Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Aren't You a Little Short for a Stormtrooper?"

I loved this Onion story about a female dictator taking power in East Timor being hailed as a step forward for women.

Discussing Dollhouse with Moira a couple nights ago, I got to thinking about the value of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as feminist fiction. Moira feels that subverting stereotypes is one of the most powerful things fiction can do. Which may be so, but I don't think it can be the focus of a work of fiction. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a movie that comes off as perfectly ridiculous to-day, as its makers took such pains to show there's nothing wrong with being black that they created an inhumanly perfect black man and an utterly moronic white woman--the movie's redeemed somewhat by performances by Poitier, Hepburn, and Tracy, but the young woman just about sinks it. The best way to subvert stereotypes, in my opinion, is to simply proceed knowing the false ones are false and come up with ideas that aren't controlled by them. The characters can be controlled by them, but the story shouldn't be.

But the reason I thought the Onion piece was so great was because I feel like lately there are a lot of people who see physically powerful and violent women in fiction as automatically being a step forward for women. I honestly think we're well past that. Girls who kick ass can be great fun to watch, but that doesn't mean it's flattering to women. I love the Kill Bill movies, but The Bride hacking to pieces the Crazy 88 isn't the great triumph of womanhood--it's id wish fulfilment, just as much as it was when young men got excited watching Bruce Willis taking down a terrorist group and saving a bunch of hostages by himself. These things have value as fantasy, but succeeding by violence is rarely how life works. It's porn.

And I don't think there's anything wrong with porn. But I get excited by fictional women who are the smartest people in the room without necessarily being the most physically powerful. That's one of the things I loved about Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen--and one of the reasons the film version was such a letdown--Mina, despite not having any of the physical power or skills of her male companions, is unquestionably best suited to lead them. Because she's able to think outside preconceived notions, she's not controlled by her emotions, and her ego doesn't cloud her judgement. That's empowering women. Hell, that empowers humanity.

It reminds me of one of the most depressing things about the Star Wars prequel trilogy (though I still maintain the third one's a good movie!)--Yoda, who had the great line about how "wars not make one great," is shown in those movies only to have value as an extremely powerful warrior. It is fun watching him hop around and kicking ass. But he lost something much more important in the process.

Return of the Jedi was hardly any better for what it did to Leia, who changed from a nuanced, sexually immature aristocrat in Empire Strikes Back into a sex toy action figure in the third movie. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker didn't seem superior to her in the second film--they all seemed young and awkward, and that was a great part of the fun and a major contributor to the tension in the movie. But in the third film, Han's barely a character, Luke's a saint, and Leia is a cool, stoic sex slave and a cool, stoic marine. Which is also fun, but in a less resonant way. She becomes porn. There's nothing wrong with porn, but there are better things in life.

I was looking at the 4chan message boards a couple weeks ago, which are generally filled with less than invigorating discussions between teenagers, but a lot of cool and funny pictures are posted there. In the cosplay section, someone had posted a girl at a convention dressed in Leia's slave clothes from Return of the Jedi photographed from an angle that made it clear she wasn't wearing underwear. The post was filled with replies from people complaining about what a skank the girl was for it. I loved how nearsighted these kids are--complaining about the lack of underwear on a girl dressed as a fetishised sex slave? Is that like arresting a cannibal for jaywalking?

I'm continually amazed at the inability of some women to grasp the fact that heterosexuals guys like seeing bare vagina. I suppose the idea is that guys can't respect women whose vaginas they see without much trouble. The way I see it, if a guy can't respect your vagina, that's his flaw, not yours.

I watched the sixth episode of Battlestar Galactica's third season last night. I like the stuff about Baltar with the Cylons, though I have to admit I found the diseased Cylon ship a let own. First we have Gaius learning about how the Cylons seem to operate using controlled delusions and how their ship is controlled by a pool of humanoid organs with a woman's face, and then we learn he's going to investigate a diseased ship by himself. And I'm thinking, "This shit is going to be fucked up." But, sadly, it was just a bunch of people throwing up in poorly lit corridors. I guess there's not too much they can do on a cable show's budget.

I don't understand why there are civilian refugees on the Galactica. Why don't they just go back to the ships they were living on before New Caprica? Has it even been two years? And what's become of Boomer? We don't see her with Baltar--I feel like the show wants us to forget her. Chief Tyrol mentioned talking to her briefly in one of the webisodes. Was she an informant? What was their reunion like? How does she feel about Baltar?

I slept in way too late to-day--to 2pm, so I'd better go make use of what little time I have left . . .

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