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Queerbaiting & Erasure: A Brief History of Institutional Homophobia In Marvel Films

This article is going to focus on three known instances where Marvel as a film studio has institutionally omitted the representation of LGBT characters and relationships in their films. Racism, sexism and colourism are also rampant issues when it comes to diversity and inclusion in Marvel films and I will be discussing them in another article I am currently working on soon. In this one, however, I am going to focus on the specific erasure and omission of LGBT identity in the following cases.

Films based on Marvel Comics have been made, viewed and loved since Republic Pictures produced Captain America in 1944. As of 2018, there are over 50 films based on Marvel comics (with more on the way), spanning 8 decades, and I’m somewhat excited and disappointed to announce that the Marvel film franchise finally has its first openly, explicitly LGBT character. Amazing, eh? Only took them 70 years or so.

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I’m talking, of course, about Negasonic Teenage Warhead (aka Ellie Phimister) played by Brianna Hilderbrand in the Deadpool films. In Deadpool 2, Negasonic introduces Deadpool to her girlfriend, Yukio, played by Shioli Kutsuna. In the scene, Negasonic specifically identifies Yukio as her girlfriend, making Negasonic and Yukio the very first open and explicitly gay couple in a Marvel superhero film to date. What makes this even better is that Brianna Hilderbrand (Negasonic) is herself part of the LGBT+ community, making her the first openly LGBT actress to play an openly LGBT superhero.

Watching Deadpool 2, I was over the moon excited about this. Even if Negasonic is a secondary character in the Deadpool films, I’ll never get tired of seeing LGBT superheroes on the big screen because well, we haven’t had any until now. This is surprising because Deadpool himself is not heterosexual. Yep. Deadpool, written as an openly pansexual character in the comics, is not the first explicitly LGBT character in his own film franchise and unfortunately, Deadpool isn’t the first character whose non-straight sexuality has been omitted. In fact, Marvel, as a film studio, up to this point has deliberately excluded at least 3 characters’ LGBT identities from their films.

 

CASE OF EXCLUSION #1:

THE VALKYRIE

I do not know a single human who didn’t see Thor: Ragnarok and walk out with a whole lot of love for Tessa Thompson’s warrior, the Valkyrie. Not only did Tessa kill it in the role, but she confirmed on Twitter that the Valkyrie, like her comic book counterpart, is bisexual.

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There was just one hiccup, however. There is no explicit representation of the Valkyrie’s sexuality in the film itself. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Thompson explained that she pitched director Taikia Waititi on the Valkyrie’s sexuality, referring to the Valkyrie’s relationship in the comics with the anthropologist, Annabelle Riggs. In response, a scene was shot in which we (the audience) were meant to see a woman exiting Valkyrie’s bedroom, but the scene was cut by executives because it supposedly “distracted from vital exposition.”

Tessa goes onto say in the same interview that she was allowed to imply certain things in the Valkyrie’s characterization, but not explicitly in the film itself. Despite both Thomspon’s and Taika Waititi’s best efforts to keep the brief shot in the final cut, the scene and any explicit representation of the Valkyrie’s sexuality was cut from the film.

Yes, you heard that correctly, folks. In a film about a god of thunder going to a dimension made of garbage ruled by a madman who makes monsters fight for sport, featuring a naked green hulk, a ship specifically used for orgies, the only exit from this place is “through the devil’s anus”, it would have been far too distracting to have a very brief shot where a woman leaves the Valkyrie’s bedroom. Because the only thing more confusing to put in a film than hulk butt and penis, senseless violence, slavery jokes, murderous siblings, genocide and torture is showing that women can have intimate relationships with other women in a brief 3-second shot, apparently?

But I know what you’re thinking, the MCU is owned by Disney and Disney is notoriously not so supportive of the LGBT community so that’s not a surprise and you’re right. So, let’s take a look at a few non-Disney marvel productions, shall we?

 

CASE OF EXCLUSION #2:

ANDREW GARFIELD ’S SPIDERMAN

Andrew Garfield was cast as Spiderman in 2011. He played the role in two films: The Amazing Spider-man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-man Two (2014). In 2015 however, Sony sold Spider-man back to Marvel/Disney, and in 2016 the franchise was rebooted with Tom Holland as the lead. Tom Holland has played the character since. It’s easy to credit this series of events as the natural progression of Disney snapping up all the wayward Marvel characters and potentially lucrative franchises, but here’s something you might not know: In June of 2015, contractual documents from Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures leaked online revealing that Spiderman/Peter Parker is contractually bound to be portrayed only as a white straight male (see below).

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I’d like to point out that Spider-man’s mandatory character traits may say that he can’t be gay unless his alter-ego (Peter Parker) is portrayed that way, but in Peter Parker’s mandatory traits it states that he must be heterosexual. Basically, its put in writing that there is no way either Spiderman or Peter Parker could be portrayed as gay. I’d also like to briefly mention the inherent racism in the requirement of Spiderman to be white on-screen. While it’s fair to say that these documents were leaked from Sony and for all we know these same requirements may not apply now that Spiderman is owned by Disney, racism in the portrayal of Spiderman is still quite prominent.

Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker borrows extensively from Miles Morales’ version of Spiderman. Miles is Afro- latina and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in Spiderman: Homecoming borrows heavily from Miles’ characterisation with everything from his Asian best friend, love interest and even mentorship from Tony Stark. Of course, this isn’t the first or last time a character of colours’ storyline has been appropriated for a white character’s to be more interesting, but that’s another article for another day.

When Andrew Garfield started fighting for a bisexual Peter Parker in 2013/14, Marvel dumped him and his whole franchise. Or in the very least, the franchise’s dismantlement coincided rather neatly after Garfield came out swinging for a bi Spidey. There is, of course, no official record of Sony stating they buried Garfield’s Spiderman for this reason, but there’s too much coincidence for it not to be a factor in the scrapping of Garfield’s Spiderman franchise.

In July of 2013, a little under a year before The Amazing Spiderman Two was released and two years before the contractual documents were leaked, Andrew Garfield revealed in an interview that he’d had serious discussions with director Marc Webb and producer, Matt Tolmach about the possibility of Peter Parker’s love interest, ‘MJ’ being a man. As the quote goes in this interview:

“What if M] is a dude?’ Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking!… So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”

Garfield, in the same interview even suggests Michael B Jordan for the role of ‘MJ,’

“I’ve been obsessed with Michael B. Jordan since The Wire. He’s so charismatic and talented. It’d be even better—we’d have interracial bisexuality!”

I mean, we all saw Black Panther, right? Can’t disagree with Garfield on that dream casting. Whats interesting is that there’s evidence to suggest that this plan of making ‘M]’ a male love interest might have actually been in the works for the final instalment of the trilogy. Originally revealed in this interview in June of 2013, it was confirmed Shailene Woodley filmed a few scenes as Mary Jane for The Amazing Spiderman Two that were cut from the second film. Marc Webb explained that he wanted to recast the role and introduce (a more neutral sounding) “Watson” as Peter’s love interest in the third film. Woodley even said,

“Based on the proposed plot, I completely understand holding off on introducing [Mary Jane] until the next film.”

Note: the non-gendered name ‘Watson,’ the intention to recast, the fact that ‘Mary Jane’ is in parenthesis, indicating that’s not what Woodley said and the following month was when the aforementioned interview of Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb discussing the real potential of bisexual Spiderman surfaced and a very possible future of a Spiderman film with a male love interest began to take shape.

But It became apparent that Marvel film executives were not on board with the idea of a bisexual Spiderman. In August of 2013, a month after the above interviews were given, Stan Lee was asked about Garfield and Webb’s comments about a male love interest. His response was…Well, see for yourself.

“He’s becoming bisexual? Really? Who have you been talking to? I don’t know…seriously I don’t know anything about that. And if it’s true, I’m going to make a couple of phone calls. I figure one sex is enough for anybody…Maybe sometimes you say something just to be noticed or to create a controversy, who knows?”

I don’t need to explain the inherent homophobia and harmful rhetoric present in claiming that people/characters talk about, or identify as bisexual purely for attention or controversy. Or how disgusting it is that in a universe where a 16-year-old can gain spiderlike abilities from a spider bite, a person not being straight is something to be stopped at all costs. But sadly, it was.

After the Amazing Spiderman Two’s release in 2014, Sony entered talks with Disney to re-license them the character with the intention of completely rebooting him in the wake of Amazing Spiderman Two. In early 2015, the deal went through and Disney reacquired the rights to Spiderman, dissolving Garfield, Webb’s and Tolmach’s involvement with the franchise and scrapping all Sony’s future instalments. I guess Stan made those calls, after all.  Garfield has since spoken about his dislike of the Spiderman franchise, more specifically his dislike for perpetuating toxicity through the role. Like in this interview with the Hollywood Reporter, saying:

“…for me it was, you know, Spiderman stuff… There’s millions and millions of young people watching who are hungiy for a hand here. Someone to say, “You’re okay. Everything’s okay. You’re seen. You’re seen very deeply. ”And we have opportunities to do that with those kind of behemoth films. And more often than not, the opportunity is not taken. And it’s absolutely devastating and heartbreaking because there’s so much medicine that could be delivered through those films.”

In short, there’s a pile of evidence that strongly implicates that Garfield and Webb fully intended to introduce a male love interest for Spiderman in the third instalment of their trilogy, but the forces that be in Sony and Marvel responded by killing their franchise and licensing the character back to Disney to ensure Spiderman would remain firmly heterosexual. Of course, I acknowledge this could all have been coincidence, but given Garfield’s comment above there is certainly some truth to the tale.

