Weekend Reading: Pop Culture Edition

On Gender:

Image result for ghostbusters remake  gif

I still have not gotten over how the Ghostbusters was so badly treated by the public, and how we will now never get a sequel. The “feminists ” who are forever talking about how they love these types of movies, where women get treated like people, totally slept on this one. To be fair, the trailer did suck, but a trailer is not a movie, and I’m still a firm believer that most trailers are designed to make you hate a movie before its release. Some of them are successful at that, some less so.

http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/movies/analyzing-10-common-criticisms-of-ghostbusters-2016/140340

http://www.indiewire.com/2016/07/ghostbusters-reboot-backlash-1201705555/

 

My biggest criticism of the movie was this though:

https://www.polygon.com/2016/7/21/12239704/ghostbusters-is-still-haunted-by-negative-racial-tropes

https://www.salon.com/2016/03/04/the_new_ghostbusters_and_race_why_it_matters_that_leslie_jones_isnt_playing_one_of_the_scientists/

Image result for ghostbusters remake  gif/patty

But despite my strong misgivings, I did like the movie, and  Leslie Jones, who endured so much abuse about her character, Patty Tolan, has a great defense for the criticism of her character. MTA workers apparently get paid more than college scientists, and she’s a regular person who helps save the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/07/ghostbusters-leslie-jones-defends-remake-racial-stereotyping-criticis

Incidentally the scene above is one of my favorite one-liners in the entire movie. Patty gets some of the best lines in the movie, despite the fact that the trailer made it seem like she got the worst ones. in the director’s cut Holtzman answers that by calling her mouthy, and I’m really glad they left that line out of the movie.

@@

Image result for fargo movie  gif

I thought this was an interesting read about how the  Coen Brothers movie, Fargo, is really a discussion about toxic masculinity:

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/how-fargo-captures-sad-realities-toxic-masculinity

 

@@

I liked this article about how WoC never get to have happy endings, as the friends and sidekicks of their White co-stars. It seems like we always have to suffer (I’m looking at you Handmaid’s Tale.)

1201705555/https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a12022020/how-women-of-color-portrayed-tv-film/

 

@@

I skipped the second season of Jessica Jones, because I hated the first season so much, I couldn’t even finish it. To give you some indication of how important that is, I watched all of Iron Fist, after I talked a lot of shit about that show.  That I’ve said almost nothing at all about Jessica Jones, says a lot about my attitude towards the show.

http://www.anathemamag.com/jessica-jones-doesnt-care-about-men-of-colour/

 

On Dystopia:

For some reason dystopias where regular, middle-class,  pretty, White people get treated the way they’ve always historically treated marginalized people, seems to be a popular sci fi trope. So popular in fact that even MadTV had a skit related to it:

 

@@

When I was a teenager, I used to theorize that White people liked to sit around watching a problem fully and completely develop, and then, instead of fixing the problem,  fix the blame. This also brings the to mind the idea that Black people don’t envision dystopia as an exciting future, because we’ve already been there. We have nowhere to go but forward, and nothing to have but hope. Dystopia is a White people thing.

http://blackyouthproject.com/white-liberals-stay-predicting-dystopias-caused-by-whiteness-without-doing-anything-about-it/

In a recent discussion, my friend Preston Anderston posited that white people “can understand the destruction of the planet before the destruction of the white world,” and perhaps nothing exemplifies this better than their dystopian imaginings. To them, there is no world without whiteness, so even if they acknowledge the hell whiteness necessarily brings, there is no other future possible than that hell.

 

@@

Image result for dystopia gif

I found this post by the writer, Cory Doctorow, really interesting. Why does there need to be a dystopia at all? We’ve seen plenty of instances where crises  didn’t end in some kind of Mad Max free for all, and we need more stories that reinforce the idea that we can get through a disaster with our humanity still intact.

https://www.wired.com/2017/04/cory-doctorow-walkaway/

@@

 On Disability:

Related image

I found a series of articles about how Hollywood approaches the topic of disability in film and TV. 

https://byrslf.co/its-time-for-hollywood-to-rethink-disability-e1dfc4142c9b

@@

https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/tv/at-the-heart-of-hannibal-respectful-treatment-of-mental-illness/

@@

http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2015/05/28/disability-in-the-dystopian-future-of-mad-max-fury-road/

@@

https://www.inverse.com/article/15806-one-year-later-fury-road-resonates-on-disability-sexuality-and-the-end-of-days

@@

https://serfbazaar.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/furiosa-disability-representation-and-empowerment/

 

On Fandom:

Image result for fandom gifs

The discussion of Fandom misbehavior continues tonight on:  Tumblr Calls Shit Out

There a a lot of fans who change, misrepresent, or just straight lie about the source material to justify White prioritization of the characters. As I’ve said before, most White audiences have no other template, and in many cases will do these things to  reproduce a dynamic with which they’ve always been  comfortable: Poc as side narratives that support the White character’s primary story.

princeescaluswords answered:

Because the disregard or misrepresentation of canon is frequently used as a foundation of fandom racism.  We live in a time of change, where Hollywood is oh-so-slowly beginning to understand that primary stories and primary characters don’t always have to be entitled white males.  This stands contrary to seventy years of television history, which has taught the audience that the only thing that matters are the emotions and interests of those same white males.   Unfortunately, the viewing audience has learned the old lesson well and so expects the canon to support their predisposition.  When it doesn’t meet their expectations, when the emotions and interests of characters of color are given priority, their need to see white men on top can be met by getting rid of the canon.

Take the most popular ship in my fandom (This is not an attack against shipping. Shipping does not have to be inherently racist or inherently demeaning.   Early in my fandom days, I thought so, but I do not any more).  This ship and its fandom which put together two white males whose purpose on the show was to serve as the main character of color’s foils. The ship itself is not in question for me.  What is in question is the way that the fandom demanded that this ship become the center point of the show, and when it became clear that no matter how many nods that the powers that be were going to give to the ship, the show wasn’t going to make it canon, canon was discarded in the most hostile and negative way imaginable.   This wasn’t just in my (or others’) imaginations.  When the star of the show and the executive producer have to comment on the impact of this canon erasure, it’s pretty serious.

