay attention to the  White women who  took advantage of these situations, to express their racial resentment, or get out of trouble themselves, by accusing black men of disrespecting them, or some other specious crime, knowing those men would be killed. White women have never been innocent of participation in anti-Black violence.
 Black people didn’t take this sitting down, (which is why I take offense at statements like “We are not our grandparents.). Blacks organized and fought back, using not just guns, but popular opinion, via the use of media.
This is why representation is so important. Damon Lindhelof had an incredible platform from which he could showcase this country’s history, and took full advantage of that, thereby continuing a dialogue that was introduced  by Ta’nehisi Coates, in his landmark article: The Case For Reparations.

* It was really hard to finish this thread, as it’s incredibly graphic, harrowing, terrifying, and infuriating. And since I know something about this topic, I know it still doesn’t completely cover some of the other, even worse, atrocities committed against Black bodies, during lynching. (Some people kept souvenirs of certain  body parts.)

 

In many cases this form of terrorism, for that is indeed what it was, lasted for several days, and consisted of thousands of Whites, and the  summary expulsion of the Black population, in that area.

 

I appreciated the fact that Neiwert sugarcoats none of it.

(Warning: This thread contains graphic images of human suffering.)

Nov 27th 2019, (152 tweets, 59 min read)

1) This year, 2019, marks an important centennial anniversary in America—but it is one that not only are we not celebrating, it’s also a significant moment most of us aren’t even aware of: the 100th anniversary of the Red Summer of 1919.

 

2) Warning: This is an extremely long 150-tweet thread. It contains some violent images involving lynching, generally held to a minimum. The text is horrifying. It’s a history lesson—and not one for the faint of heart. You can decide if the subject warrants the unusual length.
3) There are reasons we do not commemorate the events of those months. Nearly all of them have to do with the deep shame that lingers for one of the darkest, most violent moments in American history—not to mention the monstrousness it reveals.
4) Yet the truth is that the summer of 1919 was one of the most momentous in our history, and NEEDS to be remembered, because it forever and irrevocably altered the face of the American landscape, shaping our demographics in ways that remain with us today.
5) The American public recently received a little taste of this deliberately hidden corner of history when the debut episode of the new HBO series Watchmen opened with a flashback to a child’s-eye view of the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

Read the rest here:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1199779549803794432.html

Highlights:
9) These events were in many ways the fevered culmination of the long campaign after the Civil War to reverse its outcome by putting the now-freed slaves into a continued state of submission by other means—violent ones.
11) Between 1870 and 1930, literally thousands of black people were summarily executed by their white neighbors, most often for the crime of being somehow “uppity”—that is, a threat to their own social status in one way or another.
17) Later studies have found that actual black criminality was only occasionally the actual cause of lynchings. Far more often, black people were lynched for being _too_ successful by white standards. Economic jealousy fueled many a lynching. 
19)…And it is history that most white people are utterly, blithely, happily ignorant about. That has to end. 
35) Eventually, the presence of a violent, rampaging mob meant that not only did the singular lynchings grow into multiple-lynching events, they also turned into burning, pillaging, and mass murder. The euphemism “race riots” hid the reality: these were ethnic-cleansing events.
40) Black vets, especially in ’18, were a direct challenge to the tenets of white supremacy that held that only white men were capable of higher thought and bravery and capability. So they were targeted for lynching with a particular urgency and venom.
98) The events of Red Summer are important to remember in part because they are representative of the kind of horror that lies within the history of being black in America, a horror most white Americans little understand or appreciate, reinforced by their often willful ignorance. 
99) However, these events all were noteworthy in another important regard: They represented the first time that black communities organized and resisted this violence, with varying degrees of success. But the pushback was just beginning, and eventually turned the tide.
128) The mechanics of how this happened can be observed by looking at what happened to America demographically due to these “race riots.” Essentially, black Americans were driven out of rural America and forced into racially and economically segregated urban neighborhoods. 
129) Loewen’s _Sundown Towns_ is an essential text for understanding how this occurred. As he noted in describing the contagious effects of mob violence, the end result of most of this ethnic cleansing was to make whole swaths of America uniformly white.
139) Black people, quite understandably, want to look away from this because it’s a painful reminder of everything bad about America in their lives. White people, on the other hand, use the ensuing silence as their own excuse to look away too. Deliberate ignorance is the result. 
140) That ignorance is what prompts so many whites to react defensively to the simple plea contained in the slogan Black Lives Matter. No, you twits, they’re not saying _only_ black lives matter. They’re saying _black lives don’t matter to white people, and they need to._ 
145) After all, it should be obvious that black people have a multitude of reasons to believe that their lives do not matter to white people, from the depths of history to the modern record of easy police disposal of their lives.
And Finally:
146) Knowing the history of Red Summer—especially for white folks—ultimately isn’t about self-flagellation, white guilt, or political correctness. It’s about reality and truth and coming to terms with our own history.

The Irishman (Netflix)

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*****Here Be Spoilers****

 

Let’s  get something out of the way first.

Yes, I’m aware of what Scorsese has said about the current crop of superhero movies, and yes, I was offended, until he clarified his statements in a recent Vanity Fair article. I’m glad he did, because I was prepared to stay mad at one of my all-time, favorite directors. Well, I’m not as angry, but he is not wrong. He’s not right though, mostly because I don’t think its fair to compare the two types of movies. They serve very different purposes for their audiences in that one type of film consists of exciting power fantasies (like the first half of the movie Goodfellas), and righting wrongs, and Scorsese’s films seem to be about the consequences of that amount of unchecked power,  and what it actually gets you. Superhero movies make no claims of depth.  They are not dramas, although movies like The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier, and Logan come very close.

The Irishman had a brief theatrical run, of about a week or two, before it settled on Netflix, which is where I viewed it, with a great deal of anticipation. There’s a lot of backstory about why the movie is airing on Netflix, but I’m not covering that here. Like a lot of people, I went into this expecting something similar to Goodfellas, and Casino, since Scorsese seems to have some sort of lock on the depiction of  White men in the mafia life. The movie is definitely about gangsters, and appears to be having some kind of dialogue with the other two films. It would be interesting to watch all three of these movies back to back, to see what they are saying to, and about, each other.

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I loved this movie, and I wasn’t expecting that. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. I didn’t think Scorsese had a lot more to say about the mafia life, that he hadn’t already said, but he does.

Like the other two films in this trilogy, it’s a meditation on crime and regret. I think a lot of people have had a  very wrong takeaway from Scorsese’s movies. Although he seems both fascinated with , and terrified of, this lifestyle, he definitely does not approve. These are the kinds of people he knew growing up, and he seemed to have kept, in the forefront of his mind, that they were not good people, no matter what their claims of nobility, or  how fascinating their lives were.

These films are not a glorification of their lifestyle.  Henry Hill, in the last third of Goodfellas, just flat out states this. Scorsese has never sugarcoated who and what these people are. The violence in these films is always  sudden, and brutal.  Hill spoke on the topic in Goodfellas, but here its just shown. Scorsese always  has  his characters realize, by the end, the horror of the decisions they’ve made. Every participant ends up  dead, or regretful, and there is a an onscreen commentary, on the fate of each one of the character’s introduced, in the film. The bottom line is, if you choose the mobster life, because you have romanticized notions about it, it will end badly.

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I knew a young Italian man, in college, who told me that his father met some people in the life, but he also told me that one of the key things is never to invite them into your life. Don’t ask them for favors, don’t hang out with them in their places, don’t befriend them. They’re like vampires. You have to let them in.

A classic example, is the restaurant owner from Goodfellas, who allows Tommy, and his friends, to frequent his restaurant. Just like Henry did as a child, he thinks its exciting to be associated with these men. He admires the life, and believes he is friends with them, until the time comes for Tommy to pay the massive bill he’s run up on his tab. These guys are just taking advantage of him, but he is still too enamored of their life to see that. In an effort to get Tommy to pay his bill, the restaurant owner goes to Paulie, (Tommy’s boss), and makes Paulie a partner, in exchange for taking care of Tommy’s bill. Paulie takes advantage of him too, until he  goes out of business, as they steal  him blind, eventually the restaurant gets burned down for the insurance. The owner romanticized their lifestyle. He failed to see them as the unprincipled thieves they were. He invited them in, and he lost everything. The same thing goes for the character of Spider, a mirror of the young Henry, who romanticizes their lifestyle, and gets killed by Tommy, for standing up for himself, with not a single tear shed by any of the witnesses.

The Irishman  follows another low grade member of a mafia crew, a hitman named Frank Sheeran, (Robert DeNiro), as he befriends various mobsters, and paints houses (carries out mob hits). Most of the movie is about his friendship with Jimmy Hoffa, (Al Pacino), and his confession that he killed him, after being assigned to do so by his then bosses, one of which is also a close friend, Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. The movie is based on a book by Charles Brandt titled “I Heard You Paint Houses?”, which is the line in the movie said by Pacino, when he and Frank first meet over the phone. So once again, you have someone who invites these people into his life. Hoffa knows who, and what, these people are, but he romanticizes the life, and has an outsized sense of his worth to them.

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Right away, the mood and setting are very different than the other two movies, (Goodfellas and Casino), which open with exciting scenes of violence, (and interestingly, with men in cars). This movie is reflective and melancholy. The opening scene is a quiet shot of Frank, in a senior citizen’s home, reminiscing about his past, to his lawyers. The movie is a flashback, but unlike Henry Hill”s story, Frank has no misty-eyed remembrances for the things he’s done. He joined the mob because he was a soldier who needed to do something with his life, after he came back from the war. He didn’t join because he loved the life, or glorified its denizens, and this is probably why he survived, although that’s no consolation, either. He is an old man filled with regret, and we come to have some amount of sympathy for him, although Scorsese never lets us think, for a moment, that he is a good guy. Nor does he show Frank as vicious or evil, for its own sake, although the things he does, are indeed,  vicious, and evil. Scorsese presents him as just a guy, who made the best choices he could, in the circumstances presented to him.

Deniro definitely deserves some form of recognition for his role here, but the two major highlights of the movie, for me, was Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci’s much quieter turn, as Russell Bufalino. You want to be reminded of his role as Tommy in Goodfellas, but this character is wholly unlike him. Bufalino is smarter, and more calculating, with a cool menace that the hotheaded, showboating, Tommy lacked. He and Frank become friends, and get to be quite close, but Frank, (and hence the audience), never forgets the power dynamic between them. Russell is his boss, and should Frank prove to be a threat, or an inconvenience, Russell could have him killed, and it would be just business.

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This was the most interesting part of the movie for me. Y’all know me. I love to watch different types of  characters interact. It’s interesting because movie audiences don’t often get to watch the  process of two grown men, who have been steeped in pride and machismo, their entire lives, put themselves in the vulnerable position of trusting a stranger, while navigating the power and violence of their positions,  to  become friends. You can see them feeling the other out, trying to reach a place of comfort. I found myself totally caught up in the moment. The faint distrust, and the questions they ask of each other, without actually asking them: What do you want from me? Are you a stand up guy? Will you give me straight answers? Can you be trusted?

Frank’s relationship with Hoffa is covered just as deeply. The most  fascinating part, is comparing how trust is shown between Frank and Hoffa, and Frank and Russell. Scorsese doesn’t fall into the trap of having the characters make grand declarations of how much they love and trust each other. There are scenes with Frank and Russell hanging out with each other’s families, or having dinner together. Some scenes with Frank and Hoffa are just them talking in Hoffa’s bedroom, before he goes to sleep. At one point, Hoffa nods off while talking to Frank, he trusts Frank so completely, and Frank just quietly sits there for a while, watching him sleep, and glancing out the window, and that scene is unexpectedly moving. It’s hard to know what Frank is thinking during that scene. The specter of violence hangs over everything he does, and that scene is even more tragic, when you know what happens between them later.

There are not a lot of women in this movie, and none of the men have any moral standing. The moral center of this film is Frank’s daughter, Peggy, (Anna Paquin) who sees her father beat a man on her behalf, when she is a child, and this impacts her relationship with him, for the rest of their lives. She gets probably three lines in the entire movie, but Scorsese sets her up, by giving us long closeups of her face, and her disapproval, and fear, of her father, (and by association, Russell), is apparent. We don’t need a loud, dramatic shouting match between them, to know that she has seen what kind of man he is, and  will never love him. Frank tries to reconcile with her before his death, but she will have none of him.

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Frank doesn’t just regret the things he did when he was younger, but all the familial relationships he let fall by the wayside, while prioritizing his relationships with the men he worked for, all of whom are now dead. He has to pay for his own funeral, buying his own tombstone. There’s no one alive, who would come to his funeral, anyway. The movie ends with Frank, alone in his room. He is the last one left of that old life, and he has nothing to show for it. Once again, Scorsese presents the mobster lifestyle as empty and meaningless. If you don’t die horribly, at the hands of someone you trusted, then you die alone, with no one to care.

There’s a lot of the movie I didn’t talk about, like the cinematography, and music, which are pretty standard for a Scorsese film, with some upbeat sixties songs, the most prominent song being, In the Still of the Night, by The Five Satins, which bookends the movie. There are two opening scenes, one with Frank beginning his story in the nursing home, and the other, the beginning of the story, which features him and Russell, taking a road trip, with their wives. The movie starts out really cute, with the wives fussing with their husbands in the car. Everyone is very comfortable with each other, at first, but as the trip continues, the tension begins to mount, as we overhear increasingly nervous phone calls between Russell, Frank, and Hoffa, finally culminating, in the last third of the movie, in Russell’s order to Frank.

The cinematography is superb ,as usual, but there are a few uncanny valley moments in the film as Deniro, Pesci, and Pacino had to be de-aged in a few of the scenes. The de-aged faces aren’t as emotive as their actual faces, so I kept getting jarred out of the story, by wondering every now and then, how the actors got de-aged for their roles, but this doesn’t happen a lot, and is easily ignored. If you’re not a fan of Scorsese’s mobster films, this still may be worth a look for you, because its very different in tone, but I do have to warn you,  that just like in the other movies, the violence is flat, graphic, and unforgiving. When it comes to acts of violence, Scorsese does not fuck around, or wince. People get beaten and shot, and there’s a harrowing scene where Frank shoots up a restaurant full of people. I have become a lot more squeamish, as I’ve gotten older, and these scenes were hard for even me to watch.

Despite its three hour run time, the movie didn’t make me feel restless at all. I sat through the entire three hours, and never missed them, or a moment of dialogue. The movie simply pulled me right in. It was moving, with moments of sheer horror, and is a testament to Scorsese’s skill as a director, as nothing is explicitly stated by any of the characters, yet its message is loud, and clear. I don’t know if this movie will be nominated for an Oscar. It, and everyone involved, should.

