RWBY: The Stirring Un-feminism of Season 4

So this is a contentious issue. I’ll state first of all that Rooster Teeth is one of my all-time favourite production companies for the huge amount of engagement they have with their community and the sheer amount of hard work they dedicate to building up their name and talent. RWBY particularly has a place forever in my heart and mind for the inspiring story behind its creation and the authentic, infinitely generous passion of its creator, Monty Oum. Trying to critique it at this stage feels like kicking a service dog, especially when it has such a dedicated, creative, and prolific fanbase, and considering the heartfelt efforts Kerry and Miles have put in to carry on what can only be a hugely daunting legacy.

But…

RWBY Oh dear

YOU WERE SAYING?

This is another feminist rant again, right?

Essentially… yeah. I mean particularly with Season 4, it’s easy to see where the dynamic has shifted. And that’s not necessarily as a result of it passing out of Monty’s hands, although two different directors being given the same content will inevitably make things that are very different. You only need to look at how the Harry Potter movies changed from director to director to see the atmosphere shift, even ignoring the darkening plot.

(WARNING: RWBY SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW)

But RWBY does so much right! It’s awesome!

It IS an awesome concept, yes. And it DOES do a lot right, or at least it did. It is the show that started making men want to crossplay in my local cosplay group, and had them talking about gender representation in media generally. The highlight of one particular exchange:

“You know, I really wanna cosplay someone from RWBY, but the main guy is Jaune, and he’s kinda weak. But… well, I guess that’s how girls feel when they watch literally any other show.”

That a show can be performing quality subliminal education on its audience to any degree is great. AND, in the first few seasons at least, there’s little-to-no sexualisation of any of the characters (even Yang’s, erm, endowments aren’t given any particular focus). For volumes 1-3 Ruby herself has no skin showing except her face and her hands, and that is SO AWESOME, especially in a combat/magical girl genre for a teenage audience where panty shots are pretty much an inevitable punchline in any given twenty-minute span.

mad_mavis_vermilion_by_skyfinity-d5v3xsp

Mavis is VERY upset by the positions her Guild members are frequently put into.

So the foundation is rock-solid. If you’re going into specifics like the Bechdel test, or even just a qualitative analysis of how the girls interact and who drives the plot, the first seasons are fricking gold standard. The very first scene is Ruby kicking arse, directing the flow of combat with incredible prowess. She drives the story and, being so excellent in front of Glynda, is the reason she’s accepted into Beacon Academy. Throughout this series, she and her team are the driving focus and very few scenes are stolen by any of the guys.

Granted, there are only two male deuteragonists at this stage; Jaune and Ren, but even then, Jaune and Pyrrha have equal footing on their interactions, as do Ren and Nora. There’s never a point where the impetus is handed completely to a guy to keep the scenes or story going, and none of the characters are held hostage in their progression by anything a guy does.  This is a frequent problem with many stories, especially ones that proclaim to have strong women, because often they’re left helplessly strung along by the guy’s actions or intentions. Please check out how many issues I had with Wonder Women for these same reasons if you haven’t had enough of my voice yet.

Nora oh no

“Rant about MY FAVES, will you?”

Alright Buster, what did RWBY actually do, then?

Aside from distorting the characters’ body proportions (see Blake’s section), the main criticism I have with the series at this point is the degredation and inconsistencies with its characters, specifically the reduction of the girls’ strength and increasing emotional dependence on the men.

Season 4 opens with Cinder sitting at a table with some of Salem’s henchmen that we’ve never met before; Hazel, Arthur, and Tyrian. Cinder is reduced to a whisper and sports a severely damaged (or missing) eye after her encounter with Ruby on the tower. The guys in the room spend their time belittling her for being weak, until Salem comes in and shuts them up.

Cinder up to this point has been a near unstoppable force in the show. Having her reduced to a struggling mute is definitely indicative of a shift in power, if for no other reason than nothing like this has ever happened before in the world of Vale, but this has some troubling undertones. We get that the guys are arrogant and conceited, but there is never an acknowledgement that Cinder was ever strong, except by Salem. Given that she had already nearly slain one of the maidens (seen in Season 3) and they have all obviously known of each other for some time, it’s a little contrarian for opportunistic malefactors like them to comment on what they see as an inherent weakness than her inflicted weakness caused by the battle at Beacon.

Salem srs

Really? Seriously? We were supposed to be past this.

The irony is that this is arguably the strongest and most independent we see any woman for the first five-six episodes in the show, because Salem shoots down her henchmen’s crappy (and rather confusingly-constructed) arguments and takes control of the room where Cinder can’t. We don’t even know who Salem is, but if she has Cinder quaking in her boots, she must mean business.

