An Open Thank-You Letter to DC Entertainment

Dear DC,

I don’t remember a lot about my childhood (most likely a result of all the heavy drinking and drug abuse. The 90’s, am I right?). There are however, a few memories that have followed me to adulthood, like the psychological equivalent of adult acne. For example, I vividly remember one stunningly embarrassing conversation I once had with my mother when I was ten year old.

We were driving in the car, on our way to my daily swim team practice. My mom had been uncharacteristically quiet for most of the drive while I, oblivious, bounced around in my seat, excited to see my friends and to show them my brand new modified-Anakin-Skywalker haircut.

For context, I should explain that Attack of the Clones had just been released to theaters, and I was completely captivated  by all things Jedi, bless my heart. Also, if you’re curious as to what a modified-Anakin-Skywalker haircut looks like, it’s really just a short pony-tail without the goofy little side braid. Mom had to draw the line somewhere.

We were almost to the pool, when my mom blurted out, “Whit, do you wish you were a boy?”

I was a little taken aback. “Um, yeah, sort of.”

I knew right away that I had said the wrong thing. To this day, I have never seen my mother look so crushed. I rushed to explain.

“Boys just get to do all the fun stuff, and they are always the good guy.”

My mom didn’t look any less devastated. I tried to summon all the eloquence at my ten-year-old disposal. I told her that I didn’t like princesses. That I related better to the male heroes I saw on screen. That I wanted to be like them because I just saw more of myself in them. That I’d give anything for a girl protagonist that spoke to me, but that I couldn’t find one.  To this day, I’m not sure if I ever really made my point, and mom never brought it up again.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that my mother and I had been having two very different conversations.  Her concerns were, um, worldly in nature.  I was simply trying to explain to her that, as there weren’t many kick-ass women on screen for me to emulate, I was making do with what I had on hand. Shortly thereafter, I decided to shake my tomboy persona. I chose to hang up my lightsaber, rather than have that conversation ever again.

Maybe it’s because the pop culture landscape has changed so much, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how that little girl felt. Now girls have Hermione Granger, and Rey, and Katniss, and Peggy Carter. All she had were a handful of Disney Princesses who made her feel that a woman was only really valuable if she was beautiful, a message that became even more crushing the day she realized she would only ever be average-looking, at best.

If I could, I would go back and tell her about that not too distant future. I would tell her about the surge of on-screen female heroism that would finally help us reconcile the words femininity and feminism. I’d probably tell her about Wonder Woman‘s Diana, a character who’s ass-kicking capabilities are exceeded only by her compassion and selflessness.

So thanks, DC, for making the movie that I needed fifteen years ago. You and I haven’t always seen eye to eye, but because you and other studios are making strong women a priority, other little girls won’t have to make the choices I did. They won’t have to decide between the heroine that most closely resembles them biologically and the hero that speaks to who they are and who they want to be. Keep making movies for those little girls, and the mothers who cut their hair.

Whitney Weldon

 

Fan-Rants- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Subversive Power of a Good Narative

Dear Internet,

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but so much has happened in the last three months. Ellen and I have fulfilled our mutual destiny by moving in together. Yes, that’s right; these two single soul-sisters are finally makin’ it happen. I’d say that our roommate dynamic is one part Golden Girls, one part Playing House (Ellen’s beagle Steve operates as a sort of Baby Charlotte to our Emma and Maggie).

Ours is a quiet existence, which is just fine with us, as it affords us plenty of time to pursue our passions: painting, dance, basket weaving, and making “ah-OO-gah” noises at cute boys through open car windows…

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Scratch that: we watch a lot of TV. Tonight’s media menu was The Music Man, followed by a YouTube palette cleanser, rounded off with a fresh episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you, like so much of the world, have written S.H.I.E.L.D. off as another one of ABC’s lost causes, you’re assumption is as understandable as it is premature.  S.H.I.E.L.D. has had it’s ups and downs over the last 4 seasons (I’m looking at you, season 2). But nothing makes for fine TV escapism quite like a world in turmoil. Our evermore chaotic 24 hour news cycle is the perfect fodder for some scintillating social commentary, if only a member of our media-elite should take enough time from mustache twirling and fake news-ing to look for it (these are the jokes, folks). Enter  Agents shield-season-4-jemma-fights-lmdsof S.H.I.E.L.D. If you haven’t kept up, let me bring you up to speed.

