Les Miserables

January 13, 2013

Les Miserables:

So: I had a general awareness of the plot beforehand – I’d been hearing about it for a while even before the film, and seen a few reviews recently. I didn’t have a prior attachment to the book or the musical, and I’ll probably be reading the book at some point, but more on that story later. I expect the book’s and the stage’s versions are far more complicated, and so I entirely bow to any beliefs that the plot was butchered, but, proceeding from only what I know:

I really enjoyed it. Musical film, like silent film, is generally forthright and simple; think of the plot of The Artist for example. The old reliable methods of dramatic film in conveying plot immediately are off-limits, and so all feeling is expressed directly through song. With that simplicity as a drive, the film’s two hours forty-five minutes layers simple-but-effective storytelling into a larger narrative, one where the pace never abates due to the flow of song.

It is inherently different from a stage production, I have to stress that. You don’t have to sing loud enough for the cheap seats – in fact, you can’t do that; the camera is right beside you and stage singing would come off as scenery chewing in an enclosed space. Makeup, hair, clothing – everything is different due to the viewer. This format changes the essential nature of the acting, and that might be part of the push-back on Jackman in the reviews – this isn’t a stage musical.

I honestly enjoyed his dramatic performance and believed his character.Overall it was refreshing to have a character make his main mistakes early on, change, find a new system of belief and hold to it throughout, rather than the usual try-succeed-fail-rise-succeed structure. I’m probably oversimplifying immensely, but it was a pleasant jolt to realise that Valjean confessing his identity wasn’t a dream to be dismissed but an admirable reality. Again, the medium of song simplifies things, and this even extends to his accepting a potential son-in-law he hasn’t met yet – barely met, in the case of his daughter. The stunts are interesting – all swiftly done, with the underemphasis associated with the limitations in action necessary on a stage.

I think stage direction is probably the biggest issue; while generally well handled, sometimes marvellously so, occassionally people were walking back and forth in a way that in stage space I suspect would be handled in a spotlight-aside, nullifying the already tenuous reality of the stage backdrop. On film, that is a lot harder to do, and can hardly be done all the way through. Second largest are the scene transitions – a flash of carriage wheels and you are in Paris! This is a both legacy of the stage production and a necessity of the film’s length.

Anne Hathaway as Fantine – a tragic character, all the more so because of how relatively brief her role is. However, the character gets excellent innings for the time she gets and Hathaway plays them to the hilt. The terror, and rage, and despair, and loneliness and hopelessness are all so strong. The forthrightness of song is what stops you from feeling cheated by the short span – Fantine’s songs are Fantine’s songs, and she can sing them by and for herself if she has to. Her reappearance is appropriately the climax of stage mutability in the film.

Russell Crowe definitely leans more on the dramatic rather than the operatic. He is the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others in this equation of actors. In terms of prominent characters, Javert is the character one can get away with to play and sound so stiff and unyielding. As to whether that is the best way to play him, I leave entirely to those far more knowledgeable than I regarding this character. Amanda Seyfried was great, for what she got to do, which was very little, apart from ‘being in love’. I actually found kid-Cosette more interesting, but only slightly so.

Redmayne as Marius, the other half of the instant-mutual-unspoken-love-at-first-sight plot with Cosette, at least gets to be a revolutionary. Not having seen the Marilyn Monroe film that launched him to fame, I am unfamiliar with his work, but he did well. Plenty of love songs, plenty of revolution songs, and a nice acappella reprise regarding the death of his friends. I’m equally unfamiliar with ‘I’d Do Anything’ winner Samantha Barks, but I really liked Eponine, given that she’d known Marius for more than five minutes when forming an attachment and actually appeared to have grown emotionally since childhood. Finding out the nature of that growth is a main reason I’ll be reading the book. Also, she gets to do stuff. She is mostly just heartsick over a guy, but at least she has something going on, personality wise, as problematic as that is. I was somewhat disappointed at the abrupt disconnect from her parent’s subplot without apparent repercussion.

I’ll be blunt; I dislike the whole insta-love concept between Marius and Cosette. I’ll be interested to learn if that is an artifact from the book or a product of plot pressure. Either way, it has that saccharine-sweetness of Moulin Rouge, of characters singing to one another about how great being in love is without the slightest expression or manifestation of what that feeling is between the two or why it is so great. At least Sweeney Todd made it quite clear how creepy Anthony was and how messed up Johanna was when indulging in first-sight romance. Speaking of which, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter could pretty much have been playing their characters from Sweeney Todd if they were married, down to putting all sorts of things in the meat grinder. Comedy in the film, due to tone and pace, is nearly non-existent, so the Thenardiers are a massive release for all that pent-up emotion, and the layers of quiet physical comedy only film can be afforded via cuts and transitions are so much fun.

The revolutionaries in general were good. Enjolras and Gavroche in particular combined utter cynicism and idealism in a way that made them interesting to watch. Their time in a sharp-start in comparison to the woven histories of the others, and there is a risk of making the revolution just the setting for the denounement rather than part of it. I think they succeeded in tying it in through song, though even then they needed the last scene to send the message home. The barricade and the revolutionaries do look small for a screen production, as opposed to the centrepiece status I understand it has in the stage production. Again I bow to the experienced, but for me it emphasised how limited this revolution is and how badly it has failed when they’re the last barricade standing. The more cinematic barricade in the final scene is just that – cinematic, impressive, inspirational and awesome. The grubby cull of the revolutionaries in reality is reflected in their small barricade and small buildings – all the more sad.

The only problem I had with the fight scenes were the red-paint-equals death nature of the injuries. I understand that this also could be an artifact of the stage, but it primarily seems like a bid to chase the 12A rating. Historical violence is a tricky issue in that respect – however, long scenes with prostitution as their focus, on the other hand, really seems like it should be rated a great deal higher. There actually were twelve year olds in the showing I attended, and there were plenty of whispered explanations in that scene – the one to the child in front of me consisting of ‘She is crying because that man stole her money’. Yes. Nudity and sex are also tricky matters, and the grim reality sex work shouldn’t be excised from education but I’m fairly sure that graphic prostitution should bump the film up at least a grade from 12A. That, however, is simply my opinion.

The ending is quick which, given that it is a sugar-spun confection of Cosette-Marius sweetness, is good. It gets us to the resolution of Valjean, Fantine, Eponine and all the other beloved dead in the film. I don’t particular care for Cosette and Marius, as you may have guessed, but if this is the mandated happy-ending, it is thankfully an aside to the journey of the rest of the characters. It is a work of art in the most basic sense – it is flawed, but I want to learn so much more about what it is and where it came from and depth of the whole Les Miserables works when put into their various format, temporal, historical, authorial contexts. I don’t understand Les Miserables yet – I think any fan of it couldn’t have read this review and mistake that I do – but I do understand that it is important now, and I will seek out ways to learn about it and to know it better.

For anyone not at all interested in any of the above but who comes across it anyway: play a game matching up Valjean to Nolanverse Batman and Javert to Talia Al Ghul, and Fantine, obviously, as Catwoman. Extra points go to matching Liam Neeson’s Ras Al Ghul to Valjean in the 1998 film.


