Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wrong F-word, Runaways

I've been watching Marvel Runaways on Hulu, and it has totally sucked me in, let me tell ya! Admittedly, I had only heard vague whisperings of the comic on the intertubes, but I hadn't read it. But between the kickass trailer:

...and noticing that James Marsters* is in it, I decided I kind of had to see it for myself- and it hasn't disappointed.

For the most part. 

See, there's one** thing, one main thing that grates under my skin when I watch it. And the problem is, it's established so damn thoroughly in the pilot, I seek it out every time I watch a new episode, so that stuff that would be more innocuous otherwise gets to me. 


So first, a brief summary of the show, and a breakdown of the characters:

Six highschool friends that have been estranged for two years over the death of a seventh member of their pack end up, through some rather realistic happenstance, hanging out together "like old times" while their parents hold a meeting for a group called Pride. Pride, as is presented, is a charity organization all of the parents founded before their kids were born, meeting once a year at the house of one of the families, the Wilder's. By more happenstance, the kids end up going through a secret passage and observing their parents, wearing deep red robes, participating in some sort of cult-like ritual involving what looks like a human sacrifice. The series follows both the parents as their motivations and desires are explained, as well as the kids as they try to figure out what they saw, why it happened, and how to deal with it. On the way, we find out that each of the kids has either a special power or skill that essentially helps them progress in their quest of figuring out what the Hell is going on. 

Some things really going for this, first, and in no particular order:

- A very diverse cast. One thing I particularly like about this is that the individual cultures of each family's ethnicity are subtly and organically included: The Minoru  parents go out for "real sushi" and have some artifacts that look they're authentically Japanese; Geoffrey, the father of the Wilder family, is a former gangster who discusses that lifestyle in very real ways (and we also get some good snapshots of what that looked like, as well as how it follows him in his "legit" life***); the Yorkes are Jewish but aren't stereotypes that use Yiddish and complain about things not being Kosher or what-have-you; the women in the show seem to be the bigger power-players when it comes to the parents, and there are literally double the number of girls vs. boys in our group of teens.

-The parents themselves have great character development. Not all of them- the Yorkes seem to serve as a constant source comic relief, and Leslie Dean's backstory seems to be on the slow burn path, but pretty much all of the other parents have interesting roles to play and show multiple sides and personalities, especially Tina Minoru and Victor and Janet Stein. 

-A realistic depiction of an abusive relationship. The Stein household is fraught with pain and anger, and the way both  Chase and his mom, Janet both simultaneously love and fear Victor, the way they keep hoping he'll change, is incredibly and tragically lifelike. We're shown that Victor genuinely does love his family more than anything, but that he has a dark side that rages against them and doesn't comprehend how to deal with that intense love and the magnitude of other feelings he may have towards them as a result of that love. While we're led to believe the Big Change in Victor (that lasts less than a whole episode) is a result of some Jonah Magic, Chase shouts, "You did it again! You made me believe you've changed!" at Victor when the old demons show themselves again at the end of E8 (and earlier in the episode, Robert says Janet is "caught up in the cycle of abuse,") so it's made clear this is hardly the first time Victor as put on a gentle face to keep his family. 

-Slow burn! I like a mystery, even though I'm terrible at solving them! Having so many hints dropped is tantalizing, sure. But the fact that they do actually get resolved keeps me coming back, especially when they add more bits and pieces that need unwrapping. If they just kept dumping confusing and unexplained junk onto the audience, I'd be turned off (I'm looking at you, J.J. Abrams), but that's not what's going on at all. 

-Realistic teenagers. For the most part (see my second endnote), I think the teenagers are actually depicted fairly well-rounded and authentically. I especially think the hurt they all demonstrate over the loss of Amy (before the series starts) is especially poignant- so far, at least, we aren't told why Alex didn't attend her funeral, and I actually like that. And the fact that Amy's death seems to be what drove the group apart is a sad but understandable plot point. Each kid dealt with it in different ways- Nico turned Wiccan/goth, Alex bared down on the hacking, Chase went full-on jock, Gert became a self-proclaimed feminist and SJW, Karolina started spending even more time at the church, and Molly seems to have kind of stagnated emotionally (no doubt because on top of losing a close friend, she was already an orphan). 

Okay, but The Problem. And I think this sums it up:

Essentially, Gert is presented as a straw feminist and "insufferable social justice warrior."

I noticed almost immediately that any time Gert made a comment she, as a character, intended to point out some sort of injustice or inequality, it was played for eyerolls and to make her, or rather her point, look annoying and act as kind of a killjoy. Sort of following the "feminists/SJWs don't like nice things" vein. And that's a serious problem, especially given that, ostensibly, the show is about diversity and acceptance, among other things- I mean, like I said, the cast is organically diverse. 

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of "straw feminist," I highly recommend you watch this video- whether you agree with Anita Sarkeesian or not+, she does a great job of explaining the concept and gives some solid examples to help you understand what it is, as well as why it's a problem.

This is the exact kind of stuff Gert says in Runaways- her friends/adopted sister are doing something innocuous or understandable/expected of a teenager, and she makes a comment that comes across as mean-spirited and deflating, but under the guise of "feminism."  What's most damaging about this, though, is that there is validity to what she's saying each time, and in a different context, it would be entirely appropriate and necessary. But when it happens onscreen for us, it just presents her as an asshole that likes to harsh everyone else's mellow. I went back and rewatched the seven episodes that are up as of now, and took notes/quotes. And what I discovered is that in the first episode, I was able to fill almost an entire page of a spiral notebook with relevant quotes/situations. It varies in amount from episode to episode after that, but every episode has at least one or two zingers. And while I won't go through and recount every single one, I'll  share a few and why they're both valid but problematic. Let's just start with the pilot.

