Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paperless Dolls

Rather than do anything productive, I've been goofing around on dollmaker/dress-up games. Someone on Tumblr linked this fairy tale shrug girl, and I've been on that dolldivine site all week creating people. I also like the elemental ones, but I was a bit disappointed with their superhero maker.

Other sites have superhero makers, but none so far have had the variety and interface that the Fairy Tale one on Dolldivine has. (I did make a nice girl speedster with this one, though.)

(Yeah, that second one is totally an AU design for a female Quicksilver.) Even the weaker ones are pretty addictive, though. Has anyone seen any really good superhero dollmakers out there?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Women in the Warriors

Today a coworker got us all to watch The Warriors, a 1979 film about a New York street gang. (It seems they're doing a remake, set in Los Angeles, and he wanted us to understand why he was so pissed off about the location change.) The gang itself was all male, as were most of their enemies, but I was really struck by the main plot points that involved women in the movie. Each encounter is just such a perfect example of how women are treated by macho all-male communities.

And yeah, I'm gonna spoil the shit out of this if you haven't seen it before. Also, there's a lot of sexual assault threats in the movie and I don't get too detailed with those but if you find that triggering you should consider this a warning.

There's four major portrayals of women in the movie. The first we meet is a disc jockey who passes encoded information to street gangs during her radio show. The most powerful gang in the city, the Gramercy Riffs, have set up a network of gangs that are aligned with them. The Warriors are in that network, but they've been framed for murdering the leader of the Riffs. Through this woman, the Riffs tell their entire network that the Warriors are the perpetrators, where they are, and that they want them dead. Throughout the movie she cuts in and tells the network where they were last seen and who they fought. We only ever see her mouth, but her voice is the voice of the universe aligning against our heroes. She's a powerful, removed, anonymous celebrity.

The second is Mercy, who follows and eventually joins the Warriors. She was initially involved with another gang--the Orphans (who are not part of the network and not trying to kill them), and purposefully turns a peaceful situation into a confrontation between the Orphans and the Warriors. For this, Ajax--the biggest, strongest member of the gang--seizes her from behind and threatens to rape her. The gangleader Swan tells him to let her go, then grabs her and threatens to have the entire gang rape her. Then the Orphans show and the Warriors avoid a major fight by blowing up a car. Duly impressed by the explosion as well as her own capture and their threats, she goes with them and somehow ends up following them the entire way to Coney Island despite Swan telling her he doesn't like her or approve of her way of life. Naturally, she and Swan end up together.

Okay, I actually rather liked Mercy. She actually gets to be a person, stands up for herself, takes as many stupid risks as the boys, and ends up arming herself for the final confrontation. She's the girl who joins the male clique. And while they do have good reason not to like or trust her, they still attack and threaten her. She suffers threats and insults based on her gender, but if she's persistent, sticks around and proves she has the same values and macho toughness as the men she gets to be a fixture. (But she doesn't get a vest. That's significant to me.)

The third and fourth women are both Odyssey-style traps, our Circe and our Sirens, I suppose, even though our Circe is the dispenser of justice.

At the beginning of the movie, we see scenes of the gang on the subway spliced with them exchanging exposition in pairs. Here we meet Ajax (played by James Remar) who immediately establishes himself as a homophobic asshole. He says something about hopefully meeting and bedding strange women during their trip to Gramercy, and when the other member suggests they have more important concerns he uses a gay slur. It's his go-to insult, and it along with his attitude towards women and his challenging Swan for leadership make me figure we're suppose to hate him and hope he dies first. (He does not die first, and there is a point in the movie where I actually blurted out "You killed the wrong one.")

Ajax, however, is the best fighter of the group (barring probably Cleon at the beginning) and gets a really great line and fight scene. Thing is, he knows he's a great fighter and he thinks that as the most manly man in the group he should get leadership and wimmiz. Lots of wimmiz, whenever he wants them. He's the strongest and the fiercest but gets taken down by his own entitlement and his disregard for other people's boundaries. Passing through a park they walk by a woman on a park bench. Ajax wants to go back and pick her up, the others want to move on. He separates from the group and sits next to the woman, who flirts with him.

Flirting wasn't enough for Ajax, though, and he moves on to sexual assault. She struggles and tells him at least twice to stop, then she handcuffs him to the bench, jumps away and shows him her badge. Then she whistles for a police car. Ajax, of course, starts ranting and trying to break free and actually pulls the bench towards her when the uniformed officers arrive.

And he won't calm down, so they whack him with a nightstick.

It is immensely satisfying to watch.

Ahem... Disappointing as it was not to see further police brutality against this character (All the cops in this movie seemed to be decent hardworking people removed from the plot who didn't escalate any of the encounters themselves), I was pretty happy to see that the homophobia and misogyny were leading to this guy's downfall.