Terminator Salvation – Spoilers

August 6, 2012

First of all, the plot, on reflection, I simply do not understand. The purpose of the cyborg Marcus was to lure John Connor to a Skynet base? Okay, apart from the basic coincidences and unlikely scenarios in that equation – of which, I feel, there are many. MANY. But still, apart from those: there are still at least three central problems with that, unless I am missing something:

1. The only reason John Connor follows Marcus to the Skynet base is because Kyle Reese is there. The only reason he knows Kyle Reese is there is because Marcus found Kyle in Los Angeles. If that was supposed to be Marcus’ programming, if that wasn’t coincidence, why didn’t Skynet just capture Kyle? It isn’t the element of surprise – they’ve already played their hand that they know who Kyle is by putting him on that kill list. So either the plan was for Marcus to randomly find Kyle and bring him to them OR he was programmed to find him and bring him to Skynet by the most dangerous and roundabout route possible.

2. The plan was to get John to a Skynet base to be killed. Okay. Not quite clear why he had to go to Skynet base – they don’t seem to have any intent to harvest his body and memories to turn him into an anti-Resistance hope-killer cyborg, like Marcus. That would make sense, but they never imply they are going to do it. But okay – he has to be gotten to a Skynet base, where he can be killed. The film STARTS with John Connor in a Skynet base that explodes – exploding exactly after he leaves it. They know he is there, the base is disposable to them and packed with Terminators. When he arrives at the base later? They send one Terminator. They don’t even give it a gun.

3. Finally – Okay, why kill John Connor? Why is he important? For a start, you literally have his father in your posession. The whole plot of the first movie was that you thought it was a good idea to kill his mother before John was even conceived, and, even if that failed then, this film takes place before the time travel of the first film, so you clearly think that is how time travel works. Why not kill Kyle, right then? I don’t know how you know who Kyle is, given that the events of the first film haven’t happened yet, but, if I’m to buy into your bullroar, this is the setup. Also, why kill John Connor anyway? In this universe, HE IS A USELESS IDIOT.

Let me expand on that.

We’re supposed to like Marcus. We, generally, do like Marcus. He is the amnesiac atoner wandering the post apocalyptic wasteland with a grab bag of extremely useful skills, extreme martial prowess and everyone wants on his team within moments of meeting him. He has all of the Terminator’s strengths, few of their weaknesses, and he is on our side. He is Jason Bourne meets Wolverine meets Tallahasse meets Blade meets Roland Deschain. He is, in short, the everyman mixed with male fantasy incarnate, the summation of that famous Snow Crash quote. It is so easy for one to place one’s self in his carefully vague heroic archetype. Also, he is the cyborg who silently desires to be human again which, like any Pinnochio-plot, flatters our vanity as humans as the aspired-to species. Sorta like how we like Ariel in Little Mermaid. Yeah, I went there.

In fact, why is Marcus a pre-apocalypse convict who gave his body to science? There are hundreds of captive humans ready to be experimented upon. Humans who people recognise, who have memories of key Resistance personnel, of this post-apocalyptic wasteland. Is it so things can be explained to Marcus? I think a whole-body brain transplant would explain amnesia. If you wanted him to be able to redeem himself, you could still have him be a survivor who made cold decisions prior to cyberisation. I honestly do not understand this motivation except that we could not like Marcus if he wasn’t from our period.

We even like his scrappy band. We like them less than Marcus, and they are rife with the worst type of stereotypes, but compared to Team Connor, they’re brilliant. We like Kyle because this is an origin story for him, and seeing his character grow knowing where it’ll go and his bittersweet ending. We like Star. Yes, she is the magical African-American mute, who lost her voice and gained a machine-sensing ability in her trauma. But the actor gives it her all, and she is rocking that sheriff’s star hat.

We even like Blair, who has perfect makeup and long flowing hair after a plane crash, who apparently can only walk a mile in uninhabited wasteland before her character is obligated to be a victim of attempted rape and to be rescued. Blair, who turns on the Resistance on a dime for a cyborg whose very nature implies dissimulation, and who gets really boring after she is recaptured.

Apparently McG cut a topless scene with her in the final edit, and believes that this makes a strong female character. A strong female character in Terminator is Linda Hamilton doing one-arm pull-ups and putting on the muscle. A strong female character is Sarah Connor using an attempted molestation to escape the psych ward. Blair Williams is not this. But yeah, we like her, compared to …

Team Connor: Kate Connor; This is the same character from Rise of the Machines. She is also Connor’s wife. I totally missed the former and barely picked up on the latter. I honestly … have nothing here. She exposits a bit about what Marcus is, and she has to do that transplant at the end, but I honestly felt nothing from her regarding her experiences with these machines, I felt nothing between these two romantically, and I felt nothing regarding her continued presence in the film. I honestly don’t know why they returned this character, beyond a continuity cameo, if they had absolutely nothing for her, for these actors to work with.

Then there is Barnes. He is Connor’s right hand man. We know this because John tells him to do stuff. Also, he lost his brother to Skynet at the start of the film, so, clearly, he is best person to leave with the captured cyborg. So he can torture it. Again, he has nothing else. Then there is Michael Ironside’s Head-of-the-Resistance character. We know he is supposed to be totally unreasonable because he doesn’t love John Connor. Still, the plot steam rolls right over that by having him tell John anything John wants to know, and not really trying to stop John when John does anything the Resistance does not want John to do.

I am sorry, I am truly sorry. I am being sarcastic here, and that isn’t really fair to the fans of this film and this franchise. But this the fourth rewrite of the last two paragraphs I’ve tried to write and that is all that is coming out. I really, really dislike how inelegantly they’re trying to manipulate me into cheering for these cardboard cutouts called the Resistance. And, as we come to John Connor himself, it only gets worse.

Christian Bale has proven, through his work with Christopher Nolan and others, that he is one of the finest damn all-round actors around. Drama, action, romance or tragedy, mystery, science fiction, crime or thriller – Bale can do it, and he can make it look effortless. I believe him, no matter what he does. So, I want to be clear that that is entirely separate from I’m talking about here. Here, in Terminator Salvation, Bale is trying, but has scant-to-nothing to work with. Y’know that male fantasy I spoke about regarding Marcus? John Connor is when that fantasy is fulfilled by a very basically unsympathetic character. Wesley Gibson in Wanted.

John Connor is the foretold son of the uprising, the destined leader of the Revolution. And he knows this. And everyone who gives HIM orders? That person is jealous, uninformed or shortly proven wrong – often in a way that John had no certain way to be right about. John has orders in a Skynet base – okay, but he has to look up this stuff first. He gets extracted from the destroyed base? Well, he has to be debriefed by Resistance command themselves, and he’ll jump out of a carrier and make them take him on board, even though the whole plot eventually centres around the risk posed to command if their base is discovered. Sometimes a film about a hero before he is a hero plays up how inadequate he or she is – Terminator, for example. This wasn’t that. This is assuming we all feel that John is the saviour of humanity. By his own admission, Skynet has outstripped where they were, technologically, when John was still relevant in the timestream. This version of John has been made redundant from destiny, and he still going on regardless.

And it goes on like that. Everyone who doesn’t worship the legend of Connor is wrong and everyone else worships him beyond reason. Even the radio transmissions are self indulgent. Firstly, again, the whole plot of the film eventually revolves around Resistance bases being tracked down by broadcasts. If Skynet wants to kill him, target that base when he broadcasts. Secondly, he may say that he is making everyone the Resistance, but he isn’t. He is making himself the voice and the story of the Resistance, and arbiter of who is and who is not Resistance. He doesn’t tell the stories of all the unsung heroes of the Resistance that he has known, and how you can be like them too – he talks about he knows about the machines and about he was always right about them and the fact that they’re going to make humaniform Terminators.

