20Gayteen Going Strong

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To quote a friend: “I’m gay so I’m contractually obligated to talk about Love, Simon.

Even if that’s true, I want to talk about it anyway. For all the reasons you might expect and several you might not.

Allow me to take us back to June of 2016: when I first picked up the book entitled Simon Vs The Homosapien Agenda. (Which is an amazing title I’m still bitter they changed in the movie adaptation.) I’d heard good things about this book, I was supposed to be meeting the author at Geekycon in a few months time, so I bought, read, and loved it. You can read my review here.

I did not know when I read the book that it would be picked up by a major film studio like Fox. I read a lot of queer lit. A lot of it is cute and relatable and fun. None of them, so far, had been made into major motion pictures. Into blockbusters. The gays had been sidelined into Indie films and that was the world we lived in.

Then came the announcement: this book was going to be a movie.

I was happy! I liked the book, I trusted the author. I thought it would be a good movie.

I did not realize at the time the scale this movie was going to be released.

I saw promos for this movie. On TV. On commercial breaks on the CW and VH1 and even professional wrestling. There were billboards and posters and signs in Time Square. This was a movie. About gays. And you were going to know about it.

This was honestly groundbreaking to me. Sure, there had been Glee which had reached a certain amount of mainstream commercial success but this was a film. This was a romcom. This wasn’t a tragic Brokeback Mountain deal where they’re gay but it’s sad the whole time. This was a normal, teen, coming of age movie where the MAIN CHARACTER is GAY and GETS A HAPPY ENDING. In Hollywood?! Unheard of.

I’m being 100% serious here: there is a theme in Hollywood referred to as “Bury your gays.” Where you can have gay characters but they must be a) nuetered, meaning they’re not allowed to be Actively Gay on screen (Think Eleven from House or Dr. Wong on Law and Order: SVU) and/or b) get a tragic ending. Look at Tara in season 7 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer back in 2003. Or poor Poussey in season 4 of Orange is the New Black. Literally right when Poussey gets a girlfriend she gets fridged. Typical.

We don’t get silly movies. We don’t get campy teen comedies. We never have.

But now we do.

Love, Simon (I still hate that title) was not like the book. It strayed so far from the book’s original plot, I sat in the theater hands fully covering my face because I did not know what was going to happen next. And I’d read the book twice. So I guess I can forgive the title change if there were changing the source material so much.

Some of them were good changes (I liked the addition of Ethan who was another gay kid in school Simon could be platonic friends with) some of them were neutral changes (I don’t know why Nora needed the hobby of cooking but okay no big) and some of the changes made me legitimately angry (there was no reason to write out Simon’s big sister Alice and Simon’s friends should have been groveling after abandoning him like that.) But, changes or not, this movie did what it meant to. It told a teen gay love story in mainstream Hollywood. Which is insane.

Sitting in that theater, I got emotional. Not because of what was happening on the screen (I liked the book better, I’m sorry.) but because of the full theater’s reaction to what was happening on screen.

I see movies by myself a lot. I don’t mind it – you don’t really need someone to sit quietly in a dark room with, right? And I mostly see movies with mostly empty theaters, which I actually prefer because I don’t want people near me. But on Friday, March 16th, I went with my sister to a crowded theater to see Love, Simon and the gasps and shrieks and laughter and clapping in the theater – from my sister, sitting next to me – were so…

It’s one thing to know people are excited for the stories and narratives that you like. I obviously know people like the same kinds of stuff I do. I have friends and people on tumblr who are all roughly excited about the same things as me. But it’s different when you’re surrounded by strangers who all lose their entire minds when the big gay kiss happens before their very eyes.

I’ve been told a lot growing up, and even now, that I can be A Bit Much. I get very excited, very passionate, about the things I like. The things I care about. The narratives and characters and stories I see myself in. I have been told more than once to shut up and stop talking about this thing because no one cares or wants to listen to me. Seeing people react to this movie was like validation. People do care. People get excited about things I’m excited about too.

