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I don’t cosplay. I got to conventions, but I never dress is costume. I wear t-shirts to show my particular nerd affiliations, and though I’ve considered cosplaying a few times, I’ve never gone through with it. A lot of that is self-esteem; I don’t want to be The Fat Question or The Fat Doctor (or whatever). While I know that a lot of people are accepting of all body types, a lot aren’t, and that’s a personal roadblock I very rarely make it past. I’m barely used to being The Fat Me, you know?
This year I’m working in a corporate office environment, and it was suggested that we dress up for Halloween. I thought about it and decided on a costume that closely resembles my normal work clothes, so that if other people didn’t dress up, I could quickly transition to “regular”. It was easy. I had all the components already. It would be simple and immediately recognizable.
Today I am Clark Kent.
This would be drag if I were a different female-bodied person, but I’m me. Nonetheless, despite wearing clothes that are made for men (they are not men’s clothes, they are my clothes) to work every day, I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a tie here (I’m wearing a red one, thrown over my shoulder). I’m not sure how well it would go over if I had a picture of a girlfriend on my desk (I printed out a picture of Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane to decorate my cube). I wouldn’t be able to pass in the world as a masculine person without there being a lot of… I’m not sure what the word is. Raised eyebrows, judgment, real and perceived. These are things I feel every day.
But today I am Superman.
There’s a lot of power in being someone else. And Superman… he’s something special. Today I’m something special, and I walk around as a female-as-a-man and with my stomach pressing against my buttons and I get complimented for how I look. I don’t know what that might mean to someone else, but to me it’s a lot like the way flying is described in comics. It’s a lot like being free.
Switching up my domain from prolesbian.com to angrybut.com. So if you came here via the former, update your info to the latter. If that makes sense, which it may not. The old domain will continue to point here until January 2014.
Anyway, expect more content along with the name change, as well as a new design and maybe even a fancy logo. Fancy!
Originally posted on my old blog, March 16, 2010. I’m republishing it because it seems pretty relevant with the CW announcing a Barry Allen Flash TV series, and Marvel putting out a slew of None of These Are Captain Marvel superhero movies in round two. Obviously some info has changed; it’s been three years. I also took out the broken image links. Otherwise it’s all the same.
You can find the original here: http://retconningmybrain.blogspot.com/2010/03/women-dont-sell-unless-theyre-in.html
At the recent Gallifrey One convention in LA, I went to this panel about transforming comics into other media. There was an interesting mix of creators there (6 men and 1 woman), and some guy who sat on the end and basically spent his introduction time telling us about upcoming comic movies we can go pay to see.
One of them was Ant-Man.I was in the second row and had my hand up pretty much right away, to ask about the total lack of superhero women in comic movies, considering some of the awesome women flying around comics right now (Batwoman, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Woman, just to name a few). I said something about how even Wonder Woman has name recognition that they can play off of. Javier Grillo-Marxuach says she wears a bathing suit. Someone said Black Widow, who as far as we know so far is the coquettish yet deadly/sexy sidekick to Tony in the next Iron Man. My frown was probably fairly evident, and eventually Paul Cornell interrupted his way into the “heh heh Lynda Carter bathing suit puberty” tangent to actually talk about my question.
A little later on in the panel, someone asked why, with the success of the recent Wonder Woman animated film, a live-action WW movie seems so far-fetched. Marv Wolfman answered that the return wouldn’t be worth the investment.
Javier Grillo-Marxuach made another joke about Wonder Woman’s bathing suit.
Marv Wolfman did a “no, but seriously, not enough interest to generate return,” and nobody but me yelled out “Ant-Man?”
That’s right, Hank Pym. Super scientist. That shrinks. Really really small.
Oh, and he beats his wife.
But it’s okay, ’cause she’s dead now and he took up her superhero name.
Well, at least he didn’t kill her himself. There’s… that.
How many non-comic fans have heard of Ant-Man? How many people think an Incredible Shrinking Superhero movie sounds fun? How about a Dude that Dresses Like a Bug movie? Sure, Spider-Man dresses like an arachnid, but he’s also Spider-Man. He’s also smarter and less of a tool.
