Flip Through

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Body Appreciation Sunday: Clay

As everyone knows, I love Wonder Woman. She is my favorite superpowered heroine, and I was very happy that DC gave her such a great creative line-up in the relaunch. Cliff Chiang and Brian Azzarello are doing a wonderful job with her series: beautiful art, smart, mythology-laden storytelling. I love it.

I do not love the decision to change Diana's origin from her being created out of clay by her mother Hippolyta and given life and talents by the goddesses, to being the product of Zeus and Hippolyta. Zeus has enough goddamn children, divine and mortal, and though we're probably supposed to helpfully forget this, Zeus in the past has attempted to molest Diana. Creepy! That particular plot point is simply uninteresting to me, having been told a thousand times over, and since I don't think Azzarello has ever written an uninteresting thing in his illustrious career, I will blame editorial fiat.
(Diana's birth, from Gods and Mortals)

There is a more personal level to my distaste for this development as well. Even before I read comics heavily I related to Wonder Woman; she was a beacon of peace, progress, diplomacy, and love, she was strong and reliant on herself, and--bonus--she had the same name as me. As I began reading her stories, I loved that she was created by women--her mother and a slew of talented, beautiful goddesses gave this heroine life and power and purpose. I began to relate even more to the Amazon, as someone also raised solely by a mother. In effect I have no father, my biological father dying when I was two and having no relationship of any kind with my stepfather later on. I enjoyed the bond of mother and daughter between Diana and Hippolyta and I liked that the Amazon community valued women's relationships, because news flash: American society does not value women's relationships. Sisters, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and aunts, and closest female friends are not as important as the Very Significant male/female romantic relationship; families raised and led by single mothers or grandmothers raising their grandchildren are not "real" families (according to some idiotic and prominent political figures); and lesbians are outliers who simply haven't been laid properly. Women are largely not perceived as being able to protect themselves or one another--that must be done by a male figure, a hero.

Diana the Amazon was the encapsulation of everything I thought female relationships could and should be. She is still magical and marvelous and truly wonderful, and I'll never stop reading her stories. But this change is the one that has hit me hardest, in the most personal way, out of all the many changes DC wrought this past autumn. My name is Diana and I was formed of clay from my mother's hands, brought to life by her love and the stories she and the other women of my family gave me. In my best moments I am their image and legacy and in my worst, I'm still me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Haywire (spoilers)

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know what my favorite things are: good-looking dudes with accents, ladies kicking ass, and action movies. So when I heard about Haywire, it was like Hollywood had tapped directly into my brainwaves and created a movie just for me! AWESOME, NO?

Actually, yes; frankly Haywire is a good movie, better than I was expecting. Its star is Gina Carano, a mixed martial artist who needs to play Big Barda as soon as possible--her supporting cast/list of people whose shit she fucks up includes Michael Fassbender (death by Carano's thighs+a gunshot to the head), Ewan McGregor (death by being trapped in a jetty with a broken leg as the tide comes in. Way harsh, Tai!), Antonio Banderas (presumably Carano kills him, but we don't see it), Channing Tatum (death by Ewan McGregor), and the adorbs Michael Angarano, who gets to live (although a deer smashes through his car's back windshield). See, Carano's character, Malory Kane, plays a former Marine who works for an independent contractor--you know the kind. The firm is run by Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), with whom Malory has just broken up (both with the firm and the man); Kenneth employs Aaron (Channing Tatum), with whom Malory worked on a job ostensibly extracting a hostage in Barcelona. However, the job was a set-up, concocted by Kenneth, bonus Mathieu Kassovitz, Michael Fassbender's character Paul, and Antonio Banderas' character Rodrigo. Malory discovers this when she's on assignment with Paul in Dublin, who works with Kassovitz to frame her for murder, and, well, thigh-choking! What ensues is her quest to figure out who set her up and why, and to put them in the ground.

The action is great and the men are hot, but what I really enjoyed was how naturally and positively the character of Malory was drawn. She isn't a mindless sexpot; she is a woman who has sex with men when she wants to and stops when she wants to. She isn't a mindless killing machine; she has training and background and a job to do which she is good at. And of course, the fallout in her life comes from men who are incapable of seeing a woman in control of herself, her sex life, and her work without needing to take that control away. Kenneth claims his plan to squelch Malory is all about money--the money she will lose him when she leaves his employ--but it's clear that it's really about how he can't handle her breaking off their relationship. If he can't have her, no one will: not in terms of work and not in terms of love. To a man, the male characters underestimate Malory, even the relatively sympathetic Aaron, and underestimation is the core of disrespect. Luckily for her, she has the power to stop them.

This is what I'm looking for when I say I want to see and read about about strong female characters. Yes, if they're PHYSICALLY strong and kick LITERAL ass, it's a bonus, but the personality and character have to be there first. I want to see competent, capable women.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Yes, it's true: I have found a job and it is in the corporate world. A greeting card company has its headquarters in my fair new city and, well, they needed an assistant for their library.

Enter moi.