(Much of this information was originally pieced together in this Tumblr post and I highly recommend the follow-up post linked within it too).

 

CASE OF EXCLUSION #3:

DEADPOOL

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There is arguably not a single more iconic LGBT superhero than Deadpool and for many LGBT folks like myself, he holds a special place in our hearts for this very reason. Since his first appearance in 1992, Deadpool has expressed romantic interest in men, women, gods and even the physical form of Death themself who manifests as both feminine and masculine. Fabian Nicieza, original co-creator of Deadpool, has categorically stated that he has written Deadpool as “fluid” from the very beginning. Other recurring prominent Deadpool writers, Gerry Duggan and Gail Simone, also reaffirm this, saying they both have always written him as pansexual as well.

I would be remiss, however, to go forward without acknowledging the problematic origins of Deadpool’s sexuality. Nicieza has said that Deadpool’s ‘fluid’ sexuality is a side effect of his constantly regenerating brain cells, saying:

“They (nor you) understand DP brain cells in CONSTANT FLUX so he is hetero one minute, gay the next, etc. ALL ARE VALID.”

Once again, I don’t need to spell out why linking someone’s sexuality to a mental illness or implying that it is a symptom of a neuroatypical condition is inherently problematic and emblematic of a long dark history of LGBT folk being labelled as insane because of our existence. Nor should I need to explain why saying that bisexual people are “hetero one minute, gay the next” is a harmful mentality that has lead to people who are attracted to multiple genders being ostracized from multiple communities. But when it comes to Deadpool, whether we like it or not, the end result is the same. The Merc With A Mouth is written and portrayed as someone attracted to multiple genders, even if the origins of that attraction is not ideal. He is an LGBT antihero and loved by fans, regardless of creators’ misguided intentions.

CmdxBmfWYAAClJXComic book Deadpool is certainly not ashamed of his attraction either. One of the most popular relationships in the Marvel comic-verse is that of ‘spideypool’, the relationship between 20 something-year-old Peter Parker and Deadpool. Of course, this romance is rather one-sided with Deadpool constantly flirting and Peter more or less letting it wash over him, but it is a romance for Deadpool, nonetheless. The pairing was so popular that Deadpool and Spiderman got their own comic series, “Spider-Man/Deadpool” in 2016, in which its revealed that Spiderman is on Deadpool’s ‘Free Pass’ list aka the list Deadpool keeps of people he and his current partner had agreed he can hook up with in the event they meet. Thor can also be found on this list (relatable, right?).

Of course, when one speaks of Deadpool’s greatest loves, one cannot overlook Deadpool’s well known one-sided, at times murderous, always irritating attraction toward Wolverine. In the comics, the two have, what can only be described as a resentful friendship characterised by Wolverine’s bone-deep annoyance of Deadpool, and Deadpool’s big ol’ crush on Wolverine.

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The two are well matched. Deadpool is terrible at trying to be a good guy and Wolverine is bad at trying to be a bad guy, and so, the two find common ground somewhere in the middle of their anti-heroic complexes. Moving past the quips, teasing, etc., Wolverine is the only mutant Deadpool percieves as an equal.

With their healing, overly exploited violent skillset and abused backgrounds, these men parallel each other in more ways than one and know that in a thousand years, it may only be the two of them left. Besides, as you can see from the panels included in this post, it’s not like there isn’t subtext to support the idea that the two have feelings for each other.

wolverine_vs_deadpoolThe panel on the right shows Wolverine holding Deadpool against him, the two joined at the torso by Deadpool’s katana, with Wolverine’s head tossed back and fire raging behind and between them. I think we can all agree that if we saw this exact image, but with a male/female pairing, you’d have a tough time convincing anyone that it wasn’t a tragically romantic image at its core, and it is. Deadpool is holding the only man who’ll ever understand his experience, the only man he fully understands. Before I get back to explaining how these specific relationships were and are squashed by the Marvel film adaptations, I just want to say that I think its truly amazing that people really believe that Wolverine has been alive for hundreds of years and never once been with a man romantically.

But when it comes to the Deadpool film adaptations, Deadpool’s sexuality is at best, entirely left out and at worst, made into a running gag. In fairness, his sexuality is portrayed in a comedic context a lot in the comics as well because comedy is an intrinsic aspect of Deadpool’s character. But when you couple this treatment of Deadpool’s attraction with the fact that, in the films, he is shown exclusively in a relationship with a woman (Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa) it smells a little more like exclusion and erasure.

Much like in our aforementioned cases, it isn’t for lack of trying on behalf of the actor themselves that Deadpool’s canonical love-life is exclusive to women. Ryan Reynolds, whose dedication to a faithful film adaption of Deadpool is nothing short of admirable and deserves its own essay, has been vying for Deadpool to have a boyfriend since minute one, saying in a Deadpool pre-release 2016 interview with Variety:

Reynolds added that he thought it would be “nice” for Deadpool to have a boyfriend at some point. “I certainly wouldn’t be the guy standing in the way of that,” Reynolds said. “That would be great.”

Two movies later, though, and Deadpool is both boyfriendless and girlfriendless with his explicitly shown relationships made up exclusively of Vanessa. Many have speculated that the reason for Deadpool’s boyfriendless existence is because of China. China makes up a massive proportion of the market for superhero films and because the country is, shall we say, not very supportive of LGBT people in general, most films seeking to be released in the Chinese market avoid LGBT representation. However, Reynolds and the screenwriters for Deadpool have said that the film is already banned in China so China’s stance on the issue is irrelevant.

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Credit where credit is due, it’s not as if the Deadpool films sweep Deadpool’s sexuality under the rug completely like Marvel did with Wade Wilson in the X- Men Origins: Wolverine film. Whether this counts as “good” representation is debatable, but his opening monologue in 2016’s Deadpool alludes (mockingly) to a one night stand with Wolverine, he hits on his recurring cabbie (Dopinder) and calls him “pretty cute,” among other things.

The second Deadpool film extends Deadpool’s incessant innuendos, aiming them at Cable and Colossus. Cable and Deadpool’s tension is palpable in Deadpool 2, and cashed in upon by Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin during the marketing, culminating in Deadpool holding Cable close and suggesting they try a certain sex act. Cable responds by holding a knife to Deadpool’s groin. As for Colossus, throughout the film, he is flirted with, groped and boombox serenaded by Deadpool, culminating in a throwaway one-liner from Vanessa in the afterlife in which she tells Wade, “Don’t fuck Colossus!” as Deadpool is pulled back to reality…which is kind of the problem.

Ryan Reynolds is serious about giving Deadpool a boyfriend but as we’ve seen in these cases an actor, even the lead backed up by the writers, doesn’t translate to the idea getting off the ground into the film. What we see in the Deadpool films is an extremely watered down version of that concept, easily discredited by the safety nets of comedy and a core heterosexual-adjacent romance that is the only one treated seriously by the writing.

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Deadpool’s relationship with Vanessa (a woman), despite all the jokes, is given full weight within the film’s narrative. Hell, the entire first film revolves around Deadpool wanting to get cured for Vanessa, look pretty for Vanessa, realizing he must be a better person for Vanessa and finally, him trying to rescue Vanessa. Vanessa and Wade/Deadpool’s relationship, while also central to a great deal of the film’s comedy, is also what gives Deadpool’s character the majority of his development and depth.

Even in the second film, in which Vanessa is killed in the first ten minutes, Deadpool’s character development still centralises on his relationship with her. Deadpool 2 sees Wade, in his grief, trying to become a hero partially for the sake of bettering himself and helping Russell, but mostly because when he tried to kill himself in the wake of Vanessa’s death he wasn’t allowed to join Vanessa in some version of the afterlife. So he pursues redemption (helping Russell, becoming an X-Men trainee, etc.) over the guilt of her death in the hopes it will reunite him with Vanessa. The last scene in which Wade and Vanessa are together in this afterlife, he’s sent back, but not before Vanessa, who may I remind you is literally dead and Deadpool is very likely going to outlive her by 100s of years, warns him, “Don’t fuck Colossus!”

This line is intended as a joke. Because a man feeling genuine affection and attraction toward another man and wanting to act on it is so funny, right? Because killing a female character for the sake of bettering a male-centric plotline and then (even in death! !) framing her as the controlling girlfriend is hilarious, right? Because preserving and prioritising the status of a heterosexual passing relationship, even when one party is dead, is so funny and not emblematic of a larger issue concerning perceptions of LGBT relationships in real life, is it?

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For the record, I am in no way belittling or invalidating LGBT folk who enter into relationships that outwardly appear to be straight relationships. Such thinking is toxic, harmful and not constructive or helpful when it comes to LGBT identity and safety. What I’m asking for is that Deadpool’s sexual identity is contextualised as something other than a punchline. What I’m asking for is for LGBT identity to be authentically represented on screen, not just in subtext, or in claims from actors and writers because LGBT folk have a right to see themselves represented like anyone else. When it comes to fiction, despite JK Rowling’s beliefs on the matter, the representation of marginalised identities should be explicit within the text. It cannot be called representation if it is not represented in the first place.

Deadpool 2 proved that these films are more than capable of representing LGBT identity and issues seriously, not only with the establishment of Negasonic and Yukio as a couple but also with one of the main plots concerning the ‘Mutant Re-education Center’ whose treatment of mutants was a thinly veiled metaphor for conversion therapy. Which Deadpool is deeply and visibly angered by in the course of the film. Its a bit unfortunate, however, that none of this is explicitly linked to Deadpool’s well-established canon sexual identity.