So, when he says for the Resistance fighters to hold off, he doesn’t do so because he doesn’t think the signal will work, or because he is that concerned about the human hostages (that isn’t what seals his decision) but because his dad, and therefore himself, is at risk. And, therefore, the itself Resistance is at risk. Forget the fact that he could be working on info from a cyborg who could have easily, easily, could have been programmed to lie about Kyle’s existence, location, and continued being-alive-ness. Forget the self-indulgent strategy of going in by himself, trailing after Marcus, which works because this is a trap, more than anything else. Forget even what the escape plan was supposed to be. This is John Connor being essential to everything and everything and everyone else radiating outwards from that premise. And it doesn’t sell it.

Apparently this was supposed to end with John Connor’s flesh being grafted onto Marcus’ metal skeleton, continuing the myth, and that it was changed after fan outcry after a leak. In terms of PR I think if this had been made after Avatar’s release, with the added cache of Sam Worthington’s name, it might have changed the game. Still, that, in execution, is too heavy-handed. The film made the point that most people knew Connor by his voice. We know vocal reproduction is well within the range of some Terminators. Marcus takes on John’s voice. Easy-peasey. Still wouldn’t have made this film great. They would really have to dig into the plot of this film to fix it. Essentially? I have no clue of, no door into who John Connor is and what he is to others. I see worship and command and enmity, but I don’t see what it is built around. Pricking the mystique of who John Connor is, a central mystery to the first film’s temporally immacculate conception of the future’s hero, required a great plot to justify. This was not that plot. This was pretty tepid.

I think the central failure is that this is a movie set in a war for humanity’s survival, but this is not a war movie. This is an action movie. It isn’t on the scale of a war, it doesn’t have the stakes of a war and it doesn’t have the cast of a war. This film rotates around two characters who decide everything. This is supposed to be a world resistance; I am struggling to think of a scene where more than five people speak. Skynet central looks to be about the size of factory, and is a day-or-two’s travel from a resistance base. If this was supposed to evoke something bigger than World War II, it utterly failed. If WII was on this scale the whole Axis-Allies conflict would have take place in North America, and Winston Churchill, in Downing Street, could have mooned Adolf Hitler across the road in the Reichstag. Kill Resistance command? You could do it while boiling an egg – twice. No military strategy, no corps camaraderie, no exploration of resource issues, no exploration of population issues, no battles, no surgical strikes, no training, no damn casualties that mean anything. And yet the action movie plot doesn’t satisfy either. Resistance can’t win because the war can’t be over before a Terminator is sent back in time – we know this, so there can be no tension, in either the Resistance’s possibility of success or in the possibility of their total destruction. Because neither side has an achievable goal, neither can win out over the destiny of John Connor.

Also: nobody is smart. Everyone is an idiot, not just John. Resistance Command: apart from all my other criticisms; don’t broadcast the kill signal from your location. You apparently have many transmitters, given DJ Connor’s broadcasts. Skynet: apart from all my other criticisms; don’t make the control chip on your cyborg easily removable from the base of his skull. Resistance fighters: John Connor has been telling you for years about how Skynet will create robots that can impersonate humans. You know what you don’t do? You don’t follow the easily fakeable voice on the radio telling you to stand down when your superiors are telling you that you have one chance to end this war. Skynet and Resistance seem to have survived through mutual incompetence rather than competing brilliance. In terms of Michael Ironside battle-mentors, Starship Troopers outranks Terminator Salvation.

Finally: The reason I think this film is so wedded to being an action movie rather than a war movie is because that was what the original Terminators were. This outing has fundamentally changed the makeup of the classic Terminator attempt to stop Judgement Day by having had Judgement Day occur – but it still wants to use the same format as those films for a fundamentally different, dissonant story. If it wanted to create a new trilogy that side of Judgement Day, a trilogy where John Connor’s mystique is carefully unpacked, then they needed to choose a different format than befriend-a-stranger-against-Terminators, have a fight in a factory, blow up a thingy. That, and the references. They spent time putting a Terminator guarding a human in a truck evading a Terminator on a motorbike because it was the reverse of the scene in the second movie. They spent time saying ‘Come with me if you want to live’ and ‘I’ll be back’ for reference value alone. They spent time putting in a naked CGI Arnold trying to kill a Connor to refer to the first film. And then they game the reference by having it functional after doused in molten lava. ‘Cause it is serious now!

And, quite frankly, Skynet forces were only mildly visually interesting. Arrested in the Terminator model as ultimate predator, all we get are a few variations on motorcycles, troop carriers, insects and giant Terminators as a supposedly scary scale of Skynet warfare.

Like the Matrix sequels, the inability to change format when the story revealed a larger theatre of human involvement, instead continuing with an individual’s destiny and decision themes in a film where we’re all supposed to be at war against the machines and not a moment of it feels convincing due to out-of-place repetitions of and winking references to previous films which had fundamental story differences to this sequel. Who knows – maybe this timeline will be erased too?


Before ‘Before Watchmen’

July 25, 2012

So, I’m going to write this before reading about Before Watchmen. This is all my opinion, and my opinion purely on the concept of Before Watchmen, without over-assumption, hopefully, over its possible quality and content. I’m writing this in response to an article forwarded to me that I took as objecting to the Before Watchmen comics on the basis of those (as-yet-unpublished at the time of that article) comics ruining comics publishing by stifling creativity and as their production is against the wishes of the original Watchmen writer Alan Moore. I will not be linking to this specific blog as (a) there are many with the same statement (b) I’d prefer not to seem to start a beef with this guy and (c) I’m pretty sure the only person who is going to be reading this is the same person who sent me the link.

1. In terms of the relation of this between DC and Alan Moore, this is, in my mind, what is known as a jerk move. Given that DC only owns the Watchmen rights on a technicality (they were to revert to Moore and Gibbons when the issues went out of print … and then Watchmen’s popularity helped invent the trade paperback) this is pretty much flying in the face of the author’s express wishes and in the face of what they’d said they were never going to do, when asked on this, for the past several decades. Ideally, DC has the right to offer Alan Moore as many dumptrucks of money as they like, so long as he can, in turn, refuse them.

2. That said, DC is not an unchanging hive colony. It is not the same people there now as there were in the 1980s, and not all those working for it have a consensus positive opinion on the actions of some. People who made prior promises have been replaced with people who have not. Statistically speaking, you were eventually going to run across someone who thought this was a good idea, either because their interest in Watchmen is so all-consuming or so tenuous, either financially or creatively, either out of boredom or daring. As long as Watchmen was relevant, regarded and popular, it was always going to be a when, not an if.

3. Is this how it should have been done? I don’t know anything of their plots yet, beyond the fact that they are Before Watchmen. Contrast that to putting a definitive expression on the ambiguity of the ideas at the end of Watchmen, and the ‘Before’ becomes a small mercy. Not to say an After Watchmen is impossible -this whole event proves that it isn’t- but Before is the lesser of the two evils. With the flashbacks, the very concept of time in Watchmen, the framework for this type of storytelling exists. Now, should they all be six-issue stories, conveniently tradepaperback length? Sounds like large coincidence, or that saleable format is more important than any individual story. Moreover, should the amount of additional material outnumber the original story, several times over? There seems to be a great risk of endless padding, trying not to do anything that’ll break the universe, but still be interesting.

4. So, theoretically, how would this be done in a way that might be more in tune with what Moore does. Taking the example of Moore’s work on the League of Extraordinary Gentleman, along with the rest of his metafictional work, the shape of a Watchmen work might be more in the shape of a Tijuana Bible – a series of short stories where authors express what fascinates them about the concept of Watchmen. They’d be in wildly different art styles, narrative styles, lengths, forms and formats. Ideally they’d have been collecting them from significant writers and artists for years, as a response to what Watchmen has meant to the comics industry, possibly launched on an annversary. There’d be no continuity constraints between stories, and they’d all have individual tones and ideas and outlooks.

