Tag Archives: MCU

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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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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Letting Boys Cry

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One of the first things Yuri Katsuki does onscreen is cry. His establishing character moment is him weeping uncontrollably in a bathroom, the picture of vulnerability and hopelessness, after doing badly at the Grand Prix. And he doesn’t stop crying, either—his tears, and his anxiety, return time and again over the series, and while he eventually learns to handle this anxiety as his confidence is nurtured, the narrative never really presents this emotion and his expression of it as a bad thing or a weakness. Yuri is a highly expressive, emotional young man, and the show he’s in lets him be that. And that’s quite a rare thing to see in fiction, let alone from the protagonist of a sports anime—surely one of the most manly genres out there, given that they’re all about feats of physical prowess!

It seems paradoxical to have the protagonist of something in the action genre—be it sports or superheroes—cry, because crying is, well, such a non-masculine and non-heroic trait. Journalist Ben Blatt recently released the findings of a study on word use in books, which found that, among other things, women were commonly described as “sobbing” but men almost never were, especially when the novel in question was written by a man. The study suggests that “Male authors seem, consciously or not, to hold that if ‘real men don’t cry,’ then ‘fictional men don’t sob’.”

And yet there’s Yuri, sobbing—and not the only man to do so in that show either. Granted, a lot of Yuri!!! on Ice plays with and strays from what we would consider “manly” (dancing, themes of love, throwing away strict conventions of gender presentation with Viktor’s long hair and flower crowns, etc.), but this departure from gendered expectations is still worth noting. Usually, the perception is that boys don’t cry. Crying is a sissy thing to do, an unmanly thing to do, a girly thing to do, and society says the accepted and desirable alternative is to bottle up your feelings or project them outwards onto other people. This is one of the neatest examples of toxic masculinity you can find: being emotional is somehow feminine, and, of course, that that makes it bad.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full article!

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Redeeming and Rehabilitating Your Brainwashed Villain: Precure vs The MCU

villains

There are few things more fun than a (well done) villain to hero story, whether it’s a redemptive arc like Zuko’s or a heartfelt rebellion like Finn at the start of The Force Awakens. A surefire way to switch up alliances is to throw brainwashing into the mix, a la Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes or Princess Twilight from the current wholesome and unstressful light of my life Go! Princess Precure. Just un-brainwash ‘em and you have a perfect new member of your main cast of good guys, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as a villain-to-hero story is often more complex, especially when it deals with the kind of trauma and guilt that comes from being the enemy’s human weapon… which, interestingly enough, I’d argue that the kids’ anime about magic princesses does much, much better than the blockbuster superhero series. Continue reading

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Who Won the “Civil War”?

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Who indeed? Though I myself am still firmly on Team Cap, I discuss the narrative’s deliberate ambiguity in a piece written for Popgates. Read the whole thing here!

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“Joss Whedon is the Devil and the Russo Bros. Will Save Us”

Do you notice anything… off about that article title? Is it slightly polarised?

Polarisation is the name of the game at Marvel Studios these days though, with Captain America: Civil War just around the corner and the whole world waiting with baited breath to see the clash of two heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started selling ‘Team Iron Man’ and ‘Team Cap’ t-shirts and throwing us all back into the Twilight era… scratch that, someone’s definitely already made those. In any case, hype is in the air. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say this is one of the most highly-anticipated movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a lot of this seems to be coming from the pure joy of a movie that looks really good after the disappointment that was The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant Man, which I’ve seen about two people talking about.

How can we be sure it’s going to be good? Well, it’s in the hands of the Russo Brothers, the creative team behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a high-quality movie that ensured their place as gods upon the mountain… especially compared to other creative devils like Joss Whedon, who betrayed and enraged everyone with the cluster-mess of Age of Ultron. The anti-Whedon backlash in the wake of Age of Ultron was nothing short of stunning, and a little frightening, and that same energy is now swinging the other way to praise and delight over the Russos and their work. They will bring Good Writing™ back to the MCU. They are the heroes we need.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t think they’re good—they did a damned good job on Winter Soldier on a technical level and clearly love the source material to bits—but we shouldn’t be too quick to put people on pedestals. Civil War has just as much potential to be a heroic mess as Age of Ultron did, because it’s actually facing a lot of problems from the get go. Continue reading

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Case of the Monstrous Wannabe Mothers

BlackWidowScreenshotAofUltron

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

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