SCENE: Gert and her adopted sister Molly are getting dropped off at school by their parents. Molly, who is a few years younger, is upset because she has seriously bad cramps, and, after an embarrassing remark from Mom about her using an orgasm to relieve the pain, she tries to change the subject by cheerily saying, "Dance Squad tryouts are today!"

Gert responds, looking super disgusted, "Ugh, Dance Squad is just cheerleading without pom-poms. You're just reinforcing hegemonic masculinity while marginalizing women's identities."

Big Word Vomit aside, these are pretty much the first lines we get from Gert, and they're her using feminist critique to be mean to her younger sister. And, the thing is, there is something to be said about the jock-cheerleader-dynamic and its role in gender structures for youths (and professional athletes, for that matter), and yes, that is an important conversation to have, especially with a young woman that wants to participate. But not like that. Not the way it's shown here, not when its purpose is to essentially bully one's younger sister. It makes the whole idea of questioning the gender and social structures of high school seem like a, well, a dick thing to do.

So this is a pretty shitty first impression of Gert. And the rest of the episode, most of her dialogue or actions somehow involve her either being somewhat hypocritical or a flat-out mean-spirited killjoy. She advertises a new club she's trying to start called "Undermining the Patriarchy," but then later reduces Chase to, and these are her exact words, "some roided out jockstrap" whose opinions only go as far as "what protein butter to use," while at the same time, objectifying him by staring creepily at his ass while following behind him as he's talking to one of his teachers. And this is just the first episode.

Speaking  of first impressions, Hulu filmed a non-canonical promo for Thanksgiving entitled "Not Your Typical Friendsgiving." The 47-second spot is our six teenagers sharing a Thanksgiving dinner together, at a table just large enough for all of them. It ends with a group of adults that are clearly their parents (their faces are invisible, but it's pretty obvious), in their big, red Pride ritual robes, popping up behind them and the kids looking scared, the final screen saying something like, "Now Streaming." The whole group starts the bit at least somewhat happy to be there, except Gert. Upon Alex remarking that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, she chimes in with, "Psh, of course it is. Hey, Alex, would you like this with a side of smallpox? Because that is what we served to the Native Americans, whose land we stole." Everyone is demonstrably uncomfortable in response, Nico even expressing that she's not hungry anymore. 

And okay, if you've read far back enough in my posts, you would know that I'm Lakota Sioux on my mom's side. And yeah, it pissed me off when she said it. But not at all you white folks. At the writers. Because it is true that the US was founded on murder and thievery and deception. That's a legit point, one that matters a HELLUVALOT to gals like me. And there are appropriate times to bring up how Thanksgiving is an easy way for people whose ancestors did the murdering and thieving and deceiving to feel better about/ignore their history (dare I say...  whitewash the thing? Eh?), while at dinner with your friends isn't. Not to be persnickety, but that's not the sort of thing you do during the event, you do it when invited and are politely declining. Or if you go, you don't bring it up, because it's pretty damn hypocritical for you to be actively partaking in Thanksgiving while disparaging it and its origins and all that jazz. 

Also, of all the people to direct that remark to, it's Alex. The Black kid. The kid whose ancestors were prooooobably slaves? Yeah, sure, blame his ancestors. Just plain tactless.

I digress... So once again, the real, valid point she's making is doing nothing to make viewers question the relevant geopolitical structures, but rather it's just making her look like an asshole that's entirely unconcerned for the social dynamics of the context in which she's in at the moment- and, in certain minds, no doubt, making them question the validity of her claims, rather than said geopolitical structures. Because it's made clear she understands things like conventional etiquette throughout the series; she just deliberately makes people uncomfortable with her "social critiques." And as this particular jab was about indigenous rights, I initially took it probably a little more personal than I should have. But when removing my personal baggage from the picture, it's disconcerting that a promo meant to draw in new customers that gives each character two lines at most, that its picture of Gert is one of mean "social justice warrior." 

Another angle she takes is "religious oppression." In the first couple episodes, she comes down hard on Karolina a few times about her family's religion, the Church of Giborrim. And it's juxtaposed against the other characters' perspectives, too. For example, in this same episode, Alex respectfully says he doesn't want to "interfere with [Karolina's] religion" by causing a scheduling conflict, an act of respect for Karolina's faith. And Karolina herself constantly talks about how genuinely happy her faith makes her because it's "positive and life-affirming," teaches her to see beauty and light in everything, everyone, and every situation. Gert, meanwhile, scoffs at the classification of "religion" for the Church of Gibborim, and asserts that "no institution has been as oppressive to women as organized religion."

And so again, the rub: 

Organized religion does have a shitty history in: re women. 

But instead, when she calls the Church of Gibborum a "cult" and says it's oppressive, she's bullying Karolina and insinuating she's stupid and duped, yet also complicit in the wrongdoing of all organized religion, and deceitful because she just "walks around with fake smiles, pretending to be happy all the time." So even though, sure, a legitimate critique of organized religion is absolutely necessary for good, inclusive feminist theory, Gert uses it as ammo to be cruel to someone she used to call a friend. And she reduces Karolina down to an antifeminist who only cares about "being a perfect church girl."

And what's hard is that it's made pretty obvious that most of her digs at Karolina are motivated out of jealousy because Chase shows signs of having, y'know, feelings for Karolina, while Gert has them for him. The most utterly disgusting bit of it comes across as passively homophobic, too.

In episode six, the kids are planning how to get to a party/gala thing Pride is putting on, and there's some talk about limos. Alex and Nico, who, at this point, are a fairly sold Thing, are going to take a limo together, and when Chase offers to get Karolina in his own, Gert says, "Ugh,

One limo, five stops."