This is especially frustrating when ‘mutants’ as a concept in the narrative are meant to be allegories for oppressed and marginalised people. With the lack of inclusion in Marvel films, it sometimes feels like Marvel created mutants in order to use and exploit oppression as a narrative trope without making certain, shall we say, conservative audiences uncomfortable.

Allegories aside, there is a term that is given when the creators of a character attempt to hint at a character’s supposed LGBT identity without actually allowing that character to explicitly engage in that identity. Its called queerbaiting and unfortunately Deadpool in the films, with his jokes. throw away lines, easily retracted physical comedy and dedication to Vanessa places his characterisation more in the camp of queerbaiting than actual LGBT representation. Even Reynold’s insistence that Deadpool will eventually have a boyfriend seems flimsy, especially in light of Deadpool 2‘s ending where Deadpool uses Cable’s time travelling device to go back and undo Vanessa’s death. Thus, undoing all the events of the film.  So, nothing genuine or authentic seems to be brewing on the horizon in terms of Deadpool getting a boyfriend anytime soon.

I’d like to finish this segment on Deadpool’s exclusion case with a more optimistic quote from S.E. Fleenor’s article on Deadpool’s pansexuality here:

“Is Deadpool pansexual? Yes. Deadpool is pansexual, even if he never, ever has an on—the— page or on-screen relationship with a man. No one has to perform their sexuality for their identity to be valid. just because the films haven’t figured out how to have a fully realized pansexual Deadpool yet doesn’t mean his identity is any less real.”

When it comes down to it, I’m not trying to tell you not to enjoy these movies, or trying to take away from the representation of Negasonic and Yukio’s relationship. It’s a small step that could potentially lead to better LGBT inclusion in Marvel films and superhero films in general. If anything I’m pointing out how momentous their relationship is in light of Marvel’s well-documented aversion to including LGBT characters in films. As I said, even though Negasonic and Yukio are secondary characters, it’s still a big deal. Especially because Hilderbrand identifies as part of the LGBT community too. I am 100% here for it, and with superhero films dominating mainstream media, the importance of including LGBT superheroes in superhero films is important now more than ever. The target demographic of these films (Millenials & Gen Z) have more LGBT identifying members than any previous generation, with a little over a third identifying with the LGBT community, and it has been proven time and time again that its vital for people to see themselves represented in popular media in a positive light. Especially, young people.

I know, inevitably, there are going to be people Who stumble across this post and shake their heads and fists, perplexed as to why the omission of the sexual orientation of a fictional superhero matters. Here’s the thing: Superhero films are, at their heart, films that imagine us as better than we are — as stronger people: physically, mentally and ethically. Even characters like Deadpool, who is extremely flawed, are imaginings of our determination to keep trying to be better even when we’re at our worst.

What’s the point if, when we imagine these enhanced versions of ourselves and the world around us, we imagine them with the same prejudices and limitations as our current reality? What does it say if we create worlds where its portrayed as more realistic, more human for a character to be a god-like warrior from an ancient dimension populated by Slavic Gods, or a fourth- wall breaking mercenary with an attitude problem, or a teenager who got their powers from being bitten by a radioactive spider, then it is for them to love someone whose the same gender as they are?

How do we expect to inspire young people to be better if we deny them authentic (non- fart-jokey) representation in the worlds where we imagine where we are better? Part of what keeps so many young people in the closet and contributes to ignorance is the fact that mainstream media refuses to normalise the existence of LGBT people. Imagine how much quicker young people would learn to accept themselves and feel confident in themselves if they saw their identities in their heroes who are heroes with their identity, not despite it.

The simple answer is if we imagine these enhanced better versions of humanity that ultimately exclude humanity than we have not imagined ourselves any better than we are. All we’ve done is put on a costume and that’s not good enough. At least, it shouldn’t be and I hope it won’t be in the near future.

 


 

In this article, I covered known cases in which Marvel studios quashed LGBT representation in their films. If you know of any I’ve missed, feel free to comment or hit me up on Twitter and Tumblr @akajustmerry. For my next trick, I’ll discuss Marvel’s overall lack of inclusion and diversity in another post coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time To Be A Proper Writer With A Proper Blog

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This is something like my 6th attempt at starting blog whose content will be all my own original work, instead of a lazy cesspool of the films and tv shows and books I am currently reading. But if I want people to take me in good faith as a writer, editor, or anything else, really. I need to present myself better. So, I figured 3 days before my 23rd birthday is as a good a time as any to gather myself and get my sh*t together. Watch this space, friends.

Short Documentary: If Not Now – Sexism In Newcastle’s Live Music Scene

I haven’t updated this site in a while, but in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to? I completed my bachelor of communications with distinction and am now well into writing my thesis.

For my major project to complete my Comms degree, though, I decided to tackle sexism in my local live music scene through a short documentary I directed through collaboration with friends. It was challenging, hearing the stories from these women, many of whom are artists I’m close to. But I believe I did them a small justice, giving them space to speak and connect to each other about their craft and what they put up with to share it.

The is If Not Now…

Winner of Best Production at Festival X, If Not Now is a student documentary about the culture of sexism and gender discrimination in the Newcastle live music scene. Made as a Major Project for the University of Newcastle.

J.K Rowling Walks Into A Bar | Spoken Word

I performed this at the National Young Writers Festival (Australia) and I was really proud of it and it seemed well received so I thought I’d record it!


https://youtu.be/Ugks8K4DE3

Jk Rowling walks into a bar and this time she wants you to know that actually, Hagrid was sapiosexual and also rollerblading in every single scene, it just wasn’t explicitly in the text or relevant to Harry’s journey.

My beef with Jk Rowling is almost 20 years in the making. My beef with jk rowling is getting so old it’s almost but not quite due for a wholly performative unnecessary gender bent remake in Hollywood. But my beef wasn’t always a beef.

Believe it or not, there was a time when I worshipped this misguided wealthy white woman. A time when a much smaller glasses wearing, bullied for being class know it all, who was a hideously insecure version of Merryana found solace in the writings of jk rowling and the adventures of her gangly golden trio. I still do, really, find a home in that story.

Sure, the only characters of colour were underdeveloped third tier characters and sure somewhere in the back of my head Snape’s death stunk of unjustifiable male Redemption, sure I only needed one hand to tally up the scenes where two women talked to one another, sure it bugged me that Hermione’s two best friends almost constantly under-appreciated her and that she was cleverer and more powerful than any other character in the story yet she was just the best friend. Sure it bugged me but it’s fine I guess……

But then she got Twitter

There are two things jk does on twitter that make me want to throw myself into the sun. The first is her constant retconning of her own books. Her constant revising of details in the hp books that don’t exist. Granted, this is not something she exclusively does on twitter. She’s always done this. She revealed 3 months after DH was published in 07 that Dumbledore was gay but celibate which is the literary equivalent of shouting DUMBLEDORE IS GAY after you’ve locked yourself out of the house and the house party is over. since she joined Twitter has revealed such vital post-published details such as why Hagrid can’t produce a patronus, moaning myrtles real name, and my personal favorite that Remus’ werewolfness was not only a metaphor for AIDS but Lupin himself was a quote “ex-gay” because he has had relationships with men before he met Tonks which are all the literary equivalent of the person who used to own the house you rent shouting about the lap pool in the backyard when you know the yard is the size of a maccas toilet cubicle.

The second thing jk rowling does on twitter is her so-called takedowns. We’ve all seen jk rowling literally make headlines for telling a Donald Trump supporter, or even trump himself… Wait for it… Stupid. These things in isolation don’t sound bad, but in the case of JK Rowling, they’re entirely performative.

Jk Rowling walks into a bar bragging about her LGBT characters and how silly we all were not to see her non-existent wokeness. While also reassuring audiences that her latest series of hp films designed to explore the character of Grindelwald and his demise at the hand of Dumbledore will not explore dumbledores and g’s romantic relationship. You know that thing that she bragged about for the last 10 years? The thing that makes up a fundamental part of their conflict?

JK Rowling walks into a bar and couldn’t possibly be racist because she has maybe 5 whole non-white characters in her books. Two barely speak. One is Chinese with two Korean last names for a name and one, she reveals exclusively this week is a cursed shapeshifter who is a snake that lives in a cage and eventually becomes a subservient slave to magical Hitler until she is beheaded. And don’t even get me started on her reimagining of the population downtown 1920s NY. No black ppl? During the Harlem Renaissance era? Sounds about white.

It hurts kind of, I guess, when you realise that the woman who occupied so much of your aspirational space for so long thinks of a non-white, not straight gal like me as a footnote that doesn’t even make the shitty film adaptation.

There isn’t a word for it, really. What do you call the grief over the death of the respect you held for someone responsible in no small way for who you wanted to be?

JK Rowling walks into a bar and lowers it every time she opens her mouth.

As for her Twitter takedowns?

Jk can sass fascists, misogynists, rapists online all she likes, but when she made the creative decision to keep known biphobic domestic abuser Johnny Depp in her production because what happened between him and amber heard was a quote “private” matter. Well…

What makes all this even worse is they the fantastic beasts movies aren’t even that good??? At least the hp series for all its issues was still a damn good story but lemme tell u when I discovered there was gonna be not one, not two not three not four but 5 of these fantastic beasts nonsense I went into mourning for the two and half hours I invested in it to begin with.

