Whitney and Ellen get back at it after their summer hiatus by talking about the summer’s most bingeable show, Stranger Things. 80’s nostalgia, conspiracy theory, Winona Ryder, and a hot dad sheriff, it’s all here. Plus, we delve into how the Netflix model is changing how we watch TV, for better or for worse. As always, Whitney tries to embarrass Ellen in a new game, this time quizzing her on Netflix taglines.
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.
If 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 child 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 personality 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 a 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.
I’m not going to tell you that there is nothing to like about Suicide Squad. The latest DC offering, with it’s confetti-colored Hot Topic aesthetic, is a fun time at the movies. But like it’s similarly underwhelming big brother Batman V. Superman, this movie unnerves me in a way that goes beyond just poor film making. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Squad is an ostensibly anti-superhero film about a handful of colorful villains that, through the cloak-and-dagger machinations of some deadpanned civil servants, get drafted into the hero business. They can save the world in exchange for a commuted prison sentence, or they can get dead. Even so, it’s a hard sell. These baddies are, apparently, the only people in the entire DC universe equipped to take on Enchantress, an extra-dimensional witch-demon who is, I don’t know, trying to bend mankind to her will? As ever, villain motivations are a little fuzzy here.
The story itself is about as messy as it could be, and not it a good way. The entire first act is Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller sitting in a restaurant with a colleague, delivering endless backstory and exposition between bites of steak, and even then the film manages to forget to introduce some of it’s characters (sorry, who is Slipknot?). It then proceeds to hit all the predictable notes, never letting you forget what kind of people the protagonists are (at one point, Harley Quinn smashes a store window for no discernible reason and drawls, “What do you expect, we’re bad guys!”, as if we were likely to forget).
As sloppy as the writing was, I’d happily overlook it if, just this once, DC had given me some interesting, fleshed-out characters to work with. Swing and a miss. All attempts at depth and humanity fall just short, resulting in a coterie of criminals that never really feel like much more. Deadshot (Will Smith) stands out as the most sympathetic character, a man who is trying to reconcile the killer he is with the father he wants to be. Otherwise, there isn’t much to relate to here. June Moone (Cara Delevingne) is an archeologist with all the charisma of a Crate and Barrel lampshade. Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is a former kingpin who murdered his family in a fit of rage. Killer Croc and Boomerang, who between the two of them accrued about ten lines of dialogue, zero of which were memorable. And these were the least troubling of the crew. No, the majority of my beef lies with loony lovers Joker and Harley Quinn.
On the one hand, you’ve got the Joker (Jared Leto), who’s particular brand of crazy is surprisingly formulary. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between this Joker and the Heath Leger performance that preceded it. The scariest part of Leger’s Joker was his restraint; his outward insane levity was constantly at war with the much darker madness within. Leto’s Joker wasn’t quite so…layered. And for as much unjustified screen time as he had in this film, there should have been layers.
Speaking of missing layers, we have Harley Quinn, who in true DC fashion is yet another female character not allowed to cover more than 40% of her body at any given time. As with the Joker, we are told that she’s nuts rather than allowed to see any evidence supporting that fact. Not to mention the fact that she’s fetishized beyond the point of relateability. I present exhibit A…
I don’t want to say there was nothing redeeming about Suicide Squad. It boasts some pretty impressive cinematography and special effects. You might even say that Harley Quinn is a metaphor for the film itself: pretty to look at, and not nearly as wild as it could have been.
Am I the only one who cannot stop watching this trailer? Not that I’m, you know, TRYING to stop watching this trailer…
Whitney and Ellen get into it over the heated subject of Marvel vs. DC. Who’s winning? Is it even a feud to begin with? We know you will have opinions. Plus, another humiliating game of Truth or Dare in which Whitney does some stellar musical impressions and Ellen spits some rhymes from Hamilton with a mouthful of popcorn.
Whitney and Ellen are joined by their cousin Sam (for the male perspective) to go over some of the big releases that we have to look forward to in 2016. Is this the year we finally get sick of superhero movies? (Mmm, probably not). Does Whitney’s roommate have really bad taste in music that she blasts through their apartment? (Spoiler: Yes). Also, the gang throws out some crazy hypothetical situations to try and stump each other. Is there any situation in which Ellen would not go on a date with a Marvel Chris? Listen to find out.
*Circumstances led to Ellen having to use a very bad mic. Apologies in advance.
Listen, 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 admire 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.