Through a escalating and, frankly, very complicated series of events, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team
have found themselves trapped in a parallel “framework” reality where the government and media are controlled by Hydra. Some- Daisy, Gemma, and Coulson- remember the world as it was, while others- Fitz, Mac, May- have bought into the lie.
Fitz, in particular, has made a temperamental 180 as the new de facto leader of Hydra. Gone is the sweet Fitz of yester-season. In the framework he murders and manipulates anyone who opposes him as he works to bring an as yet unspecified Hydra agenda to fruition.

IAIN DE CAESTECKERThis season, in addition to being beautifully written, has been less than subtle in it’s criticism of our recent, ahem, regime change. References to “alternative facts” and a seamless work-in of the line “nevertheless, she persisted” abound.  This week’s episode featured a scene where one especially sleazy character offers to take another female character “furniture shopping, anywhere she wants”. For anyone not picking up on the reference,  I offer you this proud moment in American history.

Some might be tempted to say that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been heavy handed, that they are pushing an unapologetically progressive agenda. To which I say, maybe.

Or it’s just a story about a group of people trapped in a reality they don’t understand. Where ideologies that were once collectively deemed hateful and unsupportable have gained a foothold. Where good people are changed beyond recognition by conditions out of their control.  And, like any good example of the superhero formula, it shows that while some people might succumb to their circumstances, other will rise above them and work to make the world a better place.

Oh, and then we went to Chick-fil-a for dinner. Have you tried the spicy chicken sandwich? It’s like buddah.

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Whitney Weldon

Fangirly Presents: Why Women aren’t Funny

You know what sucks?

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And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I was informed today that women are, tragically, not funny.

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It’s true.

I know this because the person who let me in on this secret was, himself, blessed with a penis, so you know he knows comedy.

At first I was furious. How could someone make, with such confidence, such a blatantly untrue generalization?

Then I thought about it. And, wouldn’t you know it, he’s right.

Women really aren’t funny.

I mean, we have no sense of irony.

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Woman are historically terrible at physical comedy.

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Honestly, how many women can do impressions?

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I think, and this is just me, that women are too preoccupied with their appearance to be funny.

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And you know who really isn’t funny? Mature women.

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Maybe if we didn’t harp so much about objectification in the media.

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Maybe if we just got better at rolling with the punches.

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If we weren’t so damn prissy. You know, developed a sense of bathroom humor.

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It’s no wonder that male comedians don’t want to work with women.

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And why there aren’t any good female comedy duos.

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Who would have thought that ovaries, those things that launch our transformations into raging hose beasts with each new moon, would be the agents of our comedic destruction?

Let’s rally, ladies. Let’s focus on our strengths. Like wifery.

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And being good at literally everything else.

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Actually… wait…

I think I just thought of a joke.

Ok, bare with me, I’m new at this.

What did the woman say to the dumb-ass who thinks women aren’t funny?

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Get it?

Whitney Weldon

Fan Rants: My Worries About Wonder Woman

If this trailer doesn’t give you girl-power induced tingles, try watching it with your eyes open. DC’s Wonder Woman is one of the most anticipated movies of 2017, if you can believe my twitter feed. It combines all the things I love most: superheroes, period pieces, and brunettes gettin’ it done. But in light of the most recent DC tent poles, my Wonder Woman hopes now have a pretty big asterisk.

WonderWomanSupermanBatmanIf you’re at all familiar with Fangirly, you know that Ellen and I have some issues with the way women are portrayed in superhero films, DC films specifically. And although DC is far from the sole guilty party, it’s safe to say that they struggle the most with bringing their female characters to the big screen in a empowering and (frankly) interesting way. I think I’ve pretty much said my peace on Batman V Superman and Man of Steel, so lets look to more relevant examples.

In a long list of disappointing things about Suicide Squad, perhaps the most substantial bummer is how it obliterated its opportunity to bring us any well-rounded or well-thought out women characters, which would have gone a long way toward engaging DC’s ever-dwindling non-fanboy audience. Take Harley Quinn. Here’s a character who lost her freedom, her career, her sanity, to her relationship with a green-haired gangster. She’s a poster 2A8183C600000578-3160445-image-m-68_1436863964058.jpgchild for the devastating effects of abusive relationships, but the most interesting thing this film found to say about Harley Quinn was that she was “hot” and “crazy”, not necessarily in that order. And don’t even get me started on the scene where the Joker offers Harley’s “services” to a male business associate. Seriously, don’t.