I’m not ungrateful though

JK Rowling and her white upper-class homophobic footnote nonsense taught me a lot about what kind of writer I actually want to be. When I eventually write that novel I’ll include everything. If I’m privileged enough to gain fans I’ll respect them and listen to their critiques.

JK Rowling walks into a bar and keeps tripping over it, it’s really that low. But I’ll keep my bar a bit higher.

Jonathan Byers & The Victimised “Geek” Misogynist Complex

Before I get on to the roast of Jonathan Byers, I’d like to thank everyone for the amazing response to my last post on the sexism in Stranger Things. I am equal parts overwhelmed and chuffed to think my rambles are worthy of being shared across so many platforms and I can’t thank you enough for sharing it.

One of the most overwhelming comments from people I received after my essay on the women of Stranger Things was to write about my beef with Jonathan Byers. So, let’s get down to it.

In short, Jonathan Byers is the living, breathing embodiment of (in my opinion) male writers’ most insidious trope; a trope that in one foul swoop excuses toxic masculine behavior, micro-aggressive misogyny, homophobia and a healthy disrespect for women that doesn’t adhere to a chauvinistic popularised vision of manhood WHILE simultaneously allowing these actions under the guise of victimization. I am talking, of course, about the Geeky Misogynist trope.

The Geeky Misogynist has a long and appalling history in pop-culture. I am going to summarize it in the next couple of paragraphs, but the trope is defined and broken down extraordinarily well in this video essay by Pop Culture Detective on Youtube (who is a massive inspiration to my own ramblings). Feel free to watch it and come back, or skip on down to the next paragraph for my paraphrased version.

The Geeky Misogynist archetype was popularized in the 80s with films like 16 Candles and Revenge Of The Nerds, 1985’s Back To The Future and the 1989 series Saved By The Bell. It also continued on in the 90s with films like 10 Things I Hate About You and many others.

The geeky protagonists in the aforementioned films are established as non-macho (and therefore less “manly” men) via their interests in (supposedly) non-masculine pursuits and their smaller, weedier physiques. These traits are contrasted with the “Jock” archetype who bullies the “geek” for the above reasons. Supposedly, because the audience sees the “geek” as a victim, our sympathy for them moves the audience to forgive any less than respectable behavior because “hey, they can’t be The Worst because they aren’t the bully!” or something to that effect. The Geeky Misogynist not only successfully gets away with harmful misogynistic behaviors, but is heralded as a hero for rebuking these behaviors in others. Don’t believe me?

 

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George Mcfly in “Back To The Future”

Hypocrisy plays a major role in spotting and defining the Geek Misogynist and is almost always at the core of the character, regardless of the era in which they are written. In Back To The Future (1983), George McFly (Marty’s father) spies on Lorraine (Marty’s mother) via the tree across from her bedroom window, an act that’s a clear violation of privacy (sound like someone else we know?). Yet, this violation isn’t framed in a way that it taints the audience’s impression of George as the previous scene saw George being intimidated by the very masculine Biff and fellow goons. Even when Marty observes that his father is a pervert, George is positioned as a ‘better’ guy than Biff because…well, he isn’t Biff. This is reinforced at the prom in the final act of the film where Biff attempts to sexually assault Lorraine, but George intervenes and punches him. In this scene, the audience is positioned, once again, to see George as the man with the most honor and moral integrity, despite engaging in similar misogynistic behaviors of male entitlement when we first meet him.

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Cameron & Bianca in “10 Things I Hate About You”

The 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You features Cameron, a lovably invasive non-masculine type who is bespoke with Bianca. Framed as the sympathetic alternative to the vein and masculine Joey, Cameron’s obsession with Bianca is one fueled by a flavor of entitlement that is so potent he pays Patrick Verona, the scariest bloke in school, to take her sister out on a date JUST so Cameron gets to go on a date with Bianca. Patrick and Joey serve as both visual and moral contrasts to Cameron’s supposed lack of malicious masculinity i.e. where Joey is sexy, macho, a model, etc, Cameron is unassuming, humble (supposedly), ordinary, and where Patrick is intimidating, confident, a bit of an asshole and an all-around charming bad ass, Cameron is timid, average looking, with little to no charisma. Cameron constantly lies to Bianca, yet the audience is set up to see him as the better guy than Joey (who constantly pursues Bianca, despite her disinterest). In truth, neither of these men holds respect for Bianca’s agency or boundaries as they decide what’s best for her in terms of her dating life.

So, there are two important ingredients in making the Geeky Misogynist. The first is making them a victim of toxic masculinity via bullying. The second is to allow the first to excuse them from these same abusive masculine behaviors i.e. objectifying the female body, entitlement to the female body and no respect for anything women say or do, etc. simply because they appear divorced from the typical ideal of manhood we associate these behaviors with. In other words, they’re toxic jocks in timid geek clothing.

What makes matters worse is The Geeky Misogynist makes almost everyone in their vicinity just as shallow, entitled and transparent as themselves, and they have to by default, otherwise their behavior would be reprimanded. Notice that, in the films above, the women subjected to the gaze of these men have next to no personality of their own beyond their desire to be with men. Bianca Stratford and Lorraine McFly have no spoken aspirations of their own beyond attaining the affections of their nerdy sexist non-manly men. Meanwhile, the men themselves are only defined by an apparent lack of masculinity and the subsequent victimization that comes with that at the hands of other men, don’t have much going for them either. I really couldn’t tell you a single fact that makes these men different from each other, other than the way they look.

In these narratives, we tend to just be watching stereotypes fall in love with stereotypes, not really characters that could be considered people. But rest assured when the Geeky Misogynist is given interests outside the realm of objectifying women, he often acts superior because of those interests. As if liking Superman comics and acting high and mighty about it somehow makes you a better person than the person who bullies you for liking them. As if idealizing masculinity makes you better than the person that uses it to harm you. In reality, in both instances, men are admiring a harmful set of values pertaining to how women are valued. Thus, these characters rarely have any concrete beliefs or desires that set them apart from those that bully them, or even the women they’re trying to be with, other than their status as victims. The only reason we care for the Geek Misogynist at all is that we are conditioned to see them as a victim of a mentality that they themselves perpetuate, albeit in less obviously aggressive ways.

This brings me to Jonathon Byers.

Jonathan has SOME notable personality traits i.e. caring for Will, inane curiosity, that at best make him a Geeky Misogynist with a vague personality. Jonathan’s bond with his little brother is the only reason I can tolerate him some of the time. Of course, it’s generally not Jonathan’s relationships with other male characters that make me want to smash the fourth wall and slap him, it’s his interactions with women. But before we get there, let’s cross-reference Jonathan with our Geeky Misogynist profile.

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Over the course of two seasons of Stranger Things we learn very little about Jonathan as an individual, other than the fact he likes photography, listening to “real” music (*eye roll*), reading, not speaking (?), possibly also has some kind of job (?) and considers himself to be the main male figure in both his mother’s and brother’s lives. Of course, the last element of his personality is all that matters because the Geek Misogynist doesn’t need frivolous things like morals, ethics or desires to be considered human. He only ever needs to establish false superiority that makes his ego solid enough to beat people over the head with when they say things that don’t fit into his version of reality.

The ONLY two women we see him regularly interact with are Nancy Wheeler and his mother, Joyce Byers, and SPOILER ALERT these interactions don’t exactly place Jonathan in the running for “Not Sh*T Person Of The Year”

Jonathan and Joyce

Jonathan’s relationship with his mother can be summed up in one phrase: “No. You’re wrong.”

Regardless of Joyce’s proposal whether it is something reasonable like letting Bob drop Will off at school, or something a little less so like Will being abducted by a monster, Jonathan almost always seeks to deny and undermine his mother’s decisions until he can verify them himself. At no point does Jonathan ever give his own mother the benefit of the doubt. Even when Will initially disappears and Joyce KNOWS something bad has happened, Jonathan insists Joyce’s worry is unfounded and that Will is probably at Mike’s or has gone to school early. He criticizes his mother’s actions and denies her feelings when Will is missing to the point where he writes off her feelings as her “shutting down” (ableism at its finest), rather than, oh I don’t know, hearing her out, perhaps? He even mocks her for the way she attempts to communicate with Will when he’s trapped in the Upside Down, refuses to believe her when she says she heard Will on the phone and uses Will’s funeral as a way to make his grief seem more superior and valid i.e. “while you’re talking to the lights, the rest of us are having a funeral for Will.”

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It is also worth mentioning Jonathan’s interactions with his father. In series one, Joyce tells Jonathan that Lonnie, could not possibly be involved with Will’s disappearance. This, of course, isn’t good enough for Jonathan who gets in the car and rocks up at his dad’s house. Lonnie is no diamond of a dad and I don’t like him much either. But when Jonathan barges into his dad’s home unannounced and his dad tries to greet him, Jonathan gets physical and shoves his father away. Again, not saying Lonnie deserves anything other than contempt, but in this scene, he hasn’t done anything to provoke Jonathan. Lonnie insists he has not seen Will, which is the truth, and that seems good enough for Jonathan. You know, like, the exact prediction Joyce made when Lonnie was brought up? Because Joyce actually knows Lonnie well enough to make that call, but, of course, our geeky misogynist has a much easier time believing his father’s opinions on Will’s whereabouts than his mother who has known him the longest. I’d also like to point out that Lonnie’s absence as a father figure in Will’s life, and as a partner to Joyce, is something Jonathan constantly reprimands his father for. Which is a bit rich coming from Jonathan who spends the majority of both series one and two… away from his mother and little brother and/or disbelieving their claims.