Canon misrepresentation doesn’t stop with just shipping.  Attacks on the importance of characters of color and their role in the show are frequently aided by simply pretending parts of canon don’t exist. For example, in my fandom, Scott is frequently vilified for a single act of perceived hostility towards Derek (the famous Gerard-neck-grab-bite), and it is used as a way to delegitimize him as a main character, ignoring the fact that not only was it a necessary evil to save Derek and those he cared about by disabling the enemy, it was a direct parallel to the very actions that Derek took against Scott previously. For fandom, those actions are dismissed as “yeah, Derek was an asshole, but it was for Scott’s own good” but that same excuse is not sufficient. Or, when the idea that Scott ditched Stiles for Allison continually is used to delegitimize the central relationship of the show, when ditching never happened in the show, but is treated by fandom as if it did.    If you ignore or manipulate canon in order to keep a character of color from being the focus of the show, why shouldn’t I add the tag?

People get rid of canon as a way of dealing with the fact that their white characters are not the center of the story, even though their favorites have important roles.  It’s easier to just get rid of canon rather than let a character of color share the spotlight.  It’s easier to dismiss writing as a ‘trainwreck’ even when that writing gives you the characters you enjoy, and thus delegitimize the whole story because that focuses on a character of color.

I must admit that I have considered that maybe this is all my own perception. Maybe Teen Wolf’s canon is so bad that they have every right to ignore the parts that don’t favor their white faves.

But then, I take a look at other fandoms.  I look at the Star Wars fandom, where the canon has been Death Star-ed as hard as Alderaan in order to celebrate genocidal white fascist man-children.  I look at the Shadowhunters fandom.  I look at the Flash fandom.  I look at the Supergirl fandom.  And another fandom. And another fandom.   And another fandom.

In the words of my favorite show, “three times is a pattern.”  What do you call too many times to count?

@@

 

I feel like I have to specify that when I say I hate Reylo I don’t mean people shouldn’t be able to ship whatever the hell they want, because I honestly could not care less. When I say that I hate Reylo what I mean is that there is an extremely vocal and offputting majority in the Reylo fandom that consistently puts forward meta-analysis of Star Wars–and more succinctly, Kylo Ren–that I find abhorrent, disgusting, delusional, and at worst regressive. I also mean, when I say I hate Reylo, that I hate the idea of Reylo being canon, because it would be shitty, stupid, regressive writing if it does.

Ship whatever you want and anyone who’s on you for it probably needs to get a life. But if you start openly advocating for abusive actions to be considered “romantic,” handwaving real critique of the source material, and posting “meta analysis” that’s deeply problematic you should probably be prepared for some backlash.

I do not care what you ship. Go, be free, write your beautiful fic and draw your beautiful fanart. But you can’t tell me not to care about toxicity in fandom and regressive writing in canon.

 

It’s also a sector of fandom that mimics one of the worst traits that fandom can have – the “big name” Reylo bloggers are the arbiters of all info that gets through to their followers about Star Wars, to the point where the Reylo fandom en masse believe things are canon that were literally just made-up fanon, but the BNFs who made it up dig in their heels because admitting that they aren’t all-knowing, or that their “analysis” of SW is insanely biased, would give their followers cause to doubt them and start thinking for themselves, looking at and listening to outside sources.

Reylo, like some other toxic ship fandoms – many of which aren’t even about ships that are themselves toxic! Reylo is, but like, there are toxic ship fandoms based on perfectly benign ships, too – is more about the shippers being venerated than the characters they claim to love. (Their complete disregard for Rey as a human person and protagonist is p much proof of that, but that’s not even the point here.) It isn’t a coincidence that almost every Bad Reylo Meta either was OP by, or based on a meta by, a handful of “in crowd” bloggers, and it DEFINITELY is not a coincidence that Reylos are obsessed with the idea of Being Right and the idea of Casting Out the Other, more than they are about actual fucking Star Wars.

There is a huge aspect of Reylo fandom that, like their OTP, is based on manipulation and gaslighting more than anything to do with actual content, and that’s 100% wrong and also deserves to be called out whenever it’s seen. 

Like, part of why combating Bad Reylo Meta is a thing that needs to be done is not for the characters’ sake, but for the sake of younger and/or more vulnerable fangirls who worship the Big Reylo Bloggers and think that they’re genuinely smarter/more enlightened/“the only ones who really understand.” It’s absolutely fine to make up fanon about your ship. It’s absolutely normal when ships have cliques. I can even understand the normalcy of ship wars, even if I think they’re dumb as soup. But the way that Big Name Reylos rewrite the entire schema of the franchise and twist both SW canon and actual reality wrt the behavior of Kylo Ren – an INTENTIONALLY WRITTEN NEO-NAZI METAPHOR WHOSE FIRST INTERACTION WITH REY WAS STATED BY THE DIRECTOR TO BE A RAPE METAPHOR – is not normal.

It is not normal to care more about “Proving Antis Wrong” than just liking the thing you like. It’s not normal to be so virulently fearful and aggressive towards people who just don’t agree with your fave blogger’s bad meta made up based on nothing. And it’s not normal for a handful of bloggers to have such a stranglehold on not only their followers, but public discussion of the entire fandom.

Almost none of the SWST has actually unfolded, in canon, the way a handful of Big Name Reylos told their fans it did, but their version has spread like flat earth theory. And that’s not a coincidence, either. Batshit conspiracy theory and charismatic leaders who willfully mislead their followers go hand-in-hand.

Make that your Shitty Snoke Theory™. (Who, by the fucking by, DID NOT BRAINWASH KYLE FROM THE WOMB. THAT’S FANON.)