Like, what the actual fuck? So what, queer people don't date? The writers co-opt the language of feminism to make a horrible blanket statement that disregards the experiences of GOD KNOWS HOW MANY NON-BINARY COUPLES/RELATIONSHIPS, and make Gert look like a homophobic asshole. It's reinforced by how uncomfortable the other kids look when she says it, too. And remember, this is in response to Chase offering Karolina a ride. The implication, here, is that feminism is really just the result of women's uncontrollable emotions. It gets further developed/pushed later in that episode, too. Nico and Karolina get ready for this gala together at Karolina's place, and Gert and Molly show up later, walking in on a pretty touching moment between the original two in the room. Later that night at the gala, Gert once again gets pretty homophobic for the sake of her feelings for Chase:

And Karolina, smartly, asserts that this would leave Chase available for Gert, who denies this is why. And when Karolina says she's wrong and ups the ante on her flirt game with Chase, Gert says, "Fine, enjoy, just know you aren't being honest about who you like."

This is pretty awful. In a different context, if we removed the Chase Factor, this would have been a beautiful scene. Lord knows queer teens have a hard time, and if it's true that Karolina is denying something because of that, a friend offering sincere kindness and support is exactly what she would need. But rather than being genuine, Gert's support for a potential non-straight identity in Karolina is presented as disingenuine and manipulative, as purely self-serving and hollow. And when Karolina calls it out, Gert acts as if she knows more about Karolina's own identity than Karolina herself does- and whether or not Karolina is, indeed, hiding something is beyond the point. Gert's assertion she knows "the truth" is arrogant and narcissistic, like she is the one that really knows what's best for Karolina. This is what some call "policing"- another thing antifeminists like to say is that feminism does too much moral grandstanding and "this is how you should behave"-ing, the "you don't really know what's best for you because you've been brainwashed by the patriarchy" condescension that actually does push people away from feminism. 

I should point out that Karolina is presented as her counter, though: While Gert is constantly pessimistic and mean, Karolina is optimistic and kind. Like in the first gif above, she stands up to Gert on more than one occasion, such as when she goes all in with Chase after Gert's "are you gay for Nico" bullshit. She also responds to Gert's "but we killed the Natives" remark in the Thanksgiving promo with a sweet declaration of her happiness to be there with her friends.  And her retort at Gert in the first episode during the "your 'church' is a cult and oppressive" bit, it kind of sums up the problem with Gert:

"You call yourself a feminist, Gert, but no one cuts down other women more than you do."

And this is a glorious window into just how much of Gert is made of straw. Because one of the big arguments antifeminists use against feminism is that it's "actually" harmful because it's "policing" and in itself oppressive and such. "If women want to be cheerleaders, isn't trying to stop them worse?" "If women want to practice [insert name of faith here], isn't it worse to tell them they can't?" Etc. And I think I've said before, I'm  a feminist that believes in a woman's own individual power over her body, her life, and her ideals. If a woman chooses to do A Thing, it's her choice. There's an addendum about knowledge and understanding and full internalization of the full range of choices available in a given context, but the example I usually  give is I have a Master's and would be happy to stay at home with the kids if my husband made enough money- not because I feel like I "should" do it, but because I grew up with a mom at home, and feel very lucky to have experienced that, and feel as though I would be good at it and want  to be as close to my kids as I am to my own mom. In itself, it has nothing to do with patriarchal structures, and I think that even if women do what's, on its surface, considered "upholding" the patriarchy, if it's done for reasons outside the parameters set in patriarchal structures, it can still "dismantle" it. 

And yes, that may sound like I'm actually giving a passive go-ahead for patriarchal norms, but this post isn't really about me, it's about Gert. If you want more on that, ask in the comments, but for now, just understand that I'm getting at how Gert's brand of feminism is the kind those against feminism point out when trying to argue against it. She's your quintessential "FemiNazi." Her constant finger-pointing and accusatory remarks make her the straw feminist of every intersectional feminist's nightmares, including your author, right here.

And let's not forget how in episode six, she pretends to be attracted to two guards at the Pride Gala, using her feminine wiles to clear the path for Alex and Nico to sneak upstairs. She isn't vocalizing a bunch of feminist taglines during any of these scenes, but it stands in stark contrast to the ideals by which she proportedly lives. This is more of the hypocrisy, then- women have been oppressed since the dawn of time, but it's totally okay for a woman to seduce a man to get what she wants. It's like something straight off of an MRA site, one of those "the femiNazis will do whatever it takes to get what they want" kind of rants. They'd talk about women faking feelings/attraction in the same breath (read: paragraph) as accusing "most rape victims" of being liars. The whole bit put a sour taste in my mouth. 

Okay, so now, Chase. I said before that she reduces him down to a dumb, sexy jock. This kind of goes to extreme places in episode three. She and Chase are snooping around his dad's workshop when they find a pair of X-ray goggles. Gert puts them on and, of course, starts... sizing up... Chase. 

So this is pretty gross. Calling it sexual assault is a bit strong, even for me, a survivor. But something like, I dunno, sexual misconduct? I mean, she sneaks a look at him with the goggles, denies it, and then makes a kind of snide remark about "scientific curiosity." She completely violates him, his trust, and his body, and then makes a shitty joke about it. Then? Then, when he gets the goggles in her parents' lab, she conveniently finds a lead apron, and when he catches onto her, this happens:


This is the kind of hypocritical BULLSHIT that gets the menfolk's panties all up in huge wadded twists. The kind of double standard that MRAs warn about. The idea that feminism is about "revenge" with men, about "getting back" at them. Yes, it's about leveling the playing field, but


This is the most egregious, disgusting, rage-inducing bit in the whole show. This pisses me off way more than anything the parents in the show have done yet. Which is why I wanted to save it for last. Because it genuinely confuses me. I can't tell if the writers are trying to push a specific conservative agenda overall, or if they're just trying to make modern liberal philosophy look bad. I mean, let's also consider the fact that when Gert has to bail on her own club ("Dismantling the Patriarchy," remember?) and some other teens start it for her, she basically mocks them and acts as though they're an inconvenience to her. And this, again, is another myth about feminism, that feminists are only actually feminist when it's convenient.