In season 2, Joyce is dating Bob. Bob is (arguably) the show’s most sincere and kindest character to date and has nothing but love and respect for Joyce and her sons. However, Jonathan takes issue with his mother’s partner, going so far as to criticize Joyce, a grown woman in her 40s, for allowing Bob to stay the night. Jonathan also mocks Bob on multiple occasions, despite Bob doing nothing to provoke such backlash (unless you count buying sweets, renting movies and lending video cameras to them as a reason for Jonathan to mock the man). Jonathan’s opposition to Bob boils down to Jonathan being decentralized from Joyce’s life. While this is somewhat understandable, given that Joyce was Jonathan’s single parent for the majority of his life and recent traumatic events., Jonathan’s disdain towards Bob still boils down to the entitlement he believes he has in presiding over his mother’s and Will’s life, even when he spends the majority of his time away from them with Nancy. Hell, he is literally tasked with accompanying Will trick or treating but allows him to go alone so he, Jonathan, can go to a party. Later, when Joyce is reviewing the footage on Will’s camera (which Jonathan is obviously absent from), Jonathan’s absence isn’t even acknowledged, one of the many reckless, careless actions Jonathan isn’t reprimanded for because “But he was at the party making sure Nancy was okay!! Awwwww!”

Male writers love to write men’s entitlement to women as “protectiveness” and have done so for a very long time, stemming from sexist mentalities such as a) women are weaker than men and b) so, therefore, are under the protection of men which c) essentially makes women the property of men. This so-called ‘protectiveness’ also exempts them from the consequences of their behavior, even when that behavior places great risks on others.

Of course, I am not saying that Jonathan is a twisted man who believes Joyce is his property, but his hatred of Bob and distance from Jim Hopper at times, suggests he believes he and Will are entitled to be at the center of Joyce’s attention because that is how it has always been. In a way, he refuses to see his mother as a fully formed human, but rather as just a figure in his life to be rejected or accepted on a needs basis. This entitlement to her is further highlighted by Jonathan’s aggressive opposition towards his mother’s decisions as if he doesn’t believe her capable enough to make them. He even moves to stop Will’s heat-induced exorcism because he believes Joyce is going to kill him, despite Joyce’s entire character being defined by her desire to keep Will safe from harm.

Despite being the clear opposition in these scenarios, however, Jonathan is always framed as the victim. Always. In framing Joyce as mad, the audience is supposed to sympathize with Jonathan as the only person really dealing with Will’s disappearance. Similarly, when he is avoided at school for being a weirdo, the audience is positioned to feel sympathy instead of questioning what Jonathan could have done in order for so many people to suspect him of harming his brother. Even when Bob comes into the picture, we are positioned to see Jonathan as the brother getting the least amount of attention and the person really sticking up for Will, rather than the boy being rude to his mother and her partner. When Steve Harrington smashes Jonathan’s camera after Jonathan used it to take photos of Nancy without her consent, the scene contextualizes Jonathan as a victim of bullying, rather than a guy who violated the privacy of a young woman and receiving the consequences for his actions. When Jonathan goes to his father’s house to physically confront him over Will’s disappearance, we are conditioned to see Jonathan as the misfortunate young man with no hope, rather than someone who just abandoned his distraught mother to have a go at his dad.

Check that hypocrisy box!

Furthermore, Jonathan receives no real consequences for his abusive behavior because he himself is framed as a victim of abusive or unfortunate circumstances. He never apologizes for his behavior toward Bob, or his mother after Bob dies. Even the biggest personal consequence (Steve smashing his camera) is reversed when Nancy buys him a new one. Let me repeat that: Nancy buys Jonathan, the boy who stalked her, a camera because her boyfriend who was defending her right to privacy, broke it. Jonathan’s behavior that leads so many of his peers to believe he might have killed his brother is never addressed or changed. Instead, he gives Will a “freaks change the world” speech that sounds like something you’d find on a pre-pubescent grunge kid’s myspace page in ’06, rather than something constructive, or helpful. He doesn’t even ask Will what is making him feel like a freak, opting instead to validate his own feelings via glorifying a standoffish demeanor that has left Jonathan with zero friends his whole school life and pretending it applies to Will’s own circumstance which he hasn’t even bothered to fully comprehend.

Nancy & Jonathan

Let’s just get this out of the way first, I really do not care for the whole love triangle bullsh*t between Nancy, Steve, and Jonathan. In fact, involvement in love triangles is the surest way to turn me off any group of characters. Love triangles are overused, poorly executed narrative tools used by men to loudly proclaim why they are better than one another and give them personalities where they barely have them. I mean, really, if a woman is stuck deciding between two guys, the reality is that neither of them must be…that great, and unfortunately, Stranger Things demonstrates this all too well.

Enter Jonathan, our Geeky Misogynist, and his nemesis, the Jock Type, Steve Harington. Two potatoes vying for the affections of an underdeveloped female character who apparently has been lead to believe that these are the only two boys on the planet who will ever be into her and so she MUST CHOOSE ONE in order to be an interesting character involved in the main narrative of the series. There is a scene where Jonathan and Steve actually have it out with one another in a physical fight and surprise! Jonathan is once again the victim in this situation, despite both boys hurting one another, being dickheads with no tangible respect for the people they claim to care for and harming my eyes from having to watch men fight over a woman like we’re in the goddamned stone age.

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Nancy’s need to be part of the main narrative is the only reason I can figure she chose to go running around with Jonathan in both series one and two. If not, this would mean that Nancy genuinely wants to be around a guy who looks down on her as “just another suburban girl”, has also spied on her, thinks he’s better than everyone because likes “real” music and feels so entitled to her friendship because they shared a couple of traumatic events that he reprimands her for not staying in contact with him, as if that was her social obligation to someone she barely knew before Will’s disappearance. As if it was on her to communicate because he figured he was such a shoe-in for her affections he didn’t need to actually communicate his interest. Which, apparently, neither did Nancy…?

In these situations, Nancy is often the one positioned as “the Bitch” for rejecting Jonathan’s romantic interest, or just interest. To be honest, I am surprised she even knows he has feelings for her when his facial expressions are as differentiated as the minute setting on a 10 dollar Target toaster. Not to mention, much like the way he treats his mother, Jonathan is a big fan of undermining Nancy’s feelings, bordering on Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where the abuser deliberately sows seeds of doubt in an individual in order to shift and alter a specific person’s memory or perception. Jonathan gaslights his mother by constantly implying she’s insane and refusing to believe her. During the scene in series one, episode 5 where he and Nancy are searching for the demigorgan, Nancy asks Jonathan why he took the photos of her in the first place. Jonathan replies, “My guess I saw this girl, you know, trying to be someone else. But for that moment it was like you were alone, or you thought you were. And, you know, you could just be yourself.” Nancy calls bullshit on this and calls out Jonathan’s judgment of her relationship with Steve. But Jonathan dismisses this with a reply of “I just thought it was a good picture.” Completely, disregarding her hurt feelings by framing his action as something divorced from the context of what actually happened. By saying he just thought he was taking a nice picture after using it to belittle Nancy is the equivalent of me saying “I just thought this was a nice a car” after using it to run-over your cat. Jonathan then goes on to claim his dislike of Steve is nothing personal because he hates everyone (what a catch, right?) before personally attacking Nancy by saying she’ll amount to someone “Exactly like their parents, who [she] thought were so depressing…”

While Jonathan’s insult was a response to Nancy’s comment that Jonathan is a pretentious creep, it is a far more vicious verbal assault by comparison. Jonathan uses Nancy’s own fear and insecurities over her parent’s marriage to hurt her, information she shared with Jonathan privately in the previous scene. Here, he uses it against her to defend his own problematic behavior. Even though Nancy calling Jonathan a creep for taking a photo of her without her permission and using the photo to be condescending is in no way comparable Jonathan using Nancy’s private fears to hurt her for calling him out. What makes this scene even more insanely misogynistic is that Jonathan is given the last word. He is positioned as justified in his claims, as someone whose romantic feelings are misunderstood, even though he was clearly in the wrong. Once again, of course, we see no follow-up-apology. No scene exists whereby Jonathan apologizes for those vicious comments or violating Nancy’s privacy. Nancy buys a replacement camera for him as a Christmas present and eventually ends up in a relationship with him.