The policewoman is obviously our Circe analogue, but she's also the unknown woman. And even to Swan and Co, she's not spoken about as a person. The argument is whether Ajax can stay and claim her as a conquest, or if it's more important to move along to the next station. If Swan or the others feel rape is wrong, they are prevented from admitting it by their bullshit macho code. The unknown woman is just a piece of meat on a park bench, and that attitude takes Ajax off the board.

And last we have the all-girl gang. This was easy to see coming, because they were grouped and posed just like a gang, and all wearing a matching article of clothing just like the other gangs.

Of course our heroes follow them home, hoping to get laid. That's where things get weird. The camera lingers on a female character dressed in blue overalls (rather than the tye-dyed T-shirt so I think that meant she had a leadership position) and smoking. It travels around the room and points out images of women posed in masculine poses, moving in masculine ways. As time passes, two of the women start to dance together very suggestively. When asked what the girls call themselves, one of them answers "the Lizzies."

I think at this point we can abandon the sub and safely call it text.

Either way, all of the lesbian implications and masculine posture are framed as warning signs. You get the intense feeling (and only one of the Warriors, Rembrandt, seems to get this) that something is wrong, that these guys are not going to have a relaxing night of sex, smoking and sandwich service. In fact, you get the feeling that the "dudes" they said were up in the Bronx don't really exist, and that someone's going to do something OH GOD SHE LOCKED THE DOOR AND THERE'S THE KNIFE. Yeah, that's a lesbian gang that wants to kill you RUN! RUN!

Lucky for our heroes, the girl with the gun is a shitty shot and they escape with their lives. I will give the Lizzies this, though. Out of all the casualties in the movie? The cops were the biggest danger to the Warriors. The Gramercy Riffs, who are super-intensely-tough-and-scary took out their leader Cleon, but after that no gang touches them with the exception of the Lizzies managing to cut poor Rembrandt. This makes them the most effective antagonistic gang after the Riffs.

But out of all the women in the movie, I found the Lizzies scene the most intense reveal about how a group of men might view women. Because here is a group of very like-minded women that have formed a community of their own, and it is portrayed as very suspicious and very dangerous. There are lesbian overtones all over the place, and the atmosphere is a dreamy haze of welcome that just stands to be ripped away when the women surround and destroy the men.

And that was when I looked back at the movie and saw Fandom, the military, the technical communities wrapped into one hypercompressed macho unit called the Warriors, acting out my life and the lives of my peers on the screen with gangland violence. But I like stuff like that, so it made the movie instantly much cooler to me.

Well, that and a cop smacking Ajax with a nightstick. Man, he deserved that.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh, for fuck's sake.

So... Does anyone remember this post where I ranted about the Perez reboot taking Wonder Woman off the JLA founder's list?
As a result, Wonder Woman was younger, less experienced, and less wordly than her former contemporaries. Again, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it sure as hell does to me. Seniority is a huge deal where I work. These men were her colleagues before, and now, when she had been an equal when it came to age, experience and wisdom, she was now behind the curve. She went from looking to them as friends and co-workers to looking at them as examples and possible mentors. When they were veteran heroes she was a rookie. She was originally meant as an inspiration specifically to women, but now, when she came on the scene, it was littered with female heroes anyway. Her own sidekick, Donna Troy, had been recast at the beginning of the timeline and was, as Wonder Girl, more experienced than Wonder Woman when she first arrived.

And why? So that Diana, originally conceived as a teacher could be recast as an innocent setting her first feet on Man's Shores and learning the harsh lessons of life. They couldn't do it like Batman: Year One or Man of Steel and write her origin in a miniseries set at the beginning of the timeline. No, they put her at the beginning of Crisis so that we would watch her new life unfold in real-time. They rewrote her supporting cast to fit. Where she'd been a mentor and friend of a group of young girls, she was now surrounded by older women (Julia Kapetalis, the new Etta Candy, Myndi Mayner) who were there to guide and mentor her. She'd previously had a love interest, an adorable Navy pilot with a cute butt she followed all the way from Themiscyra, a man with old-fashioned ideas about womanhood who found Wonder woman strangely intriguing. She used to roll her eyes at him, try to subtly teach him lessons, and save him from danger when he got in over his head. Now, he was aged over twenty years ahead of her, and instead of a cute guy she wanted to come around to her way of thinking she had an older man to act as a father figure and guide her in this new world because she was now so fucking young and naive.

Or any of the other posts where my point is that as the most recognizable independent female superhero in the genre she should be the equal of Superman and Batman in experience, status, and ability and treated with the same respect?

If not, go read those. That way you'll know why I'm so pissed off at this.

And I'm going to remain pissed off until they X-men: Omega out this fucking reboot and restore her to the same experience level as Superman and Batman. Because they've shoe-horned her in as the doe-eyed novice of the Trinity once already.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My evening.