But more than that: it wasn’t just gay white boys in that audience. Hollywood has been telling us since the beginning of motion picture that if it doesn’t star a straight white man, people can’t relate to it. The backlash against Ghostbuster (2016)  underscores that. Pushback against Get Out and Black Panther pushes the point further. We’ve always been taught to view the world through the lens of a straight white man, and if we don’t fit into that mold, try and fit yourself in, because you just can’t get general audience to relate to a not-straight, not-white, not-male protagonist.

Which is crap and has always been crap.

But this movie had audiences of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, skin colors, religions, whatever stoked out of their skulls when this gay white teenage boy got his happy ending. People were so happy to see the gay kid happy. And I teared up because that’s not a response gay kids usually get. That’s not an ending gay kids usually get.

And I’m thinking about all the gay children and preteens and teenagers who are going to grow up into this world with this mainstream piece of media as a shining light – as an example – of the story they can have. They don’t have to settle for a couple high-altitude f***s a year. They don’t have to lose their lover to a zombie or prison guard. They can get a kiss on the ferris wheel. They can have movies written for them.

Hayley Kiyoko, singer and queer icon, coined the moniker in a tweet on January first of this year.

And you know what? It is. It really is.

-JM

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International Women’s Day 2018

Today I have, for you, a thing.

We’ve talked about the history of women’s fight for equality, intersectional feminism, identifying your white privilege in your feminism, and how to fight back under the current regime. All of these are pretty big concepts – pretty hard to contextualize.

This year, allow me to add some context in the form of an anecdote.

Since last posting, I’ve begun working at my local UPS store. I’m actually there right now! Everyone wave to my UPS store which is currently empty because students are on Spring Break. Excellent.

In this job, there are a lot of microaggressions directed at women. There are men who bring in a heavy box and ask me if I want them to move it for me because it’s kind of heavy (thirty pounds is not heavy, sir.) There are times a man comes in to ship something for his girlfriend showing little to no regard for the things he’s shipping (‘How much is this makeup worth? Nothing to me! Haha, I’m a man.’) And then there are men who, when I tell them something they don’t want to hear in regards to their shipment, insist on talking to my manager Allen. Note: I have two managers. Allen and Mary. No one wants to talk to Mary.

More than that, there are the names.

Nicknames, pet names, diminutives, whatever. This is always a problem in the service industry: customers feel entitled to call you ‘sweetheart’ or ‘honey’ or ‘girl’. When you’re a woman in an industry not known to be ‘for women’ it gets… exacerbated. I’ve had a customer give me a ‘good girl’ once. It was not fun.

Those, while unsolicited and not appreciated, are not at least intentionally cruel. Today, however, on International Women’s Day, someone called my manager Mary a not very nice name. Rhymes with ‘punt’.

She started telling me this story. Mary is not the most agreeable woman in the world – she’s older, conservative. Backwoods. She’s got the thickest Pensatucky accent I have ever heard.

My point is that when she says someone was rude to her on the phone, I believe it. Our customers are not understanding on the best of days and Mary certainly doesn’t make it better.

But she didn’t deserve to be called that.

I was already angry . But then she used the pronoun ‘he’ and I was immediately five times as mad.

Any time sexist language is used is bad. I don’t enjoy women calling each other sexist slurs either.

But a man doing it is completely unacceptable.

That man didn’t care it was International Women’s Day. He didn’t care about women at all.

You think that’s a stretch? You think, sure, he called this woman a terrible name when she was just doing her job, but that doesn’t mean he hates women. He has a mother, probably. Might have a girlfriend or sisters. How can I say he doesn’t care about women?

Easily. If you can’t show a certain level of consideration – a baseline of respect – for a woman you don’t know, how can you say you care about women as a whole?

