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Progressive Movies: Aliens vs Predator


A while back, I talked about Fifth Element and how it actually passed the Bechdel Test.  And it passed it in laughable fashion.  Another movie did the same, but managed to not only pass that test, but the Racial Bechdel Test and even can be a candidate for the Mako Mori Test.

That movie was Aliens vs Predator.

First, lets take a trip down memory lane.

Aliens had become one of the most successful franchises around, and Predator did quite well in its opening with Arnold fighting an alien species who was hunting humans.  It did well enough to make a sequel, so in 1989, a movie was released starring Danny Glover in what had one of the most diverse casts, even by today’s standards.

IMG_1533But in that final scene was something that made fans stand up and take notice.  It was an easter egg, but it still asked the question of what if the Predators hunted Aliens.

There in the the trophy case was an alien skull.  It was the thing that began that question.  One which would become a reality in a series of comics published by Dark Horse.

Aliens_versus_Predator_-_comic_coverIn the first series, humans are caught between Predator Hunters and the Aliens.  The only survivor is a woman named Machiko Noguchi.  She fought of the Aliens with a Predator, Broken Tusk, who marked her with his clan’s symbol.  When the clan arrives again and finds Machiko, they accept her into their hunting clan.

Those comics continue, including Aliens vs Predator: War, a follow up to the original which sees Machiko betray her clan to aid the humans.

machikoOver the years there was always rumours, always questions whether there would be an AvP film.  Nothing was ever confirmed.  Until the early 2000s.

In 2004, fans got their wish.

Aliens vs Predator would hit screens, and tell a story that took place in Antarctica.  It would also introduce Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) as the CEO of the Weyland Corporation.  And Sanaa Lathan had the lead role.

Sanaa’s character is Lexa Woods, an environmentalist, mountain climber, glacial expert, and often times a guide.  She is hired on to lead an expedition into the frozen South Pole to find a heat bloom that appeared on satellite.

So how exactly is it that this movie is able to pass three tests?

Let’s take a look at the first test, the Bechdel test.  As I said with the Fifth Element, passing this test is laughably easy, and AvP is no different.  The highlight comes in a conversation between Lexa and one of the security officers of Weyland,

Rousseau herself doesn’t have a lot of lines in the movie, but there is a conversation between her and Woods.

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Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: [Rousseau is loading a pistol] Seven seasons on the ice, and I’ve never seen a gun save someone’s life.

Adele Rousseau: I don’t plan on using it.

Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: Then why bring it?

Adele Rousseau: Same principle as a condom. I’d rather have one and not need it, then need it and not have one.

Rousseay also comments to Lexa how she’s glad that she decided to stay with the team.  That’s the one and only conversation that happens in the movie between two women, and it’s actually more meaningful than the conversations between two women in Fifth Element.

I mentioned before that AvP also passes the Racial Bechdel Test.  For those not aware, Sanaa Lathan is black.  So is Colin Salmon who plays Maxwell Stafford in the film.  Stafford is basically Weyland’s right hand man.  He is Bishop’s assistant, he’s in charge of security, and he acts as body guard to Weyland.

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And there’s a few (or rather a couple) of scenes where Stafford and Woods talk that has nothing to do with or about a white person.

Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: We’re gonna round up the rest of the team and get to the surface. Let’s move!

[Stafford and Verheiden open their cases and pull out machine guns]

Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: What are you doing?

Maxwell Stafford: My job. Yours is over.

Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: My job is over when everyone is back on the boat safely. And that gun doesn’t change anything.

[Stafford cocks his gun]

There’s actually a couple of other scenes where Woods and Stafford talk, the first being a phone conversation (which Woods finds out Stafford is at the top of a cliff face she is climbing when he calls her) where Stafford offers her the job.

Needless to say, Woods is the only survivor in the entire group.

Alien-vs-Predator

Which brings us to the last test.  The Mako Mori Test.