The other ladies in the movie are hardly worth mentioning. In lieu of giving June Moone a SUICIDE-SQUAD-55personality they gave an age old shortcut: a love story. Katana serves no narrative purpose at all,  unless the shadowy government agency that formed the squad had some kind of Affirmative Action quota to fill. And Amanda Weller, easily the film’s most intriguing character, male or female, get’s boiled down to one word- bitch. Reductive? Sure. But also not that surprising.

The reason women can’t seem to catch a break in these films is because I’m fairly certain that they aren’t made with women in mind. Several scenes in Batman V Superman were complete undecipherable unless you were intimately familiar with the comics on which the film was based. And even though girls are carving a real niche for themselves in the comic book arena, the fact still remains that most comic fans are one X chromosome shy of 12670724b2dcebae01d32954ca08fcc760bac3e368b5075752c482d983b67a09.jpga matching set. Dudes, in other words. Which is why, you understand, I have my concerns about DC attempting to launch a franchise centered around a character that is an icon of Third Wave Feminism.

DC, you cannot get this wrong. Wonder Woman will be the first female stand-alone superhero franchise, and it’s success means more than just a bottom line. That means resisting the urge to put women in hot-pants. I know you have it in you.

Yours optimistically,

Whitney Weldon

Why I’m Not A Nerd, And You Probably Aren’t Either

Not long ago I was walking with a friend. Actually, not a friend. Technically, this is a person that I hate passionately but to whom I am nonetheless bound by the codes of mutual friendship, and the fact that we spend 80% of our time on the same university campus. Anyway, as I was walking with this Friend-of-a-Friend, I tried to keep the conversation as neutral as possible. And since pop culture is the only topic in which I’m remotely conversant, we mostly talked about TV. It went thusly:

I’d mention a show-

-And she’d jump in with how much she was obsessed with that show. Because, you know (*sheepish, with the slightest hint of shame) she’s just such a nerd.

Cool. I really dig it, too-

-Yeah, but I mean, not the same way she loves it. She used to watch the original series with her dad. So it’s just more special for her.

Sure.

I’d bring up a movie I recently saw-

-And she (excuse her, she didn’t mean to interrupt) couldn’t contain herself, just had to tell me about all the merch she’d gotten from that franchise. It was a lot of money, but, you know, (*still sheepish, now slightly over-selling the shame) she’s just such a nerd.

Thanks. Got it.

The appropriation of nerd culture into the mainstream has created a perfect niche for people like this girl. It allows her to feel cool and relevant, with the added thrill of feeling special, because what is Nerdom, if not a counter-culture that thrives on it’s own self-imposed exclusivity?

I not saying that I don’t love nerds. I really, really do. I admire anyone that is passionate about something, and who finds genuine joy in that passion. But like anything, there are two sides to Nerd culture. The first side loves something with so much of itself that it wants to share it with feature-kate.jpgeveryone. It wants other people to share and experience the thing that means so much to it. But once that thing is out there, is made accessible to everyone, we see the other side of Nerd mentality. It circles the wagons. It realizes that what was once it’s thing now belongs to many, and it resents this perceived loss.

For a while I thought that the popularization of nerd culture would make things more inclusive, and in some ways it has. It’s safe to say that people now feel more able to express themselves and their allegiance to their fandoms like never before. In other ways, it’s also made things more esoteric. I don’t live and breathe for the original Star Wars Trilogy, so my love for The Force Awakens must not run as deep as a real fan’s, right?

The truth is, however much you may wish it were otherwise, you are probably not a nerd. You’re probably not Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science. You’re probably not David Krumholtz in Ten Things I Hate About You. And that’s totally fine. Do you know why?

Because it’s more likely that what you really are is a well-rounded, multi-denominational person who happens to be passionate about something, or more likely many things. You don’t need to be a nerd. You are allowed to like what you like, without trying to tailor yourself to the specifications of one group or another. Because labels, even the ones we assign to ourselves, are ultimately damaging and self limiting.

Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said “If you label me, you negate me”?