5. That said, that wouldn’t make Alan Moore happy. No iteration of Watchmen reimagined is going to make Alan Moore happy. There is no quantifiable way to make Alan Moore re-happy in terms of Watchmen’s posession by DC, never mind a reimagining. Really:

http://www.seraphemera.org/seraphemera_books/AlanMoore_Page4.html

So you can’t do it for that reason, because that isn’t going to happen. It isn’t on the table. So, if you instead want to swiftly create and neatly market a smooth transition to the idea of additional Watchmen with art consistent with the original, Before Watchmen is what you do. You launch a series of individual miniseries based on the most significant characters, all at once, with a clear, brandable concept and consistent continuity.

6. That will make a great deal of money, as BW has begun to do so. And that is significant. Yes, a great deal of the internet said this was terrible, that they’d never read DC or this series. Sales have been outstanding, apparently. There will be a great deal of collectability about them, no doubt with variant covers and embossed foils and maybe even a hologram, in classic eighties style. Is that immoral? What’ll that money do? I’m sure cigars shall be lit with $100 bills, as is tradition, but what else? DC’ New 52 has been lauded, aside from all the reboot business, for varying the line. They actually have a consistent range of crime comics and war comics and sci fi comics and supernatural comics. Maintaining a broad range of that size is costly, ever-increasingly so. If this is how DC pays for it …?

7. Being a trade-waiter myself, I don’t really care. I want a few, well told, self-contained, one-author stories. I don’t need new comics every week, a new one in every series every month. And Before Watchmen can’t ruin Watchmen for me because if I don’t hear anything worth reading from them when they are over, then I will not read them, and the copy of Watchmen on my shelf won’t combust or disappear or change. There’ve been crappy tie-ins and continuations and crossovers to plenty of my favourite comics – it honestly doesn’t bother me, beyond the waste of the opportunity to tell a good story. I hope they never market a compendium that combines W and BW, and I hope they don’t turn them into continuing monthly series, and I hope they don’t integrate those characters with the main universe so Captain Atom and Dr Manhattan could hang out.

8. Being a trade-waiter myself, I therefore don’t have the right to say that everyone should turn away if they don’t like it. Even if diversity is being paid for by commercialization, if that commercialization is being forefronted over that diversity, then I can’t imagine how infuriating this must be for the people who see BW steal the charts every week over the critically interesting. However – wasn’t W the exception to the rule? Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, Batman dominate – and that isn’t by the necessarily consent of the original creators. In the case of Batman and Spiderman, the writer received credit – the original artists didn’t. In the case of Superman, both creators had contention with DC, and their respective estates still are in legal schlemozzles with DC:

http://kryptonradio.com/2012/03/27/warner-bros-duke-it-out-over-superman/

9. And so, to finally come around to the point of the article to which I was directed – this sort’ve thing is killing the creativity in the comics industry. Is is a good sign? No. Is it anything more than a sign? No. The superhero genre has dominated the comic industry since the companies grouped together to use the Comics Code authority to regulate the competing crime, horror, sports comics, etc, out of existence. Those comics in turn have been dominated by a handful of characters, either by the hard cold sales they produce, or by their iconic nature and they have to be kept in print or the rights revert to their creators (Wonder Woman). DC, being older, is even more directly tiered, internally, than Marvel’s universe – everything is under Superman, Batman and the Justice League, as opposed to the equilibrium of Avengers, Fantastic Four, X Men, Spiderman, etc.

10. There have been bigger moments that have dealt worse fates to comics. The Comics Code – and not just the superhero-genre-dominate-the-medium factor. The blow to the adult readership – to the female readership of comics, which had numbers it physically pains me to consider given that in the modern day they still haven’t recouped anything like those figures or statistics in this ‘modern’ age of graphic publishing:

“During the late 40s and on through the 50s, the Romance comics saw their heyday and adult women were a very major part of these comics’ readership. By 1950 there were over 148 different romance titles, and soon, virtually every publisher was putting out romance comics. However, the postwar years saw a decline in female creators and romance comics, which were almost all being created by men, whose stories began reinforcing the idea that a woman’s ultimate goal should be to get married. Still, the comics portrayed working women characters as intelligent and modern with real world problems.
But as the 1950’s drew to a close, female characters began to fall back into supporting roles with superheroines mostly being members of groups and not stars of their own titles. Not surprisingly, female readership began to decline.”

http://www.sideshowtoy.com/?page_id=3501

Detrimental event comics? How about the Death and Return of Superman? Max Landis lands the accusation at this comic that it made death in comics completely and uttlerly meaningless across the spectrum:

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/02/max-landis-death-of-superman/

11. That certainly sounds worse than Before Watchmen. For my part, let me give you the example of Kingdom Come. I love Kingdom Come. Art, story, character, themes, ideas – it is as close as one gets to perfect, for me. Self-contained, in an alternate universe, with distinct visuals and character interpretations. It is a thing of its own. And there is other stuff related to it now. There is ‘The Kingdom’, which is dreck. There a handful of parts that would have made neat short stories in that universe, but tying it all together with some horrendous padding and obsession over minutiae hamstrings them. The JSA use I have heard of – the use of Magog of in JSA seems to have paid out very weakly in terms of actual story, and its use of the Kingdom Come universe in the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ story an odd little cosmic diversion. But, this is fine, because:

“Alex Ross states that this story is not intended as a sequel to Kingdom Come as that would negate the purpose of the original story.”

Kingdom Come isn’t altered or erased by these – even though a Kingdom Come creator was involved in each of these projects. Did The Kingdom or the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ arc.ruin comics? It was my opinion that they were pretty bad. I was sad that the continuation of the universe wasn’t something I enjoyed. If anything, the ‘Justice’ universe is much more a continuation of the spirit of Kingdom Come. Does this apply to Before Watchmen? Alan Moore doesn’t approve. But if a creator approves, as Dave Gibbons does, doesn’t that count equally with Moore’s disapproval?:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=36724

Even if Gibbons isn’t drawing a book of his own in this series, he still can give this project his blessing. And I will respect the guy that drew the Owlship, and the Glass Clock and the Squid monster enough to at least equate what he did with what Moore did.

12. Also, if executive meddling is going to bring BW into the world, let us least remember that W was brought into the world by executive meddling. If not for some panicky editors, we’d be talking about how Captain Atom, after concurring with Peter Cannon, killed The Question, much to the horror of the Blue Beetle. All of which would have been immediately up for grabs by DC at the time and, moreover, the rape of the Phantom Lady character by the Peacemaker character would hardly have been done with the consent of the creators of those characters. Has Alan Moore’s own battles since changed his beliefs about character use? Technically yes, in the sense he doesn’t want his used. However, it was fair game to use the Dr No era James Bond, and have him to attempt to rape Mina Murray in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier:

http://lxg.wikia.com/wiki/Jimmy_Bond

Or to have Lord Voldemort in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Century: 1969 and have him attempt to rape Mina Murray.

