Thursday, May 16, 2013

Four things that Josh is NOT outraged about

Since my friends have pointed out that I've spent a lot of time complaining about things that I don't like, here are four things that I'm not complaining about.

Renaming Captain Marvel as Shazam. 

Because that's what everybody called him anyway.  I even like his new costume, with its hood. 

Shazam was the name of the wizard who gave him his powers, an acronym for the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.

In theory, Captain Marvel is a really interesting character.  (Check out what each of the letters gives him! ) In practice, he usually winds up being an off-brand Superman. 

Not always, though, as there are quite a few good Captain Marvel stories out there. The Monster Society of Evil was really fun (loved Mary Marvel) and  The Return of Black Adam was entertaining too.

Since he has such close ties to Greek Mythology, I always thought there was a great story with Wonder Woman waiting to be written.

Merida's redesign

 Gone are the wild tight curls, relaxed now into auburn waves. Her waist is cinched, her bust inflated: skinnier and sexier is the new Merida, star of Brave. And gone, in some of the new art, is that troublesome weapon: no fit thing for a Disney princess, after all. Fans and websites lamenting the changes, chief among them A Mighty Girl, have spearheaded a petition seeking to convince Disney to change its mind.

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model ... In an interview with Pixar Portal, "Brave" writer and co-director Brenda Chapman stated, "Because of marketing, little girls gravitate toward princess products, so my goal was to offer up a different kind of princess — a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to, so mothers wouldn't be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess. Instead they'd be like, ‘Yeah, you go girl!’”
There seems a deliciously vile bait-and-switch element to it all: design a character that will attract parents resistant to the traditional messaging, then recast it in same old mold once they've sold it to their daughters for you.

I think the thing got me suspicious is the line: "And gone, in some of the new art, is that troublesome weapon: no fit thing for a Disney princess, after all." I really think they're trying to misrepresent what's happening. Merida isn't pictured with her bow in all of the old art either, so it's disingenuous to complain it's not featured in every piece of of the redesigned character. (Though with wording like "deliciously vile bait-and-switch", we're clearly not getting an unbiased view)

When Rapunzel was introduced as an official princess, she underwent a similar process and for what I think is a similar reason, a CG character would look out of place next to characters based on hand-drawn animation. Further, at least based on the pictures with the article, I don't think her bust has been inflated. If it looks any larger, I think it's because her waist is in fact narrower, but that's because she has been redrawn as a cartoon.

Let's take a look at some of the toys that launched with the movie.

"Disney Pixar Brave Gem Styling Merida Doll"
Merida's been marketed like this from the beginning. Not that this is great by any means, but it's false to suggest the redesign represents a sudden shift of the part of Disney.

There are troubling aspects of princess culture and no shortage of legitimate issues of sexism in our society. I don't think this is one of them, though. 

Krypton existing

I talked this over at some length with my friend Phil. A lot of fans have their outside-of-the-tights panties in a twist because a rumor surfaced that Krypton might still be around in the Man of Steel movie. 

I don't think it's that big a deal. Despite the whole "Last Son of Krypton" moniker, there are generally at least a handful of other Krytonians running around at any given time anyway, and that's before you even get into Kandor or New Krypton, to say nothing of Krypto the Super-Dog, Streaky the Super-Cat, Comet the Super-Horse and Beppo the Super-Monkey (Also, if you knew that Beppo and Krypto were from Krypton, but Comet and Streaky were not, congratulations.  NERD!) An absent Krypton is an element of Superman's origin, but it's not such an essential element that it can't removed. 

On one hand, I think there is certainly a change-for-the-sake-of-change element to it. On the other, I think this is the best route to the story they want to tell. If they want to have other Kryptonians as a vital component of the story, it's easier (and better, I think) to say that there *are* other Kryptonians in the universe, rather than saying "Krypton exploded, but these characters survived because whateverwhatever because they're needed for the story". If this story needs a bunch of Kryptonians, I'd rather that Krypton still exists rather than having them come up with some needlessly complicated excuse why these guys are around.

I'm actually cautiously optimistic about this. I think the biggest misstep of the new Doctor Who series was destroying Gallifrey, because the Doctor's interactions with his peers were always my favorite stories. I think this is a great way to introduce adversaries that can contest with him on a purely physical basis without relying on the crutch of kryptonite.

Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm

Michael B. Jordan is being discussed as a candidate for Johnny Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. I know him from his role as Alex on Parenthood and he's a pretty good actor. 

This is what Johnny Storm usually looks like

This is what Michael B. Jordan looks like

And some people have a problem with that. Their main complaint is that a white actress appears to be the frontrunner to play Sue Storm, his sister. Presumably they'll be adopted or step-siblings in this continuity. 

Also, Johnny Storm often looks like this, 

so the issue of his race is even less of an issue than it would be with other heroes. 

And while Jeff "Life will, uh, find a way", Goldblum, who is Jewish and ten feet tall, was not entirely convincing in his role as father to a petite African-American girl in Jurassic Park II, I think this kind of thing can work. Everyone knows blended families in real life, but they are seldom encountered in fiction, except when they're the focus of the story. I've always liked the Fantastic Four, who at their core, are a family who happen to be superheroes, and family is about more than simply having the same parents. 

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