Fan Rants: Coming Clean About Batman V Superman

trinitylargeIf you read this blog with any sort of regularity, you may know that on Saturday I saw Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman. You may also recall that I thought it was, ahem, flawed. Nothing weird there, right? The film’s 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests I wasn’t alone. What I didn’t expect was the amount of time I’d spend defending a position that, quite frankly, I thought I’d already made pretty clear. So let me try this one more time.

Shall I tell the real reason why I didn’t like BvS? It wasn’t just the sloppy writing, or the less-than-inspired dialogue, or the fact that I’ve seen high school health videos with more emotional complexity. It was the fact that I was expected to enjoy, even connect with, a story that so obviously wasn’t made for me.

As a lifelong fan of the superhero genre, I’ve reached a sort of begrudging acceptance of the way things are; women may not be equally represented in blockbuster tent-poles, but at least the women we do see are invariably spectacular in their own ways. And when the trailer for this latest DC offering was released, I was just as excited as anyone by the prospect of finally getting a Wonder Woman worthy of the name. It wasn’t as though my hopes weren’t realized. In the seven minutes she’s on screen (yes, that is the actual batman-vs-superman-ew-pics-2number) Gal Gadot’s iteration of Diana Prince proves herself to be much more savvy, capable, and interesting than either of the titular heroes. Of course, if you blinked at any point during the movie, it’s a performance you probably missed. In fact, there are really only four notable female characters in the entire film, and by “notable” I of course mean “has any kind of speaking part at all”. Lets take a (somewhat spoiler-y) look at how these women were used in the film. It won’t take long; like I said, it’s a short list.

batman-v-superman-dawn-justiceLet’s start with Lois Lane. Smart, independent, award-winning reporter who manages not to choke on lines like, “I’m not a lady, I’m a journalist”. She’s the one person who even attempts to figure out what really happens during a desert shoot-out, for which Superman is blamed (despite the fact that he doesn’t use guns…). An attempt that, by the way, is dismissed as a misguided effort to stand by her man. So much for that. At least there was still something for her to do in the film. She also appears as the prettiest piece of bait you ever saw. 635944238331424071-BVS-19098r

Then there’s Martha Kent (Diane Lane), adopted mother of Superman and purveyor of pithy, home-spun wisdom. She represents Clark’s deepest connection to his own
humanity, a trait that is repeatedly called into question. So you think she’d feature pretty strongly, right? PSYCH. Her husband’s ghost has more lines than she does. Luckily for Martha fans, she does also make a cameo as Hostage #2.

Next let’s look at the most overlooked and tragically underused character of them all. Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) is the only person in this movie who acts with any kind of Screen-Shot-2015-07-13-at-11.46.10-AMclear motivation. She’s strong, she’s decisive, and she’s the only person trying to demand accountability in a realistic way. The only problem? We’re not really supposed to like her. Whether by intention or by reflex, Snyder plays her off as a nag; a woman of a certain age who just complicates matters for the men involved. Not only is she a victim of the Capitol Bombing, she’s specifically targeted by the parties responsible. For what? Being too aggressive? Too articulate? I’m not sure what the message is here, but I know I’m not comfortable with it.

Which brings us back around to Diana Prince. That bastion of Badassery. That oasis of empowered womanhood. It is worth noting that the most impressive woman in this movie isn’t allowed to be such without a whip, thigh-high boots, and a tight leather outfit.

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So stop asking me why I didn’t like this movie. Stop asking me to explain myself again and again. Gender politics aside, it was an underwhelming movie-going experience. Gender politics included, it’s actively harmful to how women are represented in film, particularly in superhero films. If that’s something you are ok with, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Whitney Weldon

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Whitney’s Official 2016 Oscar Snubs

There are plenty to choose from, right? Ridley Scott, Star Wars, Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba. The list of Oscar snubs, as it does every year, goes on. My diplomatic response would be that the Academy simply can’t accommodate and acknowledge all the great work that was churned out this year. My unfiltered Fangirl answer would be, did The Revenant and Fury Road really, really deserve 12 and 10 nominations, respectively? It’s a subject that’s certainly up for debate. But I’m not here to talk about the Academy’s apparent inability to spread the love. No, I would instead like to focus on the few specific snubs that really bring out the Troll in me.