And I feel like her mockery of these specific teens is how we're supposed to feel about feminism and the complex web of ideals wrapped around concepts like social justice and equal rights. She scoffs at them the same way her behavior makes us, the audience, scoff at her.++

It reminds me of The Big Bang Theory, in that however much that particular show passes itself off as a show for nerds, the nerds' nerdery is the butt of 85% of the jokes (the rest of which are Sheldon's ASD, sexual puns, or gender). While Gert's jabs aren't the main punch of the show, they're the ones that stand out to me the most. Because so much of the marketing is about how this group of teenagers "comes from diverse backgrounds" and they "find common ground" when investigating their parents together. It implies progressivism and a liberal bent. Yet the only character overtly expressing liberal ideologies looks like a bully. And I can't help but think that, since the show takes place in a super wealthy area in L.A. (there's a comment about Compton in a flashback for Alex's parents, so yeah), since all of the families in Pride are super stinkin' rich, that maybe the writers want her to look out of place because her ideas are out of place in such a well-off area, and to them, the writers. Out of all of the teens, she seems to be the most out of place, even more so than the one that does a Wiccan summoning ritual in the pilot. 

And this isn't done like one of those stories where there's a lone voice of sanity in a cacophony of draconian ideas. We aren't meant to sympathize with her ideas, we're meant to scorn them. We're supposed to think Gert and her beliefs are selfish, nefarious, hypocritical, and toxic. There are a few times where she seems to kind of come through and be kind, but her feminism and belief in social justice are still used as a punchline every episode. And it gets to me, under my skin. It's disappointing and, as I said, confusing. 

I can't imagine the confusion a kid would feel, one struggling with their identity. One that knows there's inequality and oppression, but isn't sure what to do or maybe even think or feel about it. Harping on the "diversity" thing, what about that queer kid of color watching? When they see stuff they believed in, presented as "bad" in a show they're supposed to relate to? Or the liberal kid in the conservative household that has been told by the adults in their life that they're wrong, what happens when this kid sees the adults' views ostensibly validated because Gert's meant to look like an asshole?

So I don't have an answer. Because 
even if they mellow out and stop having her pull the "there are starving children in Africa"-type bullshit all the time, they drilled it so hard into the heads of their viewers that first episode (again, a whole page-worth of dialogue), it's there. It's part of her identity as a character, now. As a person. There's no escaping it. The only way to do it is to have her dramatically denounce feminism and the fight for equality, which would serve the same purpose as continuing with more of the same. There's legitimately no saving her character. And it breaks my heart. Through Gert, the writers are asserting that feminism is bad, dirty, something to avoid. And that breaks my heart, yeah, but also pisses me the Hell off.

Because I am so. Damn. Sick. Of us feminists getting a bad rep. 

I'm so. Damn. Sick. Of these straw feminists becoming the poster children. 

I'm so. Damn.  Sick. Of people that actually have a lot of feminist ideals at the core of their politics/worldview/etc. turn up their nose at the word "feminism," that interject, "NONONONO!" in a panic when someone has the audacity to describe them as a "feminist" in their presence.

"Feminist" isn't the f-word.

It's FUCK.

*I was always a Team Spike kinda gal- not because of the "bad boy" thing, per se, but because he had a much better character arch than Angel. He tried so damn hard to be good, and went from Point A to point, like, S. Angel was flat and boring- any development was forced because he sort of transformed, not because he actually made efforts to change as a person.

**This is actually another thing that kinda bothers me about the show- Molly's treated more like she's in middle school than a fellow high school student, by both the other kids and the adults. Granted, she does a couple things that certainly seem to place her maturity level far below those of the other teenagers, but I see them as reactions to how everyone treats her like a "baby," reactions that wouldn't have happened if they just treated her like, well, not a baby. 

***Although, yeah, there's definitely a critique of how his former friends show back up threatening violence. There's a trope about how Black characters are often depicted as "unable" to "escape" their pasts if those pasts involve "the hood," so to speak. I can't quite parse it out right now, but it's there. Still, knowing that Geoffrey's rise from Compton to super-rich L.A. is mostly because of their deal with "Jonah," the mysterious immortal figure with powers, is important because it demonstrates the power Jonah has.

+Full disclosure: I love her. And I'll just say here,  I think a lot of the hatred for her stems from the fact that she points out the shit that the white nerdboiz don't want to admit about the media they love- they can't admit their video games/comics/etc. are racist or sexist, because that would mean they were complicit in those ideals. And they'd rather shoot the messenger than do something about it that would, you know, lead to change. And also, projecting their own self-loathing onto her.

++I do think the fact that they essentially kick her out in the seventh episode is meant to be a reflection on Gert herself, that her attitude pushes everyone away, even though one would think she should be super close to and want to be around all the time, people who seemingly share her core beliefs. And, there's also the "exclusivity" thing, too. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

All I Can Think About

::NOTE- I WILL write about that movie y'all are prolly expecting. I want to see it one more time, first.::

It's the Fourth of July! 

This post is decidedly not about that.

Sometimes, stuff gets stuck in your head.  And I'm not just talking about songs

Maybe you just saw a really cool movie and bits of a super cool and pivotal scene keep flashing through your mind's eye. 

Maybe you went on a really good first date, and your thoughts keep drifting back to that person, to their voice, their smile, how their hand felt, interlocked with yours. (Or, alternatively, it could have been a really awful date, in which case, you're reliving the angst of it all.)

Maybe you're in the service industry, and you had to deal with the Worst Customer  Ever, and the condescending, disrespectful, and/or threatening way they spoke to you just won't get out of your ears. 

Maybe you have a big presentation to prep for, but you're at family dinner,  listening to Uncle Earl tell you about the inevitable zombiepocalypse, 'cuz guv'ment, for the umpteenth time this year. 