Woods is the last survivor.  She even comes up with an idea how to kill the queen when she comes racing after Woods and the last Predator.  Even that Predator eventually dies (who, it should be added, was also infected with an Alien chest buster), leaving Lexa the lone survivor of the expedition.  The story is about her, and how she survives in the cold of the South Pole, standing alongside a Predator who doesn’t speak the same language.

Lex has to make a lot of rash decisions, including killing Sebastian who has become infected with a chest buster.  Is she emotional and scared?  Sure, I defy anyone not to be when in a situation like that.  But she survives.

That was a movie in 2004, and it had more notches in its belt for diversity, for having women as lead characters, and women of colour as lead characters in an action film.  And it wasn’t a major blockbuster at the time.  It did well at the box office, but didn’t shatter records.  Well enough so the executives gave the green light for the horrid Aliens vs Predator Requiem.

But if a movie like that can have a woman, a woman of colour no less, and still have fans enjoy it, then everybody can shut the fuck up about the new Ghostbusters.

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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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Progressive Games: Guild Wars Franchise


55621fb3-9810-48f1-bf9a-e2940899264aThere’s often talk about games that need to be all inclusive, progressive, and forward thinking, even if the genre happens to be high or epic fantasy.  Often we think of single player games that way, because in single player games we pay more attention to the story than we do in an MMO.  But in this case, I’m looking at the Guild Wars franchise.

When Guild Wars was launched, it started with Prophecies, and the story of a group of humans from a nation called Ascalon.  They were under attack by a war like species called the Charr.  Now, because we were playing humans, we didn’t really know about the entire history of the conflict.  Just the human side.

But as the story progressed, we encountered many people and heroes throughout Ascalon, Kryta and into the Maguuma Jungle.  It was all very Euro-centric when it started.

710px-Monastery_1Then, in Early 2006, ArenaNet released an expansion.  The first paid expansion of the franchise.  Called Factions, the players were no longer in the familiar setting of Kryta or Ascalon, but in the nation of Cantha.  The conflict with the Charr was very far away.

Cantha had very Eastern Asian aspects to it.  A mix of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Tibetan.  But it really wasn’t any different that other games that had come out before, as many aspects of Far East Asian folklore had been used as a building block for video games.  The big change came in late 2006.

ArenaNet released Nightfall, the second expansion of the GW franchise.  Like Factions, Nightfall was a standalone release, but it had something very different.

guildwars2_largeNightfall took place in Elona.  Which had very distinct African features.  Drawing from Egyptian, Yoruba, and even Zulu folklore and myths, Elona was very different than any video game seen previously.  It is incredibly rare when an African setting is the backdrop, but ArenaNet did it, and they managed to create a wonderful story complete with interesting heroes and complex villains.

In mid 2007, Eye of the North was released.  It would eventually become the last expansion in the Guild Wars franchise before the release of Guild Wars 2.  Originally, there was a different idea for Eye of the North, and there were many who believed that there was something pointing to a Meso-American backdrop.  Instead, we learned that there are other species on Tyria aside from Humans, Dwarves, Tengu, and Charr.  We are introduced to the Asura and to the Norn.

The Asura are small, but highly intelligent species.  The Norn are massive, hunter like species that take a great deal of their story from First Nations myths and folklore and Scandinavian myth and folklore.

jZ9VIpfThe progressive attitudes of the franchise sort of slowed, almost to a halt until Guild Wars 2 was released, and we came to the living story.  That is where we were introduced to Kasmeer and Marjory.  At first, one can just assume that they are a pair of humans in a Guild that was dubbed Destiny’s Edge 2.0.  There was Rox, a Charr ranger who had no warband, Braham Eirsson, and Taimi, an incredibly intelligent Asura progeny (a child) who is a student of the College of Synergetics.

Taimi is stricken with a degenerative disease that does not allow her to walk around as fast as others would.  But she doesn’t let that stop her, as she has her Golem Scruffy to assist her, and her incredible thirst for knowledge that pushes her forward.  Many times this is at the chagrin of Braham, who has taken to caring for the small Asura.