 

Yup. All it took was a couple BNF reylos to say that TLJ made the ship canon (contradicting the movie and everyone else who had seen the movie, even those who thought the force skype stuff was “sexy”), and a disturbingly large number of fans carved it into stone. There are fan spaces not meant to be dedicated reylo shippers spaces where you can not even have a conversation about Star Wars that isn’t centered on Reylo, because so many fans are 100% convinced that the entire trilogy is Kylo’s story and Kylo’s story ONLY, with Rey as an object belonging to him, whose purpose is to redeem him and fuck him. They 100% believe this is how it’s written, and any conversation about the ST that isn’t about Kylo/reylo or anything that can be used to prop it up is irrelevant and off-topic. Which is why talking about Rey’s relationship with Finn is seen as irrelevant to the story (contradicting the canon), but so is talking about Finn as an individual, developed character or speculating about his story independent of Rey.

More to the point, the fandom hyperfocuses on Kylo because he’s the one they can empathize with, even though he’s awful and has done shitty thing after shitty thing to Rey. The intensity of that empathy only spotlights their blatant lack of empathy for Finn, who the fandom by and large aggressively believes is only in the series as a comic relief (not true, even in TLJ, where the clear comic relief was Hux) and general buffoon. That empathy gap is a facet of systemic racism, so I don’t know why fans often hesitate to criticize Kylo Ren’s disproportionate popularity, not as a villain, but as the “real protagonist.”

It’s not only harmful, it drains a lot of the fun of the SW movie fandom, which was never about one character. Fans used to talk about every creature in the Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, every member of the Jedi Council. You could go on about Kit Fisto (a personal favorite from the prequels), and no one would get pissed that you weren’t paying attention to Anakin and Obi-Wan. This isn’t nostalgia, it’s noting the difference in the fandom’s behavior when the films were predominantly white and there was no need to aggressively insist that a white guy was at the center.

@

Honestly? i’m pretty sure nazis have infiltrated this fandom. Just straight up.
given all the behaviours and the way they line up I feel this goes way, WAY beyond white prioritization, as disgusting as that behaviour alone is.

 

Nazis haven’t infiltrated the fandom. These are very mainstream attitudes that can be found in every fandom, as well as in irl communities, businesses  and schools. It lets too many people off the hook to imply otherwise.

 

@@

In my last post on forthcoming films, I forgot to add Crazy Rich Asians. I’m almost as excited about this film as I was about Black Panther because I know how much Asian Americans have been looking forward to this. This is notable because its a  film with a primarily Asian cast,that isn’t about the martial arts, or nerds.

 It looks really cute, but the plot isn’t something to my taste, as I generally dislike romantic comedies, but I probably will watch this at some later date. Ultimately this film  isn’t aimed at me, but I hope everyone likes it. if it does well, we may get more of this type of movie.

 

 

 

 

 

Unbreakable, Sleight, Spiderman, Chronicle: Shout Out to the Lowkey Superhero

 

In 1981, I watched the pilot for a show, starring William Katt (from  the 1976 movie, Carrie). In it, a Special Education teacher receives a Supersuit from some aliens and decides he wants to fight crime, even though he hates wearing the suit, and has lost the instruction manual. (Why won’t someone remake this show?) Aided by Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell, played by Robert Culp, he spends most of his time trying to figure out what his superpowers are, and how to use them, with comical results.

Image result for greatest american hero gifs

In 1976, Carrie White discovers she had the power to move objects with her mind. Bullied and humiliated at her high school, she unleashes all of her rage on her classmates at the Senior Prom.

In 2000, Bruce Willis portrays David Dunn, a man who discovers that his body is essentially unbreakable, (just like Luke Cage), and has to figure out who and what he is, and what he wants to do with this power, aided by Samuel L Jackson, who also plays the movie’s  archvillain, Mr. Glass.

In 2012’s  Chronicle, Dane DeHaan plays Andrew Detmar who, along with his cousin Matt, and his friend Steve,  stumble across a strange rock in a cave, and receive the power to move objects with their thoughts. After bearing the brunt of schoolyard bullying, physical and emotional abuse from his father, and the death of his mother, Andrew nearly kills his father, and destroys a good portion of Seattle, before being killed by Matt.

Image result for chronicle gifs

In 2017’s Sleight, a young Black genius named Bo, creates the the ability to move metallic objects with his mind, while he clashes with the local drug dealer, Angelo.

Image result for movie sleight gifs

In Spiderman Homecoming, Peter Parker is a newbie Super, dealing with such mundane things as schoolwork, bicycle thieves, and helping out the local Churro  Lady. He longs to save the world, while using nothing more than some superstrength, a fast wit, and some silkwebbing. He doesn’t have the social cache of Captain America, nor does he have Batman’s budget.

Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist. They’ve got one major power each, the ability to punch things really hard, lift a car, skin that won’t break, and the ability to see sounds. These are not gods. They can’t destroy a city block with the touch of a finger. They don’t own supersuits. They can’t even fly.  Even all-together they ain’t ever gonna be on the level of the Justice League.

Image result for the defenders gifs

http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/superhero-movies/39560/real-life-superhero-movies-a-closer-look

None of these characters are villains, but many of them are too beset by the weaknesses of their character, or the challenges of their environment, to ever do the world any  real good. They live in the real world of car payments, drug dealers, homework, high school bullies, and 9 to 5 jobs they don’t like, dealing with people who seriously test their ability not to abuse whatever powers they possess, and sometimes that can’t even avoid doing that.

They’re not goddesses created by Zeus. They’re not millionaires who never have to worry about paying for anything. They’re not exiled  aliens. These are not the types of heroes you call to go into outer space to destroy the intergalactic menace. They’re just trying to survive their tiny part of the universe.

And sometimes they don’t manage to do that either.

Image result for chronicle movie gifs

 

In Chronicle, Andrew wants to be special and important to the rest of the world, but that’s not gonna happen. Andrew could have been a true benefit to the world,  but he is bullied at school, abused by his father at home, his mother is dying, and they’re running out of money to pay for her medicine.  Andrew uses his abilities to rob a local drug dealer for the money, but how are his powers going to save his mother? How are those powers going to stop making him the brunt of his father’s anger at his wife’s death? Or make him charming, witty, or popular at school?