But herein lies the foundation for the tones seeping into RWBY, and it’s a sadly common occurrence for women in media, especially sci-fi action, and a largely-criticised trope of Joss Whedon fiction in particular: a woman cannot be powerful without also suffering directly as a result of that power. This begins to become apparent in Season 3, where Yang, Blake, Ruby, Penny, Pyrrha and Cinder all suffer something horrible as a result of their increasing abilities and positions.

While an escalation of danger is often necessary for furthering the plot, in Season 4 it happens in a more insidious and subconscious way than actual bodily harm. It’s about removing agency, lack of control, and having situations consistently dominated by the male characters. Kind of exactly like the Wonder Woman movie, even after it was saved from Joss Whedon’s terrible faux-feminist fingers.

ren worried

You and me both, matey.

Not a single one of the main four characters has agency in their given scenes or episodes, with the exception of Weiss, the only one of the four who stays any degree above it.

Red Like Roses Fills my Dreams (but just in the background)

Ruby fighting in team RNJR gives us unique snapshots at her increasing capabilities, but sadly she’s relegated to mostly taking directions from Jaune. Ruby was a masterful strategist in her own right by the second season, understanding her team’s abilities innately to take down pretty much anything they faced. In the Season 4 skirmishes, she doesn’t contribute anything except raw power, martial arts prowess, and in the case of Qrow’s fight with Tyrian, actually causes Qrow to be injured by way of her intervention. This takes on the Whedon-esque visions of punishing a girl for becoming stronger by making her choose between two scenarios, both of which weaken her- she chooses to fight when warned not to, and almost loses her uncle as a result. While raw power is definitely something to aspire to, it also reduces Ruby to a tool to be exploited; Nora suffers from this even moreso, whether as a bruiser for dramatic effects shots or a relatively-blank vessel to see Ren’s character development.

NoraHammer2

If you want to be the one to tell her that, be my guest. I’ll inform your loved ones.

The irony is as soon as we enter the series, Nora and Ren have a dialogue that’s more prophetic than it should have been, debating whether the team should be called JNRR or RNJR because they’re not sure if the original team majority dictates the focus of the mission. That’s how the story progresses, with unsteady footing due to the organic chemistry of the principal characters being left in the previous season when they were all in the same place.

It’s not only in battle where Ruby is forced back for the sake of others. Jaune leads them with the map; Ruby watches or follows. When they enter a village, Ren takes charge. It’s almost as if each scene has to be either serious, sad or comedic- if it’s serious, the lead is given to Ren. Sad, it’s Jaune. If it’s comedic, it’s split between Jaune and Ruby, or Ren and Nora. There’s no nuance. The plot dictates the character’s emotions, and not the reverse. This season was intended as Ruby’s journey, and she is very much in the back seat.

So Jaune and Ruby are sort of at odds, because she has both the power and the knowledge, but seems to be functionally redundant to give Jaune and Ren some interaction. And yes, Jaune needs development. But he gets that. He has the most touching moment of the entire season, following directions from Pyrrha recorded on his scroll. I think him being less active in the initial fight would have made both him and Ruby stronger in the long run by showcasing their dedication to the journey as a whole, and the contrast in their individual paths. Your characters aren’t deep or varied if they can essentially all do exactly the same stuff in different colours.

Ruby shatter

Presented without comment.

Crushing Rose

Before we get to the brilliant poignancy of that night-time training scene, we suffer the most egregious betrayal of Ruby’s character, and perhaps the show as a whole. After the battle with the Geist, we discover The Scene Had To Be Written This Way To Give Jaune Something To Do because Jaune’s equipment is currently being reforged from Pyrrha’s old weapons.

This potentially touching moment, however, is ruined by Ruby’s uncharacteristically mean-spirited mocking of Jaune’s bunny hoodie. It’s out of character at best, especially as (aside from Pyrrha) she’s always been the most emotionally receptive of anyone, particularly to Jaune when they were both found to be the leaders of their teams, AND she herself has shown affinity for animal-themed clothing. Ruby and Jaune were (from our perspective) both hit hardest by the loss of Pyrrha, so to have her break into such a raucous fit at a pivotal moment for Jaune’s reconciliation is unfair to him as a guy, and her as a sympathetic leader. This comes at a point where we ourselves are still reeling from Pyrrha’s loss, so even if this HAD to happen, it would have been better suited to something entirely separate from Pyrrha’s memories.