GW2-5Toward the end of the Scarlet Briar story we find out for certain that Kasmeer and Marjory aren’t just good friends, they are in fact a couple.  There had been hints that the two had a relationship, but this comes to the fore in the final battle with Scarlet.  As Marjory and Braham are both injured in the final assault, Kasmeer and the player attack Scarlet, while Rox stays behind to ensure Braham and Marjory are protected.  Once Scarlet is defeated, Kasmeer rushes to Marjorie’s side, and end holds her in an embrace, giving her a deep kiss.

This produced a metric shit tonne of fan art.  Seriously, fans got really happy with this.

gw2_sya-600x546During the assault on Lion’s Arch, we also meet an Order of Whispers agent named Symon, he wears a hood and mask and has the distinctive Whispers light armour, who assists with the evacuation of the citizens of Lion’s Arch.  Later, when Lion’s Arch is rebuilt, the player can meet and talk to a woman called Sya.  In the conversation with her, she reveals “I’m Sya. Back then I was known as Symon.”  She goes on to say “Scarlet destroyed so much in the blink of an eye. It reminded me how short life is and how we should spend every moment embracing who we are.”  Sya is a mesmer, and as a master of Illusions, she is able to make her outward appearance look the way in which she feels inside.

sylvari-group2Even the Sylvari of Guild Wars 2, one of the five playable races, have a gender fluid feel to them.  They are a plant based species, and while they do have male and female appearances, many players have used this as a way to create a masculine looking female or even a feminine looking male.  The Sylvari even view love and relationships differently, as they do not have the boundaries commonly associated with such things.  While same sex relationships in the world of Tyria aren’t frowned upon, the Sylvari are much more free to take up such relationships.  This may be because Sylvari find a bond with each other that is closer than any of the other five species.

As the player roams the world and learns of the dangers in Tyria, they discover a great number of things that the rest of the populace looks down on.  The Sons of Svanir and even the Flame Legion are two antagonistic factions that feel females are not worthy as warriors and that their only place is tending to the needs of the males.  With the Sons, this stems from the lore that when Jora and Svanir first found the great dragon Jormag, Svanir accepted the gift of corrupted power while Jora rejected it.  For the Sons, this meant Jormag’s power was not meant for them, and if a female Norn is corrupted with the dragon’s influence they will kill her.  Jormag, for his part, doesn’t really care.

With the Flame Legion, they are a legion of Charr who at one time held an oppressive hand above all other legions.  The Flame Legion lead the attack on Ascalon.  But they also felt that female Charr were not worthy as warriors and demanded all females step down from their place in the military and take up a more domesticated role.  This was later reversed as the other Legions pushed back and eventually defeated the Flame Legion.  An impressive event came several decades after the events in Eye of the North, when Kalla Scorchrazor, a female Charr of the Blood Legion, secretly trained other females and lead a revolt against the Flame Legion.  She forced the shamans to surrender, but paid for it with her life as a shaman stabbed her with a poisoned dagger.  Presently in Guild Wars 2, players can find talk of a warband dedicated to the memory of Kalla Scorchrazor.  Nicknamed Kalla’s Killers, it is an all female warband dedicated to taking out the Flame Legion.

There is still a long way to go regarding inclusive actions in video games.  And let’s not be too hasty, Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 isn’t without it’s flaws.  There’s an entire thread one could do that could be posted on either Escher Girls or Bikini Armour Battle Damage.  But, as far as things go, at least Guild Wars is a game that moves in the right direction.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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On story and writing – Part One: The Argument For Lady Thor


Ye be warned, spoilers abound beyond this mark

There’s been a huge number of arguments for and against the use of Jane Foster as Thor.  Of course we have the usual detractors who argue in most screeching fashion that Thor isn’t just a title, but it’s a name.  It’s the name of Thor Odinson.  Then there’s the other side that drew great attention to the fact this is a different way of telling a story that suits a narrative in the 21st Century.

For those not in the know, the power of Thor which is granted to one worth enough to wield the hammer of Thor has passed on from Thor Odinson and onto a woman.  For several issues of the Marvel Comic series, we’ve been given not so much one hint as to just who this woman was.  Recently, it’s been announced, that fans of the comic are going to see just who it is.