Jonathan does nothing to earn the respect, or adoration of the people around him, but receives it regardless of his actions and these actions almost always seem to be motivated by a pettiness, vendetta, or the desire to have sympathy. None of the actions he takes – helping Nancy find Barb, helping Nancy break into the labs, helping his mother with Will – come from a genuine desire to help. Where characters like Jim Hopper, Joyce Byers, Nancy, Steve, and even Eleven agree to assist in situations that don’t benefit them directly, Jonathan’s continued involvement in Nancy’s plans are underpinned by a poignant smugness that she is with him and not Steve, rather than authentic concern for her. This is reinforced by the timing of his interactions with her, always choosing to be around her when her and Steve’s relationship is at its weakest, or Steve just isn’t there, allowing him to maintain a status as Steve’s victim (a classic Geek Misogynist VS. Jock Type trope). He even admits to deliberately not contacting her at all in episode 6 of season 2 (“you only waited a month”) because she and Steve reconciled at the end of season one, making it clear he isn’t interested in Nancy as a human being, but more as a prize he deserves to win. If Nancy isn’t entirely devoted to him, then she isn’t worth his time. Of course, I totally understand being a third wheel is not the spot anyone wishes to be in, but if Jonathan really cared for Nancy as a person, then Steve wouldn’t be the excuse he uses to not check up on her. By assuming his presence in Nancy’s life is in contest with, or opposition to, Steve, Jonathan implies there is no space for a simple friendship (despite their dismal lack of romantic chemistry) between he and Nancy. The assumption that men and women cannot be friends is rooted in heteronormativity and a mentality that the only way in which men should value women is as their lovers, a status that has kept women unequal to men for much of history. Many men devalue friendships with women even today. Terms like ‘friend-zone’ are used with negative connotations, rom-coms are rife with plot lines in which men who are friends with women only as a stepping stone on their way to their entitled romantic entanglements and you’d be hard-pressed to find mainstream Y.A. novels in which a female and male remain only friends for the whole of a narrative. The men in these situations only care about women’s feelings as they apply to them. Jonathan only cares about Nancy’s feelings pertaining to him and when they are not desirable, he suddenly finds a reason not to be around her. That reason? Is usually Will.

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As I said, Jonathan’s love for his little brother forces me to tolerate him SOME of the time. SOME. This is because Jonathan only genuinely has time for Will when his stalking Nancy schedule allows. He is so busy running around after Nancy that he is absent for the majority of Will’s “episodes” and only shows up to help his family after he and Nancy have *ahem* done what they needed to do. Now, I could be really nasty here and point out that the Nancy/Jonathan Expose The Conspiracy Subplot is rendered unnecessary because after the demo-dogs massacre a government-funded research facility built on a volatile landscape, it is highly unlikely the US government would have said, “meh! we can still be a Secret Lab No One Knows About after this!” BUT, that would be nasty. Not to mention it would mean that the Duffer Bros wasted valuable money, screen-time and production resources to concoct an unnecessary convoluted 60 minute subplot whose only purpose was to get Jonathan laid, instead of getting him and Nancy, whom both have siblings in mortal danger for the second time in 12 months, to oh I don’t know, help out with that?

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Jonathan and Nancy show up and their contributions amount to giving Hopper, Joyce and the kids a lift back to the Byers’ house from the labs, and from the Byers’ house to the cabin. There isn’t even a scene where they explain where they have been, or where Jonathan comforts his very clearly traumatized and grieving mother. The most Jonathan does in between being a glorified chauffeur is telling a story or two to Will about some brotherly times they had to allow him to fight the Mindflayer enough to get a message to characters with actual significance to take some action.

I am not saying that all men need to be useful, or behave a certain way in order to be significant. When it comes to Jonathan Byers I am merely pointing out why a character, regardless of how appealing they are, should have a purpose in a narrative. It shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but if you can remove a character from your story and the plot either a) remains the same, or b) improves in efficiency than you need to ask yourself why your character is there at all and it honestly baffles me that this character gets to play such a time-consuming role on this show when his repulsive oppositional actions have little to no impact on major outcomes of the plot.

There’s nothing stopping Jonathan from assuming a role as the voice of reason to his mother’s more illogical outbursts WITHOUT belittling her (see: Jim Hopper), apologising to Nancy when he knows he’s in the wrong (see: Steve Harrington), or helping out someone simply because they need help with no expectation of reward (see: literally most of the other characters). More importantly, there is nothing visibly preventing Jonathan from receiving any permanent consequences for his negligent and harmful actions which prompt the question: Why is he permitted to coast through the narrative in such a disrespectful way without growth, or redemption?

The answer? Because men always are.

I can tell you right now that Jonathan Byers is not the guy I secretly want to be with, be alone with, or even know. Jonathan lives in a world where all his actions are forgiven and so has no use for frivolous things like self-reflection or sympathy. He is a watered down product of the same patriarchal values that shaped the actions of men like Johnny Depp, Woody Allen and worse, has allowed society to become systematically complicit in allowing the abuse of women to go unchallenged, uncharged and unpunished. I hate Jonathan Byers because he is indicative of white male entitlement and a society that not only allows this entitlement but rewards it to the mass detriment of marginalized people.

The thing I find so hateful about Jonathan Byers is that nobody really hates him. Despite the harmful abusive things he has done, he soldiers on as a victim of mostly self-inflicted hardship that he himself inflicts on others, none of which contextualized in the story so that young people watching see this behavior as wrong.

Jonathan gets the girl, a new camera and the love of his brother and mother in the same fashion that child abusers receive and maintain illustriously revered film careers, misogynists run multi-billion-dollar film studios, serial rapists become presidents and women are oppressed in a system designed to benefit the men that invade our autonomy, privacy and bodies because they believe they’re entitled.

Jonathan Byers is a PG13 watered down version of this type of unchecked misogyny and his actions are in no way equal or akin to the crimes mentioned above, but his actions do stem from the same ingrained patriarchal framework that men have reinforced any way they can for as long as western culture has existed. Popular fiction has always been used as a way to both reinforce established systems and values, and challenge them. But if the values and systems we promote are ones that allow men to behave in harmful ways toward women and reward them for it, rather than encouraging reflection, atonement and redemption then the Jonathan Byers of the world will continue down their unchallenged paths to further strengthen systems of abuse, ableism, and misogyny to become producers, directors, writers, thinkers, and presidents.

That’s why I hate Jonathan Byers.

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Happy new year to all! I hope your 2017 has been (if nothing else) survivable and that 2018 is kinder and easier!

Male Gaze, Abelism & Racism: Problems With The Women In Stranger Things

Before I start this piece, I want to say I adore Stranger Things. I firmly believe the series will be something I’ll rewatch when I’m 70 and still love as much as I did the first time I watched it in July last year. But I am a firm believer in critically viewing the things you love, lest we become a passive audience and, as much as I love Stranger Things, I don’t have to be a genius to see the space between the narrative quality of the male characters VS. the narrative quality of the female characters. I’ll elaborate more on this later, but for now, let’s do a recap of our ladies (skip down to “The Closer Look” for the analysis).

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 AND 2 OF STRANGER THINGS AHEAD

Let’s Meet Our Ladies

Joyce Byers

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The first female character we meet in the series is Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers, the single mother of Will Byers (who goes missing in series one), and Jonathan Byers, her eldest son. Our first impression of Joyce is she’s a hardworking woman with too much on her plate whose boys are her whole world… which is part of the problem, but we’ll get there. Once Will goes missing she is hysterical (understandably so) and refuses to believe he is dead. During this time we see Joyce’s interactions with other Hawkins townsfolk and most of them disregard what she has to say, writing it off as hysteria. Even Chief Jim Hopper, while sympathetic to her grief, doesn’t believe her claims that Will is alive until he is presented with other information. It is then and only then that Joyce goes with Hopper to investigate Hawkins lab, eventually resulting in the rescue of Will at the end of the series.

In series 2, Joyce is in a romantic relationship with Bob, a new character played by Sean Astin who dies tragically at the hand of some demo-dogs later in the series. This season primarily focuses on Joyce’s supervision of Will’s treatment at Hawkins Lab, assisted by Chief Hopper who serves as a father figure to Will in these scenarios. Despite clearly being romantically entangled with Bob, the majority of the time she is on screen without her sons, Joyce is with Jim Hopper.

Nancy Wheeler

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The next of our Stranger Women is Nancy Wheeler (played by Natalia Dyer), the older sister of Mike Wheeler. Our first glimpse of Nancy is her shutting a door in the face of a grinning Dustin offering her some pizza. Throughout the series we see Nancy’s tangled relationships with a) her best friend, Barb who is brutally murdered within the first 3 episodes, b) her boyfriend, Steve Harrington and c) her….other boyfriend (?) Jonathan Byers, who she teams up with to fight the demigorgan in season one and take down Hawkins Labs in series 2. There’s also a few scenes where Nancy argues with her mother and one of Steve’s female friends. Series 2 follows more or less the same plot for Nancy, without Barb (who is dead), and she is more or less split between Steve and Jonathan until she has sex with Jonathan after they both uncover the conspiracy at the center of Hawkins. She also spends a lot of time saying things like “I can’t leave Mike!” and then spends the 95% of the series…leaving Mike.

Eleven

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Next up, we have Eleven, or ‘El’, or ‘Jane Hopper’ (depending on your namesake inclinations). Eleven is arguably the show’s central character, as she is the catalyst for the majority of major plot points in the show. Raised and abused in a lab because of her telekinetic powers, El rarely speaks more than 5 or so sentences per episode, communicating for the most part with gestures and short phrases. Understandable when you consider there probably wasn’t a lot of opportunities for socializing in the lab. In series one, Eleven helps the main ensemble of boys find Will and defeat the demigorgan, sacrificing herself in the process. In season 2, however, we find El alive and well living with Hopper in a cozy cabin just outside of Hawkins, eating more Eggos than she should. This doesn’t last long, though. El misses the boys too much and leaves her sanctuary against Hopper’s wishes, leading her on a journey in which she finds her catatonic mother, her (sort of) sister and where her home really is.