The scientist who has a break down from stress and hits his wife. But it’s okay. They make up. And then swap mildly-disturbing sex escapades.
Maybe Ryan Reynolds could play him. That’s about the only way I could become less interested in a movie about Hank Pym.
Listen, I’m all for obscure, semi-obscure and quasi-obscure comic characters getting their due. But, I don’t know, maybe we could, like. Have one of those be a woman? Most women in comics are obscure anyway, and all the best ones (Kate Spencer, Renee Montoya, Jessica Jones-Cage) would probably make even some comic fans stop, check out google, and then get back to you.
The deal is that studios want to sell tickets. So then, there shouldn’t be any obscure characters having movies made about them. But if there are going to be, let’s let some non-wife-beating-self-pitying characters shine, yeah? Maybe?
Hey, maybe Kathryn Bigelow can direct. She does action movies. And women go to see them. Shocking, yet true.
Republishing my letter to Marvel in the wake of Fearless Defenders #6. It’s also in my weekly review of what I’m reading, but this has it without all the other comic write-ups.
There will be spoilers for the ending of Bioshock: Infinite here, as well as some discussion of several main plot points. Head’s up.
There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Parallels”, which involves the character of Worf getting pushed from universe to universe, each one a bit different from the last. At the climax of the episode, multiple Enterprises from the infinite realities start to converge, leading to a really visually cool scene with hundreds of Enterprises filling space.
The episode aired almost twenty years ago, and even though it wasn’t my first brush with the idea of multiple universes (I’d seen “Mirror, Mirror”, an episode of the original Star Trek by then, and read plenty of comic books with their alternate Earths and futures) it was the first time a parallel universe story stuck with me like that. It is, as I said on twitter, the parallel universe story by which I judge all parallel universe stories.
I have a particular attachment to these stories, because I like the idea that even if my choices don’t work out, in another universe another me is living the life I wish I could have. It’s a little bit of quantum comfort.
This is all to say that the ending of Bioshock: Infinite was just another parallel universe story. I liked it because I like stories of infinite realities, and because I like the specific ways it related to the first Bioshock game, but I wish it had been attached at the end of another story. I wish I had reached the end a different way.
As soon as I saw the lighthouse in the beginning I was, as I imagine I was supposed to be, reminded of the first Bioshock. I liked that this time I went up instead of down. I liked the visual call backs, and so when we hit the Scene of Infinite Lighthouses at the end, I really enjoyed what the story was telling me, even if it didn’t really make a ton of sense (to quote myself on twitter: “a little consistency with your quantum theory, please, Elizabeth”).
It was pretty, grasping at these grand ideas, reaching for the infinite and falling short. I struggled to like it, and I didn’t succeed, because I had to trudge through pointless, mishandled racism and sexism to get there. Not to mention frustrating game mechanics and controls.
I wanted to like Infinite because I liked the original Bioshock, and because I like the idea of games conveying the same messages I’ve been getting from books, comics, and movies for years. I want to see games evolve, and I think they have. But not this one.
To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have been so critical of it if it hadn’t been held up as a shining beacon of where games can go, filled with deep and meaningful conversation-starters about race, and a female AI who broke new ground. I don’t know what game those reviewers were playing, but it wasn’t the same one I did.
Right around the point that Elizabeth, this female AI who I’d already rescued once or twice beyond the initial rescue to get the plot going, changed from her schoolgirlish, sailor outfit into her dead mother’s corseted dress – after she had just murdered (or, as a load screen told me later, “put down”) the uppity black woman who had lead the rebellion - I started to wonder what the hell was happening. I was already halfway through the game.
This was also, maybe coincidentally, the point where any discussion of race was basically abandoned in favor of uncovering the big mystery of the tears and Comstock. The hurtful, harmful racial caricatures which had been paraded around to prove how bad Columbia was were washed away with a single line.
“Daisy Fitzroy and Comstock were two sides of the same coin.”
Nope. No they weren’t. I’m not really sure how you can argue the point that all violence is the same, when one sort of violence is a revolutionary response to systematic and brutal oppression and one is the systematic and brutal oppression. Sure, violence is bad. But not all violence is the same. What a childish, naive viewpoint.
