I’ve been enjoying the new Supergirl series much more than I expected. There are a few places where it’s overdone, but that’s to be expected in any show while it’s still finding its legs. One of the things that I love is the costume: It actually looks like it can stand up to intense battles with robots or aliens and the stresses of high-speed flight. The fact that the costumes no longer look incredibly silly on screen is a big part of why the modern crop of superhero media can actually be taken seriously.
I have to admit, at first the little red squares on people’s Facebook profiles made me cringe. There were two reasons: first, this sort of thing has always triggered my most cynical side. Even in the 1990s, when people started wearing red ribbons to express solidarity with HIV/AIDS patients, I had really complicated, ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, it was a definite improvement over the dominant attitudes of the 1980s, which ranged between malign neglect and homicidal scapegoating. But on the other, the red ribbons seemed to quickly become more of a fashion accessory than an active political statement. Sometimes they seemed to be more about the person wearing them than the people who were at risk. It was even worse when Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” bracelets hit the scene. Imitators hit the scene before everyone had completely absorbed the idea of the originals. Even more than the red ribbons, they came to represent marketing more than social justice.
I have more examples of that sort of thing than I care to think. Every other day, it seems like we’re being asked to tweet a hashtag, recolor our avatars, or buy a special product to show what good people we are. We do it, and nothing changes, because we’re not really doing anything. [Read more…]
For my most recent piece at the SF Weekly, I wrote about the controversy that’s been boiling up around a new Tumblr Blog, The Hawkeye Initiative. In a way, it’s a blog that I’d like to applaud. It’s based on a very real and serious criticism of superhero comics for depicting female bodies in really weird, oversexualized, and distorted ways. The most famous example is the “boobs and butt” pose, which has become ubiquitous in superhero comics. A few examples of female characters contorting their spines in order to give the viewer tits and ass are seen below:
The Hawkeye Initiative has tried to critique this over-the-top aesthetic by having fans submit redrawn versions of comic book art that substitutes the Marvel character Hawkeye for female characters, in the hopes that it would make the absurdity of the poses more visible to people who take the boobs and butt approach for granted. And at first, there was a lot of positive response. The Hawkeye Initiative became the meme of the month for December of 2012, with media coverage from Wired, Geeks Are Sexy, Bleeding Cool, and i09, among others. But there’s also been an increasing amount of criticism on grounds that Hawkeye Initiative is using the very old trope of mocking effeminate men to make its point.
Transfeminist blogger Natalie Reed has been a very vocal critic of the Hawkeye Initiative. She was one of the first people I interviewed for the SF Weekly piece, and in fact, her thoughts make up the bulk of the quoted material in there, along with the ever-fabulous Kitty Stryker. One of the most painful parts about writing the article was figuring out just what I could cut and what to leave. She has a lot to say, and says it very well, and with her permission, I’m posting the full text of the interview here. There’s a lot to think on here; not only about gender and how we perceive it, but also about how to build and maintain truly intersectional analyses, instead of fighting one evil by building up another.
Chris Hall: First of all, could you summarize for me your criticisms of the Hawkeye Initiative?
Natalie Reed: So, my main concern with the Hawkeye Initiative, and related strategies of critiquing the representation of women in comics by placing men as substitutions in the poses, costumes or anatomy of female characters, boils down to how much of this strategy is based in the basic idea of “But it would be ridiculous if Hawkeye / Batman / Iron Man / Captain America were placed in this pose”, which is the suggestion that a male character being placed in the same pose/costume/anatomic-style will be perceived as more ridiculous than the female character, or make the ridiculousness more obvious while obviously the basic “point” here is to expose the ridiculous, impractical or anatomically impossible nature of the way female characters are represented, that point ends up falling over pretty heavily into transphobia and femmephobia by imagining these representations become more ridiculous by placing men in them. Frequently, in the Hawkeye Initiative or similar strategies, you see things like word balloons saying “I’m so pretty!”, or caption jokes about “look at Tony Stark’s seductive face!”, wherein the humor and “ridiculousness” of the drawing comes not from the basic preposterousness of the female representation itself, but from the way our culture perceives it as innately or intrinsically ridiculous, funny, disgusting, absurd or frivolous for a man (or person whose body we perceive as male) to dress, behave, or perform in “feminine ways.” This idea that it’s somehow inherently comical, or ridiculous, for a man, (or someone so designated), to do “feminine” things is one of the cornerstones of both trans-misogyny and femmephobia (the idea that femininity is inherently more superficial, silly, ridiculous, weak, or impractical than masculinity). [Read more…]
When you think about it, doing Doctor Who as a police procedural is pretty obvious, if not downright inevitable. While I steer away from the various Law and Order/CSI clones on television faster than a cloud of tachyons, I’d actually watch this. The only problem is that to make it work, they’d have to make the science much more implausible than it is now. I can believe in a time-traveling phone booth that’s bigger on the inside much more easily than the routines where the CSI team solves the murder by getting a computer tech to “enhance” the reflection in a photograph of an eyeball. Yes, the Doctor might stretch the laws of physics and reason a little bit, but at least he’ll respect you in the morning.
On the one hand, we’ve been in desperate need of something like Amanda Palmer’s new song, “Map of Tasmania,” for a long time now. I’m old enough that I can remember when a woman shaving her pussy was seen as transgressive and edgy, but that stopped being true a couple years before people started to freak out about Y2K, and shaved pussy became something that women had to do. Nothing illustrated this better than the internet’s outpouring of shock and disgust last August when Sasha Grey flashed an unshaved bush on an episode of Entourage. If you still needed to have the point made for you, that should have done it: shaving the pussy is now the default, no longer something that women do for pleasure, but as a duty if they don’t want to be seen as gross and unkempt.