I’m not talking about doing The Most. Holding open doors, carrying groceries, helping old ladies across the street. That’s more than anything I’m asking. All I’m saying is DON’T act like a horrible person. DON’T call women names. It’s that simple!

This should be a practice put into a place every day. But ESPECIALLY on a day that is supposed to be celebrating women.

If you’re thinking ‘But it was one time! Just a name! It’s not like he hit her.’

Okay, but how many times do you think she’s been called that name? Different names? Different microaggressions? (Have we done a post on microagressions yet? I don’t think so. I might get on that.) She shouldn’t have to deal with it ONCE but after all the years she has, you want her to just get over it?

No. Eff that. Be better.

Happy International Women’s Day.

-JM

Magnēt-no

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Something we haven’t really covered much on this blog: anti-semitism.

The only reason for that is we, or at least I, think it’s pretty obvious. Nazis are bad. We try and cover subjects we feel don’t get very much coverage or recognition, you know what I mean? Representing the voiceless, those lessons we had to unlearn from elementary school about how Christopher Columbus was a rad dude and white people invented everything except peanut butter. But you learn in elementary school all about the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing. A 13 year-old could tell you that Nazis are bad.

And yet-

You don’t need me to tell you about the rise of the alt-right and increased swastika graffiti and the vandalism of that Jewish cemetery in Philly. You probably already know about Shia Labeouff’s art installation “He Will Not Divide Us,” a live-stream in New York that was supposed to run for the entirety of the current presidency, and how it had to be taken down because there was too much anti-Semitic harassment and it was becoming unsafe. You know about the bomb threats and the punching of Richard Spencer. Punching a Nazi: as American as apple pie. So American, Superman has done it. So American, Captain America has done it.

And yet-

You might not even need me to tell you about comic book writer Nick Spencer (no relation to Richard that we know of), and how, back in May 2016, he released Steve Rogers No. 1 – a comic that revealed to us Captain America had been working for Hydra (a Nazi organization) all along. You might already know about the backlash and the criticisms and actual Captain America Chris Evans being distraught.

But what you might now know is that Nick Spencer has DONE IT AGAIN!

But this time, instead of taking this nice gentile Golden Boy and turning him rotten, this ‘writer’ has taken Marvel’s staple Jewish character, the one that survived the literal holocaust, Erik Lehnsherr or Magneto, and made him a member of Hydra.

There is no literary value in this! There was no literary value in Hydra-Cap, either. It’s shock value. It’s pandering to the grim-dark fanboys. It’s disgusting and terrible story-telling.

I didn’t write at all about the Captain America thing back in May because it already seemed like everyone was talking about it. I didn’t cover it on here because it already seemed pretty well covered. And maybe it’s because the news only broke about Magneto twelve hours ago, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is particularly bothered. Which makes no sense.

Erik is Jewish. Erik escaped Auschwitz. If Steve couldn’t be Hydra because he was an allegory to fight Nazism back in the day and was created by Jewish writers, then Erik definitely couldn’t be Hydra because he was an actual victim of nazi power. It’s not science!

Maybe it’s because Magneto is a villain. Maybe it’s because Magneto’s villainous creed includes his own form of ethnic cleansing by way of a genocide of all non-mutants. This still doesn’t mean he’s a Nazi and definitely doesn’t make it okay to sensationalize the Nazi movement, especially in today’s social climate.

Comic books are important. They have a historical significance that rivals newspapers, because comics were accessible to kids and kids were the ones the built the future. These characters have a historical significance that is just being spit on and disrespected for no other reason than a guy seeing an opportunity to drop some jaws. That’s not art. That’s not entertainment. And anyway, shouldn’t the support of an already oppressed people be worth more than that?

In today’s climate, with anti-semitism becoming more and more prevalent, is now really the time to try and be edgy by making traditionally anti-nazi characters nazis?

-JM

Things to remember when engaging in political discourse on Facebook.