Meanwhile, in a city so mired in the oppression of racial minorities, women fought as soldiers. With guns. This was never explained, it just was. So while we’re told that 1912 Columbia was created to reflect the real 1912 America, 8 years before women even received the right to vote, one hundred years before they were allowed to engage in combat roles, Columbia has women as ground fighters.
If you want to wave that away as fantasy, fine. But it makes it all the more disturbing that the creators of this game thought it was totally okay to use racism to tell their story (sort of kind of not really anyway) but ignore, and in fact fictionally alter, the sexism that existed at the same time. I mean. Why?
Anyway, the final time that Elizabeth needed to be rescued, which was the third or fourth time in the game, she’d been stripped of her jacket and had needles inserted into her body. Large needles. Luckily, I was there to untie her from her restraints and… tie her into her corset.
Press X to corset.
There were four main women in this game. Elizabeth, who mechanically served about the same purpose as my dog in the Fable games; Daisy Fitzroy, the uppity black woman who was put down like a dog after her inexplicable decision to attempt to murder a white child; Lady Comstock, who was so obsessed with birth and so unable to love a child “not of her womb” that she became a shrieking, howling wraith, and Rosalind Lutece. I think I could write a whole thing on Rosalind Lutece, who was, is, and will be both female and male, both Rosalind and Robert.
So race fail, gender fail. This doesn’t even get into the boring fights, the underutilized skyhooks, the pointlessness of the vapors and their combos. Maybe I expected too much from it; all the reviews practically wet themselves in joy over its perfection. In another world, I suppose Bioshock: Infinite was the game I wish it could have been.
Cold quantum comfort.
It’s a pretty historic time here in the United States. The Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases tied to one of the most divisive civil rights issues in the past thirty years, same sex marriage. I am personally against the idea of the government codifying any sort of relationship, as it tends to invalidate other types of relationships and kind of messes with the separation of Church and State, but if some citizens get to do it then I think all citizens should get to do it. I also think it’s a federal right, because it’s pretty stupid that you can be married until you go on vacation in another state.
There are some really important implications attached to marriage equality, including parental rights, tax benefits, estate access, bankruptcy protections, immigration rights, healthcare coverage, and a whole list of other stuff. There are real people who are continually affected every day because their access to marriage is non-existent.
Then there’s this guy. I have seen this picture in a lot of places (this view/version came from tumblr) in news stories about the protests that are happening outside of the Supreme Court building.
This kinda bugs me.
First off, Dumbledore is one of the most queerbaity moments in literary history (or not, I don’t know, TV and movies are more my wheelhouse, but I remember being pretty pissed when he was Southerlyned). This character exists for hundreds of pages and then we’re told he’s gay after he’s already dead. Uh, spoilers. But don’t worry, he’s not Luke Skywalker’s father. I guess for people who read the series already knowing that, or on rereads, it can be sort of empowering? Maybe? I mostly find it annoying, because there’s no real reason you can’t put an alive gay person into your fantasy book that’s already the best selling book since the Bible or something, and there’s no real reason you can’t be clear about his sexuality instead of vaguely referring to it in the text and then solidifying it in interviews.
And there’s no real reason that we should consider that a positive portrayal of a queer character in literature and yet we do.
Second off, and more importantly, Dumbledore doesn’t have any rights because he’s not real. Even if he were real, which he is not, he would be a citizen of the United Kingdom and this marriage decision would have absolutely nothing to do with him. Also he’s a wizard, so I don’t even know how that plays into the whole thing. Maybe he’s not even a citizen of the United Kingdom, because wizards aren’t really citizens, and maybe they have their own rules on marriage, which we wouldn’t know because JK Rowling never wrote about them because JK Rowling makes the laws of the wizarding world, not the Supreme Court of the United States.
Listen, I think I get what they’re trying to do with these things. I say things because Dumbledore isn’t alone in his signage; there are plenty of fictional, mostly white male, characters being held up as people who need marriage rights, mostly by white females. I’ve seen the pictures. Pop culture sort of rules us right now, and I’m certainly glad on some level for the fact that these fans engage in some kind of activism. But. Could you imagine a (probably white) protester at a civil rights rally in the 60s holding up a sign of John Prentice and asking Congress to protect his rights?