The Irishman is the best movie I’ve seen this year.

Native American (And Alaskan Native) Heritage Month

This month is National American Indian Heritage Month in the US.

I know next to nothing about the various Indigenous cultures, beyond the basic stuff, like names,  places, some of the tragic history, what I’ve read in books by people like Sherman Alexie, or watched  fictional movies like Windtalkers, and documentaries like Reel Injun, so I’m going to be learning  a bunch of stuff right alongside you guys, okay.

The first thing I looked up was the word Powwow, because I didn’t really understand what that meant, which  lead me to videos on Youtube. Uhm, guys! this stuff is deeply hypnotic so watch out. I must have spent at least a couple of hours falling down the rabbit hole of watching all these dancers. (From what I gathered, its something like the Olympics for the various Indigenous Peoples, only held every year, in multiple places, and with a lot more dancing.)

 

What is Powwow?

First of all, what exactly is a Powwow, what is it’s purpose, and  why do Native Americans do it? Do Indigenous people do this all over the world? Why is this a thing?

Students from the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and community members discuss the elements of an American Indian Pow Wow, its etiquette and its importance. Pow Wows are an annual spring event at Washington University in St. Louis.

https://www.powwows.com/what-is-a-pow-wow/

 

Why is Powwow?

The reasons why Native Americans have Powwows, plus a little backstory.

 

Visit: http://www.stjo.org for more information

https://www.britannica.com/topic/powwow

Today powwows take place over a period of one to four days and often draw dancers, singers, artists, and traders from hundreds of miles away. Spectators (including non-Indians) are welcome to attend, as participants seek to share the positive aspects of their culture with outsiders. Modern powwows can be grouped into two broad divisions: “competition” (or “contest”) events and those referred to as “traditional.” 

 

How to Powwow:

Some Powwows are open to the public, while others are private, only open to members of the tribe and  family. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for Non-Natives attending a Powwow.

 

https://www.powwows.com/pow-wow-etiquette/

Pow Wows are one of the best ways to experience Native American culture in person.  

Keep in mind that while they are open to the public, Pow Wows are culturally significant events. 

Be respectful!

 

 Dancing

There are a lot of different types of dancing at a Powwow,  many of them based on locations, and tribes. Dancing isn’t just random moves, most of it has meaning, along with the manner of dress for each style, although there is such a thing as Freestyle dancing, the manner of dress (Regalia) is still deeply personal to the participant. Here’s what to look for when watching:

 

Dance Styles and Regalia:

Rooted in tradition and ceremony, dancing is an important part of Native American culture. Hundreds of dances exist, performed by tribes across the United States. Here are a few of the most popular and well known.

Men’s Traditional

 

Men’s Grass Dance

This is the dance seen in regalia:

 

Because the regalia can sometimes be distracting for some of us, (hello!), here is a grass dancer without his regalia. There are very distinct moves and footwork involved. There are rules , so its not just random movement, which is what it can look like to someone who has never watched this before, or who is easily distracted by  bright colors.

 

Men’s Fancy Dance

 

Women’s Jingle Dress

Here’s the Women’s Jingle Dress Dance, and in the second video, done without regalia:

 

Women’s Traditional

Notice the manner of dress, and style of dance, for Traditional Women’s is much more reserved, more conservative, than for the Fancy Shawl Dance.

 

Women’s Fancy Shawl

 

 

This is one of my personal favorites, Hoop Dancing. I greatly admire this syle, because I couldn’t get anywhere near a hoop, without potentially embarrassing me, and all my ancestors,  by tripping and falling:

 

There is even a Tiny Tots version :

 

Regalia

Many of the designs and colors seen in regalia are personal to the dancer. They make their own outfits, according to their tribe’s traditional manner of dress. They also inherit some pieces, and buy a few pieces here and there, so that every form of regalia is distinct. No two are alike.

General Topic

 

 

Northern Paiute Women’s

 

Women’s Fancy Shawl – Getting Dressed

 

 

This is the United Tribes Powwow of 2019, the Grand Entrance of all the tribes participating in the event:

 

This is a Fusion of Hip Hop and Powwow dancing.  I was surprised to find that Hip Hop is such a huge deal huge on the reservations:

 

Here’s an Intertribal Powwow of some of the Canadian/Alaskan Tribes:

 

For any of my Native readers, (Hi!), any mistakes in this post are strictly my own, and if you have a correction of any kind, (or want me to add something) let me know in the comments over the next two weeks, or leave me a message on my Tumblr page.

Next time: Native Music

Horror Movie Themes: Women Directors And Monster Women

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Women who direct horror movies are few and far between. They are simply not telling stories in significant numbers in the genre for critics to say there’s an overwhelming theme being tackled, but there are enough of them that a pattern is beginning to emerge.

 

Ostensibly, the stories women tell cover the same subjects as male directors,  but there are sometimes subtle differences, and most of that has to do with women’s perspective on the same topics. There is plenty of vengeance, serial killers, and  ultra violence, but where movies with male directors often focus on the spectacle of violence  against women, without questioning it, female directors often make women the total focus of the plot, as both victims and perpetrators. There are also  fewer otherworldly monsters in female directed movies. Often, in such films, the monsters are very  human, and sometimes those monsters are, in fact, the women.

There are exceptionally few horror movies directed by women of color, and the bare handful of movies that were, like Beloved, fall into the category of personal hauntings, that tackle issues that resonate with other women of color. The majority of women horror filmmakers, are White women, and they tend to focus on issues that are of importance to them, and one starts to notice a pattern in the themes of the movies they make.

If White men work out their personal anxieties through the types of horror they create, then so do White women. It is not that women of color cannot relate to these themes, it’s just that for them, such themes may not be a priority, and tend to carry less resonance for them.

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In movies like Carrie by Kimberly Pierce, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, by Ana Lily Amirpour,  and Jennifer’s Body by Karyn Kusama, the theme is not just the Monstrous Feminine, but femaleness itself as monster. There is no coding of femininity as  horrific in these movies. It is a  woman who is a horrible monster, who feeds on men, or  destroys the human body, with a thought, and she is like this, because she is female, as that is an integral part of the horror in the film.

Carrie and Jennifer’s Body  also tackle issues that are of specific relevance to women, like puberty, menstruation,  friendship, and sexual trauma. In female directed films, there is less emphasis on the disruption and restoration of order, or the status quo. Often, their films don’t actually have any resolution, or the emphasis is on the disruption, and restoration, of relationships, or cathartic punishments, instead.

Themes about monstrosity, in such movies, often revolve around body horror, and consumption, as dieting, and the non/consumption of food, and women’s relationships to food, make up the bulk of the personal anxieties in the privileged classes of women who sometimes make these films. In Julia Decournau’s Raw (2016),  a vegetarian girl develops a craving for meat after she undergoes a hazing ritual involving the eating of raw animals. In the 1999 Ravenous,  by the late Antonia Bird, Guy Pierce develops a taste for raw meat after he is nearly killed during the Mexican – American War, and in Jennifer’s Body, a young woman has to save her high school friend, after she realizes her friend has become a flesh eating demon. (There is a lot to unpack, in the movie Jennifer’s Body, which we will discuss later.) Many middle-class, White, Western women have a love/hate , and a fear/disgust, relationship with food, dieting, and  consumption, and we see that play out in these films, as eating, (usually blood and meat), becomes the primary focus of the horror.

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Female directed movies often tend to be more intimate, focusing on the horror of relationships, or the topic of motherhood. What mothers are willing to do for, or sometimes to, their families is the subject of the 2014 movie, The Babadook, where a mother fears she may kill her son, when she is haunted,  and then possessed, after reading about the titular character.

In the anthology XX, many of the stories revolve around the horrific circumstances that can occur when a mother loves her family. Motherhood, already a source of real world anxiety, is a frequent topic in films made by women. In The Box, the themes are also loss, helplessness, and non/consumption, as a woman loses her entire family, when they starve themselves, after her son views the contents of a mysterious box. It is a secret that kills them, and which they refuse to share with her, so that when they are gone, she spends the rest of her life riding the subway, hoping to encounter the man with the box again. The story, Her only Living Son, directly tackles sacrificial motherhood, as a woman sacrifices her life to save her son from his Satanic destiny.

Sex is a huge component of female directed horror movies, but unlike films directed by men, that mostly just feature the spectacle of  women having sex,  or being raped, the focus from women directors is on the danger, and vulnerability of intimacy, and often based on a young woman’s fear of sexual activity, and fear of the loss of innocence, that may be the result. In the film, A Girl Walks Home Alone, a nameless female, Iraqi  vampire hunts men. This movie is groundbreaking, not just because of its setting, and plot, but character. The sexual forwardness of Iraqi women isn’t often featured in film, let alone as a night-stalking blood drinker. The director, Amirpour, is not White, but the themes of consumption, and blood as a euphemism for sex, still find a way into the story.

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Blood plays a huge part in a lot of the stories told by women, from Carrie, to Raw, to Jennifer’s Body, with the theme being  linked to  femininity, fertility, and/or sex. The movie, Carrie, begins and ends with blood. Based on the novel by Stephen King, it chronicles a young woman’s perilous navigation through high school. At the beginning of the story, the onset of her menses signals her introduction to adulthood, and heightens her telekinetic abilities. The story ends with the killing of her entire graduating class, after a bucket of pig’s blood is dumped over her during the school prom, an act which was informed by the opening events of the story, when she has her first period in front of her bullying classmates.

Blood and flesh are especially popular topics of these films, in that many of them contain cannibalism and/or vampirism. In the movie Raw, relationships, and adulthood rites take center stage, as a young woman, who has a contentious relationship with her sister, gets turned into a cannibal after an initial hazing at her sister’s college, that turns out to be an initiation, not just into a sorority, but also adulthood. In Blood and Donuts (1995), a vampire who has just awakened from a long sleep, is introduced to the modern world, via the night shift worker at a local bakery. Over the course of the evening, the young lady figures out who and what he is, and the two of them engage in a push and pull attraction, as he decides whether or not he should prey on her.

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In the 1987 movie, Near dark, a young man is inducted into a nightmare lifestyle, where he has to kill to live, when he meets a pretty blonde girl, at a bar one night. Vampires, since they, like blood, are often a euphemism for sex and adulthood, are the focus of women’s stories, such as Fran Rubel Kazui’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Buffy went on to answer deeper questions about girlhood and monsters, in the TV series, which lasted from 1997 to 2003. In fact, these themes are so prevalent, that they often seem to be having a dialogue with each other, or with movies of the same genre, made by men.

There is a lot of narrative overlap, for example, between Near Dark, Ravenous, and the movie, Afflicted, which cover not just the same themes, but sometimes the same talking points, of the male protagonist’s empathy making them unfit to live the kind of lifestyle that requires killing others. There is also a great deal of narrative overlap in the movies Carrie, Raw, and Ginger Snaps, more films in which menstruation, and flesh eating, are the signals that a young woman has reached full adulthood.

Now let’s talk about Jennifer’s Body.

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Jennifer’s body is a great encapsulation of some of the themes and topics that women address through horror. The themes of friendship, female ally-ship and support, revenge, sexuality,  and patriarchy are part of this narrative.

Jennifer’s Body was released in 2009, written by Diablo Cody, and directed by Karen Kusama. Jennifer Check, as played by Megan Fox, is the high school hot girl. She is the sassy, beautiful, popular, cheerleader, that all the  high school boys lust after. Amanda Seyfried plays Amanda “Needy” Lesnicki,  her quiet, bookish,  best friend, since elementary school. Jennifer gets possessed by a demon, after she is sacrificed to Satan by a local rock band, in exchange for fame.

Already there are themes of the sexuality of women being exploited for male gain. The band, called Low Shoulder, thinks she is a virgin, and their sacrifice was successful, but since she was not actually a virgin, she became possessed instead. After she has killed two young men, Amanda figures out that she is a succubus that is impervious to harm after feeding on her victims. Jennifer attacks Amanda’s boyfriend, who then attacks and eventually kills her. However, bitten by Jennifer, Amanda has now developed some of the Demon Jennifer’s abilities. At the end of the movie, she hunts down  the band Low Shoulder, and kills them.

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Throughout the movie, we are  privy to some of the more interesting conversations that women have when men are not present, and this is something that will only happen in a movie that is written and controlled by women. Not only will there often be more than one woman in a movie, but their relationships and conversations often have more depth. The film is informed by two women in front of the camera as well as the two women behind it. It is the relationship between Amanda and Jennifer that is integral to the plot of the film. If we don’t buy their friendship, we cannot become emotionally invested in their plight, most especially in Amanda’s dilemma at having to kill her best friend.

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2018/08/206237/jennifers-body-review-defense-female-revenge-movie

Amanda isn’t just killing Jennifer to save the lives of the young men she might feed on, but to save Jennifer. too. I talked in an earlier post about how Horror is basically the disruption of the status quo by the unknown, often the paranormal, and yes, Jennifer as a demon is a disruption of the status quo,  but the status quo, does not necessarily mean “good”. The status quo is Jennifer’s humanity being disregarded  by  men who were willing to  sacrifice her life for their own gain. That Jennifer, and then Amanda, become demons is a necessary disruption, especially as part of the revenge narratives that are also prominent in women’s horror. Not only are revenge narratives common for women directors, they are often very cathartic for the creators and audiences.

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https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/03/carrie-stephen-king-brian-de-palma-horror-films-feminism

Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie, from 2011, is another movie that appears to be having a dialogue with Jennifer’s Body, as it covers many of the same themes, of women’s relationships, both supportive and toxic, and the revenge narrative. Although the story was originally written by Stephen King, and the original movie was directed Brian De Palma, I talked at length about how the mood and emphasis of the film is changed, as Pierce  focuses more on the women’s tangled relationships with each other, rather than on spectacle.

So for female horror directors, there seems to be less emphasis on spectacle (although that’s definitively present becasue these are horror movies), and more focus on symbolism, and the relationships between the characters. For me, this supports my supposition that the type of moves that get made are a reflection of the types of people who make them. If this is true of the Japanese, or British, then its equally true for the White men who run Hollywood, and are the primary creators in the horror genre. So, yes, I think that the types of films being made by White women (as these directors are primarily White) are a reflection of the things that are important to them.

There have not been enough Black and Asian-American filmmakers, in the horror genre, for certain patterns to emerge, but I’m going to give it a try in a follow-up post.

They’re Not Funny, They’re Just Bullies

I just published my first monied story on Medium. com. I can’t link to it from here but its under the name Lakitha Tolbert,, under the above title.