http://lxg.wikia.com/wiki/Tom_Riddle

Later, in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 2009, Moore had Harry Potter, as the AntiChrist, kill Allan Quatermain with a lightning-attack from his penis-wand, shortly after implying he wished to rape Mina with afforementioned penis-wand. For the purpose of completeness, he then had Mary Poppins, as nanny to even the deities themselves, turn Potter into a chalk drawing that then washed away in the rain. Having Mary Poppins kick the ass of a Harry Potter villain is pretty neat – so much so that there is an as-yet-unconfirmed rumour about just the same in the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics:

http://www.themarysue.com/voldemort-mary-poppins-olympics/

-but still, a pattern emerges, is what I’m saying. If Moore’s own work uses copyrighted materials without the consent of the author, then the personal nature of Moore’s beef isn’t a valid argument. To the degree that Moore uses these characters is quite legal I’m sure – every name is out of the corner of the reader’s eye – but, then again, DC has the legal right to use these characters. It is something of a jerk move, but by legal standards and Moore’s own practice, it is fair game. It is like the Jimmy Carr scandal; mocking a legal-but-jerky method of avoiding tax is highly laudable … except if you yourself are using that same method:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jun/20/jimmy-carr-tax-david-cameron

13. Now, (and, as the last point) you may have felt my mentioning the rapes these characters attempted were unrelated or tangentially related to this argument. Actually, there is a reason, beyond the feelings of their original creators. It relates to why, fundamentally, there is an argument for Before Watchmen, why, even if this set of book turn out to be a boring cash-in, the idea of revisiting Watchmen could have some merit:

Watchmen isn’t perfect.

No really, and I’m not just talking about the squid, whatever your feelings about that are. It isn’t even, mainly, about plot-holes. There are plenty of little plot holes that a BW story could explore of course – how the heck did that detective know Dan Dreiberg was Nite Owl II for a start. Did he stake out Hollis Mason’s place? Did he know Hollis Mason from his days as an officer? Did Veidt tip him off? Otherwise, it is just an excuse to force Dan onto the bottom of the river in the short term, and on the run in the long term. In fact, why did those detectives start expositing about the Keene Act in the first pages? Surely they already knew-

And there are other things, like in Zach Snyder’s Watchmen film, that I liked being elaborated upon. I liked Hollis Mason sketching out the start of the superheroes as guys who dressed up in fancy-dress costumes so they could beat up crooks who were dressing fancy-dress disguises so that couldn’t be identified in line-ups. It was a neat little solve that explained so much. I loved the visual reimagingings of the opening, feeding back how we saw the eighties into an eighties-written work, demonstrating the cultural impact of superheroes in an alternate universe, over fifty years, in just under five minutes. I loved Silhouette getting to kiss the nurse in the iconic ‘We Won!’ image.

But those are just tiny details. No, the real reason to look at Watchmen again would be the same as the reason it was created in the first place. Watchmen was a satire, that has been in turn enshrined at the core of comic ideals. Moore didn’t, couldn’t have foreseen that so many writers would take their cues from his story for the next thirty years. It paved the way for ideas on ethnicity, sexuality, transhumanism, psychosis, science, etc, in comics. But it is still that mainstay, over a quarter of a century later. As such, where are the non-white heroes? Where are the transgender heroes? Where are the rest of the female heroes?

Could you imagine if that was what Before Watchmen was? Watchmen illustrated that in a group of apparently ‘normal’ heroes, anything that could be concealed, such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, psychopathy, paranoia, sociopathy and disconnection from humanity, could exist. So what about the other half of that? What about the non-white heroes that fought alongside the others, but never received an invitation to Minutemen meetings, or who have been classified as ‘Black Unrest’ Captain Metropolis’ Crimebusters? What about the other female heroes who were shut out because the Minutemen already had two? And the dialogue of female superheroes can progress beyond (a) Rape is the New Dead Parents (b) Undercover-as-Stripper Costume (c) Bury Your Gays.

Of course, it probably won’t be that. I’ve have specifically written this before reading what is going on in those books, because this is about rejecting the very idea of reinterpreting Watchmen. Watchmen the book won’t change magically, but the discourse, the ideas surrounding it could be changed, questioned, reinterpreted. Of course, this also doesn’t need to happen, to the Watchmen characters in specific or Watchmen in general. There are plenty of ways of reinterpreting the original material without reimagining it. But, if someone chooses to do it that way, I won’t shoot them down for the very idea, and especially without hearing what they have to say.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish, partially because I am done, and partially because a new cover of All Along the Watchtower by ‘Devlin, has started playing on the radio, just as I finish this:

Seriously. No really. I’m pretty sure that means the snake-god-puppet Glycon has probably been invoked to bring about my end. Lets face it – that’d be a really cool way to go. I wish Promethea was here.

And that is three hundred times ten. Snyder indeed.


Completely Out-Of-Character Crossover Fanfiction I’d Love To Read 67#:

November 23, 2011

“… Clark Kent rushed into the first phone booth he saw – thinking on it later, he admitted he should have wondered about the words ‘Police Box’ and the color blue.”

“… then Superman blew out the last of the laser-vision fires and the Doctor sonic’d the wibbley lever back together. ‘So’, said the Doctor, shamefacedly, ‘Jellybaby?'”

“…’I’m the Doctor,’ shaking Superman’s hand, ‘otherwise known as the Last of the Timelords.’ ‘Cal El,’ tightening his grip slightly on the Doctor’s hand, ‘Last of the Kryptonians’.”

“…’In short, I’m an alien.” finished the Doctor ‘But you look human!’ answered Superman. ‘So do you!’ shouted the Doctor, getting a bit shirty about this now. ‘But my father chose Earth as the one place I could fit in!’ ‘Well, so did I!’

“… ‘So, do the glasses send video back for you these Daily Planet persons?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do they pick up traces of residual Rift energy?’ ‘What? No!’ ‘Do they make you look brainy even though you don’t really need them?’ ‘No – well, yes.’ ‘That is so two years ago.’

“…’Then there is Lois Lane. We’re very will-they-won’t-they at the moment; universe just got rebooted.’ ‘Nothing to do with me! Well, a little. Well, a lot.’ said the Doctor, looking worried ‘Not that my public image came out of that unscathed. And as for being confused about your wife to be … Subject change: ever been cloned?’ ”

“… ‘And that is the last of the human Companions. Then there was that android that never worked right-‘ ‘I know what you mean,’ interjected Superman, ‘-and then K-9. Ever have a dog as a sidekick?”

“…’The name is Alexander Luthor; scientist, executive, human. I wage war against the single most powerful being in all the universe.’ ‘Ah,’ said the Master ‘I think I might have you there.'”

“… ‘Mine doesn’t kill.’ said Lex. ‘Neither does mine,’ replied the Master, ‘Well, humans, anyway.’ he continued. ‘He has died before! He just won’t stay dead!’ ‘Lex, we’re going to be best friends.'”

“… ‘I’d be better known if, occassionally, all memory of my existence weren’t erased every so often. F’rinstance, there was that time I saved the universe.’ ‘Or that time I saved the Multiverse.’ ‘What?'”

“… ‘Time is an orange- well, not an orange, say a tangerine-‘ ‘Oh, I know all about it. 31st Century Legion of Superheroes. Telling me they can’t tell me anything.’ ‘Let me tell you about River Song.'”

“… ‘Er,’ said the Doctor, watching the Master’s TARDIS begin to appear, ‘you remember what I said about being the last of the Timelords? Kind of … not.’ ‘Phantom Zone?’ ‘What?’ ‘Nothing.'”

“… ‘He was driven mad, very young, by the Untempered Schism!’ shouted the Doctor over the shaking of the TARDIS. ‘So was Luthor!’ shouted Superman, ‘Early onset male pattern baldness!'”