Sadly, Andrew gets a brief taste of these things, fending off his father’s abuse in one scene, participating in a talent show where he can secretly show off his abilities (and getting the accolades that he not only feels he richly deserves, but desperately needs), and losing it all when one of his friends, Steve, (who shared the same abilities as he did), dies , possibly as a result of Andrew’s actions.

Eventually, Andrew loses everything, including his mother,  and then eventually his life, at the hands of his cousin, Matt,  (who also shared the same superpowers), as he spirals down into a vortex of shame, hatred, grief, and anger. His powers couldn’t save him from himself.

Image result for chronicle movie gifs

None of these superpowers help Matt save his best friend Steve, or solve his cousin’s extreme trauma, or even alleviate his own  emotional trauma, at having to take his cousin’s life, when Andrew goes on an anger fueled rampage. We witness how useless Matt’s abilities are, during his fight with his cousin, when he can’t talk him down, can’t convince him that he is loved, and can only mitigate the damage he causes, with his only option being to kill him.

This is the horrific outcome of actual superpowers in a real world setting that is full of horribly damaged people, and people happy to inflict pain on others for fun. This is something not shown in the Avengers, and Iron Man movies. The villains in those always have lofty goals, and self-serving excuses for why they’re bad. They hate the hero, or want to control the world, or both. Andrew, and his counterpart, Carrie, (whose narrative closely parallels this one), sometimes don’t know what they are, are sometimes just  in pain, and cause an incalculable amount of damage and death, all because they  weren’t loved enough.

This is the opposite story of Unbreakable, where David Dunn, a depressed stadium security guard, begins to realize his true potential, while mentored by a  man who thinks he knows who and what David is capable of. When he and his  wife, Audrey, were involved in a car crash, David used that as an excuse to quit football, because Audrey was opposed to the sport. He spent the next ten years of his life wondering what could have been, and the life they could have had.

Image result for unbreakable movie gifs

Not realizing that he is an  Unbreakable man, he  is approached by  Elijah Price, who tells him that he is special, that he can regain the glory he knew as high school football star. By using his strength to save lives, David discovers a new sense of purpose. Taking on the name Savior, his activities regain the  respect of his son, the love of the wife, who was planning to divorce him, and lifts his spirits, as he realizes what kind of man he is. David wasn’t trying to save the world. He was just trying to save himself.

http://reallifesuperheroes.com/

In Sleight,  Bo has the ability to move metal, due to a magnetic device he’s implanted in his arm. He gets involved with the local drug dealer, while trying to make a better life for him and his little sister, after their mother dies. Bo isn’t the next Tony Stark, but he would’ve been, were it not for the circumstances of his birth.

Image result for sleight movie gifs

Here’s what the director had to say about the stereotypical setting of the movie, which also tackles issues of race and class, which most superhero movies don’t mention:

<Making Bo a role model and a drug-dealer seems potentially controversial, but it also speaks to his lack of options as a teenager trying to support his sister, and living without a safety net. But you don’t foreground the social issues of his choices. You don’t make it political. Was it important to you to not spell anything out too much?

Obviously, it’s a trope that’s unfortunately very recognizable for black characters in movies, in having something to do with street-level drugs and committing crimes. Part of the goal in centering ourselves in that world was to find a different, empathetic way into a trope that’s maybe a little too familiar. By centering it on this kid who is brilliant and artistic and has a scholarship going for him, we’re showing that a fall into this world really could happen to anyone. If everything you hold dear slowly started unraveling and you had massive responsibility, and part of that responsibility is shielding someone you care about from even knowing that this is going on… There are certain sacrifices we make to take care of the people around us. We don’t just want to paint that familiar iconography. We wanted to find a different way into it, then [go] past it.

And if you read between the lines in Sleight, there’s enough evidence that we’re not fully falling into the trope, I would hope. Bo’s neighborhood is actually not bad. He’s not in a crime-infested, impoverished area. He’s trying to keep his sister in the environment she’s comfortable in. But also, what he does is a very different brand of drug-dealing, one less associated with the urban crime story. When you look at a show like High Maintenance — if we had another act to talk about Bo’s clientele, these are the kinds of stories we would see. Which hints why Bo would consider selling drugs in the first place. He’s savvy enough to not end up on the corner selling dope. And his boss, Angelo, at first glance, isn’t a gun-toting gang-banger. Bo is making an educated compromise, something he thinks he can keep at arm’s distance.>

 

Bo isn’t  heroic because he’s trying to save the entire world. Bo is a hero because he’s working against long odds to save just one small world, his little sister’s.

Image result for the avengers movie gifs

Contrast Spiderman Homecoming with The Avengers. The Avengers are so far removed from everyday life that they seem almost like myths to the working man. Nowhere is this contrast more obvious than in the movie Spiderman Homecoming, about the activities of a low-level superhero who wants to make it to the big time. Peter Parker comes from a world of school, homework, and junior proms. His mentor is a multi-billionaire, whose every minor decision can affect entire lives, as Tony Stark’s decision to take over the salvage operations in New York, creates The Vulture, the villain who eventually becomes one of Spiderman’s Rogue’s Gallery.

Spiderman’s inability to run with the Big Boys, like Thor and The Hulk,  is the subject of a  great deal of humor, as seen in Captain America: Civil War, but it can also result in great tragedy, as his lack of discipline nearly causes a massive loss of  life, when he accidentally breaks the Staten Island Ferry.

Image result for the Incredibles gifs

 

In The Incredibles, the superheroes of yesteryear get a taste of what the mundane life is like when superheroing is outlawed by a fed up public. Now all they have are their real jobs, house payments, and watching their weight.  Mr Incredible chafes at these restrictions, living vicariously through his son’s grade school exploits, secretly crime fighting behind his wife’s back, and yearning for the days when he could channel all his restless ingenuity into bringing down super criminals. Like Peter Parker, the mundane life just isn’t challenging enough for him, or his little boy, Dash, There’s also the not so lowkey message in the film that when everyone is considered special, its really just another version of mundanity.