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3) Crimson Peak for Best Cinematography

It’s pretty obvious that this movie wasn’t for everyone. But no matter what you thought about this Guillermo Del Toro horror set in a repressive, Victorian hell-scape, you must admit that it was beautiful to look at. As a genre, though, horror rarely gets any props at the Oscars, mad or otherwise, so this snub wasn’t at all surprising.  I had hoped, however, for some kind of honorable mention. Something like “Best Use of Tom Hiddleston’s Shapely Hind-Parts in a Drama”. Just a suggestion.

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2) JJ Abrams for Best Director

This is mostly wishful thinking. I just hoped that after all  the garbage that has been slung at this genuinely wonderful movie, it might have been recognized with a nom somewhat more meaningful than “Best Film Editing”. JJ Abrams gave us a Star Wars that was steeped in action and humor and nostalgia and feminism, and in return received a whole lot of internet bitching and a truck-load of broken box office records. We audiences are nothing if not inconsistent.

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1) Charlize Theron for Best Actress 

You would think that at least one of the ten nominations doled out to Fury Road would have gone to the performance that made the movie what it was. Theron’s Furiosa was easily the most moving and complex performance in an action movie, well, ever. I bet this pointed snub has left her pretty inconsolable right now.

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See what I mean?

Whitney Weldon

Why I’m Ca-REY-zy about The Force Awakens (See What I Did There?)

*Spoilers dead ahead. Proceed at your own risk. 

Last Monday I made my usual two mile pilgrimage to the one and only movie theater in my current place of residence (go ahead and cry for me, Argentina). This time I was dropping my Benjamin’s on a third viewing of JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens.  While standing in line for my ticket I ran into a neighbor who was headed in the same direction, with his six year old daughter in tow. He admitted that she was the only one of his four children he could drag along to see the newest Star Wars installment. One look could tell you that this forbearing youngster was only there out of filial obligation; she looked about as unenthused as it is possible for a six year old to look.

88086bfd-09c8-4d00-a09d-9a31055356d7-2060x1236But I knew something she didn’t. I knew she would walk into the theater a bored moppet, but would emerge a card-carrying superfan of the galaxy’s newest mamma jamma, Rey.

Rey is the hero I wish had existed when I was six. She’s jaded, and compassionate. She’s brave, and smart. She’s bad-ass, and approachable. She commands the respect of every other character lucky enough to share the screen with her.

Drawing comparisons between Rey and characters like Katniss and Tris rey-2and Lisbeth Salander and Black Widow is unavoidable. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been conditioned to think that a female protagonist couldn’t be compelling if she wasn’t sexy, damaged, or vulnerable, preferably all three.  Enter Rey, a woman whose sexuality is irrelevant. Her past, though tragic, doesn’t define her. She puts the needs of others before her own interests and is unambiguously good. In short, she’s everything that a little girl (or, what the heck, boy) should want to pattern themselves after.
But the really revolutionary thing (and the thing that struck me the most) wasn’t Rey herself, but how others responded to her. Within the first five of meeting Finn, the storm trooper turned rebel fighter, she chases him though a crowded market, brains him with a stick, accuses him of theft, and rescues him from the decidedly Third Reich-y organization The First Order. And to Finn’s infinite credit, he gladly follows her lead. He Star-Wars4doesn’t resent being occasionally shown up by a girl because he admires her strength and smarts, too. A bad-ass in his own right, Finn is confident enough to recognize Rey’s value without letting it threaten his own.

The best part is that Finn’s reaction to Rey isn’t the exception, it’s the rule. Han Solo offers her a place on the Millennium Falcon. Kylo Ren openly admits that her power not only matches, but probably exceeds his own.

As I left the theater that day, I caught up with my neighbor and we chatted for a while, about the movie and how cute BB8 was and how we couldn’t wait for the next one. I asked his little girl what she thought, and her big blue eyes articulated everything her vocabulary couldn’t. She was in love, and I was right there with her. I hope that little girl knows how lucky she is. I grew up in a time when the world wanted girls to believe that they could be anything. She gets to grow up in a time when the world is starting to believe it, too.