If you are a person alive in 2017, you have a social media presence. Probably Facebook, if nothing else. Here’s how to Facebook responsibly:

  1. Clear out the clutter.
    We all know we have friends on Facebook just because. Maybe you had a chance encounter for thirty seconds your first day of college orientation. Maybe you had to friend an old coworker to ask them if they would cover your shift three years ago. These people don’t know you, they add nothing to your life. Unfriend them. This will help you both as now you don’t have to see the Islamophobic Facebook statuses of a boy your sister had a crush on in high school and they’re spared from your vicious, vicious clapback.
  2. Pick your battles.
    To anyone who actually knows me or is my friend on Facebook, this may seem like a hypocritical statement. Oh, if only you knew how many battles I’m not picking.
    There are some easy indicators of battles to stay away from:

    • If you have Facebook friends who you don’t really care about but can’t unfriend because of some reason or another (family, work, school), don’t bother. Unfollow them so you don’t have to lay witness to their problematic statuses. Your ignorance will protect you and you can continue to like them.
    • If there’s already debate happening in the comments, just back away. Obviously, lend your support if you feel like there’s unwarranted attack or something, but you can just like a comment and keep scrolling. Someone’s already saying something, you don’t need to repeat it.
    • If a person is hopeless, don’t waste your time. You’ve argued with this person before, they either don’t get what you’re saying or are too stubborn to understand. It’s not worth it. Unfriend them. Or resign yourself to their stupidity and scroll through their feed when you need to build up a good rage.
  3. Remain objective.
    Now, this applies to any argument, but it’s especially difficult in text communication to remember. If you have to say something, if you have to comment or put in your input (no judgement, I understand the impulse) it’s important to remember that you are not attacking the person, you are attacking their argument. I am not arguing with you, a person, I am arguing with this status or meme you posted. I do not care if you are a mother or served in the military or have a black friend, I care about what you’re saying. I do not care if you are my Aunt or my sister’s boss or my mother’s childhood friend, I care about how you’re speaking to me. Furthermore: I don’t need disclaimers. Yes, I know you still love me, but I’m going to respond to this diatribe condemning millennials. Yes, I know you still love me, but climate change is real and I’m not going to let you pretend it isn’t.
    It’s not disrespectful to ignore your tragic backstory if you’re trying to use your tragic backstory as a defense for your argument. I don’t want that defense, I want an actual defense. If I’m taking the courtesy to divorce myself and my personal stake in this debate, you should do the same.
    And I know, in ever class we’ve ever taken about persuasive writing, we’re told that pathos is how you sway an audience. But in my experience, giving a sob story only opens up a door for the other side to claim you’re biased and undercut your entire thesis. I have been dismissed in arguments because I was the ‘middle child.’ I have been dismissed in arguments because ‘you just want to vote for a woman because she’s a woman.’ So, no, I don’t exist in an argument. I’m just a mouthpiece. Attack my words, because there is not a person here.
  4. Leave the mess where it is.
    Facebook does not exist in a vacuum, it’s true: you actually have to see these people in real life, eventually. Leave the Facebook arguments on Facebook. It’s possible to be a fully functioning human being and have conversations outside of whatever drama got you heated. This doesn’t make you fake or two-faced, it makes you an adult. This doesn’t mean you’re going back on your beliefs or taking back anything you may have said, it means you know how to conduct yourself in society. Off of Facebook, I am a person. There is a personality behind the mouthpiece and this person knows how to artfully dodge uncomfortable topics when the time doesn’t call for it. There’s a time and place, your mother’s birthday party is not that.

Basically, don’t be a bully. Remember that your arguments are not you and if you’re being called out, examine why that might be. And don’t get mad when people call you out: you’re the one who posted something controversial, do not be shocked when there’s controversy.

And maybe step back from Facebook if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re responsible for yourself first.

-JM

(Disclaimer that these views and opinions are strictly the views and opinions of Jessie Maggio. Jessie Brokenshire barely uses Facebook. She’s smarter than me.)