Even if you’re not a member of Medium, you can access at least three to four free stories a month. There are also different tiers of membership from free, to 5.00 per month.

An excerpt:

Yes, there are transgender comedians, and because they are members of that group, they are free to make jokes about their community, just as any member of a community can make jokes about it. But if it was wrong for White people (the ones who invented the racism and stereotypes that were responsible for so much Black death) to make jokes that demean the Black community, then it is equally wrong for straight, cis-gender men to stand on a stage, and make jokes about the kinds of people who get murdered by people who look like them.

This isn’t about being offended, thin skinned, or a snowflake. This is about actively harming a group of people who have told you, over and over, that your words are harming them, as those words are reinforcing, and contributing to, an environment of hatred of them.

So, slide on over to Medium.com and check it out. It costs nothing to do so, and please applaud the story!

 

Why Tony Stark Had To Die

What I’ve actually  noticed about the MCU version of Tony Stark, is that a lot of the people who stan hard for this character, are people without a fundamental understanding of what he is, why he is, and why, after everything that happened in the MCU, Tony was never meant to be the one who got to ride off into the sunset, while holding his sweetheart’s hand.

In other words, Tony had to die.

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Often, when a character who has done something bad or evil sees the error of their ways and does a Heel–Face Turnin the course of fighting to undo the damage, their redemption comes at the cost of their own life.

——– https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RedemptionEqualsDeath

Tony needed to pay for the misdeeds of his past, (something he’s been trying to do since the first film), and according to the conventions of  Western literature, such characters can only atone for their sins by dying, and when they do die, their motivation must be pure.Tony is a redemptive figure, who tried sacrificing his life to atone for his sins multiple times, but only experiences a true atonement, at the end of his arc, as it should be.

Darth Vader from Star Wars, Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy, Diablo from Suicide Squad, Venom, the father from A Quiet Place, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and Steve Rogers, are all examples of pure self sacrifice. It is the kind of sacrifice that comes from a place of pure love, of one’s son, of one’s friends, of the world in general, or one’s children, with no thought to how your death might benefit  you.

Although giving one’s life out of love for another is rare, it is not as uncommon as might be thought. Perhaps we only hear about it occasionally because the circumstances in which it might manifest itself are, fortunately, not so common. This self-sacrificing love was referred to by the Buddha when he said that a loving friend would “give what is hard to give” [1] or be prepared “to sacrifice his life for his friend”. [2] The Jatakas say something similar concerning one’s family: “Whatever your circumstances, do the necessary to alleviate the suffering of your father, your mother or your sister, even to your last breath.” [3] One is reminded of what Jesus said some five centuries later: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” [4] 

—-  https://www.bhantedhammika.net/like-milk-and-water-mixed/self-sacrificing-love

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Redemption arcs make their way into Western Literature,  through the  Christian belief system, (although other religions also feature this belief), with the ultimate sacrifice  in the Bible’s New Testament, referring  to the  deliverance of Christians from sin (salvation), through the death of Christ. In this instance, Tony, who is established as a Christ figure, (a very common trope in Western films), sacrifices his life for the salvation of the human race from Thanos, (who is set up as a Satanic figure, in the Avengers narrative, but Thanos is a whole other story.).)

In the movie, Constantine, which is also heavily based on Christian narratives, the main character knows he’s going  to Hell for the sins he committed in life. He’s seen Hell, and knows its demons are waiting to have a reckoning with him. He is terrified of it, but knows it is  soon, when he finds out he has lung cancer. At the end of the film, he saves the soul of a young woman named Isabel, who committed suicide, and consequently, went to Hell. He commits suicide too, knowing that the Devil will come to collect him personally, which he does. Lucifer grants Constantine a wish out of gratitude for thwarting another demon’s plans, (quid pro quo). Instead of wishing for a longer life, or not to go to Hell, Constantine wishes for Isabel to be released to Heaven. Lucifer agrees, but realizes just too late, that he cannot take Constantine to Hell now, because he committed a genuinely  pure act of self sacrifice.

Tony has tried a few times to sacrifice his life, but his motives were never pure, and his act of sacrifice was interrupted each time.

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I’m honestly baffled that people didn’t see his death coming, but then, I have never seen Tony through rose tinted glasses. I actually like Tony, and appreciated that most of his  character arc was him being an unremitting shit, but  at least trying to atone for his sins, and failing as much as he succeeded, but I will not lie about the type of man he was.

Tony Stark was an asshole.

And what’s more, Tony knew he was an asshole, too, which is why I posit that the many sacrifices of his life he tried to make, came from a selfish foundation. Even after his death, the MCU is still dealing with the aftermath of the decisions he made, and the people he hurt, when he was alive. Most of the villains that Tony fought throughout his own trilogy, in The Avengers, and Spiderman, came about through  his callous disregard for how his decisions affected the lives of the average man. I spoke before, about how Tony’s shortsightedness limited his morality.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/on-the-right-captain-america-and-iron-man/

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Stark was an arms dealer, and war profiteer. He made money from war, and up until  that came back to bite him on the ass by nearly killing him, he spent no time thinking about the amount of death  his weapons, (the guns, the missiles, the ammunition), caused in the world. Tony  always had a close relationship with death.  He and death were old friends, and he was one of Death’s greatest enablers, through The Stark Corporation.

It is not until his own weapons are used against him that Tony experiences “SATORI“, a moment of sudden enlightenment. He broke up with Death, and had been dodging Death’s retaliation ever since. Sooner, or later, it would have caught up to him. He  takes steps to rectify the damage he caused, by stopping his company’s arms dealing, but that is not enough. He creates the Iron man suit, so he can stop those he once armed, but that opens a whole new can of worms, because now other weapons dealers, following Tony’s  example, want their own version of the Iron Man suit. He’s simply created a new weapon for people to fight over.

At every step, Tony creates some new world horror, in his attempt to atone for the harm he caused earlier in his career, when he didn’t care. Ironically, one of the better things that came out of his creation of Iron Man, was the creation of the Avenger’s Initiative, which Nick Fury was inspired to create. (Nick Fury went on to commit his own sins in his attempt to protect the world.)

In the second Iron Man film, the events that occur may stem from decisions his father made before he was born, but Tony’s decision to go public with his identity in the first movie, has repercussions in this, and  the third movie. In the third movie, we learned that Tony’s earlier, callous, disregard for other people’s feelings is what helped create The Mandarin, and his decision to directly challenge The Mandarin in a public forum, nearly cost his and Pepper’s life.

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Throughout the movies, Tony, people often confront Tony. People like to pull out his sins, and slap him in the face with them, and that often works to change his behavior, so this is how I know Tony feels some type of way about the kind of life and living he made for himself. When he thinks he’s going to die in Iron Man 2, Tony goes on a drunken spree, and has to be saved by his friends. In Civil War, he’s confronted by the mother of one of the victims of the Ultron Incident which spurs him to sign The Accords, and the entire plot is based off the events in Sokovia, in Age of Ultron, which would never have happened, if Tony had not made the decision to try to protect the world via robot. Even Steve gets in on the act, in the first Avengers film , calling Tony out as a useless coward. Tony tries to prove he isn’t, by attempting to sacrifice his life at the end of that movie.

 

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Tony often put himself in situations where death was inevitable. He is afraid to die, but he can’t seem to stop himself from challenging the thing he most fears. (Challenging the things he fears is one of the things he has in common with Steve Rogers, although Tony does it for different reasons.) He is saved several times, by Rhodey, by Pepper, by his team, in The Avengers, and Captain Marvel in Endgame. I suspect that Tony doesn’t think much of his life, of how he has used it, and he probably thinks his death would have more meaning,  yet he doesn’t really  want to die. When Doctor Strange gives him the signal, there is no doubt in his mind what he is meant to do, and he doesn’t hesitate.

Tony once served death, chased after death, challenged death, and flirted with death. Yet, so terrified was he of dying, that he was willing to commit rather extreme acts of self harm to stave it off (the ARC reactor in his chest, for example).  The other times, when Tony tried to sacrifice his life, his motivation was not pure. He was doing it because he thought he deserved to die, and that is a selfish reason. It is only fitting that at the denouement of Endgame, Tony finally, gracefully, and willingly accepts death, and is not doing so to punish himself, or for his own salvation, or the accolades he think he will get when he’s gone. He does it to save the lives of his friends, and loved ones, standing just a few feet away. Removing the immediate threat is his primary goal ,and his death is just the price he must pay for that. His motivation this time is love, and unlike all the other times when he nearly died, his motive is pure.

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Tony is the only White male character, I’ve ever  liked, who was so incredibly flawed, and in some instances, actively shitty. In any other circumstances, Tony would have been considered a sympathetic villain, but here, in the MCU, he is cast as a damaged, but heroic, character. I don’t like Tony because he is a hero. I like him because he knows how flawed he is, and desperately wants and tries to be one. (I also love Robert Downey’s performance, which closely echoes Tony’s character arc, if you know anything about his personal life.)

I am not comfortable with the lionization of Tony Stark, by his fans since  his death, however. They build up his character in ways he was not, which does a disservice to the character, his story arc, and Downey’s performance. All along, Downey knew exactly the type of character he was portraying.

I feel it is disrespectful to the character, to make him out to be something he was not, because that ignores his character arc, and diminishes the meaning of his death.This is not the story of a “good” man, who did even more good when he died. This is the story of a horribly flawed man looking for salvation from his sins. I’m probably one of the few fans who doesn’t mourn Tony’s death. In an earlier post, about Endgame,, I said I was alright with Tony dying, and this is  why. In Avengers Endgame, he actually achieved the redemption he was always seeking, and did so without hesitation.

Tony died very well, because he deserved to.

The Truman Show (1998): Questioning Reality

During the late 90’s there was a spate of existentialist movies, that asked questions about the nature of reality, the self,  and questioned our sense of who we were. Movies like Dark City, The 13th Floor, Pleasantville, The Matrix, Existenz, and yes, The Truman Show, all questioned if the world we lived in was truly real, if we were real, and if nothing is real, does anything we experience matter.

The Truman Show didn’t just question reality. It asked questions about freedom, and self determination, as well. Truman is a man who has been imprisoned in a pleasant middle class, artificial, bubble his entire life, with a pretty blond wife, a non-descript job, one close friend, and a tragic past that’s specifically designed to hold him in place, and keep him from moving forward. His life is comfortable and certain. It is difficult not to see parallels to our own lives in Truman and his circumstances.

Truman has a daily routine. He does the same thing every day, with the same catchphrases, ordering the same food, the same magazines at the newsstand, driving the same route to and from work. Truman is mostly happy with his life, but its not an exciting life, so he fantasizes a lot.

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One of the first images we get of Truman is his childlike fantasy of being an astronaut. Truman longs to do something different, go somewhere else, be someone else, but he is trapped in place, as so many of us are, by our jobs, our circumstances, monetary concerns, our families, and other obligations, that we consider more important than our freedom to do as we please. Like Truman many of us fantasize about being  someone else, someplace else, and for most of us, fantastical visions of riding dragons, or pretending to be a favorite cartoon character, are enough.

Many of us live in comfortable bubbles, occasionally  chafing at our restrictions, and any attempts to break free of those restrictions can get you branded with labels like mentally ill,  mid-life crisis, or hysteria. Your desire to  break free, can often make other people deeply uncomfortable, and can prompt them to deploy tactics that will get you back into your bubble, to be quiet, and complacent, once again.

Truman is a man who has been held in captivity, since he was born, by an avant-garde filmmaker, named  Christof, who adopted him, kept him imprisoned in a fake world, with actors and actresses as friends and family, and put his entire life on live television. Everything in Truman’s life is manufactured, his job isn’t real, his marriage was carefully orchestrated, his best friend is an actor, his father was conveniently killed when he was a child, and he has been socialized with a number of phobias (aqua-phobia) that make it near impossible for him to leave the fake set.  In other words, his world is carefully designed to keep him in place, keep him from questioning it, and keep him from growing, changing , or progressing.

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Many of us live the kinds of lives we are reluctant to leave, it can be difficult for us to grow and move forward because we’ve become used to how our life is. It can be difficult to try new things, or make big changes in our lives, even changes we need to have, because we fear the unknown future. If you’re someone who has a great fear of the unknown, then moving into a future you cannot see, would be very difficult. This is how Truman engages with the world in the first half of his life, until a monkey-wrench called “first love” throws everything he knows into question. He falls in love with a young woman named Sylvia, who wasn’t chosen for him, and she is, rather traumatically, removed from his world. Truman developed such a special longing for her, that she came to represent the one thing in his life he didn’t have, uncertainty, and the unknown.

He begins to question the world he lives in. In other words, he starts to wake up, especially after  he experiences a series of strange events. like seeing his supposedly dead father, chunks of sky falling on his car, a photo of his wife with her fingers crossed behind her back (which indicates that she was lying). Truman attempts to express his nascent suspicions to his wife, mother, and best friend, who only try  to gaslight him, with temporary success. Over time, Truman begins to test his theory, and finally reaches the conclusion that the world he lives in, and the people he knows, is not real.

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Truman only begins to ask the right questions, after he sees the patterns around him, and starts putting those patterns in the correct order. When he sees his dead father on the street, the man is immediately whisked away by a group of strangers. Later that week, there is a radio mix up, where he hears one of the camera men narrating what he is doing. He notices a pattern in the people who cross in front of his house. He notices  patterns and reaches proper conclusions. He begins to see the artificiality.

For example, he suspects that he is being watched, that the people in his world are fake, and  don’t know what to do when he does  unexpected things. So he disrupts his routine in small ways, like walking into a different building, or deciding to accompany his wife (a nurse) to a surgery that was made up in an attempt to explain something he saw earlier that day. By behaving unpredictably, he has introduced uncertainty, and the unknown to the set, which disrupts everyone else’s routine, as well.

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Ironically, many of us suspect that the world we live in is a facade, as we seek to explain the uncertainty of our life, rather than the certainties. This theory was especially popular during the last years of the 20th century, which accounts for the popularity of  films, in which the protagonists question the randomness of their lived experiences. In the Matrix, Neo tells Trinity about a number of events that happened to him when he was unaware he was in the matrix, and asks her what that means. Trinity’s answer is that the matrix cannot tell you who you are. She is in essence telling him that when he lived in the matrix, that he was not his true self.

Since the events that occurred to Neo can be said to have been contrived by computer programs, his reactions to those events were inauthentic, and not evidence of his true self.  Another argument that can be made, however, is that such contrived events are not any different than random events contrived by a god, and if we can accept that our authentic self is in evidence when under the aegis of a mythological figure, than why can we not accept the authenticity of self while under the control of an AI?