“… ‘I’ll leave the giant-robot-destroying to you,’ sighed the Doctor, ‘I used to be able to more action in the seventies.’ ‘Fair is fair,’ answered Superman, ‘I used to be able to fly through time in the seventies.’

“… ‘And then this will be wrapped up, simple as the Seven Keys to Doomsday!’ ‘Right, easy,’ said Superman uncomfortably. ‘At least I won’t have to erase your memory about my identity.’ ‘Yes, that is a boon.’ said the Doctor, fingering his collar.”

“… ‘Finally!’ crowed Luthor, standing over the corpse of Superman, Master-made Kryptonite rifle. ‘All life signs are absent, all-‘ Luthor’s drawl continued, rising to a shriek as a de-miniaturised Superman sprang from his prone double. ‘A little trick I picked up from the Doctor.’ commented Superman, crushing the Kryptonite rifle into a lead ball around its deadly ammunition.”

“… ‘Hand the Hand of Rassilon to me, Superman, or the Doctor gets a dose of Judas Tree poison – in both hearts!’ roared the Master, holding syringe-pistol to the Doctor’s back. ‘Geronimo’ laughed the Doctor, delivering a Venusian-judo chop to the Master’s solar plexus. ‘Little something I learned from Batman.’ commented the Doctor while disarming his unconscious foe.”

“… ‘Actually, I dropped you off twenty minutes early – plenty of time to disarm the missiles and save Miss Lane. Personal Question?’ ‘Okay,’ asked a bemused Superman.’How were you able to fly around the planet repeatedly in moments, but then couldn’t cross America in minutes to catch the missiles in the first place?’ ‘Well,’ answered Superman, rising into the air, ‘America IS bigger on the inside after all…'”


The Only 1555 Words I Will Ever Write On This

November 20, 2011

I don’t write about politics here, because I don’t keep up enough, because I’m far too wishy-washy, because I’m no where near smart enough, because there are many more writing far better, because my wandering, childish style has a slight charm with small stuff but would be a slap in the face with the big stuff …

But.

Occupy Wall Street. This is written because of it, but not about it. I am not going to tag this for one side or the other to find. I am just going to talk about the coverage this is getting – one very, very small part; the culture of the protest. I have read, repeatedly, about the honour and respect associated with the peaceful protest. The American Civil Rights Protests and Anti-War Protests are regardly highly as changing a culture. The protests in the histories of India, of China, of South Africa, are spoken of as world-changing. Peaceful protest, as a phrase, method and ideology, is enshrined with respect.

But, when it happens these days, it seems that the protesters are -sometimes- covered as being lazy, insane and inconsiderate. The coverage isn’t by any means all one way, nor is it entirely undeserved. Critiques of society deserve to be critiqued all the closer right back. And people have every reason to suspect the word ‘protest’ after the monsterous atrocities that ruined countless lives in London during summer. The arsons, assaults, thefts, and pure-spite-fuelled vandalism upon persons who had nothing of anything to do with anything would be reason enough to get people suspicious. But is that all the reason?

Could well be. But, hasn’t there been a jaded regard for protesting for a while now? Petrol goes up by a penny, people get angry, it is brought down again … then put again quickly on the quiet a few months later. We see something wrong and we flagellate ourselves as a society for being apathetic about or cynically jibe each other about an obvious, but unstoppable, political manoeuvring. But then, when someone does protest something, there is that impulse to count the days until it collapses, and console ourselves that it’d never have worked anyway. Its a Catch 22 of protest being respectable but impossible or the province of hippies and meaningless.

I think part of that is ‘enshrining’ past protests, which is usually something we do with things that are dead. And, unfortunately, the need to protest, to state that things aren’t fine and that they need to change. I’m not talking about this issue, and I’m not talking about this protest – we are simply are always going to be a society that requires periodic protest to temper the ruling hand with mercy. We’ll be doing it still in ten years, in a hundred years, in a thousand years, when we want the space arks to bring the dungbeetles to when we want preserve the last star in the universe from burning itself out, we’ll protest.

And, yes I know I just undercut my entire argument with sci fi references. I actually needed to; it was getting dark.

But, yes – we’re never going to be perfect, protest is always going to happen. We learn from our mistakes, and we make entirely new ones. My sister once asked me about the stock market crash in ’29, and if it had been ‘fixed’ for that to never to happen again. The specific causes of that crash might have been fixed, or policed against, or made irrelevant by the sheer passage of time – or were simply to big, too integral a part of competitive trading to ‘fix’ – but all the same, for different reasons or similar, it happened again. But the deep pervading cultural assumption was that the market was important, and so was ‘fixed’. Static. Perfect. Safe.

Do we really want to admit that things are really, really, future-crushingly bad. No. Do we want to admit that, rather than a fix by an appropriately messianic, memetic, magic minority man, our best response is a bunch of hippies grousing in tents, disrupting foot traffic and going home at night? Really no.

And on the other side of that argument, the past wasn’t perfect either. Oh, the protesters were very, very great, but there does seem to be this need to anoint, and to cast issues in black and white. History, as far as second level at least, does have a problem with praising someone, but also stressing their calculation, their desires. The War protests were, in part, done out of a moral objection … but also by people who didn’t want to be called up. The civil rights protests were also, in part, done out of moral objection, … but also by people who saw real, tangible objectives and practical methods to get them.

Rosa Parkes, for example. By the end of second-level education, the primary impression will be that of a saintly, tested figure who, one day, tired, simply chose not to give her seat. It isn’t until third level education, at least for me, that the picture of the tactical brilliance and measured assault of this move upon segregation, with the orchestration and backing of the civil rights movement, and multiple persons of action doing it, emerges. Hitting buses, which would have been economically wasteful to fully segregate, and so tax-wasteful … and then applying that to schools, hospitals, etc, was a stroke of genius. Simplified histories insert naturalism and instinct over even-more-impressive decision and strategy.

And they never were clear cut, and they never will be. When we exist in the societies they helped to create, they are, but they weren’t clear cut at the time. They were disruptive, and loud, and reaching for impossible or unspecified things. And even those that admitted the moral veracity of the issue would have to admit that the social turmoil generated over the decades of change -change still going on- had heavy costs – costs which were immeasurably outweighed by the gains, but costs which, when measured against gains which were at the time thought impossible, seemed all too costly to consider.

This is the part, usually, where I’d reference Dr Who – Day Of the Moon, lets say, where Canton has an African-American significant other, which in 1969, by virtue of saving the world from alien rulers, he’d get to marry – if that significant was not also male. And even in 2011, could he really get that right? Even now? In every state? But no. Lets engage with of the extant, popular critical discourse on this.

There is thing that a video review series called Feminist Frequency -check them out on youtube- said when talking on Sucker Punch (and remember this, it’ll be coming up next week); that Sucker Punch is constructed, textually, in a world which is a feminist utopia, and feminism is a concept of past struggles. This opposed to the very real, very necessary, very outnumbered movement, constantly required to even halt the political, cultural, employment, ideological, social and medium chauvanism, never mind actually reach parity, that Feminist Frequency, and I, know that it actually is. How I feel this statement actually relates to Sucker Punch is complicated. How I feel this relates to general society is actually pretty straightforward (because I’m really that bass-ackwards, but you knew that already).

Protests regarding racism, sexism, classism, etc aren’t over, and we can only deal with each generation. And when it is this serious, dismissing it isn’t dealing with it. The movement has no one voice, no one message, no one suggestion? Problems, yes; but if they did, we’d accuse one voice, one message, one idea hijacking the protest representing a whole world of affected persons. The disorganised nature of the protest has them actually ignoring speeches from respected individuals who have long, long campaigned for social change? Big problem. But, given how previous organised protests have been criticised for spending millions to fly in celebrities, wouldn’t we have criticised them here too?