Maybe you're worried about the direction the country is going, and you can't shake the feeling something  terrible is going to happen, and you're coming up with a plan to move yourself and your family to Canada, where it's safer

Maybe you're damn hungry.

I had something on my mind today. Or, no, I had the curiosity of someone on my mind today.

It being the Fourth and all, there was an unspeakably small amount of traffic on the roads- I got an extra hour of sleep, even! But I noticed that some electric signs that can be changed (usually to indicate variant speeds) said the two left lanes were closed. I merged into an  appropriate lane, and eventually saw what was obviously some sort of crash site. I couldn't see any damaged cars, though, just lots of law enforcement vehicles. The scene was on a curve, a left one, at that, so as I got far enough up to see around the last car, I saw yellow tarp.

Covering something.

And when I got enough around the curve to see the tarp close enough, I saw a head. And a hand. The tarp was covering a body, a man's body.

Now, my commute isn't exactly short, even when there's a dearth of traffic. So I spent the next twenty minutes gripping the steering wheel to keep myself in control, gripping so tightly, my  hands still hurt a little now, more than twelve hours later. 

That whole car ride, so many things were spinning through my brain, things I couldn't get rid of, no matter how I tried to distract myself with music, with doing things like reading licence plates out loud to myself.*

Who was he? Where was he going? Did he have plans for today, it being a big ol' holiday and all? 

Do his loved ones know? Did they know he was going to be on the road so early on a holiday morning? When was the last time he saw them? Kids, did he have kids? A spouse? Siblings? 

What happened that made him end up sprawled on the ground like that? Where was his vehicle?

I went to work and did the best I could, but my head wasn't in the game. It kept going back to this man, this man that I saw on the ground, cold, under a tarp, a yellow tarp that, under different circumstances, would have warranted a "big banana" joke (it was yellow). Instead,thinking of it made me feel sick. It still does,  a little.

I kept forgetting things, all day. I'd trail off and forget to finish sentences. 

There were a few times when I was able to throw myself into work with helping customers (bra fittings are magnificent distractions from the macabre). But it's the Fourth of July. We weren't very busy. I was having trouble finishing any of the tasks I assigned myself to (gobacks, markdowns, etc.). I was trying so hard not to think about what I had seen, I made it nigh impossible to think about much anything else- it was either him or nothing at all. 

Then I had to get back in the car. 

The same thoughts flooded back into my mind, breaking the dam I had forced up. 

And then I got home and couldn't stop myself- I looked for information about the crash. I found this** first. 

His name was Richard A. McKelvey, and he was twenty-nine years old.

A motorcycle accident, that explains the lack of car. But I had seen his hair, what about a helmet?


A new image bored itself in my brain, a man  flying off  a motorcycle, heading straight for a big car, his body colliding so hard and so fast, his helmet flies off. 

I finally cried, like really cried, not just the watery eyes I had had off and on all day (yeah, that's me, I'm a cryer). 

And I couldn't help but think of the terror he must have felt. Did he know this was It? Was he able to think of his family in that last second? Did he pray? Did he curse? Was he at peace? What was the last thing he saw? Maybe his mind went to a good memory?

I have no right to presume to know anything, but my imagination won't leave well alone. Not that it's really "well," but, y'know.

Weirdly enough, I was reminded of my ex (the one I wrote about a while back). He loves motorcycles, and had one for a while during our time together. Now, as some context, he used to drag race, for money, way before we met; that should give you an idea of his driving style, and also how he rides. I saw him ride, he was indeed reckless. Sure, he wore a helmet, but still- he had nearly died in two different accidents before we met, who was to say he'd be lucky again? I would worry about him all the time, and he didn't care (that should have meant more to me then- I'm realizing literally right now that he probably somehow enjoyed making me worry, since it was a form of control). I had started hyperventilating on my way to his place once because I passed a motorcycle accident and saw the rider on the ground, surrounded by cops, but moving. That could be him. It gave me nightmares. 

So I wonder if Richard had any loved ones that worried about him the way I had worried about my ex. And my heart aches for and goes out to them, if they did. Their worst fear, come to pass. 

Maybe it's presumptuous to use his first name. 

I feel... trapped. His was the first body I saw that didn't belong to someone I knew***, and while this is a terrible "first" to have, it's still a first, nonetheless. And I don't know how long this is going to stay with me so... forcefully. 

I don't have a funny line or gif with which to end this. All I can say is, be safe, please. You never know what's going to happen.

*I talk to myself sometimes, okay?

**I submitted the correction about the side the closed lanes were on, as when I first saw the piece (and as of this writing), it said the two right lanes were closed. But really, that's such a small thing, in comparison to everything else. 

***That I remember. My mom tells me there were other opportunities to see scenes such as this, or worse, when I was little, but she shielded me from it. I love my mom so damn much. 

Friday, May 5, 2017


In "Wonder Woes," I discussed some stress/anxiety/anger/etc. I was experiencing in light of a potential change in Diana's backstory. It turned out to be a rumor, but I'm calling this post a sequel because my source of frustration here is still what's going on with Warner Brothers and one of the myriad things they've chosen to do (or not do) that just will not help me relax about Wonder Woman. Seriously, pretty much the whole time I've been watching this whole thing unfold, I've felt frustrated and helpless.

My latest stress is that with the premier date less than a month away, I'm kind of out of sorts over the dearth of (good/smart) marketing promoting it. And I'm not the only one noticing it. All sorts of other fancy, more-read people have noticed it, too. Not only that, but one of the few advertisement partnerships WB has made is with gorram diet bars. (Yes, there have been a few other partnerships, but the main one available now is food "for women" and associated with weight loss/dieting/etc. Just totally not cool.) And while a lot of the other articles are pitched as a "fans are wondering  why" piece, I know why- or at least, I have a theory. It has to do with what I was talking about here, and more.  They may be making the movie, but they don't expect it to do well. So they're cutting their losses and saving every penny they can, since they don't think the movie will make much more than its $100M budget (an historical thing in and of itself, if you didn't know). 