So far it is pretty excellent. Like the last library I worked in, this one has a pretty narrow focus, collection-wise--but oh what a focus it is! Graphic design, art, typography, needlework, maps and photograph collections, fashion...pretty much everything tactile and interesting to look at and inspirational. There's also a room full of card and stationery archives going back to the 1900s, as well as a room devoted to ribbons, pom-poms, sequins, buttons, and other fun things.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

I don't even know (Boardwalk Empire spoilers)

Whether by accident or design (I'm voting design), Boardwalk Empire presents a bona fide King Arthur story in the telling of the tales of Prohibition-era Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson, and Jimmy Darmody. All the characters are here: Gillian as the mother-temptress Morgause; Margaret and Lucy as twin Guenevers and Owen as Lancelot; and Jimmy and Nucky in the roles of Mordred and Arthur. The painted whore that is Roaring Twenties Atlantic City is the dark mirror image of Camelot: a false golden era replete with crime and controlled by robber barons, bootleggers, and mob bosses. Above it all Nucky looms, his fingers in every pie in existence, struggling to keep his motley array of Companions (Neary, Doyle, O'Neill, Eli) in line, and treating with rival kings (Torrio, Rothstein, the D'Alessios, Chalky White). A bootlegging, philandering, glad-handing criminal and hypocrite, Nucky embodies the trope that Might makes Right--the very opposite of what Arthur traditionally stands for.

Jimmy returns from the Great War, considering himself proven as a man on the field of battle and itching for more power and responsibility in Nucky's operation. His bastard's birthright is double, having been born of the Commodore, whose power is fading (and who represents Lot, a petty king who is ineffective and then dead in the Arthur myth), and raised by Nucky, still in his prime. He expects to inherit, and soon...and a stew of resentment begins to seethe as he sows the seeds of his own destruction. In an attempt to strike out on his own he betrays Nucky, gathering around himself other betrayers, including his father, the Commodore, Gillian, and Nucky's brother Eli. Jimmy's wife Angela can be viewed as either Gareth--the innocent mowed down by accident, a victim of the strife between Mordred and Arthur--or Elaine, a woman slain by her attempts to control her own life. His mother Gillian is the quintessential Morgause; simultaneously she is a mother figure, raising Jimmy and then his son, and a sex bomb who takes partners as she will, including men much younger than herself. The pivotal moment of incest, which in the Arthur stories occurs either between Morgan le Fay and Arthur or Morgause and Arthur, occurs in Boardwalk Empire between Jimmy and Gillian, read as Mordred and Morgause.

Into the midst of Nucky's neat operation trots Agent Nelson van Alden, the most uptight lawman in New Jersey and a man possessed by the need to take Nucky down. In the Arthur stories, the character of Maleagant (or Maleagrance) is a villain, a rival petty king who kidnaps Guenever; since Boardwalk Empire's protagonists are villains themselves, it makes sense that the ostensible "good" character of van Alden would oppose Nucky and what he stands for. His relationships with the dual Guenever characters of Margaret and Lucy cement his characterization, as he threatens the security of Nucky's throne by lusting after Margaret and encouraging her to betray Nucky, and impregnating Lucy. Margaret, in her turn, cheats on Nucky with his driver/bodyguard Owen Sleater, an act which heralds her (re)turn to religion and belief that she is being punished for her sins. The Guenever of the Arthur stories is notably barren, of course, but the functions of the traditional Gwen and the two characters we read as her avatars in Boardwalk Empire are similar: to be beautiful, ornamental, and available for sex, to complement her man in social situations, and to not comment on or be involved in business matters.

The series-wide theme of the current generation's effect on the rising generation occurs repeatedly in various guises--Jimmy's son Tommy ultimately loses both parents and will presumably have his future shaped and warped, as Jimmy's was, by Gillian; Nucky's lack of children is a thorn in his side and perhaps the reason why he takes such pains to hold onto Margaret and her children by her previous husband, and we see his effect on Margaret's son already (in Nucky's episode of arson on his childhood home); Eli's huge brood of children is arguably his only success in life, that of reproductive, evolutionary prowess; van Alden's daughter, though born out of wedlock, is precious to him and it seems that he will have the raising of her after his wife divorces him (since Lucy has no care for her daughter). So, in a phrase from The Mists of Avalon, what of the king stag when the young stag is grown? Jimmy is ready to take over for Nucky but Nucky isn't ready to relinquish the reins. Humanity spends its life fighting the natural course of things, the cycle of living and dying. No man will admit when he should retire--encapsulated perfectly in the Commodore's fight to hang onto life and his relevance to Atlantic City's community. Nucky too is incapable of giving up his power, and Jimmy's attempt to take that power for himself results in his downfall.

Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire ends with Mordred dead and Arthur still in control; but where will it go from there? The saga of Arthur and Mordred culminates in both men's deaths (or with Arthur retiring to Avalon). Obviously the show diverges by necessity at this point, and I look forward to seeing what the writers throw at us next...though clearly I will miss parsing its plots and characters in terms of my favorite mythology.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Body Appreciation Sunday: Blood

No, not more menstruation conversation (though it is That Week)--blood as in "thicker than water." Stupidest adage ever? Possibly. I'm not even sure what it's supposed to mean other than "you will spend major holidays with this set of people Or Else."

I like my family, mostly, in small doses. I love my cousins and my sister, especially now that we're almost all grown up and can do shots to celebrate the Savior's nativity. I love talking about books with my youngest cousin. I like food and eating; that's inherited, for sho, being that our most hallowed family holiday tradition is a Christmas Eve devoted to consuming desserts. I like doing crosswords with my mom and grandma. I like being at home where it's blessedly warm and sunny and there's plenty of water around, where I can wake up to the sound of Australian pines creaking and the pale stripes of morning sun on the ceiling.

I don't like being asked to attend church like the answer is going to be anything other than "no," as it has been for the last five years. I don't like waking up to the sound of loved ones discussing how the President is murdering senior citizens and gay people are ushering in the apocalypse. I don't like seeing my stepfather spend Christmas Day staring at his laptop, rather than spending time with family members he rarely sees.

Sometimes the good outweighs the bad, sometimes it doesn't. And I don't quite believe that blood is life.
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