With all that in mind, I have to give an enormous thank you to Amanda Palmer: “Map of Tasmania” is a flamboyant, shameless ode to female pubic hair. It’s joyful, and sexy, and the video, which shows off some very creative merkins, is even better. We really need to get back to the idea that pubic hair isn’t gross and disgusting.
Without reservation, one of my great loves is the pulp fiction that was produced from about 1930 through the sixties. Actually, what I love is the art and cover designs, with their uninhibited exploitation of vice and guilt in gaudy colors and loud language. There’s just no more honest portrayal of the fears and desires of America at the time, either in the museums or the pulpits of the time, than those covers. I’m in love with this one, The Feminists, put up on the new Sci-Fi blog io9 by Lynn Peril. According to Lynn:
It’s the story of cubicle drone Keith Montalvo, who has been caught consensually slipping the pink torpedo to a female co-worker. Unfortunately, it’s 1992 and the Big-Sisterish “Committee” has outlawed all unauthorized heterosex, and his crime is punishable by death.
Keith flees underground, literally and figuratively, where he meets Angela, a boot-wearing resistance fighter hottie. Luckily for Keith, while women on the outside reject all males, Angela and other female members of the Subterraneans resistance movement are “attached to the men with arm-clinging closeness.” Soon he and Angela are working (arm-in-arm, of course) to assassinate the President, and reclaim gender supremacy for men.
Really, though, who needs a story when the cover is this glorious? I am enticed, however, by the comment by one Ginaromantica:
I own this book, and once performed an excerpt from it as a puppet show at a party. Pieces of toast on popsicle sticks played all the roles.
I’m in lust. Toast puppets.
Now playing: Tom Waits – Way Down In The Hole [Live]
For me, Dorothy Parker summed up everything that needs to be said about Ayn Rand’s tribute to greed, Atlas Shrugged:
“This is not a book that should be set aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
Atlas Shrugged is a fantasy of what Rand thought would happen if the “creative elite” (i.e., privileged industrialists, businessmen, etc.) abandoned the sissified, liberal proles and went off to form their own society in a canyon in Colorado. The media has been making a big deal over the 50th anniversary of its publication, and not without good reason — it’s been very influential in the intellectual development (such as it is) of the conservatives that run the Republican party nowadays. The message of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy is that the ultimate social virtue is selfishness, which weeds out the weak and allows the strong to rise to the top of society. In other words, it’s not just acceptable to fuck over your fellow human being; it’s a moral duty. Rand’s children have given us New Orleans and Iraq, two open petri dishes for the theory of eliminating governmental regulation and infrastructure in favor of the genius of private enterprise.
Now playing: Blondie – Hanging On The Telephone
After Ted Haggard, and now this guy, it’s starting to seem positively de rigeur for Christian homophobes to have a nice, dark closet that they can hide in. And why not? Have you seen the way these people raise their kids? I’m surprised that we didn’t find out that Haggard liked to get rimmed by billy goats while dressed as Ava Gardner and watching reruns of Green Acres or something equally inventive.
If you really, really want to make sure your kid turns out to be the city’s biggest perv, Kids in Ministry International has just the thing for you. For a mere $124.95, you can get their Blood of Jesus Visual Kit. What do you get for your money? Well…..
- Crown of Thorns
- One Crucifixion Nail
- Cat of Nine Tails Whip
- Tabernacle Felt Set
- Life-size Latex Heart Model
- Kids Discover Magazine on Blood
- Scarlet Cord with Tassels
- Cardboard Ark of the Covenant
- Cardboard Brazen Altar
- Instructions to Make High Priest Costume
- Instructions to Make a Temple Veil
- Chef’s cap for High Priest’s Crown
- Judge’s Gavel
- Simplicity Patterns for Bible costumes
With stuff like this, the parents should be happy if giving blowjobs for a nickel apiece in the back room of the Mine Shaft is the oddest thing their darling little angel winds up doing. I mean, I remember getting my first flogger, and it sure wasn’t a present from mom and dad.
The best thing, though, is the accessory they offer: The Sacrifice Lamb.
Adorable, isn’t he? The Sacrifice Lamb “stands 15″ tall so it is nearly life-size of a new-born lamb.” Even better, it’s made to fit perfectly on the altar that comes with the Visual Kit, so that your darlings can practice their Holy Butchering techniques. (I suppose it would be “too Jewish” for them to include something on proper Kosher slaughtering methods.)
Christianity: for when your kid absolutely, positively has to be a closet case by 16.
I seem to have missed this during the eighties, and boy am I glad. Back then, I wasn’t the healthy, well-adjusted fellow I am today. It looks to be at least as bad, if not worse, than the execrable Liberality for All, which stars Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, and Rush Limbaugh as superheroes fighting the evil goons commanded by President Chelsea Clinton. Although Hannity and crew are more naked in their love of authoritarianism than Reagan ever was, Reagan was a cartoon character from the beginning. That was his charm from the beginning; he painted the entire world in bright, four-color panels, and let Americans see themselves as the Justice League setting out to defeat Darkseid. The ineptness with which George W. has tried to weave the same narrative around Iraq just shows what a snow job it was from the beginning. Reagan, more than any other politician, did a dance just on the edge of self-parody with his B-movie metaphors and grandfatherly charm. Putting him into four-color panels leaves behind nothing but the ridiculousness.
Most interesting to me is the splash panel at the bottom, which portrays Stallone and Schwarzenegger in positions that, like Mel Gibson’s Christian snuff flick, in poses that combine Christlike sacrifice, homoeroticism, and sadomasochism.
“For God so loved the world that he sent Sylvester, Arnold, and the Gipper…”