Martyred Moms and Dastardly Dads in the MCU

GOTG Ego and Starlord

My friend and I came out of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 convinced that the Infinity Wars movies, and the big Avengers/Guardians crossover therein, were mostly going to consist of Tony Stark and Peter Quill trying to out-Daddy-Issue each other. As well as both having facial hair and a penchant for roguish one-liners, the two heroes have a few things in common, most notably their parental situation: like Tony, Peter Quill has a complicated and at times antagonistic relationship with his father that forms the emotional core of a whole movie, and a sense of wistful mourning for his mother, who was sweet, kind, and only shows up in a few scenes. She’s also dead due to circumstances that were in no way her fault, so they can bond over that as well. At this point, maybe Thor can chime in too, perhaps initiating a group hug, since he also has a complicated relationship with his main-character dad and grieves over his good and nurturing dead mum. Jeez, is Infinity Wars just going to be one big session of father-related angst and mother-related mourning?

Fridge a kind mother and elevate a father to main character status once, Marvel, and that’s shame on you. Fridge a kind mother and elevate a father twice, still shame on you. Do this three times for three different superheroes and it’s officially a pattern. What exactly is going on here, and why does it annoy me so much?

Head to Lady Geek Girl & Friends for the full post!

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Fantastical Queer Webcomics for the Soul

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Queer stories that fill you with a warm and fuzzy feeling are important—the blissful normalcy of slice-of-life romance with the promise of a happy ending is rewarding and uplifting, and sends a message of hope to the real world while providing a cute escape into the fictional. It says that queer love is perfectly capable of being sweet and life-affirming enough to be the subject of a romantic dramedy, a genre that’s been pretty exclusively heteronormative for all of print and Hollywood history. Sometimes you want to sink into the comfort zone of sugarcoated romance tropes, and it’s important to have a version of this that everyone of all identities can see themselves in.

Sometimes, though, you also want to see queer identities saving the world, fighting aliens, and kicking ass and taking name in genre fiction. Why should superhero adventures, sci-fi cityscapes, and zombie survival action-comedies be solely the realm of cis, straight people? Well, these three comics are here to help fill that void.

As with the cute romance recommendations, consider this not a review post but simply some suggestions of works I’ve found and found enjoyable. Happy Pride Month, everybody! Continue reading

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“This Town is Full of Ghosts!”: The Power of Atmosphere and Landscape in Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods bike

You first meet the protagonist of Night in the Woods, 20-year-old Mae Borowski, when she arrives at her hometown’s bus station after dropping out of college. She remarks that the bus station is probably the newest and fanciest building in the town of Possum Springs, all the better to give people coming through the best first impression possible. However, we soon see that the bus station, with its shiny floors and glorious sunny mural advertising prosperous life in Possum Springs, is just a façade, and as soon as Mae arrives in the town proper, we see that it’s crumbling inside and out.

As Mae explores her childhood home, the game’s use of color, landscape design, character dialogue and atmospheric music all help to build a rich, vivid, sensory picture of this once-great but slowly dying coal town, injecting so much personality that the setting almost feels like a character. Which not only makes it a fantastic backdrop for the unfolding story, but a neat metaphor for what’s going on with Mae herself. And… also a little bit of something deeper and darker.

Head to Lady Geek Girl for the full post! (big plot spoilers don’t kick in until after the video clip)

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“Heroes” vs “Heroines”: A Tale of Linguistics and Juicy Academic Gossip

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Let me tell you some spicy goss I’ve dug up in my research.

If you’ve been with this blog for a while, you might remember my abridged guide to The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell’s mythological theory of the Universal Narrative that is repeated as a pattern throughout the literature and folklore of the ancient world and deeply informs our current pop culture. You may also remember me tilting my head a little and pondering here and there that hey, this book kind of works on the assumption that the titular Hero is a dude most of the time. I am, it turns out, not the only reader who picked up on this. In 1981, scholar and therapist Maureen Murdock asked Campbell if there was a feminine equivalent to the decidedly masculine-tinted Hero’s Journey, and Campbell replied that…

“Women don’t need to make the Journey. In the whole of mythological tradition woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place people are trying to get to.”