Today I got a couple backlogged shipments of comics, which brings me actually up to this week's order. Yay!

This will combine with the last month's backlog and another greatly anticipated reading acquisition for one glorious binge-reading session...

...on some other night. I have responsibilities.

It's all so deeply depressing.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

How do I not own this?

I just found out this trade existed:

So it has the Magneto War, which is the storyline where Joseph kicks it, as well as my personal Magneto Rex which is just this crazy Magneto, Rogue and Quicksilver story and a must-have for any connoisseur of 90s superhero soap or Rogue awesomeness. It is sadly discontinued, but fortunately just about everything in it is available online if you're up for dealing with Marvel's confusing digital strategy. I'm just amazed it's out there and I never saw it. Those storylines are two of my favorite rereads in X-men comics.

This new knowledge of my own fallibility brings another question to mind: Have they ever collected Dark Seduction, the Magneto in Genosha-focused storyline that involves Polaris and Quicksilver, in trade paperback? That one isn't up in digital comics, and unlike Magneto War and Magneto Rex I wasn't able to read it when it first came out.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Happy Birthday, Kalinara!

So, today is Kalinara's birthday, and I've been racking my head for a gift.

Maybe she'd like a Guy Gardner: Warrior figurine?

Hmm... doesn't look to be for sale. Ooo, how about an ice sculpture?

Naw, that might get dusty. Maybe I should be more creative. Set up an event, like a visit from a relative who hasn't lived nearby for a while.

That could backfire. Back to traditional gifts. Umm... Everybody likes guns?

On second thought, that looks complicated.

Hmm... OH! I know! She just got a new cat. I'll get her a kitty bed, just like...

Or not.

Y'know what? Think I'll buy her some ice cream next time we get together. Yeah. That's it.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

In Defense of Peter Bishop

If you're not caught up on this week's Fringe episode, "Concentrate and Ask Again", don't read any further. Spoilers for the series up until the end of that episode.

There are two things that bug me about this Altlivia fallout.

One, remember back when there was a story with the Chameleon in Spider-Man, and it looked like he pretended to be Peter and slept with his roommate? And how we had a big discussion on rape and consent as a result.

Well, this is the same situation. Peter slept with Altlivia, but his consent was based on the thought that this was HIS Olivia, a woman he trusted implicently and had grown to love over the past two years. Peter didn't really give consent.

The writers, especially in the last episode, have chosen to not explore this at all. In fact, rather than treat this as a violation they have chosen to treat it as a romance and actually set it up so that they can not treat this as a violation or else an entire universe will die.

And maybe I'm in the wrong part of fandom, but few fans seem to have remarked on this at all. I mean, I even saw a few posts discussing that what happened to Olivia was a form of rape, that then go on to talk about what a self-absorbed jerk Peter is. What the hell, fans? If this were Peternate and Olivia (or a show with Patricia and Oliver?) they'd be screaming to high heaven from every blog but instead we're going to constantly talk about how Peter should have known better? Come on, fandom.

And speaking of whether or not he should have noticed, I think people are being really unfair to Peter there too.

The thing about Peter is that he's a social person, which actually puts him in the unique position of being the one to fall for this hardest. Why? Because you don't really get to understand people as well as he does without observing them and altering your judgments based on how they act differently in certain situations. He's not someone to go "Oh, this is weird behavior, she must be an imposter." He's someone to go "Oh, that's weird. Either something's going or this is something new I learned about them. What's different for this person that's causing this?"

It looks like he's stupid for not knowing what with everything that's going on, but this guy is still getting used to the weirdness. It's just not human nature to seek out parallel universes and shape-shifters as an explanation for every time someone does something different or unepected. Human beings are not consistent creatures, and they do alter their behavior from time to time.

It's second nature for Peter to observe people, take all their normal behavior PLUS the odd behavior into account when he makes judgments, and con the crap out of them based on that. Even though he knows there's shapeshifters and alternate universes out there, this is a guy who made his living based on his skill at dealing with people for the vast majority of his. The only way he can do that is to watch people, and accept what they do as part of their personalitiesAnything new with Olivia he had to rationalize away BECAUSE he's spent his entire life paying attention to people and has seen them change this way before.

His rationalization? "This is how she acts in a romantic relationship." He's never seen her in one before, let alone been in one with her. And That's not something that a couple years and conscious knowledge of weirdness will erase. And all his life this guy has had to adjust his impressions--not challenge--when someone acts differently.

Even in the setting, we're asking way too much of Peter to expect him to have figured this out earlier than he did. It's one thing for Olivia to be upset, she's got a ton to be upset about. But as awesome as she is and much as we identify with her, we're not Olivia. We didn't just come back from that shit to land into this shit. Give Peter a break, all right. Dude still hasn't worked out his issues with Walter yet.