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

 

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The Reviews Are In: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This is the last Fangirly review I will ever write. And it’s all Ellen’s fault.

See, Ellen has a job where a working knowledge of pop culture is requisite. Needless to say, Ellen is very good at her job. She knew long before I did that that reviews for James guardians-galaxy-2-poster-charactersGunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the film for which we bought our tickets weeks in advance, was getting slightly less glowing reviews than it’s predecessor. She told me, “Go into this movie thinking that’s it’s only OK, and it will probably exceed your expectations.”

So I did. I trust Ellen to a fault, not just because she’s my hero (please don’t tell her I said that), but because she has a nose for this sort of thing. Ellen’s the pop culture guru and I’m the one that can, under the right conditions, burp the first four letters of the jsc3020-cmp-v3781007-jsc3050-cmp-v2631009-comp-r-1486345142271_1280walphabet. You could say we both bring things to the table.

But as I sat through Vol. 2, I kept forgetting that it wasn’t a perfect specimen of modern film-making. I kept dancing in my seat to the soundtrack. I kept getting wrapped up in the story. I kept enjoying watching characters develop. I kept laughing so hard that I cried, and in some instances, crying so hard that I laughed. In short, I kept forgetting why I wasn’t supposed to love this movie unreservedly.

6ab3ae6be78d4be8fb6407ee754133c867474d74If I’m being honest, it wasn’t Ellen’s fault. She was just trying to shield us both from potential disappointment. But I can’t help but wonder what my experience of this movie might have been if I hadn’t spent the whole 136 minute run-time wondering which of it’s glaring flaws I was missing. I learned that I’d rather be surprised by life’s occasional disappointments rather than spend my time anticipating them. The pop culture landscape is such that people can earn a living from tearing down something someone else put blood and sweat into making.

So I’m done reading movie reviews. I encourage you to do the same. Whether you use guardians-of-the-galaxy-2-2016-billboard-1548them to decide which movies to see, or you use them to validate opinions you already had, I think that the brain trusts over at Entertainment Weekly have officially outlived their usefulness.

That being said, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to fans of Batman V. Superman. You thought that movie was great, and I trashed it. Hard. While I stand by what I said, you are entitled to love that dumpster fire of a movie (double standards are fun, aren’t they?).

Oh, I was supposed to review Guardian of the Galaxy, wasn’t I? Guys, so good.

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

Fangirly Presents: The Most Inspirational Women of 2016

If you’re anything like me (or even if you’re not) you woke up this morning feeling pretty disheartened. It’s been a rough few months. And as I thought this morning about what Fangirly’s response should be, none of my ideas were really in keeping with the upbeat and positive tone that Ellen and I have hopefully cultivated here. So I eventually decided not to focus on events that I found disappointing, but rather to emphasis people in pop culture who represent the kind of world I want to live in. And because 2016 has been a incredible year for women in pop culture, I decided to inaugurate (get it?) a new annual feature: Fangirly’s Inspirational Women of the Year. Some of them are fictional, and some of them are flesh and blood BAMFs. You’ll notice that this list won’t be a patent pending Fangirly Top Ten. That’s because, unlike our dear President Elect, Fangirly doesn’t believe in ranking women on a scale of one to ten. So without further ado, Fangirly Presents the Bad-ass Broads of 2016.

Rey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

After the release of The Force Awakens, Fangirly wasted no time in gushing about the galaxy’s newest Jedi-Jane. She’s tough and smart, and we salute her. In the film’s 138 minute run-time, she managed to save the galaxy and make knee-length harem pants look cool. It’s genuinely difficult to say which of those feats is more impressive.

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Malala Yousafzai (He Named Me Malala)

Although Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about activist Malala Yousafzai came out in 2015, it didn’t reach most American audiences until 2016. Not that Fangirly feels that they need to justify adding Malala to any list that includes the catch-word “inspirational”. If you haven’t gotten around to seeing He Named Me Malala, you’re probably not alone. But with Islamophobia on the rise in this country, it might behoove you to do so. It’s the true story of a young Muslim girl who spoke out in favor of educating women, putting her in opposition of the Taliban. Here’s a video of 16 year old Malala’s address to the UN in 2013.

Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman)

After her turn as the most watchable part of Batman V. Superman, DC released trailers for the Wonder Woman movie, set for release in 2017. Wonder Woman has been a feminist icon for decades, and her stand-alone film is a stride long overdue. Please enjoy this perfectly bitchin’ piece of pop culture history.