Murdock, I can only imagine, kind of went:

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…and in 1990 published her own book called The Heroine’s Journey. Continue reading

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Never Smooch the Robot: May ’17 Roundup

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Whoof, well, May seems to have passed me with the force of a small aeroplane engine, leaving me sitting on the proverbial runway in its wake with my hair pointing in all directions and smelling of jet fuel. Semester is over and I’ve handed in my finalised, beautiful, in-depth project proposal, and now I have free reign to spend the rest of the year researching at a slower pace and writing my novella. Huzzah!

Somewhere in there, because I can always wriggle in time for this sort of thing (and because I needed a break–I spent the ANZAC Day public holiday tucked up in bed with my laptop and multiple cups of tea), over this month and last month I’ve been trying out a Crunchyroll subscription, which is why there are two–two!–whole, shiny new anime being written about in this roundup.

Oh, and I have a Twitter now! Though it will mostly be used to link to the blog you’re already reading, hey, give it a look.

On the bloggo this month:

ToraDora! Wrap Up Post (oh my gosh guys, we did it!)

Sense8ional: A Sense8 Review (re-posted from Popgates after the death of Popgates’ pop culture section. Now to sit down and watch season two…)

A Magical Girl Education: Sailor Moon (in which I finally watch the iconic magical girl anime in its original uncut form and am full of hearts and rainbows but also a little bit confusion)

It’s a Metaphor, Max: The Storm (in which the other big supernatural plot device in Life is Strange makes no sense either, so I attempt to suggest that it’s also symbolic)

On Lady Geek Girl and Friends:

Web Crush Wednesdays: Trash & Treasures (in which the podcast recommendations continue! This one’s about trashy movies and queer stuff)

The Bittersweet Taste of Orange (in which I peer at a high school drama about suicide and time travel and try to work out of I liked it or not)

Magical Mondays: Flying Witch and Magical Realism (Flying Witch is what I spent that public holiday bingeing. Oh, it is a delight. But also worth writing genre meta about!)

What Are Ya Readin’?

Well, this first recommendation is actually something to watch. Pop Culture Detective’s video essay on the ‘Born Sexy Yesterday’ trope looks into the recurring pattern in sci-fi and fantasy of a woman-shaped robot, alien, or superbeing of some other description, who is naïve and childlike, but while also being a badass and… sexually available to the (presumably male) protagonist. One of those things is skeezier than the other, but the whole thing is an awful mess, and the video makes for a fascinating discussion and exploration of the trope and why and how it’s iffy, and why you should you probably never smooch the robot.

Now, here’s some food for thought: Does Marvel Have a Second Movie Problem? Well, yeah, it does, this article argues. The second instalment in most of the franchises—see Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and most recently Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, which the writer uses as their jumping off point—are notoriously mediocre and feel… weirdly like filler, a thing that technically shouldn’t be possible in the movie medium. Except for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, because in all my reading and various conversations about superhero movies, literally no one has ever tried to tell me that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a bad movie.

Forget zombies, says The AV Club: the “hot new villain” in games about young adults is the world itself, a supernatural manifestation of the crushing pressure and sense of hopelessness young people are forced to deal with in today’s existence. While I’m not sure how I feel about “hot new” anything being used unironically, this article gets to the heart of what makes darlings of mine like Oxenfree, Life is Strange, Night in the Woods (a new favourite) and, yes, even Until Dawn, so resonant and powerful in the way they shape their conflicts.

Want to learn about the long, strange and detailed history of queer representation in anime and manga? This is a transcript of a convention panel/presentation on exactly that. It’s long, but fascinating, super in-depth, and full of neat things to know about iffy (or not so iffy, sometimes) tropes and their historical origins. I never realised “bara” as a nickname for buff dudes came from the Japanese word for “rose” and its association with a gay magazine, but now I’m so educated…

Oh, guys, I want to like Sakura Quest so much—the initial reviews were so good! It’s about a twenty-something on a quest for meaning in the workforce! But alas, this show just seems to be smacking me on the head with a rolled-up newspaper trying to get its message across, which is leaving me with nothing but a headache. Atelier Emily’s post about sincerity in the show articulates this problem very well.