Pyrrha scary face

DO NOT

To add to the inconsideration for Jaune’s mourning, Ruby is also preying on a character we know to be emotionally vulnerable from the very beginning. Placing this scene in which the lead girl openly and brutally mocks her male friend for showing ‘immasculating’ interests is blindingly punishing, and an insult to any guy who enjoys a show about girls with frilly skirts and awesome weapons. It furthers the damaging stereotypes of hegemonic masculinity that guys can’t like soft things or be emotionally open in the first place, by making fun of a character that was mercilessly bullied by larger guys for being weak in Season 1. Jaune knows his weaknesses already, and, like many male fans, he’s introverted, nerdy, and clumsy. Ruby’s cajoling is in bad taste, and destroys many of the sincere moments that have come before.

To feed my ego and read how I’d have taken the scene differently while retaining most of the original dialogue, check out a revised version of the Episode 1 script here.

fuckthistree

Wanted for destruction of positive anti-stereotypes

 

Mirror, Mirror, who are these people?

Weiss is a tricky one because she’s always struggled to free herself from her father’s omnipresence, financially or personally. The instant we see her in Season 4, she’s summoned to her father’s study, and every move she makes from this point is dictated by an interaction with another guy, except the single moment she accidentally summons a Boarbatusk to deal with a terrible privileged women who says disasters are the victim’s own fault (and seriously, Screw Her). Her brother creeps her out, her butler makes her smile again, her father coerces her into singing, another guy creeps her out at the ball, and Ironwood saves her from a very expensive lawsuit. Every turn she takes is completely dictated by the flow of other people, all men, and it’s aggressively diminishing to her character. Maybe that’s the point, the series making a subconscious but salient observation that she’s a prisoner now that she’s back in Atlas. But it doesn’t quite ring that way.

Her dialogue, with the actual words in the scripts, at least, is solid. She’s skeptical and steadfast. Despite her reputation as the Ice Queen, and despite the stringent limits to her surroundings, she actually shows incredible depth of character in the conversations she does have, a considerable amount more than her teammates. She shows genuine warmth to her butler and contempt for those who’d mock Vale, but at no point in the story does she make her own choice that drives her story until the very end, and the cinematography is focused much mroe on the characters around her than on her, which diminishes her power in the show itself, even though what she actually says gives her presence. When she had such independence in the first seasons and motivated other characters (like Ruby) to new places and have difficult conversations and learn more herself, it’s sad to see her become nothing but a passenger.

When she works on summoning the knight towards the season’s third act, we see her finally taking some volition and displaying a power completely independent of the world around her and makes the decision to escape. But not without another uncharacteristic, stereotypically-girly breakdown and cry on the bed. Weiss is the girl with the tantrums and dramatic stormy exits. If she’d just kicked around the furniture and gone straight to her summoning, it would have been an excellent turnaround. The crying, sadly, dilutes it.

And even her escape isn’t under her own steam. She asks Klein for help, and he pretty much does all of the work for her. Weiss, for all her verbal fortitude, barely escapes this dependency on others for the entire season.

weiss head roll

Sass, not sobs.

 

Black The Beast Disdains from Shadow

I’m going to start with an image comparison here.

On the left is Season 2 Blake, and on the right is Season 3. If you didn’t immediately notice the siphoning of her waist into her breasts, there’s kind of a problem. The stylisation, if that’s all it is, adds an unnecessary emphasis to her chest, which in my view upsets the boundary-pushing standard that women, especially teenage girls, don’t need to be busty or revealing to be powerful or popular. This is another damaging trope exuded by many Whedon productions: that women are entirely dependent on men for their strength, either sexually, or emotionally, and therefore have to cater to them in such a manner.

Before you cry out that I’m only picking on Blake because boobs, she isn’t the only one. Look at her stalker partner Sun:

On the left is Season 2, the right, the most recent season. Sun either worked out a bunch in the months preceding Season 4, or he makes a cushy side living smuggling shoulder pads to Menagerie. I’m not a fan of the open-shirt look, but I can at least appreciate that he had realistic proportions before The Buffening.

Sun, I Am Disappoint

I never particularly liked Sun. He looked better before he was trying to cosplay Spring Break Prince Adam. But his renewed portrayal is another example of how the show discredits young guys’ physical and mental images. Let’s also look at his shared journey with Blake.

Blake left Vale. Alone. Sun admits that he stalked her because, in his words, he knew she didn’t want to be alone. If you’ve ever spoken to a rape/harassment/stalking victim, or even a child of an aggressively protective parent, you should know why gestures like that are severely problematic. While we know on the surface this is coming from a place of protection, it’s still legitimately creepy as heck for a girl to be followed without her knowledge and against her wishes. Not only does it demonstrate a complete disregard for her and show he has no faith in her combat abilities (extra insulting given that she was An Actual Member of the White Fang and Adam Bitchpant-Taurus’s Girlfriend), it removes her from being in charge of her own story, much like every other girl this season. Sun’s grand protector role comes off as arrogant (which, granted, he always has been), unwelcome, and forces Blake into playing pithy reluctance and, despite having held her own in combat many, MANY times before, Sun’s encroachment into her battles actually forced her to need rescuing.

