Archive for April, 2013

Lobotomy
One would have to be brain-damaged to imagine Harley Quinn’s new ‘direction’ as progressive

Any semi-conscious fan would probably agree that art mediums such as comics and video games that are struggling to be recognized as able to ‘effectively convey serious adult themes’ should stay far away from mixing well-established characters and cheesy T&A (thats Tits and Ass, for all you crazy schoolkids)

As it turns out, most actually do not agree, so lets try that opening again:

Any self-respecting human-being would readily agree that sex-fantasy porn should be kept well away from being intermixed with a worthwhile plot and the characters therein. Unfortunately, it seems these ‘hu-mans’ are in short supply on planet ‘Urf’. As such, a great deal of market research has convinced many-a-company that we heterosexual men are little more than simple, lecherous, undisciplined, uncontrollable, sex-addled freaks who cannot possibly play a well-constructed game or read a thrilling tale without demanding that every female even remotely mentioned be promptly undressed (or arguably even worse, dressed up in some absurd ‘sexy’ fashion). I, for one, vehemently reject this fiction. However, following this insulting logic to its conclusion, heroines and fem. villains alike are ‘naturally’ on the chopping block. In this, DC comics and their video game extensions have headily stumbled into the spotlight.

StarfireCheesecake
Which Starfire do you suppose makes a better hero for a child, the first or the second? I know as an adult, I have no respect for the latter incarnation (nor her creators).

There is a great deal of difference between exploring a character’s sexuality in a mature fashion and creating a disgusting parody of the thing. This regression in the way our female heroines are being depicted is clearly illustrated in other gaming generas such as Mortal Kombat, which I have spoken about before at length. The release of DC’s “New 52” reboot of vital characters has created all the wrong kind of hype. Personally, I care about the integrity of both our male AND female heroes, and as it turns out, I’m not alone. From Starfire, to Catwoman, to Harley Quinn, fans who truly love the stories and themes these characters used to pioneer are being sorely disappointed. The much-anticipated game Injustice, will be featuring several classic DC heroines in about as much savvy attire as one can expect to find at a strip club. All respect to women of that profession. Period.
Apparently however (still following this logic), when men think of super-heroines, we think of ‘sexy’ back-flips and when women think of back-flips, they better make sure to keep their costumes unzipped.

women of arkham
Plot-driven, you say? Notice that she is not exposing herself for her fellow characters, but for YOU

Whats that? Catwoman has a background as a sex-worker? Well how fucking convenient! I suppose its actually kind of polite for these current writers to even bother with making a bullshit premise as opposed to just doing it with every female character. Oh no! Whats this…?

Voodoo, the first black female character to get her own DC ongoing series, [is] to open with her stripping on her knees while men throw money at her, because she has a previously established history of being a stripper. But let’s be honest — they didn’t make her a stripper because they really wanted to create a positive and well-rounded portrait of sex workers and how they exist in our culture.

Or did they!?
No. No they didn’t. In fact, this seems to be a pretty consistent theme. Color me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I’m getting the creeping suspicion this type of bad writing is an excuse to tear down other ways interesting characters and replace them with softcore porn doppelgangers.

classic cat vs new
There is a vast difference between ‘sexy’ and ‘fantasy porn’

OK. Yes, Catwoman has long been established as ‘seductive’. Thats fucking fine! Michelle Pfeiffer did an especially excellent job playing the part live-action. But how pedantic does one have to be to willfully convince themselves there is no difference between playing off a character’s sexuality and objectifying it? There’s a difference between writing a female character as sexually liberated, and writing her as wish-fulfillment-sex-object. This is not empowering for the female readers. This is not empowering for the characters. And this is not amusing to me. This is regressive, offensive, BULLSHIT and it stains everything that this type of garbage is connected to.

This is not about these women wanting things; it’s about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering — the idea that women can own their sexuality — and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their “sexual liberation” into just another way for dudes to get off. And that is at least ten times as gross as regular cheesecake, minimum.