Donald

I don’t know about Jessie, but this is probably going to be the only time I talk about the President-Elect-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Donald Trump.
And that is going to be the only time I type out his name because his name is his brand and I would literally rather die than enforce that brand.
So Donald.
I didn’t talk about it much, because I signed a confidentiality agreement I’m not sure I really understood, but from July right up until the election, I worked for a political SuperPac that aimed to fight Climate Change. And while climate change is definitely a social issue it’s not really social justice so I didn’t really think too much about blogging about it here.
Really cool stuff happened in my time there: I met really passionate, like-minded people. I was given the opportunity to inform young voters on the issues and get them registered. This woman actually asked if she could hug me, nearly in tears, because she was so moved by what we were doing. It was very rewarding.
Except for the part, in the early hours of November 10, when the wrong candidate was declared president.
A couple of facts about me: I am very passionate. I believe very much in things. Like so much. And when I care about something, I have to throw everything I have into it. It’s why I co-run this blog. It’s why I spend so much time and emotions on television and films. It’s why I was very very good at getting people to register to vote. Because I cared. And it showed.
So imagine giving every part of yourself to a thing – every ounce of passion and fear and belief and faith – and then seeing it go the other way. Seeing the entire country (or the electoral colleges) telling you it doesn’t matter.
And then, the next day, being told it’s okay! It’s a set back! We just have to keep fighting!
KEEP FIGHTING?!
I had been fighting! For months! For years it felt like! I am tired. Physically and emotionally exhausted. Scared, anxious, depression flares, my friends are leaving because the job is over, I have to go home for the holidays to my parents who voted third party. And you’re telling me to just buckle up, we’re ride or die tonight? I’m at a point where I’m kind of at ‘die’ right now.
I will get my fight back, I know I will, but it would be so much easier if I could just shut it off for a little bit. Just get away. I used to be a Twitter monster but I have barely looked at it in the past three weeks because I can’t mentally deal with all of the #notmypresident stuff.
And that’s so my stuff! I would be so in this! I want to be! I care so much about this and I want to be doing everything I can but I… I just… I can’t right now. I don’t have enough in me.
And I’m telling myself it’s okay. I’m allowed to put myself first.
But it’s hard. It’s so hard.
This loss was a major hit. On me. On the entire LGBTQIA+ community. People of Color. People of Islam. Women. Children.
I’m making myself upset again.
The point is: yes, we should fight. We should fight and we should never normalize Donald and we should call neo-nazis what they are and we should never be complacent.
But I’m tired. So I’m going to take a break. Be back later.
-JM

A review of The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #2)

An author’s note before we begin:
This is a social justice blog so why am I posting a book review about Norse myths, right? Well, I’m not going to lie to you, this is copy/pasted directly from my Goodreads but a lot of what I discuss and what’s featured in this review pertains to queer and Muslim representation. Shocking, right? I know, I’m super unpredictable.
This book did something super daring. It’s a children’s book! Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson books, introduced a gender-fluid character as one of the main protagonists! So yeah, I’m going to gush a little bit. And I think it deserves to be here on this blog.
The review is probably going to make little sense if you haven’t read the book and there’s some spoilers sprinkles throughout but if you’d like to see me geek out over tasteful handling of sensitive issues using fictional characters, please enjoy.

SO please bear with me as I attempt to write a coherent review and NOT scream about Alex Fierro.
I mean I’m definitely going to scream about Alex Fierro but there’s other stuff I want to talk about first.
Not a lot but definitely some stuff that’s not just me screaming about Alex Fierro.

LET’S DIVE RIGHT IN!