Max & Kali

Finally, we have two season 2 female characters added to the mix. Max, a troubled tomboy and the new girl in the boys’ class who Dustin and Lucas go ga ga for (Mike isn’t too impressed because he sees her as a “replacement” for Eleven). We don’t know a lot about Max other than she comes from a somewhat broken family and she likes skateboarding and video games. Our second season two addition, of course, is Kali: El’s long lost sister with the ability to make people see hallucinations, played by Danish actress Linnea Berthelsen. Kali tries to recruit El into her gang of criminals who, as far as we know, hunt down the people involved with Hawkins Lab and murder them. El, however, decides she doesn’t want this life and heads back to Hawkins where she saves everyone from the demo-dogs and closes the Gate to the Upside Down.

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The Closer Look

Phew! Now we’ve done a little roll call. Let’s talk about how the narrative quality of the women in Stranger Things pales in comparison to the men. We’ll start with Joyce.

Now, I believe Joyce Byers is the most well-written woman in the series. She has a past we know about through her conflicts with other characters, she is dynamic, determined and has moments of vulnerability and strength. In other words, she is written like… a human. Although, there is a small detail of Joyce Byers’ narrative that annoys me.

All the most important people in Joyce’s life are men and the majority of the major events in her narrative are viewed from the male perspective. The only women we see Joyce interact with are Mike’s mother, whom she has a brief conversation with before kicking her out and Eleven. Joyce has no significant connections to women in her life as far as we know.

Men write women this way all the time. Think of every romantic comedy ever written, there’s a safe bet that there’s only one scene (if that) where a woman talks to a female friend. Even then, they usually talk about men. In 1985, Alison Bechdel created what is now known as the Bechdel Wallace test. A film/show/fiction only passes if it has a) two women with names b) these women have a conversation without a man present and c) this conversation is no way about men. The test was created to highlight the inequality of women only being viewed in relation to their oppressors, and that men write women in a way that their entire existence is defined and validated by the men. Unfortunately, Joyce Byers’ entire characterization fits quite nicely into this narrative trope. Joyce is constantly pleading with the men in her life to believe her, whether it’s about Will’s whereabouts or Will’s mental health. The only time any affirmative action is taken in favor of Joyce’s claims is when one of the male characters validate her findings, such as when Jim uncovers that Will’s body is a fake.

Joyce’s connection to Jim Hopper is my favorite in the show, despite issues with the way it is written at times. He’s sympathetic to Joyce when even her own son isn’t and is usually the only male character who semi-believes her when no one else will. However, often Hopper’s presence is the only thing that seems to make people take Joyce seriously.

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At the beginning of Season 2, Hopper accompanies Joyce to Will’s sessions in the lab where the Doctor refers to him as Will’s ‘Pop’, Hopper does the majority of the talking when he and Joyce speak to the Doctors, giving the impression that Hopper has to be there to protect Joyce and Will’s interests because she isn’t capable of that herself. This is reinforced when the Doctors begin burning part of a demigorgan to test whether it is connected to Will. Will cries out in pain and Joyce begs them to stop, but it is only when Hopper puts his foot down that the Doctor turns off the blowtorch. It is later revealed Hopper has cut a deal with the labs to keep their operations under-wraps, explaining his presence when Joyce and Will are there, but this doesn’t negate the overwhelming implication that Joyce’s decisions are validated for her by men.

There is also an element of abelism to the way people discredit Joyce’s story. She herself refers to her own hysteria as ‘crazy’ at multiple points in series one. Worse, her own ex-husband directly infers to Joyce that her mind is breaking down like a distant schizophrenic relative of hers. Even Hopper chalks her belief that Will isn’t dead up to grieving hallucinations. As someone with a mental illness herself, these kinds of narratives always hurt a little because there have been times in my life where people close to me have claimed my fears were unfounded (connected to my anxiety and OCD) when they were not. Throughout history, women have often been discredited completely because men claimed insanity. Winona Ryder’s own career suffered because of this mentality. You can understand why seeing this narrative in 2017, even written retrospectively, is unsettling,

Disclaimer: I do not believe women should be automatically believed. I don’t believe anyone should. However, I don’t believe that anyone should ONLY be believed because of a perceived male authority.

The Misogyny in Nancy’s narrative is much easier to spot. Not only does she exclusively discuss her boyfriend with her ONLY female friend, but her only female friend is killed by episode three and, much like Joyce, Nancy’s belief that Barb was taken by a monster is discredited by the significant men in her life until Jonathan (a man) corroborates her story with photos.

I could write a separate post on my hatred of Jonathan Byers as a character, but for now, I’ll stick to his “relationship” with Nancy. This “relationship” is founded on the following plot points 1) The reason Jonathan had photographic evidence of a monster is that he took photos of Nancy without her permission. 2) Nancy decides that this boy who stalked her is the best person to help her find her friend. 3) They insult each other (????) 4) They fought a monster together so I guess that means they’re in love now? 5) She’s not like “other girls”.

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The first piece of evidence that Nancy is a female written by men is that she instantly trusts a boy that was stalking her, something no woman in her right mind would do. Second: The major internal conflict in her life when her best friend has been taken into a demon realm is “which of these boys do I like more though?” and before you say “No, that’s not what Nancy says she’s doing!!” please keep in mind that everything we learn about Nancy is learned through her interactions with Steve and Jonathan. Three: she chooses the boy that stalked her over the boy that not only didn’t do that, but Steve defended her right to privacy when Jonathon violated it. Four: Nancy has two #GIRLPOWER monologues in which she divorces herself from her entire gender in order to be “cool”. The first is when she insists she’s nothing like the women who are like her mother. The second is in series two when she’s dancing with Dustin and claims that “girls this age are dumb!” delivering judgment on her entire gender in one negative generalization that, of course, does not apply to her.

Finally, there are Nancy’s talents that make her “attractive” and badass which include: sculling beer from a can, shooting a rifle and swinging a bat. All of these are typically masculine activities, giving the impression that Nancy’s appeal to the boys is that she herself is practically a boy with the body of a girl. This is also reinforced in the first episode when Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are lamenting how “cool” Nancy used to be when she played board games with them as if Nancy is no longer interesting now that she assumes a more feminine role. There are only 3 brief scenes in total where Nancy isn’t the subject of the male perspective and yet these scenes merely showcase in the consistent internalized misogyny of her characterization.

Then, there’s Eleven.

In the first season, the only other female Eleven interacts with is Joyce and while it is a nurturing and loving connection, it is the ONLY one. Our view of Eleven’s whole life has been at the whim of and in relation to males; whether it’s her “Papa” (Doctor Brenner) who experimented on her from birth and kept her locked away from the world, Mike and his friends pressuring her to find Will to the point of exhaustion, or Hopper limiting her freedom in the pursuit of her safety. Granted, not all the aforementioned relationships are sinister in nature, but the fact remains that 90% of the time our impression of Eleven is one almost entirely curated by men. The one exception to all that comes in episode 7 of season 2 in which Eleven finds her sister, Kali.

Kali, like Eleven, is gifted with abilities and named after an ancient Hindu Goddess of femininity and the liberation of souls because in case we missed the Duffer Bros giving us a South Asian character with special abilities, they named her after the most epic Hindu Goddess they could find. And then there’s the fact that Eleven, who is white, is characterized as a badass innocent runaway, while her darker-skinned sister is a murderous criminal (I’m rolling my eyes so hard I can see my brain cells dying).

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That being said, there were many moments that were easy to love episode 7: Eleven’s determination to find her sister, Eleven muttering ‘mouthbreather” at a man who bumps her in the street, her enthusiasm over her new punk look (“bitchin'” ), warm moments between her and Kali, and El getting the opportunity to push her powers as far as they go in a non-life threatening scenario. There was something refreshing about seeing Eleven making her own way in the world, having an episode, essentially, all to herself and giving Eleven her real first chance to form herself as a character. Yet, many named it the weakest episode of the season and it’s not hard to see why.

“The Lost Sister” fell victim to a trope I’ll call, “whoops! we forgot a personality.” It is a trope that rears its head whenever you have a show that is primarily told from a male character(s) point of view so the writers don’t bother focusing on other perspectives (females), but then when the plot calls for the men to be out of the picture, the writers are left with female characters whom they suddenly realize they haven’t given enough of a personality too because up to this point they were really just an accessory to the male protagonist’s story. So, the writers scramble to give this character their own…life, essentially.

Eleven’s case is nowhere near as bad as some versions of this trope I’ve seen. The narrative for her character is structured in a way that it is not implausible for Eleven to struggle to find out who she really is. As an escaped lab-rat living in a cabin in the woods with minimal language and literacy skills, it makes sense that she is impressionable. Especially, because she’s a child. But “The Lost Sister” rubs me the wrong way because of the limited amount of time we are expected to believe that this child has decided who she is based on a catatonic mother, 24 hours with her sister and a robbery/murder gone wrong. To me, it just felt like a sloppy “oh, I guess we should at least let Eleven try something different before she stays where she is,” rather than a genuine attempt to allow Eleven to form her own identity independent of the male-dominated social circles she exists in. Her main motive to get back to Hawkins throughout the series is to find her way back to Mike, after all.

Now, while Mike and Eleven are no doubt adorable in their innocent love for each other, her determination to be reunited with this boy she spent around 3 days with defines her as a character a little too much for my liking, to the point where Eleven, a girl with bare minimum understanding of socialization, physically injures a girl she does not know purely because she saw this girl with Mike. Amazing, really, how much of Eleven’s social skills are non-existent, but the toxic internalized misogyny of “I automatically hate girls who hang out with my man” makes it into her social repertoire.

