Design and Demographics: An Ongoing Debate

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Character designs from 1985 vs. 2018 for She-Ra, Bow, Glimmer, and Catra. (Images from @SheRaUpdates)

Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 are going to be pretty exciting! A whole slew of television that I love will be airing, either as a continuation of shows I already love, or brand new offerings to enjoy: The Dragon Prince, Star Wars: The Clone WarsCastlevania, Doctor Who, The Expanse, Young Justice, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, and Star Trek Discovery, to name a few.

However, the one that caught my attention and sparked this entry was discovering a controversy over the upcoming animated reboot of She-Ra. (Controversy? On the internet? I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you!) It seems like it boils down to the relationship between aesthetic design and sexism. Some people were stoked about the new animation style for the show, courtesy of Noelle Stevenson who worked on the comic book series Lumberjanes and the graphic novel Nimona. Others were… less enthusiastic. Apparently there’s been a great deal of backlash because the new design for She-Ra isn’t “sexy” enough. (Since She-Ra is apparently actually supposed to be 16 years old, the new design looks far more age-appropriate than the original, who I would have assumed was in her 20s.)

Personally, I think the entire debate is a bit ridiculous. I’ve never seen the original TV show from the 80s, although I did have some of the dolls (and totally made up my own stories because I had no idea who they were.) But something struck me as I was reading articles about this design battle. There was talk of how She-Ra is a “girls’ show” and “this is why girls can’t have nice things” and “why can’t men let girls have role models that aren’t based on sex appeal?” This controversy over gender separation (such as the color-coding of children’s toys in stores and the difference in design between male and female characters) has popped up in various forms over the years.

Is there really a difference anymore between “his” and “hers”? It seems like folks on both sides of the She-Ra debate think that there is. What I want to know was if this was a result of old-style marketing, environmental/societal values, or genuine difference of interest between boys and girls.

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Films Just Gotta Be Fun

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Okay, I’ve got a little bit of Marvel movie fangirling to get out of my system, so consider yourself warned.

Still with me? All-righty, then.

I’ve been to see Thor: Ragnarok twice in the last five days. Was it a good movie? Well, I had fun and enjoyed it, but as for a more objective view, that depends on what standards qualify a movie as “good.” I’ve got a bit of a sliding scale for films which depends heavily on what kind of movie it is. Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get more lee-way from me than some others because they are based on comic books, and those are already all over the place in terms of plot, character, and continuity. But I still acknowledge that many of them are held together with explosions, CGI, and witty banter rather than solid storytelling. They are essentially what I call “popcorn movies:” films with a lot of visual splash and pizzazz, but little real depth or even sense. Films like Pacific Rim, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and the James Bond franchise. And yet they still have a great, almost magnetic, appeal for me.
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The Difference Between a Convention and a Conference

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It’s been two months since I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, so I’ve had time to mull over the experience. Going somewhere new for the first time is always stressful, as one cannot know what to expect. The information I learned there was good, the speakers were engaging, and my fellow attendees were both kind and polite. I don’t really regret trying out this new opportunity when it arose.

However, I also don’t think I’ll be going back.
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Star Wars: The Death of a Universe

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The first “grown up” books I ever read from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

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While perusing my shelves trying to decide what to read (no easy task, I can assure you), my eyes landed on my collection of Star Wars books. Over the years I’ve acquired quite a few, many of which I originally read as library books and later added to my personal collection. Jedi Apprentice.  Galaxy of Fear. The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The Thrawn Trilogy. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The Young Jedi Knights series. Many of these I haven’t read in years. And as I gazed at them, recalling fond memories of reading those stories, a melancholy feeling overwhelmed me.

Because these stories don’t officially exist anymore.

Now, I’m going to state right up front that I completely understand the decision to make anything created before April 2014 no longer canon. (This of course excludes the six main films and The Clone Wars TV series and movie.) Although the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) did its best to avoid contradicting itself (and managed it far better than poor Star Trek did), I can understand why, in the interest of creative freedom, Disney and Lucasfilm didn’t want to be shackled to the expectations and events presented in the EU. While some additions to the EU are absolutely amazing, like the characters of Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, others are… shall we say… far less desirable. (I’m looking at you, New Jedi Order.)

So, I get it. I really do. But I don’t always have to like it.
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Inferior Origins

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Kira at the Gelfling Wall of Destiny (screenshot from The Dark Crystal)

Kira at the Wall of Destiny

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Who doesn’t love a good origin story?