And of course that  upsets me. I've blogged before about how it seems the Dudes in Suits are so paranoid about having a comic movie star a woman, they gender/character-swapped the Days of Future Past storyline for the movie.* I have zero faith in movie executives at this point. And it's not up to directors what kind of promotional materials get made/distributed/etc. for their movies- so Patty Jenkins, our director here, is entirely powerless, now that her movie is (presumably) finished. There's nothing she can do as WB's PR department completely drops the ball. I can only  imagine how upset she was when she saw the "Thinkthin" shit. 

What makes this troublesome for me is this "we don't think it's going to do well so we're not going to waste money promoting it" has the potential to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if the movie does, in fact, do poorly it's first weekend or two, low turnout will be used as the excuse to put a cease and desist order on any and all female-starring superhero movies ad infinitum. Not a damn thing about the lack of effort from the PR department will be said, just the poor box office numbers. Alongside Catwoman and Elektra, Wonder Woman will be touted as an example of how "women just can't star in superhero movies." It's being set up to fail, and that failure will in turn lead to zero faith on the part of the Dudes in Suits. 

And yes, I do think this means Captain Marvel will very likely be affected, too. I don't care if it's a different studio- these Dudes in Suits take notice of what each other are doing, how they're doing it, how it does or does not pay off, etc. Marvel Studios would totally reconsider a Captain Marvel movie if a gorram Wonder Woman movie tanks. 

(I was going  to have this point be a side or footnote, but I think it's important and relevant enough it needs to stick in the main body.) When having this conversation in person, and when I bring up the Captain Marvel/Marvel Studios point, the only time anyone resists/challenges me there is when I'm talking to a man. Any women I've discussed it with has agreed emphatically, while any man I've spoken with about it has always argued, or at least tried to make it sound like I'm jumping to conclusions or something about it. The fact that Marvel Studios is separate from WB, or that they already have people cast and a director and stuff for Captain Marvel are among the main things I hear these dudes say (and I should note, I've reached over half a dozen at this point, who have all done this to me). 

What I want to know is why they think any of that matters, here? Movies complete with directors, actors, scripts, etc. get cancelled all the gorram time. So what's so special about Marvel Studios?  To say a thing I've said a million times, Marvel isn't actually all that great with female representation onscreen. Women end up being sidekicks, mysteries, tools, obstacles, and damsels in distress for the men in the stories to interact with somehow. And now that the Avengers team is even bigger, more than doubled, after Civil War, I want you to look more closely at the cast of Infinity War Part I. There are six women listed as for sure (one as rumored). Six. And that list doesn't include extras or anything yet. Six, out of 30 (or 29, if you count the two rumored listings). That's only 1/5 of the entire named cast. Or watch this "first look" featurette:

Notice how it's all white dudes talking, and any character-driven plot they talk about has to do with men specifically or general groups (the Avengers themselves, the Guardians of the Galaxy), groups in which women are a minority. I think that just sort of sets the tone for what to expect from the movies- as with all other Marvel movies,  these women will be side characters, and the main players will be Iron Man, Captain America, Star Lord, and Thanos. Also, as I've said before, if Marvel Studios is still unwilling to make a movie for a guaranteed-money-maker like Black Widow, one they know all of the nerdboys drool and jerk off to, now that she's been onscreen in five of their movies (soon to be six/seven, with Infinity War), why the fuck would they hesitate to ditch an idea for a character that's mostly unknown to the uninitiated? (Seriously, I don't know a single person that doesn't read comics but knows who she is (compared to Wonder Woman, which is like "duh"), and when I inform them she's a she, they're usually super surprised. Which says a lot, I think.) I don't think they'd cut her from Infinity War, no, but would they give her her own movie? Probably not.

And to state the obvious point, this would have absolutely nothing to do with the character of Captain Marvel herself, or any projections based on her- it would be simply because the Dudes in Suits would see that a- THE- Wonder Woman movie bombed, ticket-wise (which is all they care about- even if it gets a 100% on Rotton Tomatoes or like a 95% on Metacritic, the decision-makers wouldn't care), and would change their minds. 

And then the Batgirl movie with JOSS WHDON at the helm that hasn't been openly denied by anybody will get canceled, too, which would make it the second Whedon-helmed, female-led DC movie that didn't get made.  

And I just... While the dudebros and neckbeards may think, well...

I don't really care. I need Wonder Woman to succeed. All women and girls do, as far as I'm concerned. William Moulton Marston, the man who created her character, knew how important it is for girls to see characters "like them" in the media- that was a huge reason he created Wonder Woman in the first place. Back then. In the 1940s. A man knew representation is important for the self esteem and well-being of little girls.

So why is that so gorram hard for Dudes in Suits nowadays?

I need this movie to be good on a deeply personal level, don't get me wrong. It would invariably send me down a bad spell if I leave the theater disappointed. But that's a somewhat different discussion. Like I said before, the execs won't really care if it's "good" or not, they're only going to notice how much money it makes. Shit, I'll buy tickets on Fandango that I won't use, if I have to.

And there's a valid comparison between the standards this movie's performance has to surpass vs. those of male-led movies and what women have to deal with in professional settings, too. While neither Thor solo flick barely beat $60m opening weekend, and the first Captain America did about the same (compared to both Avengers, which nearly doubled that, and the later Iron Man movies, which all did much better, too), the Norse God is still getting a third movie, and Cap already had one. Even Ant Man, which at $57M made less than every other Marvel Studios movie (except the second attempt at a Hulk flick) has a sequel in the works.** Wonder Woman is projected at making a bit over $80m opening weekend, and yet a number that high is actually being treated as if it's low

Which makes me  sick. But, y'know,

It's the same double-standard women in the workplace deal with- they have to do twice as well, be twice as nice, and still may get passed up for promotions, or the credit will go to the dude that did half as much, etc. Films led by men can have comparably sub-par performance and still have subsequent movies in their franchises, yet there's speculation the franchise starring a woman that may perform better may thus be doomed? Come ON, now.