Perhaps the worst part of this is that it paints Blake as a perpetual stalking victim, because her violent and abusive ex-boyfriend literally stalked her for three seasons. Sun’s behaviour is unacceptable mimicry even if his motivations are different. The ‘counteract’ to this, the point which is allegedly supposed to justify his idiocy in the audience’s eyes, is Blake physically slapping him multiple times for his crass and invasive behaviour. It’s a poor justification not only because it highlights terrible communication between the two, but it also reduces Blake to being unable to verbalise or control her emotions. Just FYI, slapping a guy does not make you a strong character when you are also entirely dependent on that same guy for your emotional journey (the final admission that she did, in fact, feel guilty for leaving).

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What do you mean, we hang out with GUYS? Aren’t those things contagious?

While we’re talking about guys being creepy around Blake, we can’t ignore the overbearing and way-too-familiar nameless captain that was all but working his way up to a full-blown proposition for her. Even if that was never the intention (and I doubt it was, given knowledge of the writers’ own good sense of mind), the pervasiveness of that language makes the loss of the girls’ agency and the shadow of subconscious rape culture harder to escape. If you’ve been following the ‘MeToo’ hashtag on social media lately, you’ll likely have seen a lot of instances of creepy behaviours to avoid, and this is one of them. For a show that made such a huge impact by showcasing girls with dazzling choreography and having outfits specifically designed to be practical for girls to cosplay in, it’s disappointing to not keep broadcasting that progressive attitude.

And it’s such an easy trap to fall into with writing, especially by men. I may well have done it in my own books, although I’m trying to change that. If you start incorporating traditional gender observations/tropes into your fiction without subverting them or demonstrating their fallacies, you will encounter sexism within your own creations.

And inherently problematic is the idea of the Watcher, a predominantly male presence that is the male gaze made manifest – a source of constant looking that is an explicit form of control. – Natasha Simons, The Mary Sue

Both Sun and Qrow do this. We understand the world of Remnant is more dangerous now, so there is a justifiable need for characters to band together, but the new season is rife with elements where the girls aren’t even being given the chance to fight. Qrow is literally killing ALL of the Grimm while also stalking Ruby, even though single or teams of Grimm have never been an issue for the group. He also forbids her from fighting. There’s no justification for either his or Sun’s lack of faith or reason to keep stoic distance other than persistence of overbearing and arrogant masculinity.

Fumblebee

While we’re here, let’s briefly touch on Blake’s reunion with her father, a cavalcade of awkwardness that didn’t even get to explain the reason she returned home. She insisted to Sun that she wanted to ‘get home and relax’. Relax? After a battle that almost killed you and lost your best friend her arm? After your abusive ex showed up in the middle of a battle that destroyed your sanctuary? What about “I can’t face my team. I hurt them too much. So much of this is my fault. I wasn’t strong enough. I need to make things right and I don’t know how, so I’m starting at the beginning.” Not a single iota of that or even how she was affected by Yang’s injury is conveyed even when she confesses to Sun that she feels guilty, so all we get is irritated evasion and exasperated protests against company. It backtracks her character by several seasons, not even organically.

Blake pissed

Even she will tell you it’s not a good look.

Yellow Beauty Burns Cold

Of all of them, Yang is the one with the greatest reason to actually be disparate and in need of help, given she:
-lost an arm
-failed to protect her best friend, whom she lost the arm for
-had that same friend ABANDON HER before she even regained consciousness
-is unable to follow or protect her little sister while she’s on a great and perilous journey

Aside from the traumatic flashbacks and noncommittal responses to her father’s kind gestures, the focus isn’t so much on what happened to her, but who did it. Granted, Adam is a big part of her battle, but it’s his visage that looms in every of her nightmares. Yang has never been afraid of a guy before. Losing her strength or something valuable, like when she loses a few hairs, those are big trigger points for her rage. One of her dreams almost gets it when she’s shown to have her Ember Celicas vanish in the midst of a fight, but it’s still Adam at the centre of it, and not the traumatic loss of her arm and the friend she sacrificed it for. Yang is a fighter; bold, proud, and flamboyant, and has been from the very first moment we saw her in the Yellow trailer. And she isn’t anymore.