Whitney Weldon

 

 

Fan-rants: Why Jared Leto Needs To Cool It

Harley-Quinn-Suicide-SquadListen, everyone is excited about Suicide Squad. You can’t throw a stick into the internet without hitting an article or entertainment blog post featuring a picture of Margot Robbie or Cara Delevingne in their creepy and predictably objectifying costumes. But the old adage that any publicity is good publicity isn’t always true. Warner Bros. has been pushing Squad pretty hard, which is understandable given how much money they’ve almost certainly sunk into this project and how much they stand to make should the movie do well. But do they really need to work this hard? A movie like this, with comic book origins, a pre-existing fan base, a well-known cast, and millions of dollars behind it, will generate it’s own buzz. And with every released photo and every crazy teaser, expectations just get more out of control. That means that audiences now feel entitled to a not just a good movie, but a great one. At this point, Squad can meet expectations, but probably not exceed them.

Which brings me to Jared Leto. No part of this movie has been buzzier than Leto’s balls-to-the-wall method approach to playing the Joker in this born-to-be-a-blockbuster. In a recent article with MTV news, Will Smith admitted that he’s never actually met Jared Leto. All of his interactions have been with “The Joker”. All year, audiences have been barraged by reports of Leto sending fellow cast members creepy gifts from his alter ego and generally being weird in character. And while I admire1401x788-Screen-Shot-2015-07-13-at-4.20.07-PM (1) his commitment, the whole thing is starting to feel more like a publicity stunt than legitimate preparation.

Also, I think we can all agree that, given the nature of the part, Leto might need to tread lightly. He’s reprising a role that most recently belonged to a beloved actor who passed away shortly after filming wrapped on The Dark Knight. Leto’s method acting, which under different circumstances would just be another actor going native, may here be seen as someone trying to make his Joker bigger, badder, and crazier than the one before him. That isn’t going to ingratiate him to The Dark Knight/ Heath Ledger fans (aka humans). I’m not saying that Jared Leto shouldn’t give this part his all, but maybe cool it with the antics. Give audiences the chance to be as pleasantly surprised with this performance as they were with Ledger’s. Fans will thank you for it.

Whitney Weldon

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Fan Rants: Death to the Networks!!!

THE MINDY PROJECT: Mindy (Mindy Kaling, R), Jeremy (Ed Weeks, C) and Danny (Chris Messina, L) discover a change in the office staff in the

When I initially heard that Fox had cut the cord on our Fangirly Favorite The Mindy Project, my reaction was more or less what you might expect. I sold all my earthly possessions, joined a doomsday cult, and settled in for the End of Days. But from the midst of tragedy, an unlikely hero emerged, destined to redeem us all from a Mindy-less existence. Yes, people, ya heard. Hulu will be picking up Kaling’s brain-baby and giving it new life online.

And this isn’t the first time that a streaming service has needed to step in to save a beleaguered series. Yahoo adopted Community and Netflix resurrected Arrested Development (with debatable success, but still). Not only are these sites delivering really strong, occasionally award-winning, original content to subscribers, they are salvaging the network underdogs that struggle to perform and bringing them back from the dead.

Ok, I’m not an idiot. I know that Hulu probably isn’t doing this out of altruism or some media-messiah complex. They roku-3-streaming-tv-giveawayprobably stand to make a lot of money from this deal and I have no doubt that the switch will be marketed aggressively. But the fact stands that Hulu is taking a chance on this amazing little show written by and starring one of the only non-white female leads on TV. Ever. Meanwhile, networks are giving us Boy Meets World reboots and a Full House made-for-TV-movie.

This all leads me to ask, do we really need networks? Or are the a relic that is desperately trying to recapture the magic of ten, twenty, thirty years ago? Most shows are available online anyway, and even HBO is offering a streaming service for much less than your exorbitant cable package. As a representative of a generation that watches most of it’s TV online anyway, it’s not a very hard question.