It’s Jane Foster.

But there’s a further interesting narrative that comes with it.  As Thor, Jane Foster has the power of the thunder god, and she has been deemed worthy of wielding the power of Thor, thus becoming the Thunder Goddess.  If she puts the hammer down, however, if she relinquishes the power of Thor, she not only becomes a mere mortal, but she also has to fight an ever more cruel enemy than anything the Underworld could toss at her.

Breast cancer.

Wield the power of Thor, become a goddess and fight great evil in the protection of mankind.  Reject the power of Thor, face the reality that she could die thanks to a very harsh and unforgiving disease.

This isn’t just an incredible twist on a comic book character.  It breathes new life and new ideas into the character.  Which paves the way of telling new stories.  When faced with a great evil, Thor will act in a certain manner.  But Jane Foster wielding the power of Thor will act in a manner more befitting of herself.  As a woman, she brings a whole host of life experiences to the table that differ greatly from what Thor Odinson has experienced.  Coupled by the fact that Foster is a scientist, it brings about a new way of looking at just how science and myth collide, and how science explains myth.

By demanding that the “feminist” Thor run stop, fans of the comic series are denying themselves of a brand new way of story telling.  Instead of the same old kinds of stories, we’re now introduced to a whole spectrum of stories that is incredibly different.  That type of thing should be embraced, because if there’s one thing comics have had a difficult time in doing, it’s breathing new life into their stories.  Often it’s the same thing over and over again.

Not so much swapping the gender of Thor, but giving the hammer, the Power of Thor to a woman, has actually done a better job of breathing new life into the character than any grim and gritty reboot has ever done.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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Moderate confession


Before I was born, or rather, before I came into the world as a fully developed human baby, during that time when I was still a fetus in my mom’s womb, my parents had an idea and a wish for what I would be.

This wish wasn’t some grand design nor was it a hope that I’d become famous.  They fortunately never put pressures on me like that.  This wish was what I would be, what I would come into the world as; a boy or a girl.  I’ll be honest, my parents were hedging their bets on a girl.  They even had the name picked out already.

Now, you might say that there’s ways parents can readily identify what gender the fetus is before it’s born, but there are those parents who don’t want to know.  They will allow for the miracle of birth to bring about the news that their child is either a boy or a girl.  For me, mom and dad really wanted a girl.

And that’s cool, I didn’t come out the gender they had hoped for, but they loved me and raised me unconditionally anyway.  I was a little shit at times, and that’s fine because kids can sometimes be little shits.

I have no idea what my life would have been like had I been a girl.  None at all.  The only thing I do know is my name, or at least the name I would have had.  That would have been Karen Anne.  Knowing the name is far from knowing what a person’s life would have been like, especially your own, had you been born as something else.  I have an idea what I would have looked like as the genetics of both sides of my family were pretty defined.  There’s lots of girls on both sides of my family who are prime examples of what I could have looked like.

But let’s move back the clock for a moment, shall we.  I have a pretty good idea what I would have encountered had I been a girl.  Not first hand experience, but the different experiences of women who grew up during the 1970s in the Canadian midwest.  And while it’s better than some places in the world, I still would have had a rough time of it.  If my career path went the same way, I would have had to work doubly as hard and faced a great number of hurdles in order to succeed.  In many cases, my career path of radio announcer would have been tough.  There’s not a lot of women who are on air announcers, so I’d have had to make strides to stand out.  I’d have done well in the news room, as women were more likely to get jobs in that area of broadcasting.  But as an on air announcer, probably not.

Let’s move the clock back again, shall we.  Because this next one is sort of horrifying.  Had I been born as I was, and had I come to a decision that I wanted to be a girl, its more than likely that I would have faced an even bigger problem.  The 1970s weren’t exactly the best for trans women.  And Saskatchewan, even less than.  It’s still considered odd or freakish in this province when a gay person or a lesbian couple lives in a small town (there are exceptions to this rule, however).  And what I’m describing is the 1970s.

