Recently, my fourteen-year-old self knocked on my window in the dead of night and asked me to reconsider demon butlers. Or, rather, I went to watch Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (a movie adaptation of one of the later arcs of the manga) in the cinema with a friend, where we were both promptly reminded why we’d loved this series so much as teenagers. The Black Butler manga is more than ten years old and still going strong, and the movie reeled me back into this world of supernatural action and Victorian Era finery with enough force and finesse that I was compelled to revisit the first few volumes of the manga—the “Jack the Ripper” arc, the storyline I remember being my favorite and starring my favorite pair of villains—and dive back into this story to see if it held up. Is it still good? Certainly. Is it also riddled with problems I’m much more wary of and attuned to now that I’m older and wiser? Absolutely.
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Are we all still mad about Black Widow’s weirdly placed and (unintentionally?) offensive emotional revelation in Age of Ultron that she’s a monster because she can’t have children?
This has been up for discussion since the movie aired and is probably old news now in Internet Time, (there’s certainly been a lot written about it that is much better than anything I could say) but I think the issue surrounding it bears repeating or at least examining. Not just Natasha’s case, but the use of infertility as a tragically villainous trait, because it’s definitely something that keeps popping up. Among Orphan Black’s philosophical and allegorical dealings with female bodily autonomy and all that jazz, it’s revealed that one of the reasons why the decidedly domineering and villainous Rachel has such beef with Our Heroine Sarah is that she’s envious that Sarah and can have children and Rachel can’t. She also kidnaps Sarah’s daughter and is entirely ready to forcibly adopt her at the same time she’s got people about to harvest Sarah’s ovaries in the next room.
Like, whoa, girl. Calm down. Her infertility (part of her intelligent design in the cloning process) is not the only thing about her that concretes her as an antagonist, but it’s sure as hell part of her reasoning for doing what she does and being the way she is. While it might be unfair to say the narrative is implying that being biologically incapable of bearing children is a something that will turn you into a terrible person prone to physical and emotional torture… the implication, like Black Widow’s “monster” comment, is there. And it doesn’t seem quite fair. Continue reading
There’s just something infinitely interesting about evil.
Heroes are all well and good, but let’s face it, if they are merely heroes (and not anti-heroes existing in a story of skewed morality or reformed villains themselves) their one layer of goodie goodness can appear a bit flat. They may be the most lovable, honourable character to ever set foot upon a page, but that doesn’t make them intriguing. Also, the story will often be told either from their own perspective or centring around their workings. The bad guy looms on the edge as a menacing shadow. They’re a mystery.
And people love mysteries.
Like, why is this guy such an asshole? Was he/she made this way by some trauma of their childhood? Or is he/she merely inherently evil? What inspired them to want to take over the universe and/or cause the general unhappiness of other people? Or are they just an unthinking agent of chaos? Or perhaps an Eldritch Abomination?