I suppose this essay would not be complete without mentioning the  ultimate street level superhero, Kick Ass, who is the very definition of a superhero nobody. David is a superhero only because he believes it. He has no superpowers to speak of, no martial skills, not even a sharp tongue. Armed with nothing more than a green bodysuit, and some Escrima sticks, he takes out muggers and drug dealers on the streets of New York City, in the hopes of  impressing that one girl in school he has a crush on. He inadvertently falls into deeper water than he can handle, when he encounters a vigilante father/ daughter duo, who are fighting an organized crime family.

Image result for super movie gifs

There have been a spate of these movies in the past ten years, (Super, Defendor, Special) about the the low level exploits of gifted, and non-gifted heroes, yearning for the  Big Time, something to give their life meaning, a way to work out their psychological trauma, or just wanting to be special and/or loved. For some of them, these are weaknesses of character that will never allow them to rise to the level of an Avenger, or an X-Man, and other s are so grounded, they will never  get to be heroic, no matter how much they want it.

Even the move Suicide Squad dabbles in these ideas, with characters like Captain Boomerang, and Slipknot, or a character with no superpowers at all, beyond a taste for chaos, and an ability to wield a baseball bat. The’yre little more than small-time villains who get called on to save the world.

Image result for suicide squad gifs

On the other hand, it makes them more relatable, and sympathetic,than the Tony Starks, and Supermen, of the world. Watching them rise to new levels of superheroics, as when Spiderman has no one to save him but himself in Spiderman: Homecoming, or when Bo defeats the neighborhood villains to successfully raise his little sister, gives us the  confidence to survive, especially when we’re beset by our own physical, and mental issues. When they overcome, they are the best of ourselves. And when they fall to the depths of despair, like Andrew and Carrie, they are reflections of our worst, and can spur us to examine and conquer our own weaknesses.

The Defenders Season Review

Image result for defenders gifs

 

Instead of reviewing every episode, one by one, like most other reviewers, I’ve decided to just review the entire season.  Rather than 13 episodes, the series has been reduced to eight, which I feel was a really good idea, as this helps the story move along a lot more swiftly, and with less filler, than in the individual shows.  Since the plot is moving faster, and interludes are shortened, it’s not possible to get too irritated by any particular plot point (The Villain), or character (Danny), because you just don’t have much time for it.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. I can definitely say that I like certain characters much better in a team setting, than I did in their individual stories, because a lot of their weaknesses of character aren’t on full display here, and when they are on display, there’s a reason for it. I especially enjoyed all the team action, even just sitting around and talking to each other, because these guys are  a lot of fun together. Their fighting styles and attitudes just mesh really well, and they have great chemistry with each other, which makes for some interesting, and cool fight scenes, and some funny and snarky dialogue.

I think the show played up the reluctant hero angle a bit too much. The characters are always having conversations about how they’re not heroes, and don’t want to be heroes, especially Luke and Jessica. Matt is trying to quit  the superhero game as if he were going cold turkey from some kind of -ism. Danny is the only one who wants to be a hero, and he’s not  remotely equipped to be one.

 

Luke Cage:

 

Image result for defenders gifs matt

We get a slightly deeper understanding of Luke as a person, although there are no huge revelations, or anything. He still doesn’t want to be a hero, he’s still living in Harlem, still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, all of this is just as in his own show.  We see the opening moves of a friendship between him and Danny, and Luke and Claire finally go out for that coffee, before being awkwardly interrupted by Luke’s former one night, Misty.

All of the characters get a chance to interact, one on one, during the series, although there’s not a lot of forward momentum in their characters, or relationships. Just hints of things to come. We get hints of a reconciliation between him and Jessica. In the comic books, the two are married and have a baby, but I don’t know if these shows will move in that direction. I’m opposed to it because of Jessica having killed his wife, (and then lied to him about it), and Jessica is also  not in any kind of emotional shape to have a relationship with anyone. Also, she is, ethically speaking, the complete opposite of  Luke, and I just don’t see those two  styles of personality meshing well.

As I mentioned, the showrunner doesn’t do anything new with the character. Luke remains a deeply principled guy who, while okay with kicking ass, is opposed to killing. He is not afraid to call someone on their shit, the way he does to Danny.

I love that all the characters have their place and purpose  in the team, and how their differing fighting styles are showcased. Luke is like Superman. He’s invulnerable to most harm, and is often a shield for the others, when the guns come out. He’s not completely invulnerable though, as Danny is one of the few people that can knock him off his feet (well…Danny and unexpected trucks). Seriously, the man is like a tank. He’s even immune to fire.

The team needs Danny whenever they need a huge, loud distraction, as in the finale, when they needed to reach a safe place, but The Hand was being an obstruction. Danny is like a large explosive device, delivering concussive sound and force, and I like the way his powers are used here, although yeah, the glowing fist still looks kinda silly. Still, Luke and Danny are definitely the team’s two heavy hitters.

One of the most annoying parts of the show is the Rap music that appears whenever Luke shows up on screen. To the showrunner: Hey! Luke does not  need a soundtrack to announce his presence!

Matt is the resident Ninja, and while Danny isn’t too bad in that department, Danny has a different purpose. Matt is the kind of team member who can move in and out of a situation quickly and quietly, warn the team of any impending danger, (and get them out of trouble with the law,  if necessary, I guess.)

 

 

Matt Murdock:

Image result for defenders gifs matt

 

Matt spends a lot of the first couple of episodes trying not to be heroic, or save people. I think we’re meant to believe that he gave it all up after losing Elektra, but since I wasn’t buying his relationship with her, I didn’t care. The two of them have no chemistry, and the emotional intensity of a pair of titmice, especially when it comes to passionate exchanges.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing him put his lawyer-ly shit down, it was nice to see Foggy and Karen again, and I’m glad the three of them made some effort towards reconciliation, especially after last season’s events, when Karen found out he was Daredevil. The two of them treat, and talk about Matt, as if he were a recovering junkie, so that’s kind of weird, made even weirder by scenes of Matt “staring” longingly at his Daredevil outfit, as if it were an ice cream sundae.