Losing her arm isn’t an unrealistic transition for her depressive state. But the mentality of trauma and its recovery is such a balance to strike, and it didn’t ring true, if for no other reason than it’s portrayed as the fear of Adam that’s holding her back and that never gets resolved. The apparent cure isn’t even to remind her of her friends. In some weird, nondescript way, Taiyang inviting his professor buddies over and making a really incisive insult to Yang about her arm… changes her mind? Yang might have always been one for puns, but taking a jab at her recent and severely-affecting trauma is not how PTSD therapy works. It’s almost reminiscent of the terrifyingly-dense Andrew Tate’s refusal to acknowledge that depression exists (he also claimed that anyone above 15 who watched cartoons was a loser and no woman would want you). This is something that is almost universally portrayed incorrectly in mediayou cannot brute-force depression or trauma into remission.

It wasn’t even a reminder of the friends Yang could be protecting that urged her into action. What would have made more sense is Taiyang asking her how she felt about Blake, and Yang getting upset about that and recovering to either smack Blake into shape for running off, AGAIN (see season 2), or ask her if she ran because of guilt and to smack her into shape regardless, because Yang’d gladly lose the other one if it meant Blake would survive to tear Adam to pieces. That’s the kind of solidarity and resolve the series needs, and would have been nicely mirrored if Blake had any of the same feelings, but the show has none of that. Instead it implied Yang was guilted into recovery for overhearing how bad things were in Vale, and then undergoes Magical Fighting Therapy Session and Vague Emotional Placation with her father and everything is okay again. It glosses over the severity of her emotions and implies she’s ‘just kinda bummed’ and not ‘suffering from severe PTSD that nobody’s adequately addressed’.

Yang smug cat

“I don’t do trauma, but when I do, it’d better be serious. No time for half measures.”

Oh, and by the way, Taiyang also suffered from a case of The Buffening:

LOOK AT HIS SHOULDERS. Arms really don’t work like that. Season 3’s Tai looked so much more natural, especially in his face. I hope Season 5 will be a step back in the right direction.

So, what now?

I’ve no idea. I’ve seen the Weiss and Blake character shorts for Season 5, and it’s not filling me with confidence so far, but they’re not really meant to give anything away. Yang’s looked pretty good, though.

There’s a lot more I can say. I will, but this is epic enough already. I’m actually starting up a project of revising scripts from Season 4 to make them more balanced towards the women, erase some of the elements I raised above, and bring them more cohesion. You can read the first episode here.

The thing is, despite what I’ve said, I still love RWBY. The concept of it, the characters, the absolute dedication by the creators and fans, are all beyond anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ll still watch it. So I want it to be good. It deserves to be good. I wouldn’t be as passionately worried about it if I didn’t care about the characters and direction I feel they’re being taken. The new opening already looks like this season has a better sense of focus *crosses fingers* But it’s always important to remember that we can still love something dearly while being critical of where it may fall down, or change, and enough discussion can safeguard an audience from ever being disappointed.

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Wonder Woman: Things It Got Wrong, And Stuff It Did Right

Wowee, it’s been a long time since I was last on here.

Anyway, seeing as I’m trying to get back into writing again I thought it’d be a good idea to flex my fingers and start the gears grinding by writing up some thoughts on Wonder Woman, after seeing it with my wife this last weekend. We talked about it afterwards for a long time, and these are a mix of both our thoughts about it.

I will start by saying it is a good movie, probably DC’s best in latest memory. Still suffered from the over-serious washed-out colour plates that make everything look like it’s been hidden inside a neglected swimming pool for too long, but eh, I’m used to everything being mostly shades of grey in theatres now.

Gray.Fullbuster.full.464204

Not this Gray. Although admittedly, it would make movies a lot more compelling.

Oh, heavy spoilers follow, by the way.

So, What Went Wrong?

Initially, it looked fantastic. Little Diana was the rebellious, battle-starved little Amazonian I hoped she would be, but very quickly after she entered adulthood, her agency and presence was taken away from some fairly lazy storytelling mistakes.

A Stronger Girl Than A Woman

Firstly, the establishment of her as a fighter was great, and we absolutely needed to see that. She has trained almost her entire life to beat people up and this culminated in her unleashing a small piece of her as-yet-undiscovered goddess powers on her beloved teacher. But the second a threat enters Themiscyra in the form of some angry Germans chasing Chris Pine, she is relegated to hiding behind a rock.  Chris Pine immediately removes her autonomy and pulls her behind it, and she hasn’t even witnessed the effect of their rifles at this point. She has waited her WHOLE LIFE for a fight, it arrives on her beach, and she loses almost all of the passion which we’ve seen in her up to this point. She always defers to her mother, but she was throwing shields and arrows AT HER FRIEND’S FACES not minutes earlier and this one man who has proved nothing superior about himself except his lack of buoyancy manages to strip her of a chance to have stood on the beach and threaten the Germans away like she already has the power to do.