One of the reasons that Truman gives for desperately trying to escape Christof’s prison, is that he wants a real life, an authentic life. Christof tries to talk him into staying in his artificial world by telling him that life is no more authentic, in the “real” world, than it is in his fake one. he tells Truman that there is no truth, thereby  illustrating a fundamental misunderstanding of Truman’s motives. Truman is not searching for truth. He is searching for “the real”, which is not the same thing.

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But, as we all must do, if we hope to move forward, to progress in our lives, Truman takes a leap of faith, into the unknown. At some point, if we hope to meet our real selves, we must all walk through a mysterious door, into an uncertain future. Truman has no idea what is on the other side of the door he’s about to walk through, but like Red, from the Shawshank Redemption, he hopes to see Sylvia, and take her hand. He hopes to find himself. He hopes to be happy. He hopes to find love.

He hopes.

And so must we all.

 

Jet Li Unleashed (2005): Surviving Abuse

 

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One of the more unusual martial arts films I’ve  seen, is one which stars Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), and Jet Li. Yeah, I said it. Morgan Freeman starred in a martial arts film. Okay he didn’t do any martial arts, which I definitely would have watched. He was a piano tuner, but that’s okay, because Jet Li engaged in enough rock’em, sock’em for everyone in the movie. This is an unusual movie, not just because of its dissimilar cast, but because it is as much of a drama, as it is an action movie.

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The movie’s first title was Danny the Dog, when it was released overseas in 2004. When it was released in the US, in 2005, it was renamed Unleashed, and received moderate reviews, probably because most people didn’t get to see it, and the ones who did see it didn’t quite know what to make of it. Its not a bad film, but it is a tonally odd movie, that somehow manages to work, and that is entirely due to the acting, and what mindset you bring to it.

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Morgan Freeman, as Sam, is his usual excellent self, and so is Bob Hoskins as an abusive gangster named Bart. Jet Li is Danny the Dog, and  does surprisingly well, as an emotionally stunted and abused young man, They are joined by Kerry Condon, as Danny’s bubbly love interest, Victoria. I actually enjoyed this movie, but then I walked in not really knowing what to expect, even though I had heard of the movie with its previous title.

Bart has been raising Danny, the son of a young woman he exploited and killed, as a beast who wears a metal collar, which, when it’s removed, is Danny’s cue to kill whoever  Bart has pointed his finger, first as one of Bart’s enforcers, and then in  underground fight clubs. Bart styles himself as a kindly uncle, who is just taking care of the helpless Danny, but he is horrifically abusive, treating Danny like an animal, putting him on a leash, making him eat out of dog dishes, and live in a  cage in the basement. He is a cartoonish example of abusive parenting, and clothes himself in virtue, by calling it love.

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One day Danny accidentally stumbles across Sam, fixing a piano in an antique shop, and the blind Sam, is kind and friendly to him, something Danny has never experienced. He becomes fascinated by the piano, and later, asks for one from Bart, but a rival gangster takes Bart out of the equation, via car crash. Danny is injured in the attack, but manages to find his way back to the antique shop where Sam works. Sam takes Danny in, and patches him up.

So thirty minutes into the movie, it turns into a found family story, that’s rather endearing, carried mostly on the strength of the acting. Danny is from a highly abusive, even life threatening, relationship with the man who raised him, while Victoria and Sam have an open, loving, and healthy relationship, with more than enough room to welcome Danny. A significant portion of the film is taken up with montages, and scenes, of Danny discovering the joys of ice cream, kissing, and both familial and romantic love, learning to cook with Sam, and  play the piano with Vic, and just be happy. He starts to regain memories of his mother and begins investigating his origins.

Victoria is also an adopted child, but she had the good luck to be raised by Sam instead of  someone like Bart. Victoria’s biological father died when she was small, and her mother married Sam. After her mother died, Sam became her father, and moved them both to France, so that she could go to music school. Sam’s love for his child, is as it should be, sacrificial, and supportive. They are a  family that prays before each meal, and fully embody the Christian principles of charity and kindness, and become a model for Danny for how a healthy family behaves.

Sam and Victoria are the stellar opposite  of  Bart, and the various flunkies who surround, and obey him, who all witness Danny being treated abusively, and say and do nothing. Bart is a man with many pretensions. He is a user who pretends  at kindness, a gangster with pretensions to class and upbringing, and a bully, who pretends to be a father figure. Thanks to Bart, Danny is emotionally underdeveloped, withdrawn, anxious, and extremely focused on any given task.

The first time Danny wakes up in Sam’s and Victoria’s home, he is frightened and nervous, and hides under the bed. At dinner, he doesn’t know to use a spoon for his soup, and he is still wearing his metal collar. But Sam and Victoria adapt to him as he adapts to them, and are as loving and supportive to him, as they are to each other. They suspect that he comes from a violent situation, and are sensitive about how they treat him, by not asking questions they think would cause traumatic memories ,and they teach him how to live a normal life, as Danny has never been taught to do anything but kill and is completely inured to violence.

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At one point, a fight breaks out in a local store that Sam and Danny frequent, which Danny entirely ignores, saying he was unconcerned because the fight didn’t involve him. This is how well trained Danny is with his collar on. Later, when Victoria reaches to take the collar off, saying its the last vestige of his old life he needs to get rid of, he is terrified that when she does so,  he will attack her, because the only times it was ever removed, he would kill. You can see his adrenaline spike just thinking about it, but he allows her to remove it, and when nothing happens you can see the relief on his face. He trusts himself now, in a way that would not have been possible, earlier in their relationship. As it turns out, he is not the natural born killer Bart trained him to be.

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https://www.loyola.edu/department/counseling-center/students/concerns/abuse

When children are exposed to abuse, they learn to protect themselves through denial, withdrawal, approval-seeking, turning off their feelings, acting out, and self-blame. Using these coping mechanisms during childhood has long-term consequences, which can include lack of trust, a fear of change and resultant difficulty in adjusting, difficulty knowing or showing one’s own feelings, being easily stressed and acting on that by abusing substances, food, and one’s own body, and feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.

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Sam and Victoria model for Danny how a loving relationship between a stepparent and child is supposed to work.When Sam and Victoria have a disagreement, they argue, come to a truce, and then make up. They disagreed, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still love each other. Contrast that with Danny’s relationship to his evil stepfather  Bart, who gives the orders, and, according to Bart, “the dog obeys!” There can be no disagreement with Bart. When Danny insists that he wants a piano, Bart is angry, manipulative, and cajoling. He screams and/or lies, to Danny, to get what HE wants.

Later, Danny refuses to fight, deciding he doesn’t want to kill people anymore, and Bart becomes increasingly angry and more violent, but is unable to force Danny to do what he wants him to do. Danny sees this powerlessness, and finally connects his mother’s death (which he witnessed as a child) to Bart. He rebels completely and leaves him. This move may or may not be especially cathartic to abuse survivors, but its was certainly good to watch Danny reject Bart. After experiencing so much happiness with Sam and Victoria, he can’t possibly make himself go back to that life.

Bart follows him to his home, with Sam and Victoria, and attempts to kill them, because threatening Danny’s new family is the only leverage he has to make him obey. Danny nearly kills Bart, but is stopped by Sam and Victoria who tell him that he cannot begin his commitment to peace by killing Bart. Bart’s life isn’t saved because Sam and Victoria care about him. Its saved because they love Danny and believe, as he does,  that he should stop killing.

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https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/survivors-child-abuse-remind/

#3. You Are Still Loved, Even When It’s Uncomfortable to Accept Love from Others

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At the end of the movie, Victoria tells Danny  his life was saved by music, and this may be true, but really Danny saves himself, by the choices he makes. Like a lot of abuse survivors, he is presented with the option of staying, as the abuser tries to sweet talk him into coming back, and how everything will better, and the abuser will be a nicer person, who really loves them. Classic abuser speak, basically.

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Danny realizes he actually has choices. He chooses to stop killing and commits to it,  he chooses to leave Bart, and sets the terms of it, and finally chooses not to kill Bart, not because he cares about Bart’s  life, but because he cares about his own. But one of the biggest choices Danny makes is the choice to accept  love and support, which is healing for him. With Sam and Victoria, Danny starts to do things he never contemplated when he was with Bart. He makes plans for his future, sets goals, and claims what he desires.

This is not a completely accurate depiction of surviving child abuse, because this is, after all, an action film, but it makes some interesting points about  it. I’m pretty sure  most of the people who walked into the theater to see this, had no idea this would turn into a movie about surviving domestic abuse, but I found it uplifting and fun to watch. True, not all martial arts movies have this level of  depth, but like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they sometimes have messages, and deal with  serious issues.

 

 

  • Next up on martial arts movies: Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and  Colonialism

 

 

Ravelry Bans Trump Support

Remember that conversation we had about racism in the Crafts community? Well, there has been a lot of fall out from that beginning. I feel like at least part of all this began with the pink pussy hats in 2016, and the conversations surrounding the use of the hats to represent ALL women, because not all women have vaginas, and  pink pussy hats don’t actually represent WoC. That opened the door to the discussion of how WoC are sometimes excluded from events on Ravelry that are supposed to be representative of all women, like the knit breasts, for women who have had mastectomies, that are also pink.

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Mostly this began in January, on Instagram, and has finally culminated in Ravelry putting its foot down, and making a definitive statement. Trump is a White Nationalist/Supremacist, and support for him and his policies, is support for those issues, too.

In January, Karen Templar gushed about her upcoming trip to India using some unflattering and insensitive comparisons, that upset PoC in the crafting  community. She has since made the effort to learn from the experience by listening to the people she hurt, and apologizing for any harm she caused.

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*Words matter

I have hurt, angered and disappointed a lot of people this week with my insensitive post about my upcoming trip to India and my handling of the response, and I am deeply sorry about it. I’ve spent the week listening hard, learning (in part about how much more I have to learn), and thinking about all of the things I can do — particularly here on the blog — to be more inclusive and supportive of people of color. I can’t take any of this week back, but I will work hard to do better going forward.

For those who didn’t see anything offensive in my post, I feel it’s important to spell it out for everyone to see and think about, and hopefully learn from:

First, it reads like I’m a tourist looking for an exotic location for my next selfie, which is inherently horrible — India is not a set or a backdrop for white people. It reads that way because I didn’t take the time to talk about why I’m going, which is to meet textile artisans and learn more about their craft. I’m coming to India from a place of respect for the relevance of textiles in the country’s liberation from British rule.

Second, and more egregiously, when I said that to my anxiety-ridden teenage self the offer of travel to India felt like an offer of travel to Mars, I gave the impression that I equate the people of India with aliens — literally alienizing people who aren’t like me. It doesn’t matter that that’s not how I intended it. By being careless with my words, I perpetuated the harmful notion that Indians (and POC in general) are “other,” or even to be feared. People who are the target of racism every day were rightly offended by it, as were others. And I am so sorry.

Third, I compounded the Mars problem by bringing it up again (to say that my grown-up self might even consider space travel if I got the chance) by referencing an interview I had heard about the impending “colonization” of Mars. I brought up colonization in a piece about a country marred by colonialism and didn’t see it. Everyone who was shocked at that was right to be, and I’m shocked at myself.

That’s not comprehensive, but it’s the main thrust of it. It took women of color pointing this out for me to see it — starting with the annotation that @thecolormustard posted in her Story — which is not their responsibility, and I am thankful to them for taking the time. If you’re struggling to understand the response, please just sit with it and give it some serious thought, from their point of view.

I apologize profusely to everyone I hurt, and to everyone who has taken any kind of heat for calling me out on it. I was wrong, and the women who took the risk to speak out were right. I’ll be doing the work, sharing the resources*, and doing my part to raise the visibility and celebrate the actual beautiful diversity of this community.

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*Currently readingThe Origin of Others by Toni Morrison (recommended by @nappyknitter). If you haven’t read Morrison’s novels, get on that too.

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What happened with Karen opened up a number of discussions in the community about how BIPoC are treated, and what White people within the communities can do to make everyone feel more welcoming, with some members of the community showing their true faces about political topics that don’t directly concern them, and they remain willfully ignorant about. 

There are two ways people can walk in this world. Karen is an example of the first way. When told they are harming the people they are bumping into with their jagged edges, they  make at least some effort to smooth those edges, and be less harmful to those who come in contact with them. This takes a certain amount of listening, personal work, and a little discomfort. 
The second way, are those people who make no effort to smooth their rough edges, take offense at being asked not to harm people, and not only don’t care who they hurt, actually seem to be quite gleeful about it.

Ravelry decided, after some extreme events last week, which I will get into in a moment, to ban speaking about trump and his administration, as he and his policies support White Nationalism, and  doing so creates an unsafe space for BIPoC, and others.

 

 

“There are people who have been talking down to other people because they can’t afford anything better than craft yarn from Michael’s,” she said. “Knitting has always been political, whether you believe it or not.”

 

*https://www.theverge.com/interface/2019/6/25/18716342/ravelry-trump-ban-knitting-white-supremacy-facebook

 

*From Ravelry:

 

We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry.

This includes support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content. Note that your project data will never be deleted. We will never delete your Ravelry project data for any reason and if a project needs to be removed from the site, we will make sure that you have access to your data. If you are permanently banned from Ravelry, you will still be able to access any patterns that you purchased. Also, we will make sure that you receive a copy of your data.

We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.

Policy notes:

  • You can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here.
  • We are not endorsing the Democrats nor banning Republicans.
  • We are definitely not banning conservative politics. Hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions.
  • We are not banning people for past support.
  • Do not try to weaponize this policy by entrapping people who do support the Trump administration into voicing their support.
  • Similarly, antagonizing conservative members for their unstated positions is not acceptable.

You can help by flagging any of the following items if they constitute support for Trump or his administration:

  • Projects: Unacceptable projects will be provided to the member or made invisible to others.
  • Patterns: Unacceptable patterns will be returned to drafts.
  • Forum posts: right now, only posts written after Sunday, June 23rd at 8 AM Eastern
  • Profiles: Unacceptable avatars or profile text will be removed.