But now we are in the year 2015, a time when we believe we are more accepting, more open minded, and more giving in to unconditional love.  Yet we aren’t.  All one has to do is look at the number of trans women who have been killed or committed suicide.  The difficulty faced just because those people don’t feel comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth.  The sudden disgust and hatred that is thrown upon those people even from family members because they live in a narrow minded world.

Sure, people are open minded.  As long as it happens to someone else.

The 1970s were a time when a great number of taboo things weren’t discussed.  It was a time when a good number of movements were taking place as well.  And we were on the cusp of something incredible with regard to social change.  It’s now 2015, and sadly, we’re still waiting for that cusp to arrive.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Life, randomness

 

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Annie Oakley was a gunslinger


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Born Phoeby Anne Mosey on August 13, 1860, became an incredible target shooter and an expert marksman.  Her talent was so good that she toured as a part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  Because of her showmanship and her ability to handle a gun, she became known as the very first women in the United States to be known as a superstar.  Oakley also was variously known as “Miss Annie Oakley”, “Little Sure Shot”, “Watanya Cicilla”, “Phoebe Anne Oakley”, “Mrs. Annie Oakley”, “Mrs. Annie Butler” and “Mrs. Frank Butler”.

But Annie was a gunslinger, a gun fighter, just as good as any man was, if not better.  This was proven when she won a contest against Frank Butler who bet a Cincinnati hotel owner he could out shoot any fancy shooter.  Annie, only fifteen years old at the time, did so with ease.  It wasn’t long after that Butler began courting Annie, and they were married in 1876 (it should be noted, Annie was only 16 years old, and that’s kind of creepy by today’s standards).

Annie Oakley wasn’t the only woman to wield a gun and be branded a trick shooter.  Martha Jane Canary, who wasn’t involved in a traveling wild west show, became known as Calamity Jane.

calamity jane

Jane’s bigger claim to fame was he claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok.  But she was a professional scout and frontierswoman, and helped Wild Bill fight against the Indians.  While many may have heard stories of a brutal nature, Jane is said to have been best known for her kindness and compassion, especially to the sick and needy.

While Jane was older than Annie Oakley, Jane’s exploits didn’t begin until Annie began her life in the showman’s circuits in the east.  Jane was already in Wyoming and South Dakota by this time.

The point is, we often hear stories of women like Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane and the first thought is that they are trick shooters.  When in fact, they do exactly the same thing that men are already doing (in Annie’s case, even better).  These two aren’t the only gunslingers of their kind; Belle Starr, Pearl Hart, Harriette Tubman, Kitty Leroy, and Sally Scull just to name a few (to read more about some of these women, click here).

For the longest time, the only gunslingers that were taken seriously were men.  This was even reflected in the media we consumed.  From books to television to movies (and even radio serial series) gunslingers, or the heroes of the story were always men and the women were there only to be saved or the love interest.  It`s taken a very long time, and there`s still a great deal of resistance, to portray women as gunfighters in their own right.

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The Quick and the Dead starred Sharon Stone as `The Lady” and she co-produced the movie that came out in 1995.  The premise was a reversal of the old story of the gunfighter who would roll into town looking for the man who shot his family.  Instead of it being the lone gunman it was a woman who lost her family as a child, and came back seeking revenge in a contest of quick draw between combatants in a lawless town.

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Bandidas starred Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz as two Mexican women who sought revenge against a cruel gunman who worked for a New York bank (played by Dwight Yoakam).  The gunman used intimidation and murder to get his way to have a rail line built through farmer’s lands.  Hayek and Cruz’s characters go onto a series of bank robberies to thwart the efforts of this gunslinger.

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True Grit that came out in 2010, is based on the novel of the same name, written by Charles Portis in 1968.  The book was adapted to film in 1969 and starred John Wayne.  The 2010 version includes Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper.  The story is another about revenge, where Mattie Ross hires the assistance of Marshal Rooster Cogburn in hunting down the man who killed her father.  Mattie is an intelligent and even stubborn young woman who tries to dictate the hunt for the killer.