You could argue that she was shell-shocked from almost explodifying Cool Mom Antiope and embarrassing herself in front of Real Mom Hippolyta, but this brings up an inherent conflict in her portrayal. Here she is, demonstrably the most proficient and powerful fighter in all of Amazonia, brought up to know that Nobody Must Ever Find This Island and We Are Here For A Reason, and also from very early on that Men Are Very Corruptible and Ares Is Out There. She knows all of these things. It is literally in her very being as the God Killer weapon made by Zeus. But she became a deer in the headlights when faced with the arrival of men. Part of this may be due to the contradictory nature of the Amazonians themselves, a race of women eternally training for a war which their leader is in denial (or fear) of ever happening. That doesn’t make focus easy. But this was a Diana who was JUMPING OFF A FUCKING CLIFF just to avoid her babysitter. Tiny Diana was fearless, rebellious, and wanted to kick ARSE, Her behaviour at the beach doesn’t quite ring true, and while this is essentially the first step of Diana becoming the figurehead for the Amazonians and there needs to be some kind of growth to her emotions, at this point in the journey she’s far less headstrong than when she was a child. I’m not ever sure whether she really regains that over the course of the movie, either.

wwbarda

Regardless, Wonder Woman has nothing on Big Barda.

It is still a good movie.

Amaz-oh no-nians

Antiope is a tactician. The best Tactician Mom, if Worried Mom Hippolyta is to be believed. I wonder if the movie confused ‘tactician’ with ‘combatant’ though, because she is remarkably efficient at fighting, but it is very basic military tactics that if your archers have the high ground, YOU DON’T GET DOWN. Now, granted, they are facing guns, which they have never been up against before, but even then, assuming that the guns used are the German Gewehr 98, which were used a lot in the Ottoman Empire (I wasn’t paying that much attention to the rifles in the movie so they may be different models), with iron sights they only had an effective range of about 550yds, AND they’re firing up against gravity, which vastly influences their aim and the force of their bullets. Especially given the size of the cliff (we’re given an extraordinary view of Diana jumping off it to save Steve), a few steps backwards would have completely negated the German’s ability to shoot any of them at all, and they’d be completely at the mercy of intense cavalry and infantry charges.

But, Antiope, or whichever overexcited Amazonian had been watching too much anime that day, decided to try out her Attack on Titan moves to swing down and shoot the invaders first-hand, which not only lowers her into a more effective line of sight for her enemy, but also completely removes her advantages of angle and stability when aiming. There’s a lot of overchoreography of the fights in Wonder Woman, and this is probably the worst instance of it. Anyway, the Amazonian gets shot, and dies.

The Amazonian who has been training her whole life, is physically pristine, gets shot in the abdomen and dies by a single bullet. There are soldiers with absolutely zero training who are less goddess-like who’ve sustained multiple gunshot wounds and have still survived to kill dozens of enemies. It was just… it was very unnecessary. It was a plot-convenient death to spurn Diana into action. It should not have been this way. Diana should always have been ready to fight. If they needed to be shot on the beach, they needed to come directly to the beach, and not essentially remove themselves from a hugely tactical position. It’s just not very smart. And I would feel that way about any movie tactician/troop making that decision, not just because they’re women. If they are supposed to be military elites, especially incredibly well-read ones given Diana’s praise of their library, they need to be portrayed that way.

Ikakku wrong

The longer you look, the worse it gets.

It is still a fun movie.

Princess on Parade

The movie continues with Diana’s trip to England, and this is where the worst betrayal of her character happens in my view, if only because it’s so consistent and subtle that you don’t quite notice it until you reflect on it.

An awful lot of Diana’s exposure to WWI London is played for laughs. Firstly, Steve (Chris Pine’s character) implores that she cover herself up. Diana, in her sacred armour of the goddesses, doesn’t even protest. She is given the meagre retort of ‘Well, what do women wear here?’, but is given no opportunity to be proud of her heritage, her body, or encourage other women around her to do the same for themselves. It’s so representative of what women actually go through that I don’t even know if it’s a commentary or not that she gave minimal resistance. She’s treated like a nuisance or an embarrassment and the excuse given (by Steve) in the movie is that she needs to abide by the UK’s customs. This is not how I wanted to see Wonder Woman treated. She should have strode right into London, armour blazing (which is hard to do when your saturation levels are set so low), and giving no apology to Steve for anything that she is. She is an Amazonian Fucking Princess. And she’s pushed and shuffled around by him like a confused relative, or an exuberant foreign exchange student nobody really wants to deal with. Which I guess is not that far from the truth from Steve’s point of view.

