Category Archives: Fun with Isms

Starscream’s High Heels and the Androgyny of the Trickster

Starscream prime

I like Transformers now, and I like Starscream. Who’d have thought? And who’d have thought it would lead me down a tangent about the mythological archetype of the Trickster and the blurring of the gender binary within?

It’s the high heels, is what it is. The Transformers property I’ve grown attached to is the 2011-2013 animated series Transformers Prime, which WB got me into, and in which Starscream is rocking a pair of stilettos built in to his very mechanics. Many of the characters went through a design overhaul for Prime, most notably baddies like Soundwave, who is no longer a walking boombox that you can slot other Decepticons into; and Starscream, who’s now delightfully spindly and spiky compared to his earlier, blockier counterparts, and who now has better-looking legs than me complete with those wonderful heels. To me, this look conveys his character well—one glance at this robot and you can tell he’s bad news, but you can also tell what kind of bad news he is. Continue reading


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Coming Out of Your (World’s) Shell: Growing Up and Breaking Free with Cocona and Utena


As I’ve noted before, adolescence is weird. This is why, I think, we’re so fascinated by coming-of-age stories, and why we so enjoy framing them through magic, adventure, and metaphor, to make sense of this strange time of life while also exploring it in fun and interesting ways. The growth from the familiarity of childhood to the strange new realm of adulthood is often portrayed as a physical journey, but today I want to discuss when that growth is portrayed as an escape. The young heroes of these stories are trapped in false worlds that are comforting but somehow wrong, and revealed with the right self-awareness to be magic-laced and malign—places that the heroes ultimately must break free from if they wish to grow, progress, and find their true place in the world (and kiss the girls they want to kiss). Continue reading


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Escapism and Healing in Recovery of an MMO Junkie

MMO Junkie (109)

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a bit of a misleading title. Looking at this romantic comedy by name and genre alone, it seems at first to be about its geeky protagonist, Morioka Moriko, getting pried away from her addiction to online games and finding happiness (and perhaps some good ol’ romance) in the real world. Instead, MMO Junkie gives us a story about finding happiness and fulfillment through online games, using their safe zone of community and anonymity as a foothold to regain emotional confidence. More importantly, it gives us Moriko herself, a complex, flawed, and likable female protagonist who provides valuable representation for adult women with geeky interests, as well as a moving personal story about anxiety and recovery.

Read the full article on AniFem!

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Girls on The Hero’s Journey, Two Ways (Starring Moana and Utena)


This post is a modified version of a presentation I gave at the AAWP conference in South Australia at the end of November. I got a lot of positive feedback, which is very exciting since it was my first time being part of an event like that! Mostly, I’m just delighted they let me talk about cartoons. But hey, if you can wrap it in a scholarly framework, you can talk about whatever you please. It’s really rather wonderful. So without further ado…

I’ve talked a lot about The Hero’s Journey on this slice of the internet—one of the first posts I made applying my studies to pop culture was looking at Moana as a Hero figure, and one of the most recent was looking at Revolutionary Girl Utena. For some beautiful symmetry, I’ve brought the two together, to examine how they both work as critiques of Joseph Campbell’s model in their own ways, laying a challenge to the static image of The Hero and the gendered implications of Campbell’s text. One is a metatextual challenge, telling the story of a girl who just happens to be a Hero and silently asking the audience (and the pre-conceived assumptions they’re bringing into the cinema) “why not?”, and one is a much more direct in-text challenge that ends up tearing the whole business apart. Both are valid and both are effective, and both tell, in my opinion, really fun and interesting stories along the way.

But first, let’s look at The Hero’s Journey, and why it’s important that these contemporary stories are playing with this familiar model and critiquing it. Continue reading


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The Princess, the Witch, the Goddess, and the Rose Bride


I thought of her as a goddess once…

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Episode 38 ‘The Ends of the World’

It’s a rough lot, being a woman in a fictional world, especially if your world is one built on the unambiguous lesson-teaching foundations of the fairy tale or the symbolism-laden slippery slope of myth. Either way, job options are scarce and you will inevitably end up in a symbolic or supporting role that props up the heroism of the main male character, be he Hero or Prince. This is something Revolutionary Girl Utena knows well, and goes to great measures to critique: first by showing a fairy tale maiden who aspires to be a Prince herself, and second by showing a fairy tale maiden who remains trapped within the expected archetypes of her genre and who is having literally the worst time in the world because of it.

Strap in, gang. It’s time for me to organise my thoughts on Anthy and what we learn about her in Episode 34, through the framework of theories of myth and how the show uses and then breaks them down. Absolute mega spoilers to follow. Continue reading


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Escape from Yuri Hell: FLIP FLAPPERS’ critique of the Class S genre

YuriHell 5

FLIP FLAPPERS is many things: a magical girl adventure through visually stunning fantasy lands, a multi-layered exploration of its characters and the nature of perception, a problematic fave, and a queer coming-of-age story about an insecure girl who’s just trying to figure herself out. The story follows Cocona, a (seemingly) ordinary girl who gets swept up in a quest to collect wish-granting “fragments” in Pure Illusion, a magical dream-space that changes to reflect the psyche of those who enter it.

Each visit to Pure Illusion is both a genre homage and a character exploration, often touching on themes of coming-of-age and the complicated business of sexual maturation. As part of this trend, Episode Five, “Pure Echo,” develops and explores our heroes and the trials of adolescence by throwing them into a world that combines Class S, a genre of sweet yuri romance, with horror. Now, what in the world could that strange combination be trying to tell us?

Head to AniFem for the full article!

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When Michael Met Mina: Actually, Yes, Let’s Make It About Race

When Michael Met Mina

But the thing is, I wear my politics like hand-me-down clothes: some bits feel like they don’t fit properly, but I expect I’ll grow into them, trusting that because they’re from my parents they’ve come from a good source.


When Michael Met Mina is a novel about realising that sometimes the people you love have unforgivable shitty opinions. Or at least, I feel like that’s the most poignant theme of the novel, and the one that is most resonant and relevant in our current social and political climate. Michael, one of the story’s two narrators, is not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination, he’s just an average teenaged boy from Sydney who likes sports and video games and also believes that Muslims are terrible and refugees shouldn’t be protected by the government. His parents, the founders of the Aussie Values political party, are also not bad people necessarily, in fact they’re really quite lovely people, they’re also just horribly and vocally bigoted. As Michael says, “The scariest thing about people like […] my parents is not that they can be cruel. It’s that they can be kind too.” And boy, isn’t that the Realest thing ever? Continue reading

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