The world expansion in this book was just great. We had a magnificent set up in the first book – a lot of great establishing characters and setting and concepts – and when you add to a series like that, it can get to be a lot very quickly. This book was great because it took a lot of what was covered in the first book and just expanded on it. We had a taste of Hearthstone’s past in the last book but giving it more context in this one was great for world development with the elves and character development with Hearth. MY POOR BABY ELF I LOVE HIM!
Did I wish there was a little more development with Hearth and Blitz? Yes, but that’s just my Blitztone shipping heart. There were many cute hurt/comfort moments with them, a lot of worrying about each other and singular focus about each others’ safety and nothing but each others’ safety, and Blitz literally said “I love this elf” at one point, but we didn’t get a confirmation of a romantic relationship. WHY! IT’S RIGHT THERE! Provincetown, Rick? Did you not want me to pick up on that? IT’S THE ULTIMATE GAY/LESBIAN VACATION DESTINATION!

[Source]
Part of me is choosing to believe that most of the lack of confirmation is Magnus’s own obliviousness and there will be a huge ‘duh’ moment later on when he confronts his feelings about Alex but WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT YET I HAVE MORE TO SAY!
What was really beautiful in this book, character development wise, was learning more about Samirah and her religion and how that coincides with her life as a Valkyrie. I am not Muslim and admittedly don’t know that much about the religion other than the abstract so I’m kind of going with Rick in faith on this one but I appreciated the attentiveness and unapologeticness about how religious Sam was and how much she believed in it and how that was not a detriment or distraction from everything else she was. She was brave and clever and kind and loyal and a valkyrie and a hijabi and engaged to a boy who loves her and she loves back and she was all of these at the same time! That’s sensational!
Also, side note, can we talk about how HAPPY I am that we can have two main characters, a boy and a girl, where the girl likes boys and the boy likes girls (?), and the girl is in a prior relationship and there is no love triangle. Seriously, it shouldn’t be this hard to have a story like this all the time. Girl is in love with a guy she’s going to marry, makes a new guy friend, and there’s NO DRAMA! They GET ALONG! And Amir is even more present in this story and there’s no romantic tension between the three of them at all! I am OVER THE MOON about this. This story has enough going on, adding romantic tension in the form of a love triangle would have been too much and way unnecessary (@ Legend of Korra first two seasons I mean goddamn).
Of course romantic tension in the form of Magnus’s ridiculous crush on Alex is fine but WE’RE NOT QUITE THERE YET HANG ON.
I’m glad this is a trilogy because I feel like this story can be nicely wrapped up in three books. I love the Helheim out these characters and the tie in to the Greek/Roman series in the form of Annabeth hopefully means we can see more of them. I like the throwaway callouts to both ancient Norse mythology and pop culture (though I’ll never forgive you for that pinball wizard thing, Rick. Come on, know your audience, no one but me is going to catch that.) but those are pretty standard for Rick by this point, right? We can look forward to those little quips in anything he likes. But no, after this third book, I feel like these characters’ story will have been told. I mean they’re all dead and Sam is retiring. After Blitz and Hearth get married, what else is there?
Now I kind of want to call back to my review of the last book.
Yeah I focus a lot on Blitz/Hearth (How could you not it’s right there. But I did pick up on something with Magnus, too.

Now, he doesn’t do the obvious thing, when does he ever, but by the end of the book, Magnus still doesn’t have an obvious love interest. By the end of The Lightning Thief, we at least knew Percy and Annabeth were going to be a thing… So if Magnus was going to be a thing with any character we’ve been introduced to so far, we’d know already. This possibility of Magnus being queer is still wide open. And I am overjoyed.

So, even though Magnus’s attraction to Alex doesn’t confirm anything for us directly about his sexuality, I would just like to say that I CALLED IIIITTTTTTT!!!!
I know I shouldn’t be bragging about picking up on subtext designed for children but my brother was particularly contrary to this point so I just want to take this opportunity to say IN YOUR FACE MICHAEL THE GAY IS REAL FREAKING SUCK IT!