This diminishing treatment of her is further amplified when she walks into the meeting of the ministers. They all stop talking, appropriately, because she’s FUCKING WONDER WOMAN, and begin their sexist comments about how she shouldn’t be there, because she’s NOT DRESSED LIKE FUCKING WONDER WOMAN. Instead of using the silence to empower herself, sit on a bench and say ‘Carry on”, like the badass she should be and without being given the opportunity to approach them as she did the Themiscyran senators earlier in the movie, she just makes a few quiet noises and obeys Steve’s herding back into the antechamber.

Steve kind of ruins the movie for her. There’s so much focus being given to how he keeps trying to protect her outside of battle that she isn’t given a chance to show strength of character. She fights like the best of any superhero, but at any other time she plays right into the direction Steve is facing, because he is already facing that way. Exception is made to her infiltrating the gala, and her assaulting the German trenches, and these are the points there should have been more of during the movie. Not just her fighting, but her taking a stand instead of being ushered from place to place and being told that her mission to defeat Ares was all secondhand to Steve’s suicide mission in the war.

ww wet chris pine

And, disappointingly, his pants.

It’s still an important movie.

Blunder Woman

My wife mentioned this, and I hadn’t really noticed it before now; there’s only one woman in the movie who could be considered ‘normal’, the terribly British Etta Candy. Etta spends about as much time diminishing Diana as Steve does with downplaying her beliefs and habits as bizarre quirks that should be subdued for the sake of acting ‘properly’, although she does it in a much less insidious way because she appears ready to take her place as Angela Lansbury’s cheerful, bouncy, younger reincarnation. Her awkwardness is a stark contrast to Diana’s elegance, however. You’re either a goddess or a well-meaning bluster of tea and purple tweed and there’s nothing inbetween. Oh, or disfigured and undesirable, as is the case with Dr Poison. A play is made by Steve trying to seduce the Dr at the gala, and for a time she’s almost taken in, apparently because her disability prevents her from getting the affection she desperately needs. She begins to fawn, and suddenly snaps out of it when she sees Steve looking over her shoulder at Diana when she gatecrashes the ball (by knocking an old lady unconscious, we are led to believe). So here you have a woman who, despite having incredible knowledge of chemistry and a burning (hah) desire to further her work, is almost completely seduced by a man within ninety seconds of his arrival, and is so embittered by jealousy as soon as she sees another woman in his view, that she storms off. It’s such an awful trope straight from a high school drama.

Not even Wonder Woman HERSELF was safe from Steve’s ridiculous charms. What’s slightly disturbing about the way relationships like this develop in a story where you have a woman who doesn’t understand her surroundings or is very out of place, is it almost feels like she gets persuaded to have sex by a man who has secure footing. Steve knows his world. He knows he wants sex. He even mentions it their very second time alone together, on the boat. But Diana regards his nudity with an almost girl-like innocence when she sees him in the bath, and even though she delivers the fantastic line “when it comes to procreation, men are essential, but for pleasure, not necessary”, she still gets talked into bed with him at around the beginning of the third act. It’s just… yes, he’s the first man she’s ever met. She does not have to sleep with him. He’s obstructive and pushy and secretive and literally denounced her ideas as crazy, and yes, very attractive, but she’s WONDER WOMAN. Wonder Woman should not be that easy.

All of the other women on screen (civilians, mostly) are victims begging for help; even Dr Poison’s brilliance turns out to have been manipulated by Ares so we never even discover how much of her work is genuinely hers, or even whether Ares invented the ideas FOR her. All of their foundations, except the Amazonians, are based on the actions of others. And Wonder Woman herself acts so rarely on her own that the movie may well have starred Steve from the beginning.

So as much as Wonder Woman is a movie that needed to happen, there are no capable women who aren’t already goddesses. And that’s… not very feminist. There’s no Peggy Carter, who loved Steve Rogers so completely yet still held her own against him in an argument and beautifully in her own series. I wanted Diana to be Peggy. Unashamed of her goals and unafraid of what the world thought of her, even if it was one she’d never set foot in before. DC has beaten Marvel to the punch by making the premiere Hollywood blockbuster woman superhero movie that should always have been available, but they didn’t do the best they could. It wouldn’t even pass the Bechdel test (not that that’s necessarily the best indicator of a movie’s strength of character, mind you, but it’s something to consider).

sad WW

Yep, that about sums it up.

It’s still a movie you should see.

Well, crap, did ANYTHING work?

There were three parts of the movie that were great.

First, young Diana. Awesome, every little girl should have that much spirit in her, and after seeing how eager she was to be strong, THAT’S how the movie should have continued.