Whenever I get into a fictional universe, be it books, movies, TV shows, or video games, I dig deep.  Those characters with shady or mysterious pasts are the most intriguing; we want to know how they became the person we know now.  If you’ve read (and enjoyed) The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon, you probably want to know Achmed’s full backstory more than anything else.  We get tantalizing hints, but no more.  Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion explores the history of the elves and Middle-Earth in almost excruciating detail.  People clamored so much for more stories about Drizzt Do’Urden that R.A. Salvatore gave them the drow ranger’s backstory in the form of The Dark Elf Trilogy.  Amazing RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age cover the history of their worlds, the aspects of the places explored there, and the characters you encounter.  And isn’t that what a lot of modern RPGs are all about?  Exploration?  How was this world created?  What happened before the story that we see?  A good origin story is a fascinating and rewarding journey.

Of course, the key word here is “good.”  Not knowing parts of a universe’s history or the origins of a character leads to all kinds of juicy speculation, head canon, and fan fiction.  Sometimes the creators even deign to answer those burning questions for us.  That’s fine and dandy, but there is a dark side to it.  No matter how much I may want to know, “What happened?!” a part of me is always a bit wary when official works drop in to fill the gaps.

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Are You a Fake Fan? (Gamer Edition)

In light of recent developments in the comic, gamer, and cosplay worlds, I’m doing a series of entries about “fake fans” and how established fandoms treat newcomers, women, and minorities.  This entry is the Gamer Edition, wherein I focus on the gaming community.  You can read the companion Comics Edition here.

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nofake

How do you decide if someone is unworthy to be part of your fandom?  How do you label someone a poser, a noob, or a fake?  Whom do you invite into a fandom and why?  Whom do you reject and why?  What are the criteria to go from noob to knowledge-master?  How does someone graduate from being a “fake geek girl/boy” or “fake fan” into a “true fan”?  Is such a thing even possible?  

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I’m not sure if I want to write this entry.  I’m not sure if it’s safe for me to write this entry.  In the wake of #GamerGate, it’s become more obvious how dangerous it can be to be a woman online and have opinions.  Especially if you are a woman involved in games, and particularly if you have some level of popularity.  Granted, my profile is no where near as high as the targets of GamerGate, but the very fact that I’m nervous about posting this also makes me mad.  I shouldn’t be afraid to have an opinion, provided I try to express it respectfully.

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Vivian James, the semi-official mascot of #gamergate (click image for source)

If you don’t know what GamerGate is, I’ve provided links below to various journals, news articles, and individual blogs that talk a lot more about it.  To summarize, GamerGate is the outpouring of misogyny in the gaming world that people tend to ignore, disregard, or minimize.  It is the systematic anonymous attempt to destroy women in gaming, be they game developers, journalists, critics, or just outspoken fans.  This hate has spewed forth in a fashion that cannot be covered up or explained away (although lord knows that GamerGate tried.)

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Are You A Fake Fan? (Comics Edition)

In light of recent developments in the comic, gamer, and cosplay worlds, I plan to do a series of entries about “fake fans” and how established fandoms treat newcomers, women, and minorities.  This first entry is the Comics Edition, wherein I focus on the comic book community.

Click HERE for the Audio Edition!

nofake  

How do you decide if someone is unworthy to be part of your fandom?  How do you label someone a poser, a noob, or a fake?  Whom do you invite into a fandom and why?  Whom do you reject and why?  What are the criteria to go from noob to knowledge-master?  How does someone graduate from being a “fake geek girl/boy” or “fake fan” into a “true fan”?  Is such a thing even possible?  

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about how unfriendly the nerd culture can be to newcomers, or even to established members if they start commenting on flaws with the status quo… especially if those members are women.  (Yes, #GamerGate, I’m looking at you.)  It seems like there are two prevailing extremes:  either the fans are portrayed as the most friendly, knowledgeable, welcoming group around, or they are seen as the most close-minded, antagonistic, sexist group alive.

So far, I’ve been fortunate to escape the fake geek label, but a lot of people, especially women, haven’t been so lucky.  And I have yet to learn of a standard for judging someone’s relative geekiness.  Is it the number of comics you read?  The variety?  The age?  The popularity?  Do you have to be super-obsessed with one particular facet of comics or do you have to have the entire history of Marvel and DC, or every plot contrivance of Batman on the tip of your tongue to qualify as a true fan?

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