Much of this policy was first written by a roleplaying game site, not unlike Ravelry but for RPGs, named RPG.net. We thank them for their thoughtful work. For citations/references, see this post on RPG.net: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/new-ban-do-not-po…

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*Its very interesting that those who are opposed to the ban on trump and hate speech, are not talking about the event that triggered this reaction from Ravelry. 
See, What Had Happened Was:
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Now lets be clear, trump supporters are not banned from Ravelry. What they are  is banned from talking about and supporting the policies of him and his administration, thereby creating a  hostile, and  unsafe, emotional environment for those people who are directly affected by his racist policies.
To their credit, most of the members on Ravelry are perfectly fine with this, and support it. There are a handful who hate it, but  they don’t have big enough platforms to affect anything, and they can always leave and form their own crafts platforms, dedicated to victimizing people who don’t look like them. 
The people who are against this ban have never been on the receiving end of trump’s rhetoric, so its easy for them to take offense and claim they are being oppressed, in the absence of any actual experience with oppression. Ravelry has always been a comfortable space for them, where they can say whatever they please, without regard to how what they say, affects other community members.
Many of these people claim they are leaving Ravelry because they feel the ban is wrong, and claim that they are being banned themselves. They are not. Go to Ravelry and get the actual source of what was said.  (And NO! Its not censorship, since Ravelry is a privately owned company.) Such people just cannot discuss they’re repellent political views on the site. This is not any different from bans on other forums moderating hate speech and open White supremacy. The only difference here is that talking about trump and his policies are now  equated with hate speech. 
My question for them is this: Why do you think you cannot participate in this community without emotionally harming the other members? Especially after people have repeatedly told you that what you are doing and saying is harmful to them? What about their comfort? They just want to look for patterns and talk about yarn too, without being inundated with racist imagery, and hate speech. Why can’t this space be safe and apolitical for them?
What people like that are forgetting is that marginalized people do not have the luxury of escaping from politics just because we don’t feel like dealing. Its very easy to claim to be apolitical when the politics being espoused do not personally affect you. This is especially true in cis-, straight, White spaces, where the marginalized can be blindsided, at any moment, by a White person’s thoughtless comments, and  sometimes active malice. Working in a diner is not a political act, nor is grocery shopping, or working in a crafts store, but it quickly becomes political when a marginalized person is subjected to a screaming rant about how some random White person voted for trump, and people need to build the wall! Or when you stumble across Confederate flags, when all you wanted was a  pattern for a baby blanket. 
What’s interesting, and its something that should most definitely set to rest the idea of White women’s innocence regarding racism, is most of the people hating on this ban are women, and it was women who were heavily involved in the doxxing and harassment of the person who reported the hate speech patterns to Ravelry moderators. You can’t blame this on some nameless cabal of Maga hat wearing White male nerds.
Fortunately one of the good things to come out of all this is at least some White women are trying to be better people. They re having the discussions about themselves and thinking about the issue, and considering ways in which they can walk through this world without harming others.

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“We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy,” the site said in a statement explaining the decision. “Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.”

Curatorial vs. Transformative Fandom

The basic definition of the two is fandom that is practiced in one of two ways by either collecting information about the source material, or transforming/changing the source material to best interact with it. Sometimes there is a degree of overlap, but the motivations for the overlap tend to differ. Male fans generally engage in curatorial fandom, where the degree of fandom is noted by how many details of the source material can be collected and/or memorized, from figurines, to dialogue, to plot details. There is sometimes quantification involved such as rankings and listings. See those YouTube videos and posts that list episodes in a series from best to worst, or movies in a franchise. Curatorial fandom does not require intimate engagement with the material. One example is the movie Endgame, where male fans got caught up on attempting to parse how the Time travel worked in the movie, while female fans on Tumblr wrote meta-analysis about the different character’s psychology and emotions.

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Transformative fandom, as primarily practiced by women, involves a deep interaction with the source material, along with the collection of details for transforming the source material into something else, usually something that resonates with that particular fan, such as cosplay, fan art, fan fiction, and meta- analysis.

This is not a hard and fast rule, as there can be some degree of overlap. There are plenty of men involved in cosplay, fan art, and meta-analysis, and there are plenty of women who memorize dialogue, and collect information about their favorite shows.

Transformative fandom seeks to change the source material to reflect its needs, or analyse the source material for why those needs aren’t being  met, and how it could. One of the tenets of Curatorial fandom is that it doesn’t question the source material, simply accepting it. Having not been the primary audience for much of the source material of many fandoms, Transformative fandom this is mostly, but not exclusively, engaged in by PoC, LGBTQ, and White women.

 

It has been speculated that one of the reasons white male fans have been reacting in fandom the way they have is that Curatorial fandom is in opposition to Transformative fandom, which seeks to change the canon source material, thereby making the collection of facts and figures obsolete or irrelevant. Such men have defined their fandomhood, sometimes their very identities, by the amount of knowledge they possess about their particular fandom, and in their minds, Transformative fandom seeks to arbitrarily, and unnecessarily, change it. So, beyond the idea that they are no longer the audience for the material (something which is not ever going to change) is the false idea that female fans are taking the material and making random changes to it in the form of fanfiction and fan art. Helping matters along is that Speculative and Fantastic fiction is becoming more diverse, with creators changing the canon sources themselves by changing characters to women (Thor), stating the sexual orientations of older characters (Iceman), or making other characters PoC (Candace Patton as Iris West.)

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https://fanlore.org/wiki/Curative_Fandom

Curative fandom is all about knowledge. It’s about making sure that everything is lined up and in order, knowing how it works, and finding out which one is the best. What is the Doctor Who canon? Who is the best Doctor? How do Weeping Angels work? Etc etc. Curative fandom is p. much the norm on reddit, especially r/gallifrey. Transformative fandom is about change. Let’s write fic! Let’s make art! Let’s make a fan vid! Let’s cosplay! Let’s somehow change the text.

 

Transformative fandom seeks to interact on an emotional level with the source material. It wants to question it, and work within it, which is why so much of it centers on characters and relationships between the  characters, while taking place in different environments. I know plenty of people consider Coffee Shop AUs to be cliche, but it is a way for female fans to self insert, while analyzing the characters, by changing the environment in which the story takes place. It is not about removing dramatic impetus from the source, but understanding who the characters are, how they interact, and giving themselves the happy endings that so much of the source material in Fantastic fiction disdains. Its also a way for marginalized people to imagine themselves in source material in which they are not represented. The Mary Sue, the Self  Insert, and Shipping, are all attempts by Transformative fandom to interact personally  with the source material.

If Curatorial fans ,who are well represented in the source material, imagine themselves as being one of the characters in it, then Transformative fans like to imagine interacting with the characters in it. Its not so much that they want to be Buffy, or Willow, but self inserting as a friend of Buffy, gives such fans a way to express their love and affection for any of the other characters she may interact with in the show, like Spike, Anya, or Giles. Or putting themselves in the situations the characters encounter. many of the tropes of fan fiction come from female fans imagining what they would do if they found themselves within the source material, like defeating the villain, having love affairs , or offering comfort when their favorite characters are in pain.

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https://www.vox.com/2016/6/2/11531406/why-were-terrified-fanfiction-teen-girls

My preferred explanation is the idea that the vast majority of what we watch is from the male perspective – authored, directed, and filmed by men, and mostly straight white men at that. Fan fiction gives women and other marginalised groups the chance to subvert that perspective, to fracture a story and recast it in her own way. … It often feels as if there isn’t much space for difference in the dominant cultural narratives; in fandom, by design, there’s space for all.

 

Another issue is the devaluation of women’s interests and hobbies. Because Transformative fandom is mostly engaged in by women, there is a tendency to disregard it, along with its problems. There is also a certain level of mockery and disgust, whereas the same level of disgust is not aimed at, for example, men’s sports fandoms, which can be far more violent. Narratives aimed at a female audience, or interests and hobbies of women and other marginalized people are often disregarded, the way movies aimed at Black audiences were often disregarded or considered of no importance by White audiences. Don’t believe me?  Name the top three favorite films in the Black community. From before 2000!

What is not often discussed, and this is where devaluation comes in, is that Transformative fandom also has its contingent of harassment and bigotry,   but because its women, its less obvious than the harassment engaged in by Curatorial fans,  dismissed as not being important, and mocked as fans just being  crazy. Bigotry in Transformative fandom changes source material that may actually be progressive, to reflect the mainstream status quo, by erasing women of color from canon relationships, or abusing Black male characters, by writing them  into slavefic. When WoC  question and/or  analyse the source for racism and misogynoir, they are often harassed, gaslighted, or shouted down by White female fans. When Gay fans question the fetishizing of mlm characters in fandom, they are often treated the same. There are plenty of white women fans harassing WoC actresses, who happen to be paired with White men in the source material, like the still ongoing harassment campaign against Candace Patton, from The Flash.This is not the type of bad fandom behavior that gets covered in mainstream media, which attributes such harassment only to White men, and as a result, the public tends to think that White women are innocent of it. They are not. They simply have different motivations.

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https://newrepublic.com/article/137489/women-color-price-fandom-can-high

The attacks on her character range from obvious bigotry referring to her as a monkey to more subtle remarks about how the two love interests don’t “look good together”. Look through Tumblr, Twitter, or even the recaps on popular sites and you’ll find an inordinate amount of hate toward Iris for things other white female characters get a pass for. 

There were plenty of White female fans denigrating Kelly Marie Tran, and her character, before she deleted her Instagram account. The only difference was their behavior wasn’t in the public eye, because they were not attacking the actress directly. They were attacking her fans instead, or engaging in transformative media, in the form of tweets, essays, and fanfiction that erased and/or vilified her character. This is typical in Transformative fandom, where White women deliberately fail to understand, or choose to ignore, intersectional feminism, in favor of uplifting white female characters, while diminishing WoC in both fandom and the narrative.

https://stitchmediamix.com/2018/09/19/what-fandom-racism-looks-like-only-33-words-in-a-trailer/

Hell, did y’all see how the Agent Carter fandom demanded that WOC support a show where we weren’t even vaguely represented – all in the name of feminism – and then blame us for the show doing poorly in its second season? (Or, Tamora Pierce wading in with a totally wrong and racist interjection about 1940s New York must have looked like and what Black people would’ve done in that time period.

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There has been a lot of discussion lately about Curatorial fandom behaving badly, while ignoring that Transformative fandom often behaves just as badly, but because the perpetrators are White women, who tend to be more subtle in their practice of it, whose interests and hobbies tend to be devalued,  and who have traditionally always been seen as innocent of bigoted and racist behavior, this gets  ignored by the mainstream.

Now, this isn’t to say that one form of fandom is better or worse than the other. They are both simply differing ways of being a fan. But that is not to say that Curatorial fandom doesn’t have issues. We’ve already talked about how bigotry and racism from Curatorial fans is covered in mainstream media, but one other issue is that sometimes curatorial fandom does not go beyond collecting information about the source material, and has a tendency to lack depth. Fans may not ask questions, or seek to think any deeper about it beyond simply knowing it in detail, or ranking it from best to worst. That can lead to a certain amount of shallowness , and we’ve already seen that it can lead to gatekeeping, where members of a particular fandom feel a need to test newer fans on their knowledge about it, before being permitted to enjoy that fandom. Since they practice fandom in a  Curatorial style, , a lack of knowledge, in their minds, means that someone isn’t a real fan.

Another side effect of Transformative fandom is that fans can get so caught up in their imaginary version of the source material (known as head canon) that they  bully and harass others who don’t believe as they do. They will attack other fans, thereby keeping the harassment in-house. This accounts for the many “shipping wars” that are bizarre and puzzling to outsiders, like what happened in the Supernatural fandom, when certain fans became convinced that their imaginary relationship, between Dean Winchester and the Angel Castiel, (called Destiel) was actually a canon relationship being kept from them by the creators. It got to the point where such fans were also  harassing the actors, their wives, and the writers, by making fanciful claims about the real life actors relationships with each other and their wives, and bullying those fans who refuted these beliefs.

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https://scadconnector.com/2018/04/10/fascination-and-frustration-an-analysis-of-fan-fiction/

Fan fiction is written by people who watch a show or a movie, or read a book, and look at what they are given and think, but what if this happened?

Although there are differences in how fandom is practiced, there is a great deal of overlap in type, and no way of performing fandom is better than another. Both styles of fandom have significant drawbacks, especially when practiced carelessly, by forgetting that other types of fans exist,  acting and thinking without regard to other members of the fandom, or even the creators.  These are just different ways of enjoying the narrative, and most people engage in at least a little bit of both kinds of fandom. But when people feel threatened by, for example, changes in the source material, or by other fans (sometimes other marginalized fans) who refute their ideas about the source material, the kind of behavior we see is usually based on this  divide.

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/ready-player-one-marvel-and-the-cure-for-curative-fandom

All we have to do to open up curative fandom is incorporate a little more of Column B, shifting the curative focus from “catalog everything in the collection” to “what’s the most interesting thing in here?” By leaning harder into the curatorial roots of curative fandom, Marvel’s hit upon the solution to it.

Or, to put it another way—Ready Player One feels like the past. Black Panther feels like the future.

 

**This is just my attempt to understand why some fans behave so badly, and yet still refer  to themselves as fans, because one of the first things I did was question whether or not these people were real fans, and these essays somewhat answer my question. My definition of fandom wasn’t wrong, it just needed to be expanded to include different performances of it, and that a lot of the behavior we see coming out of fandom is due, at its foundation, to this difference in thinking. This is not to give these people an out for their bad behavior, or an excuse, but for me to understand the psychology behind why people do what they do in fandom, and pass along some of that understanding.

 

 

 

 

Sitcoms Have Always Been Political

 

This essay was inspired by a conversation on Tumblr, where an anonymous poster opined that sitcoms were too political these days, and that he wanted to watch them without politics.  I found this declaration to be not just deeply funny, but  disgracefully ignorant of the history of sitcoms. There are plenty of sitcoms that have existed, and air today, that have no political message to them, but many sitcoms have always had political components, and social messages and comedy have always been good bedfellows, from Saturday Night Live, to In Living Color, to Key & Peele.

There are those shows where not every episode deals with social issues, but plenty of sitcoms addressed specific issues during their run, and some of them were political, not because they discussed social issues, but because their very existence was a political act.

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The most famous political sitcom, that didn’t appear to be about politics, also had a somewhat disingenuous title.  All In The Family aired from 1971 to 1979. It starred Carrol O’ Connor, as Archie Bunker, a close-minded and racist bigot who liked to wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days, with his sweet tempered wife Edith, his more emotionally evolved daughter, Gloria, and her counterculture husband, Michael Stivic, who often butted heads with Archie’s ignorance.

While the show didn’t appear to be a political or social justice show, it managed to  disseminate a lot of social concepts through Michael and Gloria’s arguments with Archie. Archie gave voice to a lot of the status quo bigotry of the time, and Gloria and Michael’s job on the show was to refute his ignorant statements about gays, blacks, and women.  The show often put Archie in situations with gays, Blacks, and women, that would require him to question his long held beliefs, or realize the falsity of them. Over the course of the series eight year run, Archie slowly begins to change his views on a lot of issues. But this is not a show about redemption. The point was to show how people evolve in their thinking over time, and to provide counter arguments to a lot of the types of discussions that were actually happening in people’s homes at the time. All in the family gave birth to several spinoffs, including the openly feminist show, Maude, which starred Bea Arthur, of Golden Girls fame. Maude discussed every social issue of the time, from homosexuality, to women’s rights, as Maude spent the bulk of the show butting heads with her apathetic husband, and openly bigoted neighbor.