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This CBC series is being released shortly in October of this year.  Strange Empire is a story who’s heroes are women.  Set in the 1860s along the Alberta-Montana border, three women set to act out revenge when the men in their town are all killed and the women forced into whoring.  It stars Cara Gee, Melissa Farman and Tattiawna Jones.

The trope of revenge is used in each of these examples, but it’s a familiar one when it comes to westerns.  The difference is that when the trope is used it’s used for men who want revenge against a cutthroat gunfighter.  It takes on a different light when it’s women who are the ones seeking revenge.  Often when it’s women thrust into the roll of a gunfighter seeking revenge, it’s treated more like a comedy (such as the feel from Bandidas) than an actual drama.  This idea needs to change.

Women are just as capable of seeking revenge as men are.  They are just as adapt at gunfighting as men.

Annie Oakley wasn’t a trick shooter.  She was a gunfighter.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Fun, randomness

 

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Are comic books homophobic/transphobic?


That’s a pretty wild stab, I know.  To ask that question, you may as well ask, are comics a little racist as well.  And why don’t we lump all of that together.

Now, let me be clear on this.  Comic book writers and artists themselves are not necessarily homophobic/transphobic/racist/sexist (though, in that last one, there’s been some questionable things that artists have done with female characters, example the latest Spider-woman cover).

SPIDERWOMAN001Manara-06299-600x853.0

The cover is reminiscent of a Catwoman cover that was all boobs and butt.  Also, see Mary Jane’s famous pose that was imitated (with hilarious results).  Needless to say, comic book artists and editors have a lot of work still ahead of them in not pulling the sexist card.  A reminder, a pose that appears sexy doesn’t necessarily mean powerful and empowering.  If you think to yourself “yeah, this pose is gonna be hot” then there’s a good chance that you shouldn’t do it.

Regarding the other aspects of phobias and racism, comics also still have a long way to go.  There has been same sex marriages in Marvel Comics, but DC Comics is lagging behind.  Image Comics seems to be further ahead in this regard.  DC almost had one, but thanks to editorial, superheroes obviously can’t have happy lives (unless they’re Superman and they’re boning Wonder Woman… gah, that’s so stupid).

Case in point, fans of Batwoman have been waiting for Maggie and Kate to get married, but the idea of that happening was tossed out the window thanks to editorial.

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There is an explanation for the lack of same sex marriages in books, and comics.  Many publishers will make sure the content of the book is a good push for world wide publication.  And often times, thanks to certain countries laws (I’m looking at you, Russia) same sex marriage is illegal and any publication, whether it’s factual or fictional, that seems to shed a positive light on gay and lesbian relationships, is seen as propaganda.

For books, like the Harry Potter series, that can be a problem.  It was never revealed openly in the books that Dumbldore was gay, but it was something that J. K. Rowling knew was a part of the character.  Still, writing it into the book may have had it banned outright in certain countries and even jurisdictions in Canada and the United States (possibly not Canada, but you never know).  It would have given homophobic bigots something else to complain about instead of magic.

For comic books, it might be a little different.  Comics don’t have the sales push that a best selling novel would have.  Comic book companies aren’t worried about breaking ground in a nation (or continent) that they don’t have a chance of selling a book in.  So they often don’t have to worry about countries and their laws about same sex marriage or same sex relationships.  If you sell 50,000 copies of an issue in it’s first two months of release, then you did good.  And between Canada and the United States, there’s way more than 50,000 comic book readers out there.

Still, comics aren’t doing that well with showcasing a transgender person in their pages.  Gail Simone, former writer of Batgirl and current scribe for Tomb Raider and Red Sonya, did give us a trans-woman in the pages of Batgirl.  And from what’s been said, that character will stay in those pages under a new creative team.