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Whitney Weldon

R Rating For Wolverine 3 Confirmed, Leaves Fangirly Dismayed…

Just to be clear, Fangirly doesn’t shy away from an R rating. Some of our favorite releases this year were deemed unfit for moppets of all ages. Deadpool, Spotlight, Ex Machina, Room. But, to be fair, those are the movie one expects to be hit with an R rating. Made by deadpool-2-boyfriend-picgrown-ups, for grown-ups. And what if the increasing commercial success of R rated movies causes this trend to spill into other genres?

Which brings me to Wolverine 3. We get it. Wolverine is edgy; he smokes and drinks and gets laid and takes bad guys to the cleaners. But thus far, the powers-that-be have been able to tame the characters wild side just enough to squeeze out a PG-13 rating. That was true for 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s The Wolverine. So why now the sudden change in direction? Well, because all the cool kids are doing it.

There is a direct line of causation between the BANANAS success of Deadpool and this new development in the Wolverine franchise. And frankly, if that were the extent of it, I apoc9wouldn’t be bothered. But I think we can all agree that superhero movies, from either side of the Marvel-DC partisan line, are getting progressively darker and, much as I hate to use
this word, grittier. To prove my point, let’s look at this summer’s latest cash cow, Captain America: Civil War.

It was amazing right? But can we all agree that with each subsequent film, the Captain cwttss11America franchise has delved deeper into that dark, self-aware realism that has made the sequels so surprisingly wonderful? As an adult audience member, I’m loving it. But I’m not the only demographic at whom these movies are supposedly aimed.

I’ve got this neighbor. His name is Jack, he’s six, and he has the most extensive collection of superhero costumes I’ve ever seen. Picture a first-grader in full batman armor and you’ve got a good idea of what I see every time I look out my kitchen window. The take-away here is that Jack loves superheroes. Which really sucks for Jack, because there’s only a handful of superhero movies his mom will let him watch.

I can’t say I blame her. Would you let your six year old watch The Dark Knight, or Captain Batman-V-Superman-Trailer-3-ArmorAmerica: The Winter Soldier? Or, maybe more to the point, should you? These movies are starting to delve into themes and employ levels of violent realism that kids like Jack just aren’t ready for. And yet these movies, and all their must-have merchandise, continue to be marketed to him.

I just worry that one day, there won’t be any good superhero franchises left for younger audiences, who are, arguably, the ones that need these heroes the most. I don’t want to look out my window and not see Jack running around his yard in full spider-man regalia, keeping the neighborhood safe from evil. I want Jack to still have on-screen heroes he can look up to. Easier said than done, when he can’t even watch their movies.

Whitney Weldon

TV Raised Me, and I Feel Fine

I saw my brother for the first time in months this last weekend. As insufferable as we are as individual units, we’re exponentially worse when we get together. Every other word is an inside joke (Sleepy Richard, earning your lunch meat, Pretzel Boy, moving about the house), and all the words in between are movie and TV quotes. This earns us little respect from the people around us. But this sibling shorthand we’ve developed comes from a shared childhood experience: we were raised by TV.

To be clear, we had great parents. We were always clean (ish), well-fed, and adequately loved. But when both of your parents work full time, TV is often used to fill the gaps. And when you come from a family of renowned movie buffs, a certain level of cultural literacy is expected. The problem is, when people learn this about you, you get a very specific look. It’s a look that says, “I’m so sorry for your unfulfilled life”. My response usually reflects my impeccable upbringing and unimpeachable manners.

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I appreciate your thinly veiled shade, but it is unnecessary. TV made me who I am, for better or worse. From a early age, I was exposed to movies and shows written by some of the cleverest people in the world.

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I learned social graces.

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I learned how to carefully formulate a snappy comeback.

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I realized that not everyone can be trusted.

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Sometimes these stories reflected my own experience.

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And sometimes they didn’t.

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But without them, I’d never be able to feel another person’s crushing disappointment.

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Or mortal terror.

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I wouldn’t know how it feels to watch someone you love die.

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I’d never understand how it feels to lose everything you have.

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Good TV, like a good book, gives us a window into another person’s experience,

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and explore realities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

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TV made me empathetic, and forced me to experience emotions other than my own.

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So don’t be worried that your kids watch TV. Worry about what they watch on TV. Make sure that what they watch reflects the kind of person you want them to be. If it doesn’t…

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Make sure their shows are funny and smart.

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Make sure that they are gaining experiences beyond their own.

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And remind yourself to thank me later. I’ll wait.

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Whitney Weldon