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I KNOW. OKAY. YOU HAVE NO CONCEPT OF ‘SHOW DON’T TELL’

To loop back to the theme of queer anime/manga, translator Jenny McKeon wrote a post for AniFem this month recommending some safe and not-gross yuri manga, also briefly exploring the history of the genre and the various problems it can run into. Also rife with problems (but still worth mining for hidden gems, as this next post tells me) is the “boy’s love” genre, which this writer side-eyes for its strange reluctance to actually acknowledge its characters in a queer context and its bad habit of treating its women characters like crap, despite supposedly being a safe haven for women to explore sexuality…

Speaking of The Gaze and its affect on characters within a story, this post discusses comics and superhero movies and how they’re tangled up in the issue of what women want to see versus what men assume (and want) women want to see. Also on the theme of silly writing in the genre, here is an article imploring writers to let superheroes be emotionally vulnerable sometimes, damn it.

And finally, here is a paper exploring representations of fanfiction in the works of Rainbow Rowell (including my beautiful problematic fave Fangirl) and arguing that, hey, maybe fanfic is a good thing, emotionally and creatively (I was lucky enough to sit in and see this presented when I volunteered at a conference last year, so it’s very neat to finally have a link to share it with the world).

What Are Ya Listenin’ To?

via twitter

I haven’t had the chance to engage with much of the ol’ internet radio this month, but I have to throw out a recommendation for Our Fake History. Did Anastasia really survive the execution of the Russian imperial family, or was her miraculous reappearance a case of sensational mistaken identity? Did Nero fiddle as Rome burned, or was that just a rumour fabricated by contemporary Christians and later rulers who wanted him to look bad? Was there a real Trojan War, or did poets just make that shit up because everyone loves a good battle drama? These are the questions this passionate history teacher asks and discusses, attempting to debunk myths, historical hearsay, and crazy-ass theories to get to the truth, while also acknowledging that even if something didn’t happen, per se, sometimes the fake story is still too good not to tell.

I’m going to cause trouble and recommend the giant three-parter on whether or not Atlantis really existed, because that was an absolute whirlwind of fascinating bizarreness, including mythology, underwater volcanoes, Nazi science, arguments about what Plato meant, and straight-up conspiracy theories. I was downright doing this by the end of it:

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Or, if you don’t want to dive into something that long and in-depth, try the episode on the Minotaur labyrinth. The interplay of myth and history is a mesmerising topic, and this guy is such a natural storyteller that I was engrossed for hours.

In other exciting news, AniFem’s podcast is now on iTunes and Stitcher and stuff, which seems to mean it now appears in most podcast apps! It’s early days yet, but they’ve got end-of-season discussion, some staff Q&A, a retrospective on Revolutionary Girl Utena and some neat stuff on Ghost in the Shell.

Oh hey, and Eurovision happened! I would like to congratulate the soulful fellow who won for Portugal, but also thank Moldova for injecting some genuine pizzazz into my life with this hot nonsense:

Thank you as always for reading my little slice of the internet, and take care out there.

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It’s a Metaphor, Max: The Storm

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I remember the fateful day when the final chapter of Life is Strange—appropriately titled “Polarized”—came out and the internet as I knew it, even parts I hadn’t known were invested in the game, collectively exploded. The starkness of the final choice, now dubbed “save the bae vs save the bay” because you have to laugh otherwise you cry, was the main topic of discussion and/or ranting, for good reason. I’m not saying it’s a bad dichotomy to present the player with (and as I wrote about in my last post, can be interpreted to represent Max’s character development and contribute to the story nicely), it just could have been done so much better. One aspect of this, which bugs me personally the most, is the fact that the entire scenario is kind of… nonsense. Which, like last time, I’m going to try to break through using WB’s “everything that makes no sense is a metaphor” theory. Let’s take a bite out of it. Continue reading

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Flying Witch and Magical Realism

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Flying Witch did for witches what Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid did for dragons: just had them be kinda there, going about their daily business instead of getting wrapped up in some sort of epic fantasy plot. Makoto, the protagonist of Flying Witch, is a young witch completing her training, but is she rollicking along on some sort of Harry Potter-ish adventure attending a haunted magic school and defeating evil incarnate? No, she’s just doing the gardening. Occasionally she unearths a howling mandrake and disturbs her friends and neighbors, but otherwise she lives a relatively conflict-free existence, sitting where she does in the place where the “supernatural” and “slice-of-life” genres meet. Which is, it turns out, pretty near the dreamy land of magical realism.

Head to Lady Geek Girl for the full post!

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