Actually, a lot of Charlie Cox’s acting is off in this series. There’s story movement, but his character remains pretty much the same. His fighting skills are awesome as ever, but Charlie looks like he’s phoning in  his performance. When I called him a Floor Lamp Ninja, I meant that he could pretty much be swapped out by any other martial arts actor, and this would not  greatly affect the plot.

I did enjoy the scene where he tails Jessica on the streets and she susses him out, and when they meet for the first time in their superhero guises. Matt steals that big gray scarf she wears everywhere, to wrap around his face, and Jessica rolls her eyes at him.

 

 

Jessica Jones:

Image result for defenders gifs jessica

This show went a long way towards making me like this character. As much as she hates people, Jessica really does work well in a team setting. She takes nothing seriously, which ends up making her the funniest person in the group. Her one on one interactions with Matt are especially funny, and she gives absolutely no fucks about who  Danny is, and is quick to say so, which I thought was hilarious.

A lot of the weakness of Jessica’s show is that its very White Feminist, and her mistreatment of PoC in the show really started, not just to grate on my nerves, but to make me actively dislike her, no matter how much I sympathized with her issues. I know and understand  that she is dealing with the severe trauma of what Killgrave did to her, but trauma is not an excuse for her abuse and mistreatment of characters of color.

I actually had a problem, not just with her,but with the show’s writers as well. Despite women’s trauma issues being  the center of  the story, they still managed to erase  WoC entirely, which is something White Feminism keeps doing, in stories that are supposed to be empowering to women. (The stories end up being empowering only  to White women.) But I still applaud the show for its messages and the general treatment of its (White) female characters. I see why some people liked it, but ultimately the show wasn’t for me.

That’s just the logical reasoning for why I disliked the show. The other reason is there was a lot of triggering shit in that show. I had to stop watching it, for my own self care, because I was not ready!

I liked Jessica in The Defenders, because the focus wasn’t on Jessica’s pain, so we got to see her reacting to other things. She’s still an unlikable, alcoholic, snarky mess, but that’s okay. Who says heroes have to be likable? Its especially interesting because unlikability is rare in female characters, and Jessica is thoroughly unapologetic about herself. At one point she very openly steals a can of beer, from a passed out homeless man on the subway, (because she’s had a long day,) right in front of Matt and Luke, who handle  the act with no more than raised eyebrows.

Jessica is definitely the team’s Tony Stark to Luke’s Steve Rogers. There’s much of the same personality dynamics present, except some of the motivation for  Jessica’s rather  loose ethics stem partially from her trauma at the hands of Killgrave.

 

Danny Rand:

Image result for defenders danny

Yeah, for someone who talked a lot of shit about the Iron Fist series, I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised that I didn’t actually dislike Danny Rand in this show. As I mentioned, the shorter running time for the series means that Danny’s scenes are kept to a minimum, so he doesn’t have as much time to be irritating. Not that he doesn’t give it a big try.

Finn Jones has also had the benefit of some practice on his fight choreography, and better directors and it shows. His fight scenes aren’t the trash fire that they were in Iron Fist, so he actually ends up looking competent. Plus, he just works better with a team of people, than he does on his own.

The team dynamics go a long way towards making Danny likable here, and really, in the next season of Iron Fist, the show runners really need to lean in to the ridiculousness of his story, rather than playing it straight, because yeah, Danny sounds like he’s insane. None of the other team members take his backstory seriously, rolling their eyes every time he mentions he’s the Immortal Iron Fist, an attitude I thought was incredibly funny. And then there’s the silliness of him walking around with a large dragon tattoo on his test. His powers aren’t funny, and the audience is never given to laugh at those, but his backstory is kinda nuts. Mr. I Punched a Dragon!

Another reason I like Danny here, is because the showrunner makes an effort to make his character understandable, in a way that he wasn’t in his own series. In his own series, his behavior is incredibly rage inducing, and frustrating, (and I can’t help but think that this change has at least a little to do with the showrunner being a man of color, who understands the issue in a way the last showrunner didn’t). But here, Danny’s behavior is in smaller doses, and he has more well developed characters reacting to his wtf*ery, so he’s  a lot easier to understand. Granted, if the character had been cast as Asian to begin with, we wouldn’t need all these careful repairs.

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/08/luke-cage-iron-fist-marvel-defenders-netflix-privilege-1201868048/

For example, at one point, he and Luke square off, with Luke confronting Danny about his privilege as a rich White man, who chooses to come into his part of town and beat up the impoverished Black people, rather than finding some other way to defeat The Hand’s purposes. The Hand is able to operate with impunity in such neighborhoods because all they have to do is offer money. Luke’s statement is a reminder to Danny that there’s a bunch of other things he could’ve done, as a wealthy White man to defeat the purposes of The Hand, besides beating up the citizens. But then you notice that Danny’s go-to, when dealing with The Hand, is only ever violence. He never tries to thwart them any other way, and thinks he can  simply punch his way to the proper outcome.

For example: Danny and Colleen find a warehouse full of bodies. The Hand is hiring young men from Luke’s  neighborhood to  clean up any evidence that might lead to their organization. Danny and Colleen do not know this. They don’t ask questions, have not investigated the situation, and haven’t bothered to understand the why of any of it. The two of them immediately jump to kicking ass. Danny and Luke first meet when  Luke steps in to protect one of the young men, who has lost his family to The Hand, and feels coerced to work for them.

Luke’s statement about his privilege is meant to remind Danny that there are other perspectives  besides his own. It’s made very plain  that when it comes to The Hand, Danny has a huge blind spot.  Danny doesn’t  think, he just reacts, and that was what happened at the warehouse, which  resulted in Danny brutally beating a (Black) teenage boy. He’s  reckless, impulsive, and has anger issues. He and Colleen don’t have any kind of a plan, beyond destroying The Hand. This gets mentioned a couple of times during the show.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/18/16118680/the-defenders-netflix-marvel-iron-fist-sucks

On to the good part: Danny doesn’t get any better at being impulsive, but he does listen to what gets said to him. And the showrunner is a lot better at making clear what Danny’s motivations are, something which is cloudier on his own show. Danny is looking for a purpose. Since he abdicated his responsibilities to K’un L’un (Why?), he’s not only been looking for a way to atone for that, but looking for a new purpose to replace it, and probably looking for a new family too, as he’s one of the few characters that’s at all excited about teaming up. But again he is blind to his rage about The Hand, and as long as he remains blind to his lack of control, as regards them, he can accomplish nothing.