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SOAP aired for three years, from 1977 to 1981, and included in one of its many storylines, the  life of one Jodi Dallas, an openly gay man, played by Billy Crystal. The show was groundbreaking because this was one of the first times a gay character had been prominently featured in a sitcom, where the humor wasn’t centered around making fun of his sexuality. In fact, Jodi’s “gayness” was handled very sensitively. His character was treated with a certain amount of respect by the writers, and while some of the characters disrespected Jodi, the other marginalized character in the show, a butler named Benson, always treated Jodi with respect. The bullying of any of the other characters was always met with disapproval, and Jodi knew how to defend himself, thereby getting the best lines, and often, the last word.

The show Benson was a spinoff starring the butler of SOAP, played by Robert Guillaume. While not, specifically, a Black show, there was no doubt Guillaume was the star of the show, which declared its liberal status by showcasing Guillaume’s great comedic timing, with Bensons’ sarcastic remarks to his clueless employers.

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The Mary Tyler Moore Show came right on the tail end of the first feminist movement,  and the cusp of the second, and aired from 1970 to 1977. Mary Tyler Moore, fresh off her fame on the Dick Van Dyke show, starred as herself, while navigating life as a single working girl in Minneapolis. The show was groundbreaking in showing an unmarried, woman without children, who was focused on her career.  The show tackled such issues as pre-marital sex, homosexuality, women’s working conditions, sexual harassment, and low wages , and did so while being realistically down to earth, and very funny.

It produced two spinoffs, Rhoda, about Mary’s upstairs neighbor, and Lou Grant, Mary’s boss. It also paved the way for other feminist shows about women tackling life in the big city, like Golden Girls, Designing Women, Maude, Laverne and Shirley, and Murphy Brown, all shows that had political components, and tackled many of the same issues that had been discussed on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Few of the shows relied  on wacky situations for their humor, but on realistic situations, while putting wacky, and irreverent characters together to see how they’d interact. Sitcoms aimed  at and about only women became a staple of the genre, and the creators would take full advantage of that to discuss the pressing issues of the day.

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If The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about a young single girl in the city, Golden Girls looked at the opposite end of the spectrum, with four retired, single senior citizens sharing a house together in Miami. The show  lasted from 1985 to 1992, and tackled such topics as homosexuality, aging, and living and loving as a senior citizen. It won several awards including a number of  Emmys, Golden Globes, and People’s Choice awards. Not every show was about being old, but the show was political just by existing, since it was a rarity at the time to have female senior citizens as stars in their own  shows then.

The list of feminist shows was not limited to White women. There were plenty of shows that had feminist messages which starred women of color. Shows like Living Single, about a group of Black women living single in the city, which was the template for Friends, and the forerunner to Sex and the City, Moesha which starred Pop singer Brandy, A Different World, a spinoff of the Cosby Show, about the eldest daughter’s adventures at a well known HBCU, and even shows for teenage girls, like Disney’s That’s So Raven.  These are shows that would have been considered political without the feminist messages, as they were about Black women’s lived experiences as Black women.

No list of politics in sitcoms would be complete without mentioning  M.A.S.H., based on the 1970 movie of the same name, (about the Vietnam War), the series was set during the Korean War, and understood by both the audience, and its creators, that all of its ideology was about Vietnam, and war in general. The series aired from 1972 to 1983. One of the creators of the series, Alan Alda was an out liberal, and made that clear in his character, Hawkeye, who often disparaged the war, and occasionally spoke on issues of feminism, race, anti-semitism, and religion, and was not above being called out on his own prejudices, like sexism. The show was nominated for over 100 awards during its run, and is still, decades after its final episode, one of the most beloved sitcoms in American television.

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By their very nature, just about any show that has a cast of color will be a show about politics, or contain social messages. Not all of the episodes on the show are political, but sometimes, just showing people of color going about their daily lives, living, loving, laughing, and working, will show that the personal is sometimes the political. For people of color, and other marginalized identities, our very existence can become a social justice issue. Shows like The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, and Living Single, were groundbreaking in the 80s and 90s because of their rarity. How rare? Julia, starring Diahanne Carroll, first aired in 1968, and was notable for having a Black actress, as the lead, in a non-stereotypical role. She played a nurse, who was a single Mom,  two years before The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and like a lot of other shows starring people of color, it was appropriated to be consumed by White audiences, since it was believed that White audiences didn’t want to watch shows with an all PoC cast, even though the popularity of The Jeffersons, a spinoff of The Archie Bunker Show, and The Cosby Show, during the 80s, made that belief to be false.

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In fact, almost all shows which starred PoC as the leads in the cast, tackled social justice issues, at one time or another, and managed to do so, while being fun and funny,  without becoming too heavy handed about it, although they did occasionally get a little preachy. In the 80s, The Jeffersons, which was a spinoff of All In The Family, the theme was  the upward mobility of the Black Middle Class, which was a turnabout on the theme of Black poverty in the shows Good Times and Sanford and Sons, in the 70s, which later evolved into  the working class themes of Whats Happening. All of these set the stage for the comfortable, Middle Class respectability of The Cosby Show. Surprisingly, a lot of these early show were written by a White man, Norman Lear.

The Cosby family didn’t sit around talking about the important issues of the day, but just showed their lives, as the family lived it. They were  fully immersed in Black culture, often discussing books, music, and movies, that were of interest to their Black audience,  thereby giving the White people who watched the show little glimpses into what the ordinary life of a Black family might be like, while dealing with universal issues like navigating the family/work dynamic, and sending the kids to college. In fact, the Cosby Show was a kind of corollary to Roeseanne, which addressed a lot of the same issues, but from the point of view of a working class White family, a viewpoint which is also a rarity in sitcoms.

There are also all the shows that may not seem as if they are political, but because they star people of color, they become political by association with some current issue, such as Brooklyn 99, which has tackled the issue of bisexuality by having one of its lead characters come out on the show, stars a gay Black cop and his White partner, and even addressed police profiling; One Day At A Time, about the life and loves of a Latina single mother, her lesbian daughter, and the daughter’s non-binary love interest; Fresh Of the Boat, which deals with issues in the Asian immigrant community; and Insecure, a callback to the original Julia, about the love life of an awkward Black woman living in the big city. There is Black*ish, Grown*ish, Speechless, Dear White People, She’s Gotta have It, based on Spike Lee’s movie of the same name, and Bob’s Burgers, all shows told from a different viewpoint than the usual.

For someone to complain that sitcoms never used to be political is evidence of a profound lack of knowledge about the history of the genre. Sitcoms have always addressed the politics of the times in which they were created. To be sure there are plenty of sitcoms that have nothing to do with politics, which are quite popular, and there’s nothing wrong with liking them. There’s a sitcom out there for everyone, from the deeply political Veep, to the blatantly silly Archer.

But some of us enjoy the politics, which is why so many of  these sitcoms are incredibly popular.

American Gods Season Two: Finale

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This season simply wasn’t as strong In its narrative as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of a single creator with a vision. This season there are two or more creators, so the fact that we had some kind of narrative cohesion is pretty good. It wasn’t a bad season though. I liked the character development, and the visuals are always strong, although, once again, this wasn’t as strong as the last season, which had the benefit of novelty. It also seemed like the writers didn’t know what to do with some character, like Bilquis and Anansi, but their presence was not undesired either..

I’m not going to talk about the plot as much as I’m going to discuss characters and their development. We lost two of the gods, or four, depending on how one sees it. The first god to die was the eldest Zoraya sister. Her brother explained that there is a resurrection ritual for her, but without any believers, the ritual wouldn’t work, so currently there are only two sisters left. i’m a big fan of Cloris Leachman, and I hope she makes her way back to the show. She as great as the eldest sister.

We also lost Old Media and the old version of Technical Boy (whose origin we also got to see). Media, which was first played by Gillian Anderson, was resurrected and is now played by Kahyun Kim. I have tried really hard to like New Media, but I don’t, and I think that’s a very interesting point. She exists as a form of Media that I’m mostly bored and exasperated by.. Her general  demeanor is annoying, and after I gave it some thought, I figured out why. She is every bit as annoying to me as actual new media. She prances around as a sexy anime chanteuse, squeaking, and breathless, in that way that I hate in actual  anime, so I think she’s meant to be annoying to people like me. I’m usually cringing when I see her on screen for any length of time, it also doesn’t help that she is hypersexualized and kind of useless, exactly like actual new media.

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Mr. World was starting to get a little bit frustrated because his gods (Argus, Technical Boy, and New Media) were not coming through in the pinch, and getting him the results he wants, which is to find, and kill, Shadow Moon, and capture Wednesday. However, in the season finale we see the final iteration of New Media, who has truly just come into her power, and it is scary as Hell.  I certainly fucking respect her now!

The old Technical Boy was destroyed this season, but he was resurrected by his original creator as a kind of God of Surveillance, taking the place of the Argus Array, and working once again, in tandem with New Media. The original  God of Surveillance was killed by Laura, and the new Technical Boy has much to do  with computer hacking, surveillance, and spying and also has a brand new, sleeker, look, and attitude. (Incidentally, the first God of Surveillance was an old god, named Argus, that had made a deal with Mr. World.)

Needless to say, almost none of the things that happened this season, took place in the book. There’s a broad correlation, but otherwise…Shadow gets kidnapped, gets free, meets Sam Black Crow, makes his way to Cairo, works at a funeral home, and then Mad Sweeney dies. Everything else in the season was an add on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the add ons. I especially liked the episode where we got to see Shadow Moon’s and  Mad Sweeney’s real backstories, which I’ll get to soon enough. One of the side effects of this is that the series contrasts badly with the book. Gaiman may just be adding stuff to this show that he’d always wanted to add to the original story. There are a lot of things in the series that should have been in the original story, like Bilquis, and Mad Sweeney, and Laura’s activities.

I do want to talk about more of the mythology presented this season, and a few of my favorite character interactions, something with which this season excelled. From the beginning we met a lot of new /old gods, and caught up with Shadow’s backstory, and a little bit more of Wednesday’s past.

 

We get to see Shadow’s backstory, which answers a few questions about why he is the way he is, but also opens up more questions about exactly who his mother was. Was she the spirit of America, and did she die of cancer because of 9-1-1? We’re getting closer and closer to Shadow finding out he is Shadow Odinson, and we also met Odin’s other son, Thor, and saw their falling out with each other. Thor eventually commits suicide, and it becomes apparent, through his statements to Shadow, that Odin was devastated by that and still misses him. He often refers to Shadow as “Son”, or “My Boy” and at one point said Shadow reminded him of his son. Now in the mythology Odin has a lot of children but another of his most famous children was Baldur,

He’s loved by all the gods, goddesses, and beings of a more physical nature. So handsome, gracious, and cheerful is he that he actually gives off light.[1]

https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/baldur/

…and there are a few things about Shadow that echo Baldur’s story,

https://norse-mythology.org/tales/the-death-of-baldur/

…right down to Baldur’s prophetic dreams about his death, as mentioned in the Prose Edda, and that he is seen as a being of light by everyone who encounters him. It is his death that precedes Ragnarok, the war of the gods. Shadow Moon is also another name for an eclipse, and he radiates light, which is how Laura sees him. In the book, Laura refers to him as a beacon of light in a dark world. In the series, his mother mentions that he is a being of light, too. Its my theory that Shadow is what was once mentioned by Wednesday, although he did it in jest, as The King of America. In the book, two of the powers, that Shadow possessed, was knowledge, and the ability to see truth.

We’ve been watching Wednesday’s machinations all season, but we have  also been witnessing Shadow’s journey to self. We watched his journey to knowledge of the gods in season one, and in this second season, we are witnessing Shadow’s journey to realizing who and what he may be.

If he believes.

In season one, he was constantly chided to Believe, because if he didn’t, he would not survive what was to come, his imminent death at Wednesdays machinations. Next season, his task is to believe in himself. There is a reason that Shadow was allowed to join in the congregation of the gods, at the beginning of the season, because he is a potential god himself, and a relatively new one that has been raised in ignorance of that life.

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Yes, Shadow!

The end of the season also leaves a lot of questions. We got to see the full unleashing of New Media who is kinda terrifying. She starts a fake news siege against Shadow, so that Mr. World not only doesn’t have to look for Shadow, but so that in all likelihood Shadow will be killed when he is found, since New Media tells several lies about him being a heavily armed terrorist, who has killed several cops. Shadow manages to elude capture at the end of the episode,which opens another mystery. Did that event happen, and Shadow removed the police from the premises in the same way he created snow in the first season? Or was it something he saw before it happened and he just moved out of its way?

Shadow gets snagged by the miniature Yggdrasil tree growing in Mr. Ibis greenhouse and pulled into it s branches, where he begins to have visions. During the entire raiding scene he has flashbacks of Shadow as a young boy playing with police action figures, and overhearing snippets of  conversations between him,  Wednesday,  and others. At one point the child sweeps his arm across the action figures, knocking them all down, and removing them as obstacles. At the same time, the police outside the funeral home all vanish, and so does the tree, taking Shadow with it. We then see Wednesday in a diner, smiling about how his boy is going to be okay.

The ending is quite surreal with Shadow having visions of being back in the Bone Orchard at the beginning of the series, because it always comes back to that initial vision. Its hard to say if these were prophetic visions , or actual events, as the rest of the gods on the premises seem unperturbed, and Anansi seems actually happy. Once again, Anansi seems to be the one character who know more than anyone what’s going on, including who Shadow is, Wednesday’s motivations, and even the final outcome.

People don’t understand why Anansi keeps being so mean to Shadow, but part of being a Trickster god is pushing on people, so as to engage them  into committing  some kind of action. His bullying of Shadow is meant to goad Shadow into doing something he is supposed to do, instead of being so passive about his circumstances. Notice how he is constantly attacking shadow’s intelligence. This is meant to anger Shadow, and goad his ego into trying to prove that he is not stupid. It will prompt Shadow to ACT, because Angry get shit done, and it is one of the few vulnerabilities Shadow has, because in  the other areas of his life, he is very competent. I think he is cheering for Shadow to be the Wild Card in Odin’s plans for the war, because Trickster’s love that kind of thing.

My one regret with Anansi is that we still have not gotten the story from him of The Tiger’s Balls, which is one of the best short stories in the main book, but otherwise this character has been good, but not great, this season.