*ahem*
Anyway

Magnus continued to be the least hetero protagonist (barring Apollo, of course. NO ONE is less hetero than Apollo) by throwing out constant commentary about the beautiful and handsome faces of literally every male he comes across. EVEN A GIANT! Like… honeybear…

And we have finally arrived at Alex Fierro.
ALEX MOTHERFREAKING FIERRO!
You can see my building hype in my tweets:

So yeah, to no one’s surprise, Alex Fierro is the most important character in this book and my favorite.
I’m going to continue to gush about Alex but first let me address how AMAZING it is that a character like this was added to this narrative. For this audience!
We all thought Nico was groundbreaking. WELL! MY BUDDY! MY GUY! GET READY!
The conversations opened up by a gender fluid character being introduced EVEN AMONG THE OTHER CHARACTERS! Astounding! We get a look at what non-gender-conforming people look like in different cultures. Magnus provides the western perspective by talking about the trans kids he saw on the streets (and bringing up queer homeless teens? RICK!) and then the two-spirit Mother William from the Lenape tribe. THAT’S A THING! I LEARNED ABOUT THAT IN MY QUEER HISTORY CLASS! And argr? I mean, the term is problematic, (AS POINTED OUT BY ALEX! “I’ll decide what’s unmanly.” YES YOU WILL, SUGAR, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!) but the fact that there’s a WORD in NORSE to embody this concept is just something amazing that Rick brings to the table. This sentence is one of my literal favorite things about this book, brought to us by ‘an enlightened modern man from the year 865 C.E.’: “Gender-fluid people are hardly a new thing, Magnus.”
YOU’RE GODDAMNED RIGHT!
So yeah, Alex is important.
Even without the gender identity stuff, though, s/he would still be my favorite character. (Sidenote: can I talk about how AWESOME it is that it is CANONICALLY ADDRESSED WITHIN THE TEXT that Alex doesn’t like ‘they’ as a pronoun when referring to him/herself? Like WE DON’T HAVE TO WONDER! THE CHARACTER HAS CONFIRMED! THAT’S AMAZING!) I love Alex because s/he is funny and snarky and unapologetic and knows him/herself well enough that s/he can just whip out a lecture whenever it’s called for. And yeah, s/he gets defensive and guarded but it’s compelling. Because this character isn’t mean just to be mean and moody for its own sake. Alex bonds relatively quickly to Sam and Magnus’s floor-mates. S/he isn’t standoffish for very long, agreeing to be Sam’s male relative chaperone after A DAY of knowing her. S/he snaps at people who disrespect him/her but s/he’s upfront and doesn’t beat around what’s upsetting him/her. And s/he’s critical to the narrative!
Without Alex, this story wouldn’t have worked. That’s the trick to knowing whether or not a character is ‘token’. Without Alex in the wedding dress, not following Loki’s orders, the plan would have failed. Without Alex, changing into that elephant and winning the bowling challenge, the gang wouldn’t have gotten out alive. Without Alex to teach Sam how to control her own will over Loki’s, there would be no going forward for Sam’s narrative. So genuine a character! So important in representation and in the new relationships s/he contributes to the narrative! NOT JUST A LOVE INTEREST! NOT JUST A TOKEN QUEER/TRANS REP!
I am so looking forward to seeing fanart of this character and SO looking forward seeing more of him/her in the next/last book. Rick did his job, I’m hype.
AND NOW I HAVE TO WAIT A WHOLE ‘NOTHER YEAR OH NOOOOOOOOOOOO.
RIP me, tbh.

-JM

Who ya gonna call?

Who ya gonna call?

Guess who wants to talk about movies and media again.

I know I talk about this kind of a lot but my world is media. A lot of people’s world is media! We, as a culture, internalize and express ourselves through media. Therefore it is worthy of our attention and reflection and dissection.

Today’s subject: Ghostbusters (2016)

I know how a lot of people feel about remakes. And I know why! There are a few things everyone is mostly in agreement on when it comes to remakes.