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This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves about the way men write women. As if women are so insecure, or would allow ourselves to be with someone so untrustworthy, that we are possessive to the point of hating anyone of our own gender simply because they are with someone we think is “our’s”. It is a gross, misogynistic (not to mention heteronormative) trope that men have used to make women distrust each other since the dawn of time. Seeing it embodied in Eleven, a pre-adolescent child, was nothing short of laughable and threw me back to my feelings in season one when we watched Eleven, a girl with little to no access to beauty standards growing up, agonize over whether she is “pretty” based on an offhand comment from Mike and a wig.

Eleven is so often spoken of as something the men in the story are entitled to. Mike compares her meaning to the group to a role in a game (“she’s our mage!”), Dr. Brenner quite literally treated her as an experiment, Hopper (though with good intention) gets angry when Eleven isn’t grateful for all he has done for her and its all a bit icky, especially because El has no female friends to speak of whom she has a deeper connection as she does with the men in her life. Imagine an Eleven that doesn’t care she has a shaved head because hey guess what she’s not locked in a lab and she’s safe. Imagine an Eleven who has never met a girl her own age before so she’s excited when she meets one for the first time and she’s a cool skate-boarding chick and Eleven’s never skated before so she wants to learn. Imagine an Eleven curious to learn how big the world really is. Eleven’s character growth could be so much stronger if the Duffer Brothers weren’t so caught up in their simplistic problematic understanding of femininity and womanhood.

Speaking of which, Let’s talk about Max and her racist brother. I’m going to cut straight to the point here: These two characters served no purpose in the show. When I imagine what the series would have been like without the two of them in it, literally nothing changes. I’m going to assume they will be important later and that’s why they were included in season 2 because both characters’ impact amounted to pretty much nothing. The way Mike, Dustin, and Lucas treat Max for the majority of the season slides into one of the following categories: 1) “holy sh*t you’re a girl, my hormones are Awakened” or 2) “we’re basically going to ostracize you because you’re not part of our Group” or 3) (this one is mainly Mike) “I’m going to take my anger out on you because I don’t see you as a human being.” Despite being treated this way, Max persists in her pursuit of befriending all the boys (99% of whom BARELY bother to ask her about her life). I mean, if you need proof that men believe we women NEED them, look no further than Max’s entire plot that revolves around being constantly rejected, or objectified, by a group of boys she wants to be friends with because they treat her a little better than her abusive brother who practically tries to kill her for hanging out with Lucas, the only black kid in this school, apparently. Not to mention Max is characterized a lot like Nancy in that the reason she is regarded by boys in the first place is because she skateboards and plays video games when “girls don’t play video games!”. The boys only take notice of her as a woman because what makes her attractive are perceived as masculine traits.

It is also worth mentioning that the Duffer Brothers forced Sadie (the girl who plays Max) to kiss Lucas after she told them repeatedly that she did not want to. The Duffer Brothers joked that the fact she was uncomfortable was what made them want to make her do it.

Before I wrap this up I want to give an honorable mention to the scene in which Mike’s mother, an adult woman, flirts with Max’s brother, an underage teenager. Because apparently, he’s so damn irresistible that a grown ass woman is going to sexualize a boy only a year older than her own daughter. Because that’s just what women are like?? Apparently?

The males in this show are very rarely held accountable for the way they treat women. In Joyce’s case, she instantly forgives Hopper and Jonathan for calling her crazy, while her ex-husband just leaves the picture. Mike treats Max awfully because she isn’t Eleven, but at no point does he apologize, nor does Eleven for hurting her. Jonathan violates Nancy’s privacy, which is a crime, yet he “gets the girl”. Max is treated with very little respect by the majority of the boys in Hawkins (including her brother), yet she remains friends (and more than friends) with them. Even Doctor Brenner and his associates aren’t really held fully accountable for experimenting on children and killing dozens of men and women in their experiments with the Upside Down.

Like I said, I love this show and I’m not saying that it doesn’t deserve the praise and adoration it has. All I’m saying is that I hope as this incredible cast of kids grows and improves in future seasons, the show does too. Also, diversity and inclusion onscreen count for very little when there is none behind the scenes. We desperately need more people of color and women writing these stories so the characters can become the best they can be.

Jeffrey: Marathon Runner – A Short Documentary I Co – Produced in 2013

In 2013, two friends and I decided to make a short documentary about Jeffery, a local 60+ year old with a health and fitness passion. Jeffrey and his wife are based in Newcastle, Australia, but travel all over the world to tackle multiple marathons every year. The film is featured on  the ABC Open national website by clicking the link below.

https://open.abc.net.au/explore/60083

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Jeffrey: Marathon Runner – Jeffrey is a 60 year old man who is obsessed with staying fit and healthy. How does he do this? By running marathons of course! We were lucky enough to get an insight into Jeffrey’s passion for running and the dynamics of a marathon.

Recorded on the quiet streets of New Lambton NSW.
This film was created as part of the CMNS1004 course at the University of Newcastle.
Original music by Merryana Salem.

Doctor Who’s Race Problem: On Jodie Whittaker’s Casting as the 13th Doctor

 

Until the last 7 years, the Doctor, a trans-dimensional, space jumping, time traveling, god like, non-human being from another planet/time never implied he could assume the form of anything other than a British white human male, but with Jodie Whittaker set to take on the role as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor, we now know the Doctor can also take on the diverse form of a British white female too… Sensing the problem yet?

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Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the 13th Doctor is so so wonderful, but the casting just feels less #GirlPower and more #AboutF*ckingTime. Even then, a 54 y/o show in the year 2017 only just now casting a white woman in a role written for white men, feels more like tentative tokenism masquerading as revolution, then progressing Doctor Who into becoming an inclusive show.

Casting women (specifically white women) and claiming that the casting ticks the ‘diversity box’ and calling it a day shows how racism/colorism in media is so apparent nowadays. We get more mainstream content centering on white women with poc/woc (especially black women) still being shunted aside in the narrative (i.e. the handmaid’s tale, the 100, game of thrones, big little lies, orphan black, star wars, atomic blonde etc). All these stories feature kick-ass white female leads, while people of color are mostly sidelined, poorly written, assigned to the role of the villain, or killed off.

This not only presents a problematic perception of class and race, but reinforces the toxic idea ‘womanhood’ and ‘femininity’ is synonymous with whiteness. Women of Color in narratives are often brutalized, sexualised, written with negatively masculine traits that make them seem less human and the less desired alternative to white women. Women of color are rarely allowed to embody the same (perceived) innocent, puritanical nature of white womanhood, nor are they allowed the space to abandon this nature and return to it. Women of color (especially Black and darker skinned women), make one wrong decision and are branded with a negative stereotype that divorces them from an ideal of womanhood, justifying their unjust treatment in narratives.

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If you don’t believe me, take a look at the backlash from Doctor Who fans over Martha Jones (played by Freema Agyeman), or did you not notice that we didn’t get another companion of color for almost 10 years? Did you miss the way the Doctor treated her compared to Rose? The way she was characterized as angry and aggressive? The Doctor fell in love with Rose so easily, but barely acknowledges Martha (it is interesting to note as well that both Bill and Martha are written in ways that keep them from being able to be with the Doctor romantically, when most companions in New Who – with the exception of Donna – have some kind of romantic subplot involvement). The Doctor wants Rose to be safe and sound in an alternate universe, but asks Martha to walk a Master-ruled earth, risking her life, to save him. There is even an entire episode where Martha is left to be an indentured servant while the Doctor hides out as a human because the Doctor left Martha to her own devices, something he would never have done with Rose. While its nice to palm this treatment off as “independence,” it feeds into the negative stereotype of the ‘strong independent black woman’ that doesn’t need to be nurtured or cared for.

So, Doctor Who has always had a glaring race problem. I’m disappointed that Chris Chibnall had the chance to move past that, building on the wonderfulness of Bill Potts and yet……white feminism rears it’s head again and it’s even more insidious because the Doctor is now female being written by a man. Of course, I am sure Chris will be nowhere near as bad as Moffat in terms of sexism, but i’m always wary of of anyone writing an experience they may know of but never understand and it is very obvious to a female audience when a female character is written by a man. Very. Obvious.

At the end of the day, Jodie is a wonderful actress with an impressive range (if you didn’t cry at least once at her performance in ‘Broadchurch’ I’d be shocked!). Chris is a talented writer and I’m still very excited to see how the show’s dynamic will shift, but none of that changes the fact that a female doctor is long overdue and a white female lead isn’t all that revolutionary in pop culture at this time, even if (relatively) a female doctor is a big shift.

The Measure Of A Hero Is Sometimes Hobbit-sized.

tumblr_myvifzghvt1rlcq5ko4_500In a world inundated with flawed angst ridden Captain America, Supermans and Professor Xaviers, it can be tough to find an actual everyday hero. I don’t know about you, but all these superhuman/enhanced/highly trained heroes blowing up things for our entertainment can make one feel that the everyday average bachelor is an inadequate candidate for the title of hero. But what if we were given such a hero a long time ago?

READ FULL ARTICLE @ PSEUDOMAG HERE

On “Problematic” Heroes: Luke Skywalker’s Defence of Jamie Lannister

 

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There is a quote that asks you to, “name a hero who was happy,” assuming you cannot. Well, I want you to name a hero whose “heroic goodness” didn’t grow out of an impure ideology, or self. The thing is that most heroes worth a damn aren’t free from mistake, or sin, or unjust deeds, and nor should they be.

READ MORE @ PSEUDO MAG HEREContinue reading “On “Problematic” Heroes: Luke Skywalker’s Defence of Jamie Lannister”