When the rest of the team find out the the The Hand is specifically after Danny, they try to get him to stand down, and stay out of their next fight, rather than just running up on ’em, without a plan. I’m always here for Danny getting his ass handed to him, which the team has to resort to, to keep Danny from fucking up, yet again. There follows a long interlude with him and Luke getting to know each other, and Danny trying to at least understand Luke’s perspective on the world.

So yeah, this show went a little way to making me, if not like Danny, at least understand where he’s coming from in terms I could easily grok.

 

Alexandria:

Image result for defenders gifs alexandra

 

Sigourney Weaver turns in a beautiful performance, as I expected, before being unexpectedly dispatched near the end of the series. My biggest problem is that her motivations as a villain are so vague and ill-defined I was completely unable to care what her goals were. We know what she and the other members of The Hand want to do, but we have no idea why they want to take over the world, other than just wanting to do it.

I didn’t focus on her unfathomable motivations. I just tried to focus on her performance.  She and Elektra have great chemistry, reminiscent of Ellen Ripley and Call, the Android from Alien Resurrection, and I found this dynamic fascinating. On a lighter note, I loved her outfits. Alexandra is always impeccably dressed. She just looks like a woman with a lot of money and extravagant but unshowy tastes.

Another problem that I have is that the women in this show rarely get to interact with each other, (although Claire and Colleen get some nice scenes together, and later, Colleen and Misty get to talk). Alexandra spends a lot of time alone. They couldn’t even bother to write her as being friends to Madame Gao, having her treat Gao like a servant, which I found especially distasteful. Here you have a wealthy White woman treating this older Asian woman as if she were the Help, although there are other factors behind why she does it, it was still ugly and racist, even if that was not what was intended.

I still don’t know why the  showrunners bothered to call Sigourney into this show, which she is simply too good for. I had noticed that her presence sidelines the Asian characters putting, them all in a subordinate position to her, and significantly reducing Madame Gao’s street cred, that she’s built over three other shows. As much as I like Sigourney, I feel like the story would have been better served without Alexandra.

 

Elektra:

Image result for defenders gifs elektra

 

I still do not like this character, because I just feel like she’s evil for no  feckin’ reason. I didn’t like her in Daredevil either, because the writers just made her seem batshit insane for no reason. Elodie Young is gorgeous and all, and can actually act, as I’ve seen her elsewhere acting just fine, but I don’t like the way she approached this character. When we first see her here, she has been brainwashed and controlled by The Hand, most especially Alexandra. She’s pretty much a perfect example of the Born Sexy Yesterday Trope.  Later,  she appears to become evil on purpose,and for the life of me, I simply could not care.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=dxgnmgk8728039vcnyat5g65

After Elektra’s resurrection, she is mentored in her evil-ness by Alexandra, and it was really interesting watching the relationship between the two of them, but she does eventually betray Alexandra, and turns against The Hand. Once again, for no reason that I could discern than that the writers needed a new villain in the plot.

The show is somewhat formulaic, with the idea of replacing one Big Bad with another, halfway through the season. This happened with Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Luke Cage, where the viewer starts out with one villain, who gets unceremoniously dispatched by the true villain of the story. Basically, a villain bait and  switch.

I wanted to like Elektra. I just don’t. I couldn’t understand her motivations for anything, and I wasn’t feeling her deep love affair with Matt Murdock. Which is not helped by Matt Murdock acting like  “Floor Lamp Ninja”, throughout most of the series. When she’s not smurking evil-ly, she has a blank, wide-eyed, look on her face, which I found kinda irritating. I got no problem with Elektra’s martial skills. Those were exemplary, as always.

 

Colleen Wing:

Image result for defenders gifs colleen

 

She has even less personality growth here then in Iron Fist. In fact, I found her much more annoying in The Defenders, than I did in that show. She didn’t make much of an impression on me for this show, either. Part of this has to do with the shorter length of the series. There’s just not enough time to develop all the characters, so some of them get short shrift and hers is especially short.

The only thing we get from Colleen’s is more of her being Danny’s support network, (as she is told by Claire) and fighting the same endless fight against Bakuto, that she fought in Iron Fist, with Bakuto making the exact same talking points. Why he wants her is anybody’s guess Is he in love? Wants her as a protege? We don’t know or understand. His motivations are pretty vague. As are most The The Hand’s motivations.

Collen’s motivations are even less discernible to us than they were in Iron Fist. That was a problem that wasn’t even approached here. We don’t know why she loves him, and the two are not especially demonstrative, but nevertheless we are led to believe they are a couple. She may be Danny’s emotional support but she’s doing an awful job at helping him deal with his anger issues ,or his ideas about who and what he is. Case in point, it took a near total stranger, Luke , to point out one of Danny’s biggest flaws. The problem may be that Colleen is unable to point out Danny’s flaws because she’s too much like him. She has a go along to get along attitude with Danny that I found irritating, never questioning what he says or does, and mindlessly following him in his quest. She has no story of her own, seemingly having gave it up to be little more than Danny’s helpmate. The writers need to do better with her. Hopefully, if there is a spinoff show with Misty, she’ll be better written.

As per usual there’s nothing wrong with Colleen’s martial skills. In fact the choreography isn’t bad for the whole series, and at least a few of the directors know how to shoot fight scenes well enough to make them all different, and compelling enough, to keep watching. My favorite fight scenes are the team fights though.