  • It’s never going to live up to the original.
  • It’s just a cash grab.
  • Is Hollywood running out of ideas?
  • This is the end of culture.

And those points are fair based on the history of remakes we’ve seen in Hollywood. They’re boring, not as good as the originals, wastes of time and money. But there are ways to do film remakes without falling into this pit.

What do a lot of remakes have in common? Ignoring Spider-Man (whose main issue is that studios can’t decide who even owns him as a character), films are generally remade because technology allows for better graphics, right? So the same story is re-hashed with similar actors and a similar premise, just with CGI.

When movies are remade just because modern technology allows for more fancy on-screen tricks, the audience is left feeling disappointed. There was nothing of the film to compel them to invest themselves in it. They don’t care how realistic an explosion looked or how well that CGI character interacted with live actors. Have you seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Literally no movie will ever surpass the brilliance.

So if you want to remake a movie: you’ve got to make it relevant. Make it different. Make people care.

Some attempts have been made recently in this regard: Marvel superheroes have had people of color take up the title in comics, there have been more female protagonists in Star Wars adaptations, it’s been revealed that Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise will have a husband in the newest edition to the Star Trek film remakes: Star Trek: Beyond, and Annie (2014) featured a young black girl as its eponymous character. Granted some of these have been more successful than others (I heard Annie was a flop and I didn’t see it myself but I support it), but it’s definitely more interesting when you give the original source material an upgrade. When you show it through a different lens.

Enter Ghostbusters. They’re here. They ain’t afraid of no ghosts. And they’re women.

Now I know some people are thinking “What does it matter if they’re women?” And let me just tell you: E V E R Y T H I N G.

How often do you see women who are heroes? How often do you see women with stories that don’t revolve around them being women? How often do you see four, complex, diverse women on screen at the same time?

Here’s just a short list of tests the new Ghostbusters passes:

  • Bechdel Test: All the women have a lot of conversations about things other than men. Like ghosts, and cadavers, and technobabble.
  • Sexy Lamp Test: None of the women can be replaced by a sexy lamp and have the plot remain intact.
  • Mako Mori Test: All the women have a narrative arc about busting ghosts and gaining respect, with the separate arc of Erin and Abby re-gaining their friendship, and neither arc supports a man’s story.
  • Furiosa Test: The movie makes a lot of manbabies* on the internet angry.**

Not a fat joke was made, these women were allowed to eat on screen, no woman was made to seem unattractive. It’s a low bar but you’d be surprised how little media meets it.

This is a story of women as women. A story as women as scientists. A story of women as heroes.

Says one original Ghostbusters enthusiast and father, after he’d taken his daughter to go see it: “So my daughter asks me the next day if we are gonna see the movie again. I said sure, why did you like it that much? She said yes. She liked that they were girls that were heroes. Honestly up until that point I really didn’t think much of the role genders played in the movie. My daughter looked up to these 4 women and it got to me” (x).

Representation is important. And this movie was funny and entertaining all the way through. I paid homage to the original for sure, but this updated Ghostbusters is something for a new generation of moviegoers to enjoy. And the best part? It’s for everyone.

-JM

*I didn’t want to dedicate too much time to this point because it’s exhausting being around so much negativity but I felt it would be disingenuous not to mention it. If the term ‘manbabies’ offends you, allow me to clarify: A manbaby is someone who doesn’t like the movie because it’s ‘ruining their childhood.’ Someone who thinks casting women as the main characters makes this a ‘chick movie.’ Someone who has sent hate messages to any of the actresses on Twitter. And if the hate message was calling Leslie Jones a gorilla, congrats! You’re also racist. A manbaby is someone who says this adaptation looks ‘dumb’ but is pumped to see Dr. Strange in November. 
Basically, if you were offended by any of those descriptions and/or are mad about this movie: Congratulations! You’re a manbaby.

**Totally stolen from this tumblr post.