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The reason why Anansi gets all of the best speeches on the show is because its part of his mythology. Almost all of his stories are part of the oral tradition in Africa, and he is the god of storytelling. When we first meet him he is goading a ship’s hold full of captured slaves into angrily rebelling against their captors. Anansi does not like passivity, which is why all his speeches are so incendiary. He is a fire being that prefers action, and that’s what almost all his speechifying is geared toward, because, “Angry gets shit done!”. And in his speeches to Ibis and Bilquis he tries to get them angry enough, about the plight of African Americans, to join in Wednesday’s war, but is unsuccessful. Ibis and Bilquis continue to keep their distance from Wednesday’s plans, and what’s interesting is that Anansi seems okay with that.

… Anansi was often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival, because Anansi is able to turn the tables on his powerful oppressors by using his cunning and trickery, a model of behaviour utilised by slaves to gain the upper hand within the confines of the plantation power structure. Anansi is also believed to have played a multifunctional role in the slaves’ lives; as well as inspiring strategies of resistance, the tales enabled enslaved Africans to establish a sense of continuity with their African past and offered them the means to transform and assert their identity within the boundaries of captivity.

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Bilquis has been something of a mystery this season She too is in the process of upgrading and adapting to  the modern world, by seeking worship from human beings, in some other manner besides sex, and I think she hopes to rid herself of her reliance on Technical Boy’s aid in the recovery of her godhood. If she becomes her own woman, she no longer needs to abide by any agreement she  with him, and can then do as she pleases. She attends one of the funeral services, where she gets the congregation all hot and bothered,  even though she says nothing that’s overtly sexual. At this point, she is just testing her new role and how to receive worship of some kind.

Bilquis is also playing both ends against the middle, but we don’t know if she’s there for Mr. World, there for herself, there to prevent the war, or there to serve Odin, who she also seems to hate as much as she does Mr. World. She approaches Shadow and gives him an apple, (I think it came from Yggdrasil), which is a callback to the story of Adam and Eve, but really it just represents the idea of  temptation, and knowledge. She is essentially offering him the temptation of knowledge, but of what is unclear. She tells Shadow that their futures and destinies are entwined. We do know that at the end of the episode, Shadow is sitting on  the knowledge that he is Wednesday’ s son. How clear on that he is, is a matter of some debate.

Laura’s actions are also another mystery. Sweeney died in the last episode, in his final fight with Shadow, echoing the very first fight the two of them had in the first season, but that was when  Sweeney had his gold coin, which he lost to Shadow. In their last fight, Shadow loses Gungnir, (Odin’s war spear), which he had been tasked to protect by Wednesday, to Sweeney who, with his dying breath, transfers Gungnir to the golden hoard, where his phantom coins come from. Laura finds Sweeney’s body laid out in the funeral home and steals it. What her plans are, are unclear, but its speculated that she is taking him to Louisiana to be resurrected, so he can help her kill Wednesday. She asked Bilquis for aid, but she turned Laura down, and Laura still has that vial of blood that was given to her by Baron Samedi, who told her that it can be activated to resurrect her full humanity, with an act of love.

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This is a callback to a conversation, earlier in the season, that Laura has with Mama Ji, who she tried to strong-arm her into helping her. Mama Ji will have none of her sass, and gently reminds Laura that she is also the Lord of War, as well as the Divine Mother, and she  is unimpressed by Laura’s zombie strength. Laura also receives advice from Bilquis, when she goes to her to request her aid in killing Wednesday. Bilquis denies her, but does admit to hating Wednesday.

The most charming character in the series is Salim, because he represents the every-man in this scenario. I’m glad he’s still around, and that he is still committed to his relationship with the Djinn, and what’s more, the Djinn is just as committed to him, although he has been questioned by the other gods about having a relationship with a mortal. As we get closer to the idea that Shadow is himself a god, we need a regular person, through whose eyes we can see the other characters, the one normal human being who can express the audience’s feelings about what’s happening, and with whom the audience can identify, now that we are moving to a place where we cannot identify with Shadow, the way we did in the first season.

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This is groundbreaking because not only is our every-man of Middle Eastern descent, and a devout Muslim, he is also a  gay man. Salim is essentially taking the space that I argued about Shadow, in the first season, before he became totally entrenched in Wednesday’s plans, and his scenes are utterly hilarious. His reaction to what’s happening, especially after he gets named as an enemy of the state by New Media is priceless, actually questioning whether or not he committed the crimes he’s been accused of, and being blandly reassured by Mr. Ibis that he’s been in the house watching television the entire time. I’m happy to see that nothing happens to either of them and the two of them manage to walk away unscathed.

At the end of the episode, we get some idea of the next chapter in Shadow’s life. When his bus is stopped by the police, as they are searching for him, he escapes their notice because the name on his ID card has been changed.  In season three, he will get a chance to ruminate on everything that just happened to him as he spends a quiet  interlude in the small town of Lakeview, where he’ll encounter a creature called a Kobold(?), that is feeding on the town’s young women. In the book, this is part of a long period where Shadow is hiding out at the behest of Wednesday. In the show it has been orchestrated that he is hiding out from the authorities.

It will be some time before we see a third season of the show, possibly as long as a year. In that time, I expect to have re-read the book, and probably will have some new insights into the characters by then. Until next time:

TTFN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avengers Endgame: Thoughts

You know how I roll on this blog.

Damn right there are going to be spoilers.

I cannot talk about how much I loved this movie without spoilers. So, if you have not seen the movie, get thee the fuck outta here, go watch it, and only then, will you be welcome in this space. (If I’m cussing, it’s  a sign that I’m extremely happy!)

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I spoke about my history of comic book reading, in a previous post, about how the first Marvel books I remember reading, were Conan the Barbarian, and Red Sonja, which I probably should not have been reading, since I was about 9 or 10 years old, but I’d found a stash of these books in the basement of a house we’d just moved into, and since no book ever passed by me without going unread, there I was. I got away from Marvel comics when I was about 12, as I was reading Horror comics by that time. I started reading superhero comics, in earnest, when I was about 14, or 15, starting with The New Mutants, moving on to The X-Men, Spiderman, Doctor Strange, and finally, The Avengers.

Of all The Avengers characters, Doctor Strange is one of the few standalone character books I ever read, along with Thor, and Spiderman. They were the only superheroes I truly stanned, having read nearly all of their different iterations. I never read a single Captain America, Incredible Hulk (I knew him only from the TV series), Iron Man, Antman, Hawkeye, or  Black Widow stand alone book. I knew nothing about the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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That said, I’ve seen all the MCU movies, and of all the films, and I’ve  only seen a handful of them in the theater; The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman Homecoming, Captain America Civil War, and Black Panther. The rest I watched on TV, sometimes when I didn’t particularly feel like watching them, like Antman and Thor: The Dark World, and I’m going to continue to talk shit about Antman, despite the fact that I really enjoyed both movies. I  reserve the right to talk shit about movies and characters I love.

Of all the movies, the some of the most fun ones were the Iron Man films. Despite me trash talking Tony Stark at every opportunity, I actually like the character, a lot. The Captain America movies were a surprise favorite, as I had not one ounce of interest in that character beyond his being the leader of The Avengers, in the comic books. As the leader of The Avengers, I’d read Cap say those famous words countless times, and I knew Cap’s history because they talked about it in other comic  books, that were not about him. Black Widow made no impression on me in the comic books. I have never found Russian spies to be interesting  in even my best moods.

All this to explain how incredibly geeked out I was while watching this movie. I can’t wait to see this at home, when it comes out on DVD, so I can dance around the house in my bunny slippers. I loved, loved, loved, the end of this movie, and I’ve been trying really hard to avoid the whiners and complainers (and some of the more hysterical people) on Tumblr, while I read  the reviews. I will not allow any fan wankery to harsh my buzz!

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The Movie:

This is going to be a very long post. First of all, there aren’t any social justice issues to be made of this movie, despite people trying really hard to do so. Most of this movie is just pure fan service, and since I’m a fan of the comic books,, I’m perfectly okay with that. This movie throws the viewer right into the deep end. If you didn’t see any of the other MCU movies, or haven’t read any of the comic books, you probably won’t care about any of the things on the screen, and will probably just be bored, although I have come across people who did none of those things, yet still enjoyed the movie just for itself. If non-fans can still totally get into it, that is the mark of a well written film. For fans of the books and movies though, it hits all the right emotional notes, at all the right times. It has great action scenes, great callbacks to stuff that happened in the other twenty or so films, and the hundreds of comic books, and even a few tears were shed.

 

Now I’ve done some reading, and its my understanding that because of the all the time traveling in the movie, what the characters did was create alternate universes, and the one we end with is a brand new universe, in which a lot of things didn’t happen. Every time they removed one of the stones from some past event, they changed a time line, and created another universe. Steve remaining in the past with Peggy created a new timeline as well. At least that was how it was explained to me, but often  I care little about such plot details. Unlike a lot of people, I didnt get myself too worked up about it.

I did appreciate the way the movie handled the aftermath of Thanos’ Snap. Its been several years, and humanity is still in recovery mode and dealing with its grief. We get a micro look at this trauma through Hawkeye, when his family disappears. Now imagine Hawkeye’s scene happening everywhere, and remember most people wouldn’t know what had happened, or why, or how.  This is  like the TV show The Leftovers, which deal with the aftermath of The Rapture, and how the survivors deal with the disappearance of half of humanity, over its three seasons.

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This movie doesn’t  have time to go into too much detail,  as it’s three hours long already, but it does handle a lot of character, and personality issues effectively. About the first thirty minutes of the movie is just watching these characters deal with their loss. Humanity is pretty resilient, and you can see that most people are holding on by their fingernails. You got Natasha crying in the office, Steve looking more lost than usual, and Imma talk about Thor in a moment.

What was not taken into account by Thanos in his megalomania, is that there would be planets and cultures, (the Snap happened everywhere, but we only see Earth), that because of the way they were set up, they would not only be devastated by such an event, they would never recover from it. (I’m pretty certain that on at least some  planets, everyone is dead.) The Snap most likely killed more than half of humanity anyway, because there would be tens of millions of residual deaths in the aftermath. All of the sick, the very young, and the very old, the suicides, and  basically anybody who couldn’t fend for themselves, would probably die in the weeks after the Snap.

I was reminded of this by the book, The Stand by Stephen King, in which a pandemic wipes out most of humanity. There’s a chapter in the book that chronicles  the deaths of all those who didn’t die from the pandemic itself. The residual deaths, like accidents, other infections, and  illnesses and suicides. I was also reminded of reading stories about the aftermath of the Black Plague and how that so thoroughly changed the social and economic systems in Europe afterward. The Snap was infinitely worse.

Thanos is a megalomaniacal, psychotic, selfish,  dumbass, who really didn’t think any of this shit through, and caused psychological and emotional trauma on an untold massive scale, so huge it  can’t  be imagined. I do not think of Thanos as the greatest villain in the MCU, because I have no respect for a dumb villain. He’s the not even the greatest on the scale of power, and/or amount of damage he caused, because that title belongs to Galactus. This is a fanboys idea of a villain. I am always suspect of people who claim to want to do good for the world, but can only do so by killing as many people as possible. King Leopold, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Josef Stalin all held similar philosophies. Only in Thanos’  case, we’re supposed to be okay with what he did, because it was random, and not personal.

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There’s’ no depth to Thanos’ philosophies. There’s no nuance to his character, either,  despite the Russos trying to shoehorn in some pathos, to make him seem more sympathetic.  He’s just another big, dumb, brute, with the ability to kill more people than the men named above. Like most villains , he simply  wants to kill, and he invented some  reasons for doing just that. reason he invented so that he wouldn’t have to face the idea that he is, in fact,  a monster.

You wanna know how I know this?

Because Thanos didn’t Snap himself. He destroyed the Gauntlet after the Snap, but he didn’t destroy himself, and when The Avengers showed up to beat his ass. he wanted them to affirm his goodness, and be grateful to him.

I knew the movie was going to hit some emotional hot points during the scene where The Avengers track down Thanos, and try to get him to change things back, only to discover that he destroyed the Gauntlet. He starts to go into his usual villain monologuing, but Thor cuts that shit short by suddenly chopping off his head. I wasn’t expecting that, because I’ d, once again,  resigned myself to listening to, yet another, psychopath’s self -serving justification for evil.

Of all the characters, Thor was the most sympathetic, and the most  obviously affected by everything that happened. In the entirety of the MCU, with the exception of Hawkeye,  Thor  lost his entire family, most of the people he was supposed to protect, and his planet. He’s also suffering from a great deal of survivor’s guilt. You can tell he spent a lot of time dreaming of having the opportunity to kill Thanos, because the last time he had it, as he said, he didn’t go for the head. He didn’t prevent the Snap, and his last gesture is utterly futile.

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I like the way the movie handles Thor’s depression and PTSD. This is what  depressed people do. They stop caring about what they look like (and Thor was always rather vain about his looks, so his getting fat was  significant), or they drink a lot, or just stop moving forward, and become very passive. But once he is given the opportunity to go back into the past and change events, he jumps at it. Thor is depressed, but it is never shown to be a weakness. He is never bothered by his size. He owns it, and is still the Lord of Thunder, and he would thank  you to remember that he can still kick ass. I didn’t like the other characters making fun of him for being fat, though. The humor felt forced and out of place (except for his Mom, because that’s such an incredibly Mom thing to say, and she was very obviously worried about him).

The different pair-ups in the movie are fun and interesting.  The writers pair Thor with Rocket, the only other  Avenger, besides Hawkeye, who has lost his  family. I hated Thor: The Dark World because that’s the movie where Thor’s mother dies, so one of the  tearful moments I was talking about earlier, is  when he goes back to the past and sees her again. He also gets some tough love from Rocket about losing loved ones.

Natasha dies the same way Gamora did, only her death was voluntary. I’m not a huge Black Widow fan. I mean she’s okay, and she gets some good moments in the movie, (throughout the entire MCU actually), but I was largely unaffected by her death, because she was not a character that resonated with me, although I recognize she meant a lot to other people. That said, I still wish it had been Hawkeye who died, because I care less about him than I do Natasha, and she deserved a better send off. I understand why he was allowed to live, but I still wish he’d died in her place. I’m also not a fan of Hawkeye because in the wake of the Snap he decided it would be a good idea to travel the world killing Brown men, as the comic book character Ronin. His answer to his grief at so much death, is to go out and  cause even more death, and I had an issue with that.