So we all need this movie to make lots of cash. Thus, I implore you, please,


I say the second weekend because the drop between opening and second weekend matters, too. 

But, anyway.

Tell your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, frenemies, enemies, customers, coworkers, bosses, students, teachers... Tell every person you interact with every day. Tell them to see it. Even if you don't think it's going to be good (which is a whole different rant, but suffice to say I get really fucking tired of men saying they think it's going to suck and are apprehensive about seeing it, but they are more than willing to see any and every Thor movie in theaters, even admitting to seeing previous ones more than once despite knowing they were awful), give them a (breifer) explanation like mine as to why: If this does badly, we can expect to have to wait  another ten-plus years for another superhero film to headline a woman. 

There is one more fear, related to this double-standard: That if the movie does well but is kinda crappy, they won't make it its own franchise. We're past the point where that matters, though- all we can do is vote with our wallets and show the Dudes in Suits we want more by getting our butts  in the seats. I truly think that, at the end of the day, these Dudes in Suits aren't being consciously, maliciously sexist. I think the film industry is just so bloody entrenched with misogyny that they can't help but follow those tracks and keep things as is. But, this is capitalism. And at the end of the day, money is the most important thing.

So I also am desperate to believe the opposite of these fears: That if Wonder Woman does well, it will pave the way for other female-starring superhero flicks. So that Batgirl movie will really end up being a Thing. Black Widow will indeed get her own movie. Other franchises will come out of the woodwork, ones we've already thought of, and ones we haven't. Hell, just run a Google search for "female superheroes that need movies" and you'll get a never-ending list of articles, some with lots of overlap, some that are completely original. But the point is, people care. They want to see women onscreen. WE want to see women onscreen. And if Wonder Woman does well, I think it's possible. The patriarchal trends in the film industry could be at least a little changed, and someday, entirely smashed.

This really is an issue about the fate of feminism in this country. Wonder Woman  has, since her inception, served as a symbol for feminist ideals. That's literally what she was created for in the first place. This character is been around for a lot of shit, and has made it through a lot of shit that the dudes in charge of her stories have decided for her. I don't just think  it's superhero movies at stake. Even though The Hunger Games was successful, it, and the handful of other movies starring women that also did well, aren't treated as the norm. If Wonder Woman does well, maybe it will help that radical notion that women are people, and that the movies starring them can be money-makers, will be more accepted. And then 

BAM! Feminism FTW!!!

So please, get out there. Spread the news, make sure everyone you know goes to see Wonder Woman. And keep fighting the good fight.

*In that post, I said I was sick of Wolverine. While he did have a small part in Apocalypse, his swan song, Logan, was a masterpiece, and I am very pleased with how they said goodbye to the character. Of course, as the new series moves forth, they'll probably find a new Wolverine, but, hey, maybe the break will be longer than the breaks we've had between Spider-Man iterations. 


Thursday, January 5, 2017

On Bravery

If you haven't read it yet, at least skim my last post, otherwise a lot of this will make  zero sense to you. 

I want to address something important. While I keep hearing that I'm "brave" and "strong" for leaving my ex, I want to speak as a victim about what all of this bravery is, and where it started.

I started out brave. Like I said last time, I knew abuse at an early age. And I came out on top, stayed a good person, even make efforts every day to be that way. Even when it's hard, I try to do the right thing, do right by others, and help decrease Worldsuck, as some* would say. And despite seeing some of the worst of people, even having that aimed at me directly, I continue, to this day, to usually by default expect and see the best from them. 

So I was brave for trying. I've been hurt every time I attempted at even a chance at love before. When I first met  the person I discussed in my last post, I had no intention of letting him in. I had big, thick walls up, with trebuchets and a moat with a big goddamn dragon. I've talked about this before. Obviously, that post was before I met him.

I took a leap of faith, like what I talked about there, when I let him in. I was scared as Hell, but I did it. Because I was brave enough to try again. And you know what? It felt good, at least for a while. I'm reminded of a line from The Nightmare Before Christmas, "Well what the heck, I went and did my best, and my God I really tasted something swell. And for a moment, why I even touched the sky..." There were moments where I was flying, where I thought I'd die I was filled with such joy. I did feel safe, and loved, and beautiful. And I was happy. With myself for having taken a chance, with my situation, with him. And as I said in that last post, at least I was actually loved- I never doubted he loved me, which just made the bad parts hurt more. But I kept on, and hid it from the world, because of that love.

So I was brave in staying. It isn't just that I kept telling myself it (i.e. the abuse**) would never happen to me. I also cared for him, even in the middle of his worst outbursts. That Joan of Ark aspect of me... I know a part of me  wanted to help and save him. He didn't want to be saved, of course, but that didn't matter to me, not until I found my line again. I kept loving him, even though it was often hard. I hoped and prayed that maybe  my love for him would be enough, that he would see the damage he was doing to himself and us and me, and that he would then turn a new leaf, and we'd be happy more, I wouldn't be walking on eggshells.

But my love wasn't enough. I was a saint, but it wasn't enough. I comforted and forgave, but it wasn't enough. Belle was brave when she tamed the Beast; I was brave in trying, in holding him when he fell, in picking him up when he had finished crashing. I was brave for wiping his tears before my own. 