These people mean well, which is great. They’re on the side of equality, yay! I certainly don’t think some dude holding up a Dumbledore’s Rights sign, or some girl with Kurt & Blaine from Glee (not even together now!) on her poster board are the worst opponents to marriage equality. They’re not opponents at all. It just doesn’t sit well with me, because I’m a real person with real rights and I want them dealt with for real because you think I’m a real human being. Not because your kid loves Dumbledore or your think those two guys on Modern Family are adorable. If that gets people to think about the issues, I’m glad. B ut don’t lose the real voices in the fictional shuffle, don’t give our agency to people who don’t even exist. Don’t forget whose rights we’re really talking about here. For real.
Oh, Once Upon a Time. About a year ago, I gave up on the show because of the “lack of racial and sexual diversity.” Then I gave it another shot. I really enjoyed the first half of the season, actually. But this isn’t really about Once Upon a Time, it’s about the magical invisible queer character that people keep telling us counts just as much as any other character.
So why mention Once? Well, here’s why:
Adam Horowitz is a writer and producer of the show, and I have to give him a lot of credit for interacting with fans who can often be pretty, uh, passionate. And by passionate, I mean that some of the things I’ve seen said by Once fans have been downright awful. Not all of the fans are like that, of course, but I’m saying respect where it’s due to Horowitz.
What I’m concerned with is his dismissive answer to “[n]obody on your show is queer”:
“How do you know?”
Here’s how I know.
Television is a visual medium. Subtext is great and all, and it’s definitely fun to be a shipper and talk about long looks and subtle touches, but if we don’t see it or if it’s not said on screen, it’s not part of the canon. Hell, sometimes we see it on screen and we’re not entirely sure it’s canon unless it’s mentioned, because we live in a heterocentric society. Example: Babylon 5. Susan Ivanova and Talia Winters were very long-looky and subtle-touchy, and Talia even spent the night in Ivanova’s quarters, but it wasn’t until a year later that their relationship was actually mentioned on screen. Talia had already been written off the show. Here, have a fansite that discusses the development of that relationship: click.
Granted, it totally sucks that you have to explicitly show or state that a character is queer. Them’s the breaks, friend. Because we live in a heterocentric society, where the first assumption is that a person is straight, because that’s the norm. If you put ten characters on a TV screen, people will think all ten are straight, despite the fact that it’s statistically likely that one or two of them are queer. And when you make seven out of ten of those characters have heterosexual relationship dramas, it just adds more heterosexual context for viewers.
There’s a reason that subtexters and shippers and whatever else we’re called exist. There’s a reason that we talk about queer coding. We have to recognize and interpret codes in order to see queerness in characters because everyone is always straight all the time. There is a reason that coming out is still an important process, one that announces our identity to a world that assumes we are something we are not. That is the world we live in. Ignoring it or saying it shouldn’t be that way does not actually help queer visibility.
As an aside, the Dumbledoring (I prefer the term Southerlyning, but I can go either way), of a character does not actually help queer visibility either. What I mean is that telling us, the viewer/reader, that a character is gay after he or she is no longer even involved as an active participant in the canon, is a cheap trick to show support of diversity.
You know what helps queer visibility? Visible queer characters help queer visibility.
Asking someone how they know a character isn’t queer shifts the burden onto the wrong party. It shouldn’t be the viewer’s responsibility to interpret characters traits in order to find diversity. You wouldn’t ask someone how they know whether a character is good at math, would you? And what if they say, “yeah, Bob is good at math because he has a calculator with him a lot” and six months later your show tells us Bob is terrible at math? This happens all the time, because it’s not the viewers who create the stories and the characters. It’s the writers. We get Jossed, you do the Jossing.
And when I talk about responsibility, I don’t necessarily mean that the writers of Once Upon a Time - or any show - are required to have queer characters. Of course not. Just don’t pretend you’re anything that you’re not (modern, diverse) and don’t shift the blame to the viewer.
It’s hard to see something that’s invisible. The invisible queer, whose favorite pastime is queerbaiting, shouldn’t really be an acceptable answer to anyone asking you where your queer characters are.
Long story short (too late), how do I know that there isn’t a queer character on Once Upon a Time? That’s easy. Because there isn’t.