 

Misty Knight:

 

Image result for defenders gifs misty

There’s not much character growth with Misty Knight either, but at least her motivations are clear. We know exactly what she wants in the narrative and why she wants it. She wants to solve her case, and get a promotion, (or not be fired), which is hindered by the fact that the people who could help her solve it, refuse to tell her anything, and the fact that, with The Hand, she is totally out of her league.

Misty is a cop, so she has mostly cop concerns, just as she did in Luke Cage. Shit is happening, her friends are in the middle of it, and they won’t tell her anything, because they realize, but refuse to explain clearly to her, just how far out of her depth she is. I kept admonishing Luke (and Jessica) to make clear to her, that the organization they’re  dealing with  doesn’t give a flying hot damn if she’s a cop, and will happily kill her (and her entire fam), but they kept refusing to tell her this, which was becoming really frustrating.

I’ve also seen some shitty meta about how she’s a bad character because she keeps attacking people she needs help from, and I’m like Bish please! She’s not attacking your White faves! She is being a cop, who knows that the information that will allow her to do her job, is being withheld. She’s got one job in the damn show, which is solving her case, and  she can’t do it, because  the four people who know something about it, won’t tell her anything. So yeah, she gonna be irritated, and not afraid to show that irritation.  This is called DRAMA, people!( I’m trying to  remember that I’m dealing with the hysterical children of Tumblr, who think any time  characters of color show irritation at a White character’s actions,  that it automatically makes them a villain. Yep! This is the level of logic I’m dealing with on Tumblr, guys!)

But she comes through in the end anyway, and lets the team handle their bidness. Although, I suspect she’s mostly there because Luke and Claire were in danger. (Remember, Misty doesn’t know who  any of those White people are. They are just mysterious somebodies who are obstructing her job. Luke and Claire are the ones who are her friends..)

Misty is known in the comic books for having a silver bionic arm, and for teaming up with Colleen to be the Daughters of the Dragon. (On an alternate Earth, she even gets to carry Steve Rogers shield, sorta like a female Bucky.) So,  we may get to see her new prosthetic in season two of Luke Cage, and if we’re lucky we’ll get to see her and Colleen team up. Hey! If side characters like the Punisher can get their own show, they can make a Daughters of the Dragon series, (possibly in the style of the Foxy Brown Blaxploitation movies of my youth.) The series should of course be helmed by a Black or Asian woman, because I absolutely do not  trust a White, male, showrunner to get a Black woman, and an Asian woman correct.

http://mashable.com/2017/08/18/the-defenders-misty-knight-arm-daughters-of-the-dragon-spinoff/#KKkkf8UKpmqx

 

The Hand:

Image result for defenders gifs the hand

https://www.bustle.com/p/who-are-the-five-fingers-of-the-hand-the-defenders-reveals-whos-pulling-the-strings-77358

Unfortunately, the shorter the running time of the series does not seem to allow much clarity on who, or what, The Hand is, or why they want what they want. We have some idea of what they’re doing globally, not just in New York, but that’s pretty much all we get.

New York starts experiencing a spate of seismic disturbances, which are being caused by The Hand digging near some sort of fault line, under a plot of land they built an office on. Why they are digging is slightly unclear. I think some dragon bones are involved becasue its briefly mentioned tat this has something to do with how Iron Fist got his power. For some reason ,they also need to capture Iron Fist and beat him up, or make him angry so he can open some kind of doorway to K’un L’un, so the five leaders of The Hand can go back home.

I did pay attention but really that’s the best I can do regarding the rather lackluster plot. I really didn’t care, although i guess its supposed to be some sort of revelation ,that the five leaders are all incredibly old, exiled citizens of K’un L’un. Even the facts of why they’re exiled in the first place isn’t made abundantly clear. I really hope the showrunner and the writers were making some kind of point about cloudy motivations, or something becasue the villains are a mess.

Alexandra gets unceremoniously dispatched and replaced by Elektra, who gives a self important speech about how she’s now the leader of The Hand. I don’t know if its the actress, or the writing, but I was bored by the whole thing. Why we were introduced to new memebers of The Hand only to have them killed right away is anyone’s guess.

Since The Hand is an egalitarian organization there’s a Japanese guy, whose name I don’t remember, a Brazilian guy named Bakuto, an African (Haitian?) guy named Sowande, and Ms. Gao, who I assume is Chinese. Sowande reminds me of the lead character from the movie Beasts of the Southern Wilds who was a procurer of child soldiers. Sowande is brutally tortured and killed by he Defenders after they capture him in an attempt to find out his people’s plans, something which did not sit well with me. And before you come into my inbox and start mansplaining about how the other members of The Hand also get killed, I have to remind you, that none of the other members of The Hand were brutally tortured first. This happens to the sole Black member of The Hand, by people who are, supposedly, the good guys.

Couple that scene with Iron Fist’s brutal beating of a young Black boy in an earlier episode,Jessica jones treatment of its Black male characters,  Daredevil’s treatment of its Asian characters as some type of Yellow Peril (which even the presence of a White woman leader cannot resolve), and Iron Fists White Savior issues, and it becomes clear that the the MCU has some serious racial issues that need addressing. The only disability on display is Matt Murdock’s blindness. Jessica Jones treament of one of its lesbian characters was, quite simply, abominable, and outside of that there is no LGBT representation in any of it. Marvel comic books are doing much better in regards to these issues than the MCU.

One of the ways they can address some of these issues is by hiring different types of showrunners, and writers and treating the creation of these shows (and the movies which have all the same problems) the same way they approach the comic books. The newest phase of MCU movies have gotten a little bit better as far as racial issues (but not by much) and it’s seriously lacking in LGBT and disability representation, and the creators of these projects need to think more deeply about these issues, most especially in its treatment of Asian characters across all of the MCU, as it’s becoming creepily apparent that maybe don’t like people of the Asian diaspora.

Despite all my criticisms though, I actually enjoyed watching it. I’m still glad I didn’t have to spend 13 hours watching it, instead of the eight. The strongest part of the series are the scenes of The Defenders working together as a team. There’s a lot of room for improvement but also a lot of promise for a season two.