Why is the use of the internet to orchestrate the Spring Revolutions praised, but received with suspicion in the western world? Why are people praised for standing for democracy in countries where it is shaky, but treated with a veneer of distaste when they stand up for it countries where it is strong, though not always strong? Problems elsewhere are bigger, but they are no less real.

Protests, (much the mohawk-sporting grunge fan, which, for all that the original fans are parents and grandparents by now, has been part of every fictional street gang of more than 3 people since 1981) are always going to be perceived as disruptive. And, beyond that realisation … I have no real problem with how they have been received. Specific cases of violence are worrying, but I live nowhere near where any of the protests are being held, and have no idea what the provocations or situations to these instances are. There hasn’t been any massacres, any tanks rolling over people or gunned down crowds. The response hasn’t been perfect, but it hasn’t been horrific, either.

And that is it. This isn’t coming up again, I’m sure everything I’ve just said has been said -and rebutted, eloquently- elsewhere, and I really just needed to get this out of my brain and focus on what I’m good at – over analysing why the cartoon cat hits the cartoon mouse with a mallet. And that is 1555 words.


A few small matters:

November 10, 2011

1: The idea that Stephen Moffat is sexist;

Okay, so this keeps turning up everytime I google Stephen Moffat’s name, so I’ll deal with my frustration with it. A quote keeps swinging about:

“There’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. That’s the truth. We don’t, as little boys, play at being married – we try to avoid it for as long as possible. Meanwhile women are out there hunting for husbands.”

“The world is vastly counted in favour of men at every level – except if you live in a civilised country and you’re sort of educated and middle-class, because then you’re almost certainly junior in your relationship and in a state of permanent, crippled apology. Your preferences are routinely mocked. There’s a huge, unfortunate lack of respect for anything male.”

This appears to be the central thesis to any blog post which perceives Moffat as sexist. Moffat refutes this statement, by saying the quote was taken out of context in an interview with a newspaper called The Scotsman, and that he was actually speaking about the point of view of Patrick from Coupling. Having seen Coupling, this quote seems to be spot on for Patrick’s voice. Some blogs proceed to take Coupling as a whole as evidence of sexism, some don’t mention Coupling at all.

This usually sets the lens the blog perceives the Moffat episodes in the Davies era and the Moffat through. And, of course, this usually ends with a bat being taken to Amy Pond’s and River Song’s characters.

Three things:
1) As previous blogs made clear, I myself have had serious reservations about elements of Amy’s and River’s characters, having gone back and forth on their roles and deliberating what they mean, representations of gender being part of those deliberations.
2) As previous blogs have made clear I still have issues with some of the finer points of River Song – but, also, given that her story, quite literally, is not over, I can wait to see what happens and where the character is taken.
3) As the last Who blog made clear, Amy is one of my favourite sci fi protagonists of all time. So I have given this some little thought.

The arguments of accusation fall into a few patterns:
1) Prior companions were depicted as more capable than Amy.
2) Amy’s sexuality is an inditement on female sexuality (the details are diverse on the particulars in each individual blog, owing to personal taste).
3) Amy’s interactions with the Doctor and Rory are similarly a criticism of women.

So, I’m not linking to any of these blogs. I’m not starting any fights, I’m not looking to be told I’m in the right, and I’m not angry at anyone. I really just want to say my piece without being anymore bitter-sounding than this blog is starting to come off already.

1) The argument goes that Amy, compared to Time Vortex Rose, Walk-the-Earth Martha and Doctor-Donna, got the lame ending of remembering the Doctor back into being after he’d saved the universe.

I disagree. Firstly, because, by that register, they were all ‘weak’: Rose gets someone to pull open a hatch and blanks out until kissed better, (or gets rescued, and shut in another universe, if you want to use that one) Martha told a story as she had been told to, and Donna got to be the Doctor for ten minutes. And this is the bit where I cut down the former companions to make mine seem taller. Except, no. Those are all highly simplified versions of what they do, and neglect one fact: This is Doctor Who.

This is the show where the smart, strange, wonderful way around a problem is key, and where blowing up the enemy in the millions in a flashy, celebratory manner is seen as a tragedy and where an episode where everbody lives – even the villains – is seen as a rousing success. By the above register, the Doctor kisses someone, pulls a lever, goes from Gollum to Tinkerbell, gets a hand from himself, gives the universe gene therapy and wears a Doctor suit.

Secondly; Yes Amy remembers the Doctor. That is the happy ending. Her achievement? She remembers back into existence several people she has never met, including her own parents. That is Amy’s triumph. And the others had those too. Whether it was Rose fighting for her dead Dad one season or finding his alternate-universe equivalent, or Martha’s struggle reuniting her parents and opening her heart to a nice young doctor, or Donna gaining her mother’s respect and her own respect too, they all had something that made us say: their lives, while losing much, have gained much also during their time with the Doctor.

It gave them lives outside the blue box, and made their leaving it seem a lot less like the alternate cut of Scott Pilgrim where Ramona goes off on her own to a midnight-backed door and more like the actual cut where she and Scott go off into a door backed by sunrise.

Amy was only special because of the crack in the wall? Fine – then Rose was only special because of the Time Vortex. Amy’s only job was to remember the Doctor? Fine – then Martha’s only job was to tell other people about him. Amy was only special because some aliens had a plan to kill the Doctor? Fine – then Donna was only special because an alien had a plan to destroy the Daleks.

This is Doctor Who – the show about a nameless two-hearted alien who single-handedly flies a timeship designed for six pilots and stuck as a 1960s police box. The Doctor, who will kill but sees as a gross failure to have to do so, who won’t carry a gun and, for all intents and purposes, has a magic wand and all-purpose badge. The good ship TARDIS flies on context, and all things must put in this context. If anything, arguing this only makes me realise what a marvellous follow-through there has between actors, between show runners, between writers on the ethic of this show: Killing means we’ve failed.

Besides – Amy actually got to keep her ‘remembering’ for the second season finale.

2) So: Amy’s sexuality as inditement. As stated above, the exactitudes of these arguments cover a spectrum of Amy as nymphomaniac cheater to Amy as being rebuked into a stereotypical marriage role. So I’ll just state the case as I see it.

Sexuality-wise, Amy is distinct. They all were. Rose was our first – and the first to fall in love with the Doctor. Martha was the first to fall in love with the Doctor and get over it. Donna was the first, for which I instantly loved her forever for, to skip loving the Doctor entirely and fell in love the vast universe he was offering, apart from him, and became his friend. Amy was therefore the first to fall in love with the Doctor, get over it, and then become his friend.

And it was a sexual desire in its time. The kiss Rose-Nine shippers had waited to see was a life-saving, life-ending medical procedure, and Rose-Ten shippers, for all the tension on screen, got to see little ugly-bumping. Amy? From watching the Doctor undress to kissing him after the Angels two-parter, and being very, very clear about wanting to go further was pretty shocking by comparison.

And make no mistake; at the time I hated it. Oh yes. I was a Rory-Williams fanboy through and through and I utterly dispised the idea that he was going to go down the tubes like Mickey Smith – the inadequate boyfriend playing a minor role in the first episode, getting shelved, getting undermined in later episodes, then getting a nice, impressive moment before going to an alternate universe, allowed to be a success, so long as it was offscreen.