Alysia

I’ve read through a list of other transgender characters who have appeared over the years, but as far as I can tell, Alysia Yeoh is the only one I can find that doesn’t have a magical transformation, is reincarnated as a man/woman, or is taking a fictitious drug to help her remain a woman (though Shvaughn Erin from the 1970s Legion of Superheroes run can count as she is the one taking the fictitious drug, also honourable mention to Comet during Peter David’s run on Supergirl).  Sadly, none of these characters mentioned are the title character.  There was only one I could find, Lord Fanny from the Invisibles, who was born male but becomes female in order to gain inheritance to her family’s witch abilities.  That, however, was a Vertigo comic, and Vertigo had a lot more risk taking to it.

So, as of yet, there is no comic which has a main character or title character, currently running who happens to be a trans-woman or trans-man.  At least not that I know of (if you know of one, let me know in the comments, or reblog this and add to it, or just hit me up with a message).

Now, onto the last one.  Comics really aren’t racist.  Or are they.  Comic titles will come out with people of colour, but often the title dies out quickly.  When that happens, a lot of fanboys will cry out that there’s no market for PoC in comics (or women, if the title is one for a woman).  Never, however, do they say anything of the sort if a title staring a straight, white, male fails.  In that case it was due to poor writing, poor artwork, lack of availability at comic shops.  And all of those can be true.  They’re also true for titles staring women, and titles staring PoC that end up being cut well before their time.  (I’ll do another write up on that double standard later)

But there’s also another reason why.  Sadly, comics have an advertising budget, and they’ll lump a vast majority of their advertising dollars in their sure things.  For DC, that’s Superman, Batman, Justice League, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman.  For Marvel, that’s any X-Title or any Avengers tie in title (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor) or Spider-man titles.  Now, you just can’t have a company say “We’re doing a Batman title, you should buy it” and expect it to become a hit.  Consumers need a reason to buy said thing.  Of course, most consumers will be interested it someone says there’s a new Batman title.  But if DC pushes for a Black Lightning title, for example, they’d have to back it up with some advertising if they want it to sell.  Marvel, on the other hand, really seems to be pouring their advertising budget into their new titles, such as recent ad campaigns with Miss Marvel.  Marvel’s been taking a lot of risks and it shows that it’s paying off.

It’s also true that we, the consumer, also have to help support new titles.  That can be difficult, thanks in part to an old stigma about comic book shops.  Many comic book shops are changing and being more open and welcome to all genders and people of colour, but there’s still the stigma about how uninviting they can be.  And there are shops that are like that, who scoff at women, don’t understand why a person of colour would be buying a comic, or being outright rude to someone who they may feel isn’t a comic’s demographic.

The onus of change isn’t on the consumer.  It’s at both the retail level, and at the publishing level.  Make it more accessible and inviting to go into a comic shop.  And as far as publishers go, try to make your creative teams have more diversity.  More women and more people of colour working on your titles.  You are not losing out by doing this, you are in fact bringing new ideas along with new talent.

I will admit, comic publishers have taken some massive steps regarding inclusion for LGBT, and people of colour, but they’ve still got a long way to go.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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Has Star Trek taken a step back


From the outset, Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future was a very progressive one.  I know there was problematic things that Roddenberry did, but he also paved the way for a television series that broke boundaries.

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From the fact that the Enterprise crew was a diverse collection of individuals, to the fact that a black woman was featured as a standard bridge officer, right up to television’s first inter-racial kiss, Star Trek’s early days pushed the envelope and didn’t budge when the envelope attempted to push back.

Even though executives attempted to get Nichelle Nichols fired and off the show, making her working life difficult, to the talk she had with Martin Luther King Jr. about black representation on television.  At the time, George Takei wasn’t out as a homosexual, but he is not only recognized as being the dependable helm officer of the Enterprise, but also a bold and positive representative of the LGBT+ community.

The only way that Star Trek at the time could be stopped was through it’s cancellation.  After less than 100 episodes, Star Trek came to a close, and many thought that was it.

Until the late 70s.

The original motion picture wasn’t anything to write home about, and in all honesty it was the start of a curse that Star Trek motion pictures began to undertake.  The odd number horrible curse (with the exception of II, III, and IV, that all created a seamless narrative).  But even with the successes of the motion picture universe, there were very few who thought that the Enterprise would fly through space on the small screen once more.

Until 1987.