Secondly, her busting out in armour to assault the German trenches because she’d FINALLY had enough of following Steve around for half a damn movie was amazing. Seeing her sprint and leap into enemy strongholds was phenomenally powerful, especially given the current political rhetoric that’s trying to limit or control women’s bodies and autonomy RIGHT THIS MINUTE, that image is something that should be seared into the mind of every woman when someone tries to infringe on their beliefs. And my wife was saying that moment, where Diana says “I must do this, there is no other choice”, that she herself has felt that way, it’s a very feminine thing to act instinctively when there’s a wrong that needs to be corrected. That’s the kind of empowerment I want to see from any hero, especially of marginalised race, sexual characteristics, weight, age, gender, anything.

Finally, the thing that I liked most about the movie was how Ares treated Diana. He knew from the very beginning that she was a weapon. Not once did he ever consider her less than an equal to him because she was a woman. He knew she was a threat, or an equal, which made his conversation with her even more powerful, and the climactic fight even more intense. If you can write a VILLAIN that treats a woman that respectfully, why is it so hard to get the PROTAGONIST to do it?

exhausted

A new, potentially better, Wonder Woman movie could be built around this line alone.

The bottom line is, it’s still a movie that will inspire millions. It’s a movie that should set a precedent that the formula CAN and DOES work, and that it can be done better than any time before. Women creators, POC creators, LGBTQIAP creators, young creators, ANYONE, should be able to see how a hero can be or do anything. And damn, if it isn’t about time we had some decent representation in superhero movies.

Just… do it a little more thoroughly next time, please?

 

New Review! Cosplay! Acting!

Following on from my last, rather vocal post, here’s something much more satisfying to talk about: another review! This one is by David Popovich of Bookworm Reviews, and it’s a video!

I’ve never had a video review before so this was very exciting. And he was certainly fair, too. I’ve never considered Legacy to follow groundbreaking or vastly original ideas, but I’m really glad that he enjoyed it and considered the tropes used well (even if they are well-used). Best comment: “It’s like reading an anime.” That was the highlight for me, especially as I’ve been influenced a lot by anime for a good seventeen years or so now, that he thought it came across in my writing is a great compliment for me. That’s the style that I see playing through my head when I write.

Not gonna lie, I was kind of like this thinking about it over the last few days

Not gonna lie, I was kind of like this thinking about it over the last few days

So that was all at once an awesome surprise, a great relief, and a big motivation. Fracture is going through some more ‘final first draft’ edits (that I’m actually a little overdue on, erk) and I managed to get a lot done after watching the review last night. I hope to finish it this morning, not least because I have a butt-ton of other stuff to accomplish this weekend. Most principally of which is…

COSPLAYING ALL THE THINGS

I haven’t mentioned my cosplay at all yet because I was waiting for some photos to be taken that weren’t of me looking confused or standing in THAT ONE POSITION I ALWAYS STAND IN FOR EVERY PHOTO so finally I have something to share.

Ain't no thing like me, 'cept me... and a few others.

Ain’t no thing like me, ‘cept me… and a few others.

Boom. Or, more like, whirrrrr....

Boom. Or, more like, whirrrrr….

The above two photos are by Tomisina Lynn Portrait Photography, by the way.  This is my Rocket Raccoon, although I don’t expect anyone currently on the internet to not know what Guardians of the Galaxy is. I also have a comic book version that won me a first prize at Oak City Comic Con in Raleigh this year:

Scooby Doo took a turn for the awesome, finally

Scooby Doo took a turn for the awesome, finally

And there’s my Beowulf from Rooster Teeth’s RWBY series.

No, it's not a bear, and I'm not doing that thing they supposedly do.

No, it’s not a bear, and I’m not doing that thing they supposedly do.

New acapella album coming soon: Jazz and Howling

New acapella album coming soon: Jazz and Howling

Photos are also by Tomisina Lynn

You can follow all of my cosplay ramblings and progress photos at BritFang Cosplay on Facebook. DragonCon is my next big upcoming event, sort of our yearly pilgrimage, and it’s going to be a big one with lots of amazing dehydration. Just as well it’s only minor repairs left, because I’ve had even MORE projects that I’ve been involved with, although very few are currently ready to advertise because they’re not finished yet. I do have these two, though:

Redwall Audio Drama (Fan-Made)
Escape Pod Episode 484: That Tear Problem

I do voice acting projects now. Once I have time after DragonCon I will audition for more, but to be honest it’s been a very intense few months, so time management will be essential… especially when you have a habit of wanting to do everything at once.

Me vs. my head. I don't know which is which.

Me vs. my head. I don’t know which is which.

So that’s an update from me! Stay tuned in another two months for more insecurities and self-assurances!