Hell yes I wanted Rory to last, and I wanted him in the TARDIS, a male companion who wasn’t punished by being left behind, or shelved, or ditched by the TARDIS to get his own spin off. I will always support the main companion being female, and not just out of some fanservice need, but because the show has always been about this one guy being the most marvellously intelligent being in the universe.

However, I wanted a male Companion because, quite frankly, I find it very hard to put myself in the role of a wonderous alien. I have, do, and always will put myself in the role of the female Companion, but I also really wanted to see a guy be … good enough to fly with the Doctor for a prolonged period.

And … I got what I wanted. Everything I wanted. I worried during Vampires in Venice, while finding yet more to love in the Rory character, and the Amy character, and the Doctor character. There were still questions, but there was a hope of answers. And then Amy’s Choice answered a helluva a lot of them.

And then the Silurian two-parter broke our hearts – but it wasn’t Mickey in another universe. Rory’s loss was a tragedy, his return was going to happen. And though there were parallels – they both returned at the end of the first part of the two-parter finale, with a weapons upgrade and a badass backstory. And then the comparison ended. Rory was here to stay.

I had a jab of frustration at the snogging in the shrubbery … and then all that was over. And Amy’s story made a lot more sense given what, on some level, she knew happened to her parents. And she made mistakes. She was a flawed human being – like the others were, with Rose ditching her boyfriend and derailing time for her dad and ditching her family for the Doctor, or Martha getting hopelessly hung up on the Doctor or getting her family drawn into a year of hell. Yes, these are also all the preludes to the greatest triumphs of the characters that I mentioned above. Were they greater triumphs for the growth? Yes.

So yes, Amy was flawed. And she grew past those flaws. She wasn’t forced to by other persons, she was prompted by events throwing her relationship with the Doctor and with Rory.

Also, yes Amy was married and pregnant on the TARDIS. I disagree that this means she was being forced into gender roles. Instead, I think that Amy wasn’t shuffled off stage left when she made another step in her life.

So I would disagree with inditement idea. Related to this is …

3) So, the sexism argument puts forward the idea that, in her relationshps, Rory is the whipped husband and the Doctor is the morally pure superior to Amy.

First off, I think we should address the differences between this and previous seasons in terms of physicality. Yes, the Davies era Doctors never had to deal with that degree of physicality – and the one kiss was courtesy of Madame du Pompadour, via Moffat. And, given that Davies, in Torchwood, seems to be more than fine with the onscreen physical act of love, it can’t be that.

I don’t think, as has been put forward by some, that Davies thought physical romance was inappropriate for Dr Who’s timeslot and audience. Has this season been inappropriate – Some kissing, a nod to where babies come from, seems in keeping.

Instead, I think that the writers simply couldn’t have a hook up with a Companion, and if we even saw the slightest relenting in that rule, the assumption would be that there were Companion-Doctor sexy-shenanigans going on between every episode. My feelings on that rule are a blog for another day.

My idea right now is that, as I have stated before, Eleven has been by far the most alien of Doctors – the only time so separated from sexy-shenanigans that any physical attempt to change, rather than the tension of ‘I love you Rose Tyler’, instead was alien, impossible, and mildly hilarious. He was at such a remove, had such a grandfatherly air to Amelia -when he wasn’t being a kid- that it wasn’t even on the cards.

As for Rory, it was the first time we got to meet the Companion’s post-Doctor relationship; rather than as a Doctor clone, or an offscreen broken-off engagement, or a man glimpsed through a cafe window, Rory was here with us, was one of us. Having his journey with the Doctor start after hers actually gave him time and space to have his own reactions, form his own opinions, rather than his and Amy’s being lumped together by joining together.

And it was actually nice to see that, once Rory understood why Amy travelled with the Doctor, that apart from the whole jealousy thing, he was guy comfortable with his fiancee taking the lead, just so long as they were partners on that path. And then that steadfastness was turned up to eleven with a near 2000 year wait (one made off the back of a mistake of his own -killing Amy- and one which he too grew from) and we saw how the girl who waited and the boy who waited were made for each other.

I like Rory, becoming more his fanboy with every appearance, because he says what I hope would say, from suggesting they leave when things clearly turn evil, to just working from a place of empathy. Nobody has to be anybody else’s damsel, or anyone else’s bitch.

I’ve gone on, at length, about how I think the Doctor can be more alien because of two Companions, and how I appreciate the change of pace. I like Moffat’s style and ethic and so on. I do not think that his take on Doctor Who is sexist.

Could he be sexist himself? Totally could. What he creates could have no bearing on who he is or what he thinks. It would be odd that he apparently had such a giant lapse and no break outs in any other coverage anywhere else. But not impossible. That I can accept. I can enjoy the works of Chaplin or Presley and be horrified by the ages of their wives separately.

And as for River Song, the jury really is still out on her, and her story really isn’t over. I hope Amy isn’t over entirely, and I’d love her to be back next season, but I also can see that this a natural place to end her story as a regular companion. By contrast, River Song still has a great big arc to finish yet, in whatever capacity she re-appears in, and how that finishes is going to be the test of the character. But Doctor Who isn’t sexist and Amelia Jessica Pond isn’t a sexist character.

2: If not, then what?
Why would such a piece be edited to imply sexism? It could be entirely accurate. Or it could be part of a phenomeneon regarding any media coverage of literature – an injection of drama. I have been so frustrated to see stories about Terry Pratchett ‘hating’ Harry Potter, or hating Doctor Who, and so on. Briefly after the media had decided that Harry Potter gotten children to read books again (whereas, in fact, it had changed how children’s books were marketed, but anyway) it seemed to have been decided that, lacking any C-list celebrities of the book world to go on Big Brother or have a public meltdown, interviews would be topped with headlines of someone hating something.

This type of over-exaggeration happens to perfectly innocent tv and film celebrities too – Catherine Tate saying she was shy to look David Schwimmer in the eye while doing a play together became her not be able to look him in the face with HATE, while the article on Sienna Miller being disgusted at having to kiss Charlie Cox in Stardust came from the one day the reporter was on set and seeing a scene where the disgust was part of the scene.

I just hate when it happens to writers because they have such a limited forum to rebut in – and with most doing most interviews in text rather than video format, what they say is very malleable. And then comes a Stephen King / Stephenie Meyer hoo-haa every once in a while, which is way too big for me even to touch but makes everyone look bad. And while I could quip about some interviewers writing more fiction than the writers they’re interviewing, its just … sad that they need to do this.

3: Finally, I’m pretty much in love with the Inspector Spacetime meme and totally intend to watch Community now, for realsies.

Yes I’m aware that IS came from 30 seconds of video, and only recurs as a Halloween costume later, but I like what it says about the writers that a magnificent, incisive and well-produced parody of Doctor Who would be done for a thirty second joke, and I like what it says about the fans that they’d devise a whole universe called the Inspectrum, mirroring the minutiae of Who-lore, down a punny-name alternate version of every companion and the actors who played them down to present day … then straightfacedly imply the Tenth Inspector’s Rory Williams, oddly reminiscent of Donna Noble, was played by the same actor as the Eleventh Doctor’s RW, who wasn’t happy how the character turned out and went to play it again on the IS knockoff on the BBC.

They seem to be my kind of people. As does Abed for that matter, from what I hear about him.

EDIT: And they did a Downton Abbey parody!


‘I Kill Monsters’ Kills Me

November 2, 2011

Check out ikillmonsters.ca – a very awesome webseries long in the making and just started airing for hallowe’en. A full review on the way, pending a few more episodes, but seriously, fun stuff!