Winona Ryder (Stranger Things)

After years away from the spotlight, Winona Ryder returned to the screen in Netflix’s Stranger Things. If you haven’t binged Stranger yet (and I promise, binging is the only way to go), you’ve not only missed one of 2016 best shows, but also one of it’s best performances. Winona, in the words of Veronica Sawyer, you’re beautiful. Only, in this case, we actually mean it.

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Beyonce Knowles 

Because, duh.

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Ellen (Of Fangirly.com)

This year alone, Ellen moved cities, jobs, and wrote a hit web-series, The Cate Moreland ChroniclesShe was an inspiration to me this year. Get it, girl.

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Peggy Carter (Agent Carter, Captain America: Civil War)

2016 marked the last time we will most likely see Hayley Atwell’s iteration of Peggy Carter on screen, and it’s a loss that we feel already. Peggy was the embodiment of smart, strong women in a male dominated field. She was a reminder that if women everywhere can learn recognize their own value, we’ll get that patriarchy slayed in no time.

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Hillary Clinton (The 2016 Pre-Apocalypse, I Mean, Election)

Whether or not you agreed with her policies or trusted her judgement, this woman has done something amazing. She is the first ever woman to be nominated by a major political party in the United States. She’s worked her entire adult life to open that door, and thanks to her, one day a woman will walk through it. Thanks for reminding us that women are more than just a p#ss to grab. You may not be my president, but you are one Nasty Woman.

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Whitney Weldon

The Reviews are In: Dr. Strange

maxresdefaultThere’s a moment during Marvel’s Dr. Strange when the titular Sorcerer Supreme, while discussing the (spoiler) sometimes dubious motivations of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo, thinks for a moment and says, “She’s… complicated.”

Complicated is a pretty good word for Dr. Strange, too. It’s characters are layered, it’s action set pieces are frickin breathtaking, and it boasts a level of political and social awareness and I, for one, am coming to expect from Marvel. But first things first. Let’s reign it in for a sec and talk about the Cumberbatch of it all. If you’re not a fan of England’s finest import doctor-strange-1since Posh, Scary, Baby, Sporty, and Ginger, you’re either not female or not a fan of marine mammals. If such is the case, this might not be the post for you. So… scoot. Yep. Go watch the new XXX trailer on repeat.

Are they gone? Oh good. Now that it’s just us Cumberbitches, let’s get to it.

Even as someone who expects only the very best from Benedict Cumberbatch, I found his performance impressive. His interpretation of Stephen Strange (a  Marvel Comics deep cut) is part Dr. House, part Tony Stark, and part Hilary Swank from The Next Karate Kid. It’s a zag for Cumberbatch, who’s characters tend to be varying degrees of austere. Dr. Stephen Strange is a celebrated neurosurgeon who loses everything when a car accident causes permanent nerve damage to his hands. He wanders the globe in search of a cure, only to stumble upon a secret order of sorcerer ninjas in Kathmandu who take him in and teach him their ways. He’s thrust into a world of magic, inter-dimensional evil, and Danish bad boys. That last one, of course, refers to Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), zealot follower of a malevolent force hell-bent on forcing the Earth into submission.

Dr. Strange doesn’t subvert superhero tropes by any means, but because the source doctor-strange-benedict-cumberbatch-rachel-mcadams-copertinamaterial is so unknown and the film itself so visually arresting, I sort of didn’t care. We still had an unfailingly loyal girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), a conflicted BFF (Ejiofor), and a reluctant teacher (Swinton). No, what made this movie interesting wasn’t it’s humor or complex characters or it’s new, mystical approach to superheroism, but it’s uncanny timing.

Stephen is given a choice between two opposing, but equally fanatical, factions. One is lead by a woman forced to make difficult, and often morally compromising, decisions that she believes will facilitate the greater good. The other is driven by a radical who, while claiming to be acting in the best interest of the world, actually seeks to acquire eternal life and make the human race as miserable as he is himself. Sound familiar?

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And THAT is what I love about the superhero genre, and why it will never bore me. Because almost without trying, they manage to reflect our own experiences back at us, in a way that encourages and rewards bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming tyranny. Also, the muscles.

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I really like the muscles.

Whitney Weldon