I was brave to start getting my own help. Therapy and mental health issues (not to mention medications for "head stuff") are so stigmatized, it's easy to feel like you're less of a person for going in and seeing a professional. I had known I needed help for a long time. I kept making excuses, but I eventually ran out of them when I was promoted to full time and thus had corporate benefits (as opposed to state). So I started going. And it was (and still is- my counselor is amazing) hard. It was brave for me to open up in that office. About the things that have been haunting me for years, say nothing of the relationship of focus, here. And as I said before, I was hoping I would eventually feel ready to get back in touch with my dad. I think a part of me also hoped that if my ex saw how much I was improving because I had and maintained a self-care plan that was working, he would want that  for himself, too. Naive, I know. 

And no, I wasn't stupid. I just hoped, because I believed in him. I wanted to, I needed to, otherwise what was the point of letting down those walls in the first place? I didn't want that risk I had taken to be for nothing.

I was brave to be as honest as I was with  the friend I talked about in the last post. I kept as much as I could hidden for a long time, but I know most, if not all, of my friends knew things weren't good with my partner and I. I was afraid to tell my friend what was going on, but I did it, trembling and crying. That's bravery. It's strength.

I was brave in telling the ex not to come home. In all of the time we had been together, during all of his tantrums, I had stood up to him maybe half a dozen times before, most of them being on behalf of my dog (because, as said, he would get unnecessarily and unwarentedly*** mean with her when he was grumpy). But I did it, I found my line, set it, and told him exactly what it was. It wasn't a request, I didn't downplay it (with something like, "I know this is going to be  hard/ I'm sorry but..." etc.). And it was so hard to do. My hands were trembling as I sent the text. And my chosen method being text may seem cowardly, but that I did it at all was huge. IS huge. And I knew that if I heard his voice, I would be weak and give in, lose that line, so I texted him. So sue me. That I told him an any way at all I didn't want to see him again that day was a HUGE act of bravery, yes. That's the main one everyone thinks about. But there's more.

I was brave somewhere in the middle there, when he was at the house the second night to get more stuff. At that point, I was still thinking it would be a break. And I was brave in two big ways then. First, when he was saying goodbye to my dog. It was like my heart was breaking again, as if it was possible, watching him kneel there as she gingerly licked his chin. She knew something was wrong, and the way his voice cracked... She's my kid, and he was her Daddy. It was as if I was getting a divorce, and my child was saying goodbye. Involuntarily, I jerked a little bit toward them. In a flash, I saw myself throwing my arms around both and having that be the end of the episode. But I didn't. I grabbed the counter, squeezed it so tight that my hands and forearms were sore the next day, and I didn't move. That was brave.

And then, as he hugged me goodbye, he said, "I've fucked up big time," I said, "Yep, you did. Now fix  it." I was brave for saying that. SO fucking brave. The older me would have taken some of the blame off of him, "No, honey, it's my fault, too, it's not just you." But it WAS all just him. And I knew he wanted that, wanted me to absolve him, at least partially, right there, because that's what I always did. But the difference this time was I saw it for what it was: manipulation. And I was brave for standing my ground in the face of it. 
It was hard, it hurt like Hell, but he left. No matter how badly I wanted to say it was okay, I didn't, and that's bravery. 

I was brave in finally saying the word "abuse" out loud. I didn't even mean to say it, it just came out, flowed naturally with where I was going when I was on the phone with him. And it clicked. It made sense. It gave me the momentum to be firmer. I was brave in standing by that, too, because of course, while he didn't say much to it then (it was the first day that happeend), he had all sorts of nasty comebacks  later about how I was overdramatizing it, how that wasn't what he was doing, he says  and does those things in anger, that's not abuse. But it is, it was, so I didn't back down, and that was brave. He was yelling at me while I was on the phone with him in my counselor's office (I really wouldn't have survived this without her, too), and I was brave for not letting him gaslight me, change the topic, change the goal posts during that conversation shouting match. 

And I've been brave for not asking his mom (whom I've needed to have some contact with for logistical reasons) or brother (still good friends with him and his girlfriend) where he is, if he's okay. Do I worry for and about him still? Absolutely. But I can't let myself go down that path. And the braver, stronger part of me is protecting the other side of me while she heals. 

But I want to clarify something, too.

I didn't stay out of weakness. I don't think anyone has even remotely implied that, except possibly me, maybe, here and in person. Because while in the middle of being emotionally and psychologically beaten down by my significant other, I became a better version of myself. I improved, against those odds. I do owe a lot of that to getting professional help, but as she told me, she's only helping me tap the resources I already have within me. So little did he know, even as he was wearing me down, I was building up. If that isn't strength, I don't know what is.

Also, it wasn't weakness, the falling for him, falling into his net. Like I said, it was brave to try. L
etting someone in, even if that person does end up hurting you (like all the rest, in my case) is brave.

Bravery can mean trying to save something because you thought it was worth it. And yes, it's admitting that thing isn't worth it anymore, giving it its proper name, and letting it go.

Love always comes with a risk. I took it. It got me down, but...

I'm getting better each day, like I said, but I'm not  brave enough to try again yet. I will, sooner or later. I still want a family of my own. I mean, my dog is great and all, but I want a husband and kids and the whole nine yards. Call me a traditionalist, but, well, there it is. 

And it's already brave for me to think about that future. I know I'm not ready to try for it again, no, but even being able to consider it again, in the face of what just happened to me, is brave. And someday, I still want to believe, that bravery will pay off, and I'll get what I want. I know I'm worth it, I know I deserve it, and for fuck's sake, I HAVE EARNED THE SHIT OUT OF A GOOD LIFE. Amirite?

You, right now.

So it'll happen. I'm still swimming through all of the emotions. But I'll take that brave step and open those gates again. 

*Nerdfighters, aw yeah!

**And again, let me say, I was never deliberately physically harmed. Sometimes intimidated, but he never hit me, pulled my hair, nothing like that.

***Totally just made that word up, yo.