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Tony goes out like a boss, tho’. I’m actually okay with Tony dying, I was long ready for it, and think that’s a fitting end to his character arc. I was one of the few people, who liked Tony, who was unbothered by his death. Yes, contrary to me always talking shit about Tony, I actually loved that character, and I’m gonna miss him. Thanks to Downey, he was a consistent asshole, and I kind of liked that Tony fucked up about as much as he saved, and had to constantly be put back in line by his friends and co-workers. Sometimes heroes have unlikable personalities. He didn’t resonate with me, but I really like Robert Downey, I loved the way he portrayed the character, and Tony’s passing marked the end of an era.

I loved Steve’s character arc too. I did see some grumbling from the more hysterical members of Tumblr, about how Steve choosing to live out his life with Peggy was a selfish gesture, but those people can shut the fuck up, because they very obviously do not care about Steve’s emotional well being. If anyone deserved to live out his selfish fantasy, it was Steve Rogers. I loved the end scene with him getting that dance from Peggy, and I hope they danced a lot, and had lots of fat babies.

Of all the characters, I would say that Nebula is definitely one of my favorites, because she has such a satisfying character arc. I love how her character came full circle from wanting to kill her sister, to protecting Gamora’s life by killing her alternate self.

Image result for endgame gifs/nebula

Also, I just like her personality, and her interactions with Tony. Of All the Guardians, she seems the one I’d most likely end up being friends with because she seems most like me in real life, which is literal minded, and very strong and  serious looking, but with a heart like a marshmallow. I love how Guardians of the Galaxy laid the groundwork for her being able to convince the Gamora of the past to help her defeat Thanos. Without that groundwork, without Gamora’s loss, she would never have been in that position, and I’m glad the Russos chose to honor what James Gunn did with her character.

I was also very touched by Rocket’s growth as a character too, for which Gunn is also responsible for laying the groundwork. Rocket is still an asshole, but he’s like Nebula and Tony, an asshole with a heart. Its interesting to watch him move to a point in his character where he offers solace to others  (Nebula) and, tough love styles of advice, (Thor).

My other favorite was Hulk. He managed somehow to fuse the two halves of his personality into a whole, and I liked that. He did come across as somebody’s corny dad, and I really enjoyed how happy he seemed to be with his life. The complete opposite of Thor, and Hawkeye. People seem to forget that Hulk was the one to bring everyone back with his own Snap, and spent the rest of the movie injured because of that, (because he was the only one left alive who could survive using  the Gauntlet).

Image result for endgame gifs/ hulk

 

Favorite Moments:

I had loads of favorite moments.

  • The opening scene where Hawkeye loses his entire family. Its just very emotionally moving to watch it from the point of view of someone who has no fucking clue what just happened.
  • After five years, most cities are overgrown with vegetation. It reminded me of the documentary Life After People. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.
  • Tony and Nebula playing paper football. Nebula wins, but since she can’t smile, we can’t tell if she’s actually happy.
  • Rocket and Nebula bonding over their shared loss.
  • Steve Rogers kicking his own ass. In the five years since he worked for Shield he developed a lot more skills and we have finally answered the question, at least in the MCU, who would win in a fight between Steve and Mr. I Can Do This All Day.
  • Tony meets and makes peace with his father.
  • Bruce looking embarrassed about his behavior during the first Avengers movie, and trying to fake being angry.
  • The Hulk having to use the stairs because none of the others would let him get on the elevator. There  were a helluva lot of stairs, so I’d be angry about that too.
  • The final boss fight was every comic book splash page ever created. Its why so many of us loved these movies. We’ve been reading about these events and characters our whole lives, and to see this, larger than life, on a movie screen, well…words cannot express.
  • When the wizards showed up at the final battle, I think I openly cheered.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Ravagers all show up to kick Thanos’ ass. It took me a minute to place where all those spaceships came from. They didn’t all come from Wakanda.
  • The moment in the movie that made the whole audience cheer is when Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and the two of them trade weapons back and forth, throughout the fight, until Thor decides that Steve gets the little weapon.
  • The audience’s second favorite moment is when Steve utters the famous words: Avengers Assemble! which is not something he got to do in any of the other movies.
  • Sam Wilson’s quietly stated, “On your left.” into Steve’s ear! This just made me grin so hard, since I really love Captain America Winter Soldier.
  • The arrival of Black Panther/ the arrival of everybody really.
  • Tony hugging Peter, and Peter being perfectly okay with it and saying,  “This is kinda nice.”
  • Pepper Potts has her own Iron Man suit.
  • Carol Danvers and Scarlet Witch   get to put their shit down, and go toe to toe with Thanos.
  • That look on Tony’s face when Doctor Strange gestures at him. Tony knows what he has to do. He knows the gauntlet will kill him, but picks it up anyway.
  • We get an A Force moment of all the women Avengers, (although I’m gonna be seriously pissed if we never get an A Force movie, since they have been treating a lot of the women of the MCU like afterthoughts, including Black Widow). Let me go on the record as stating I want an A Force movie!
  • Basically, the entire battle scene was awesome!
  • Pepper telling Tony that he could rest, just brought all the feels.
  • The disintegration of Thanos and his army!
  • Sam Wilson gets the Captain America shield. Y’all know I’m a Sam Wilson stan so yeah, I totally geeked out at that moment.
  • Thor and Peter Quill arguing over who gets to be in charge of the Guardians.

So yeah, while I thoroughly enjoyed myself, if you’re not a fan of the MCU, or superhero movies in particular, your mileage may vary.

I know a lot of people wanted to see other things happen in the movie, but at three hours and with so many characters, some of them had little room to do anything more than stand still, for a second, and pose for the camera. The movie simply couldn’t cover everyone, and didn’t. But what it did do, for the characters and the emotions, was exactly what it should have done. The trailers promised a certain type of movie, and that’s exactly what  was given.

Favorite Character:

I have a lot of favorite characters, across the entirety of the MCU, but my top three are Spiderman, Drax (of all beings!), and oddly enough, Captain America.

I’ve always been a Spiderman fan, since I was a kid, watching the TV show during the 70s. I like Drax because he’s simply ridiculous. There’s just something about his character that just speaks to my inner silliness, and I always enjoy seeing him on screen. I was surprised Captain America made any part of the top ten because I had no interest in the comic book character, but Chris Evans just tore it up!, and there’s a part of me that just loves the noble warrior hero.

 

Favorite Movie:

Its really hard to pick a favorite, so I have once again, a top ten of favorites. I have no choice but to rank them, and the ranking could change based entirely on my mood. Of all the MCU films, the movie that remains consistently at  number one would be Spiderman Homecoming. I know everyone thinks I’d choose Black Panther, which is definitely in my top ten, but that’s somewhere around number five, because the number two movie on my list is Captain America Winter Soldier. and another surprise movie is Doctor Strange, coming in at third place. I was not at all prepared to like Doctor Strange. In fact, I was prepared to hate it, but I’ve found that I love the MCU magic users.

I’m very much looking forward to the next ten years. We’ve got more sequels coming up, and some new characters like The Eternals, who I know nothing about, so that will be brand new for me, and Shang Chi, because I love martial arts movies.

So until the next phase,

Make Mine Marvel!

 

 

Movies Normalize the Harming of Black Bodies

Questioning Authorial Intent

I think it’s time we started discussing a writer’s intention in creating marginalized characters. It doesn’t particularly matter to me whether its done consciously or unconsciously, but we need to speak about how writers treat their characters of color, LGBTQ characters, and female characters.

The TV and movie industries have always been controlled primarily by white male writers. They write  women characters  according to what they think women are actually like, or wish they were and we have to be willing to admit that there are more than a few writers out there who fantasize about how they would like to treat women, and realize their fantasies through the characters they create. It’s also an industry made up of a lot of straight men, who have always been prone to homophobia, and who have  written gay characters the way they see them, or wanted them to be seen. And yes, in some cases they fantasize about these characters being  punished for being who they are. (This is something that has been well documented about women, and  Gay characters in movies. See: “The Celluloid Closet”, and documentaries on female characters in slasher films.)

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We have all become aware  of the unnecessary rape scenes of female characters, and the Kill Your Gays Trope, where the writers punish and kill women  for being  sexually forward, and the gay characters who lead tragic lives, only to die horribly. The same dynamic  seems to be at work for Black characters too, and the reason why may be the unconscious, (or hell, sometimes very conscious), racial resentment of White writers, who feel forced to include these characters in their work.

I’m not advocating that no Black characters ever be punished or killed, but I am questioning the intentions of the writers who do this, and I wonder if, like the OP above, if it’s resentment at having to include characters of color. More and more often, White writers are being called on to be inclusive beyond white, straight, able bodied, men, and some of them might feel some type of way about that.

Hollywood and TV have a long history of depicting White men bullying, torturing, and gunning down “the other”.  Is it any wonder that it is primarily White men who are the main perpetrators of mass acts of violence against women, (The Ecole Polytechnique Massacre) , gay and transgender, (The Pulse Nightclub Shooting), Blacks, (Charleston Church Shooting), Jews (The Synagogue Shooting), Muslims, (Christchurch),  and others too numerous to mention. (This is not including regular acts of police brutality against people of color, and hate crimes against immigrants, and Jewish people.)

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What is new in Pop culture is an influx of Black characters being written by white writers, who think they’re being inclusive, but  who have not done their due diligence on racial issues, or Black culture. Sometimes, I’m seeing characters of color get bullied, tortured, punished, or killed in the narrative by White characters, some of whom are meant to be heroes, and I’m starting to believe that White characters  are stand ins for the writer’s own racial resentment. These characters get to do the kinds of things to Black characters that the writers, whether consciously or not, would like to do themselves, which is sometimes telling off, or hurting, or punishing “The Other”.

I have written before about how Black characters have been traditionally created in the white imagination, often associated with crime, murder, and sexual brutality, (That’s about how racial ideas in the real world get reflected in pop culture). I’m now talking about a different iteration of this theme, and I’m going to use the MCU  as an example, because this is where I first noticed it.

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The series The Defenders, is an amalgamation of the other Netflix series in the MCU,  Luke Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones, (all of which have since been canceled). In the one season of The Defenders, there are approximately two Black men, one of whom is a villain. There’s a scene where he is being tortured by Daredevil and Iron Fist, while the other team members stand around and debate this tactic. What you have is a team of superheroes torturing a Black man for information, and this is being shown as okay, even though real world specialists on this issue, have clearly stated that torture does not work as a tactic for getting information.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/we-rsquo-ve-known-for-400-years-that-torture-doesn-rsquo-t-work/

The prevalence of torture, committed by ostensibly good guys, in movies and TV shows, also accounts for the dramatic rise in  the public’s belief in torture as a real world tactic that  Americans should use in the fight against anyone who is considered “a bad guy”. Since Black men are stereotypically  associated with crime…well, you see where this is going.

 

And this isn’t limited to The Defenders, because Jessica Jones contains the scene of the unceremonious killing of the only  Black woman in the show, and Jessica’s disregard for the life of the only other Black character on the show has been duly  noted.  The Punisher, Iron Fist, and Daredevil are all known for showing their White protagonists beating up, torturing,  and killing whole squads of men of color. I mentioned, in a previous post, how Iron Fist had a nasty problem with beating up young Black men, without asking questions first. Even Spiderman tries to get in on the action by trying to intimidate a Black man he needs information from. (That he fails to intimidate him isn’t the point. The point is that he tried it, and that that was his first, go-to, move.) For the record, none of these supposedly heroic characters limit themselves to torturing only Black men. All men of color are fair game, as evidenced by the sheer number of Asian bodies Daredevil mows down, in any season.

Image result for captain America Winter Soldier gifs/sitwell

Many of the MCU movies have such moments. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you have another man of color being tortured for information by Captain America,  Black Widow, and Falcon. In Captain America Civil War you have a scene where Rhodey, Tony’s Black sidekick is injured by Vision, but Tony punishes Falcon,  for an incident that he was not responsible for. In Iron Man 3, Tony threatens the man he thinks is the Mandarin, by brandishing a gun at him to get information. To be absolutely honest, heroic characters of any race often get in on the torture of villains in the MCU. In the movie Black Panther, a movie written by a Black man, there are scenes of T’Challa beating up a villain  for information.

Primarily, this is about the use of torture by any “superhero “, towards men of color. These characters are all still  written by white men, and all these supposedly “good people”  end up harming or torturing men of color. (To be absolutely fair “good guys’ torturing “bad guys” is a problem across most, if not all, superhero comic books, but in the movies, these bad guys have a tendency to be men of color.)

https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2018/04/racist-moments-in-comic-book-history/

We know racism is real. That is not a matter for debate. We also know that people, in the fandoms surrounding these movies, regularly engage in racist thoughts and actions regarding characters of color, and show a great deal of resentment and hatred for them. What I am questioning here is the idea that, somehow, writers of  Fantasy  TV and movies are somehow exempt from racial resentment because …well, they’re creators, I guess.

And just because the hero committing the torture is Black, that does not make the situation exempt from this criticism, as these are Black characters as interpreted through the lens of  White writers. White writers create these characters, making them say and do whatever they want, including voice their own racial resentments, as what happened with Nick Spencer’s  version of Falcon as Captain America. Nick Spencer wrote a parody version of SJWs, and later Sam Wilson, who had been written as a voice of reason, apologized to Steve Rogers for ever having been like them. A Black man apologizes to a White man for ever having been a passionate activist!

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/captain-america-sam-wilson-nick-spencer-controversy/

Over and over again, White audiences (which this sort entertainment is primarily written for) are subjected to the concept that its okay for good (ie. White) men to beat up on, and/or torture, Black men.  Vigilantism. Is it any wonder that there’s is so little  empathy for Black characters in movies and TV, (The Racial Empathy Gap), or that White people are quick to make excuses for White men’s violent aggression against Black men.

The most recent case of real life vigilantism was when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, and it was Trayvon who was painted as a villain who deserved to be shot by the innocent Zimmerman, who was just trying to protect his neighborhood. This is how such vigilantism plays out in the real world. How is what happened to Trayvon different from a scene in Iron Fist or Daredevil, which are shows about fine upstanding White men, who just want to protect their neighborhoods.

White America has always told such stories, which often resulted in the beatings and lynchings of Black Americans, when White men take it upon themselves to protect against Black criminality. Two of the overwhelming messages in Pop culture, (books, movies, and TV shows), for decades, is that vigilantism is a perfectly acceptable response to criminality, and that Black men are  the criminals, who deserve whatever violence is meted out to them by White men.

There is a connection between the normalization of brutality against marginalized bodies onscreen, and White male brutality agaonst “the other” in the real world. One of these is a reflection of the other, but which of these, remains the question. And what is served by showing audiences image after image of White heroes willing to do their worst to marginalized others?