With the original air date of September 26, 1987, a new Enterprise with a new crew began to take to the final frontier.  They did take some getting used to.  Trekkies (or Trekkers) had grown used to Kirk as the captain, and weren’t exactly sure how to view this older captain with a British accent and a French name.

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But the Next Generation picked up in attempting to produce progressive and envelope pushing episodes where the original series had left off.  From creating a race of beings who were androgynous to showing a good representation of the effects of torture.

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That continued when Star Trek Deep Space Nine aired.  Though not a captain at first, Benjamin Sisko was the first black commander of a space station, and eventually the first black captain of a starship in the television series (it must be pointed out, that does not include those characters who had bit parts and cameos).  Avery Brooks took the role of Sisko and ran with it.

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Deep Space Nine was also a series which put a lot of emphasis on women, and even women of colour.  From Keiko O’Brien to Cassidy Yates, from Major Keira to Lt. Dax.  Deep Space Nine was a very character driven series that explored the lives of the crew of DS9 and the Defiant, whether that be through the good times or the bad times.  And it showed that while these were good people, they have made some questionable choices and decisions throughout their lives.

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Deep Space Nine even explored, but did not fully invite, the lives of LGBT+ onto the screen, with the airing of Rejoined (Season 4, Episode 6), where Dax is reuinted with a past lover from a previous host.

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By this time, The Next Generation had moved into the realm of motion pictures, and while DS9 was slowly coming to an end, the creators took another bold move.  They began a fourth series, but instead of a ship with the safety of the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation close at hand, a ship thrown to the other side of the galaxy and left to defend herself.

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But this ship, Voyager, would have a marked difference from the past Enterprises and Defiant.  This ship would be the first in network television to be in command by a female Captain.

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Captain Kathryn Janeway may have fit the motherly role, trying to get her crew to work with a Maquis crew as they attempted to get back home, but she also made hard decisions.  Janeway and the crew of Voyager have run into the Borg more times than Picard and the Enterprise.  They’ve discovered more new species and made more first contact scenarios than any other since the first Starfleet vessels began exploring.  It might be said that Voyager might only be second to the NX-Enterprise for number of first contact missions.

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As with the predecessors, Voyager had an equal mix of male and female officers (though, it did still tip toward the male side).  B’Lanna Torres was the first female chief engineer (Scotty, La Forge, and O’Brien being previously seen on past series).  Seven was an expert in not just the Borg but astrometrics, science and engineering.  Kess was a compitent nurse, though left when her psychic abilities began to threaten the ship (though she did return in later seasons).  Even the difference of “good guy” and “bad guy” had the roles filled with both men and women, as Seska became a thorn in Voyager’s side.

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NOTE: Seska began the early seasons wearing a blue uniform for science, later episodes until she was revealed to be a Cardassian spy, she wore gold of engineering.  Also, actress Martha Hackett appeared in DS9 as the Romulan officer in charge of the Defiant’s cloaking device.  Lost opportunities as I thought that would have been an interesting addition.

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When Voyager ended it was a while before the last Star Trek series appeared on air.  Instead of progressing forward in time, the idea was to look back at the history of Starfleet.  The NX-01 Enterprise was launched with Jonathon Archer as her captain.

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Even though the show was set in the 22nd Century, it still had a progressive feel to it, as it showed how the Enterprise and her crew dealt with each situation and became leaders to pave the way for a unified and peaceful Federation.

During the more than 28 seasons of Star Trek, there was just one regret voiced by those who had a hand in bringing it all to the big screen.  That was there was no permanent LGBT+ representation on board any of the vessels.

Now, we’ve had two new motion pictures in the reboots.  While they were good and entertaining, they left a lot to be desired.  There was no feeling of hope as the other series brought to the table.  No feeling that the future was going to not only be okay, but better.  More inclusive and more accepting.  Lens flairs and over using tropes from the original series (which was only a very, very minor part of Shatner and Nimoy’s Star Trek).

While the adventure has been great in the reboot, is Star Trek taking a step back from what it was?

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Life, randomness

 

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