What do you think? Hit us up at fangirlyfangirls@gmail.com, or @fangirly2, and give us what you got.

-Whitney

Fan Rants: Why You Should Be Watching Agent Carter

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with one of my Fellow Fems about female under representation in pop culture (like many a pretentious, twenty-something, bra-burner before us). She made the inevitable leap to how unfair it was the Marvel’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t have her own stand alone movie. My initial response was, ‘right on, sister’. Then I asked if she’d been watching ABC/Marvel’s new series Agent Carter. She answered that, no, she wasn’t. Come again?…

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It’s probably the worst kept secret in network TV history that Agent Carter is serving as a dry run for strong female leads in the MCU. If smart, empowered, beautiful, charasmatic Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) can’t draw crowds with a limited run TV show, why should Marvel shell out millions upon millions to make a female driven superhero movie? And let’s not kid agent-carter-pilot-hayley-atwell_article_story_largeourselves, Carter is enjoying pretty abysmal ratings, despite the fact that, in my opinion, it’s a good show. It’s got a great lead in Atwell, James D’Arcy as bulter Edwin Jarvis makes for an awesome Girl Friday, and frankly, it’s been much fresher and more entertaining than Agents of Shield ever was in it’s first season. So why in the Susan-B-Anthony can’t this show seem to thrive?

I keep coming back to one thing. Because really, there is only one reason I can think of why audiences would be more receptive to a Black Widow stand alone than a Peggy Carter one. Black Widow is defined by her sexuality. I mean, yeah, she can quip with the best, and kick all the necessary ass, but she’s also severely underwritten and hyper-sexualized.  If Peggy Carter ran around in a black cat-suit, would that make her more marketable? I’m actually scared of the answer. la_ca_0325_captain_america

I guess what I’m getting at is, let’s not perpetuate the idea that Marvel’s fan base won’t support strong, independent, female leads with more to offer than their butt-kicking capacity and deft application of feminine whiles. Let’s promote female characters with emotional depth and intelligence and appeal that isn’t directly related to how good they look in skin-tight stealth suits. Watch Agent Carter, Tuesday’s at 9 on ABC, and you’ll see what I mean.

Whitney

Lighten Up, DC Comics

why-so-serious-the-joker-3122768-1024-768Today DC Comics announced their plans for 10 upcoming movies including The Flash, Aquaman, a stand alone Wonder Woman, Shazam, and 2 Justice League movies.  While this news does excite me, it fills me with some degree of trepidation, as well.  I need to make it clear that I will always welcome more superhero movies because I am a sucker for superhero movies.  However, Warner Brothers’ recent mandate that this upcoming slate of movies will have no humor really does not work for me.

I think I understand why they are doing this.  The Dark Knight Batman movies are far and away DC Comics’ most successful and at least ranking as such for Warner Brothers and those movies are assuredly not the most gut-busting.  At least not in the laughing way.  Removing the humor is also a pretty good way to set themselves apart from Marvel.

It’s pretty clear that DC Comics wants to follow in Marvel’s success and create their own “cinematic universe”, but this really doesn’t seem like the way to do it.  At this point, Marvel is guaranteed success because we know their films are going to be an entertaining, enjoyable, good time at the movies. “Enjoyable” being the key word.  People were wary of the unknown Guardians of the Galaxy but once word got out that it was funny, it became the biggest movie of the year so far.

I had multiple issues with Man of Steel, but perhaps my biggest was that Superman needed to lighten up or at least people needed to make jokes at his expense, otherwise he is just an indestructible pretty boy and who likes those?  Then when you throw characters like Aquaman in the mix, I don’t know how seriously I am going to be able to take it.  Even if he is played by the oh-so-imposing Jason Mimoa.  None of comic book source material is without at least some form of levity, especially The Flash and Wonder Woman, and I have to imagine that the humor of those series has aided in their success.  DC Comics has also done pretty well with their TV series and again, I think a lot of that has to do with the shows being fun to watch.  Even the gloomy Gotham has some laughs.

All that being said, DC, I will still see your movies, I just wish you made it easier for me to look forward to it.

– Ellen