Take as a for-example, Batman Arkham City. I wanted to flow with the hype and like that game, I REALLY did. But every time Catwoman would bob her center-mass on screen or turn gaily around to highlight her ‘curves’, I was completely knocked out of the immersion. Catwoman was not the problem. Her representation was. I don’t mind that she has a tight outfit. Whatever. But the overt pandering was ridiculous! The angles the camera chose to focus on were like constantly being forced to looking through the eyes of a hormone-crazed, knuckledragging idiot (I don’t much appreciate that).
Same for the other prominent female character, Harley Quinn.
Holy. Shit.
Harley Quinn.

classic harl vs new
From silly, sassy, and tragic, to borderline hentai idiocy

Honestly? I could forgive all these other infractions if they didn’t also directly affect Harley Quinn. She’s one of my favorite Batman villains, you see. There is something very likable about her. She is silly and crazy, but in a fun way. She is Powerless, so she has to rely on more human methods which makes her a more interesting character–like Batman (except for that little poison-resistance her girlfriend Ivy gifted her with). And finally, she is tragic. Underneath it all, Harley is a broken, abused woman. Now I don’t so much like that last part as I find it astonishing that in the 90s Batman Animated series, the writers were brilliant enough to come up with something so harsh and compelling (and enraged, that in 2013 that idea is being sold as pseudo-porn). Harley Quinn is, as I see it, DC Comic’s icon for abused women.

madlove
“Oops, I’ve gone crazy!”

Do you see how fucking insane (in a not-good-way) it is to remake Harley into a sleezebag? Can they not tell? Or are they just such cursory ‘fans’, these people, that they just don’t give a shit? How come there are articles upon articles about the sexism done upon the characters of Catwoman and Starfire but nothing — fucking NOTHING — about the shit that they are putting Harley Quinn through. Not in the comic circles. And not in the gaming clans. What. The. Hell.
Question mark.

I get it. Everyone’s costumes used to be a little ridiculously tight. But its a new era. They upgraded Superman’s outfit to make his tights look more like chainmail armor. Batman no longer looks like he is wearing ‘hocky-pads‘ while Harley Quinn…Harley Quinn looks like she lost her costume and now has to fight in her bra, underwear, and stockings. WTF kind of ‘upgrade’ is that!? Its progress for everyone but the females and its BULLSHIT!

Okay. *breaths*
Here’s what I know:

I know I don’t support games/comics/movies with MY money if they go out of their way to paint women up with giant, bouncing cleavage or who solely depict every female in-cast as a useless bag of luggage. As a man, this is directly offensive to ME because thats what the fucking developers seem to think I want–it ISN’T.

mad love
“You’re wrong! My Puddin’ does love me! He does!”

Some would argue that women need to be women.
I’m not really sure what the fuck that even means exactly, but I’m guessing it has to do with Kitchens or some erroneous notion that femininity is defined by the curvature of an ass.
Its not about pretending women and men are different. The problem is that games/films/graphic-novels empower men yet tend to showcase women in the most prepubescent displays. Its crap. Its not true. And it propagates hate.
There are, however, several brilliant titles that do not do this. Those games/shows are good by me and have me as a fan.

Other people seem to think that complaining in any way at all about the end-result somehow obstructs the free expression of the developers.
Well its not about censorship, you fucking profligate. Its about realism. Realism, even in a fictional setting is still important to the overall tone and immersion. REALISM — not a pervasive element in today’s modern entertainment vision. So when I see REALISM, I fucking applaud. Why anyone would support a lack thereof and still consider themselves intelligent, I have not a clue. Entitlement, probably.
Personally? I’d prefer to see more Empowerment:

Others yet might argue that the characters don’t belong to me so who am I to judge.
Yeah. They belong to the fans. My beef is that I don’t think the change to Harley’s character in Batman Arkham Asylum/City, New 52 and now Injustice was made based in actual need but as some desire to appeal to the dipshits in the male audience (CLEAVAGE!) which directly resulted in a back-peddling of realism. I don’t care who made the changes. Nobody is above scrutiny to their fans. Its what keeps people honest and forces dumbass comedians to re-read their gags–its a damn good thing (now if only this also applied to movie sequels). Further, this new, supposedly more ‘gritty’ reboot is all assbackwards since the original versions not only portrayed Harley’s abuse more effectively but also more viscerally and yet she was not sexualized. Its called CLASS people! It makes no contextual sense to rip apart her appearance (and by extension demeanor) in this way.

In fact, I’d LOVE to see a writer or director in a televised interview say something like, “Well we got a lot of pressure to ‘modify’ her original costume…you know, at least unzip her top or something. But we decided to just this one time hold the torch for all the geek-girls out there and say ‘NO! Go fuck yourself, because these characters aren’t going to do it for you.’

Finally, people might point out that there are more important issues out there so why even bother talking about something like this?
I say this is more than just a discussion of DC comics. This is a discussion about societal norms and is important. Unless of course, like many ‘gamer dudes’, you enjoy having the community be a sausage-only fest and see the loss of that absolute power as a violation of your rights (in which case, Congratulations! the tests came back, and you are officially everything that is wrong with humanity).

abused harley
Even in that nightgown, Harley isn’t being depicted as titillating but as tragic, hiding the pain behind smiles.

The character that we were shown in the 90s was demeaned and broken. She was sorrowful, yet silly and exciting. Thats what Harley is. She is nuts and a villain yet somehow manages to grasp both a tinge of sympathy and intrigue. There is no reason to inflate her (or for that matter, fucking Selena fucking Kyle’s) boobs. They both worked as they were: Harley – crazy, Selena – seductive. Giving them a slutty makeover has nothing to do with character definition and everything to do with catering to the base of the baser lifeforms among us. Its insulting to the characters, its insulting to the fans, and its insulting to women (especially women fans).
I’m a fan. And I’ve had ENOUGH.

woman chooses
No one has ever won their freedom by appealing to the humanity of the those enslaving them

The men who speak of self-sacrifice, speak of slaves and masters — and aim to be the masters. Those men insist that you are wretched and vilify any sense of happiness. The people that follow such men are accordingly filled with Fear at the concept of rejoicing in their own natures, which they are told are inherently base, flawed and/or ‘sinful’. These self-loathing followers are therefore filled with seething Hatred for all those who do not follow their self-deprecating creeds. Their consistent Fear of themselves and Guilt at their own natures causes them to like ways strike dread into the hearts of others (sometimes violently). The people that follow these doctrines jeer at the sight of any who manage to achieve any sense self-sustaining happiness not born of their own deprecation or the ridicule of others. In the eyes of the followers, these religious apostates/political dissidents fall even lower than themselves on those demented ladders of ‘morality’ and ‘virtue’.
But if ever you hear a woman telling you that you must be happy, that it is your natural right to smile, that your first duty is to delight in your existence — that will be the person who needs nothing of you and is the enemy of those who would rule you by denying you joy. Historically, the individuals urging for personal happiness get shot for their trouble. Why? Because the followers get taken in en-mass by the Fear and the Hate of countless philosophies — religious and secular — that preach guilt and sacrifice of the self. Then people wonder why atrocities are common-place.

God-Hates-Everyone
You are not responsible for the programming you were force-fed in childhood. However, as an adult, you are 100% responsible for fixing it.

Fear and Hate are two sides of the same twisted coin — they are prosthetics built by feeble minds attempting to grasp at the nuances of stimuli beyond their small cognitions. They are also a tool of manipulation. It can be argued that ‘Fear keeps you alive’ and ‘Hate gives you strength’. To the logical who have a grasp over both their own actions and emotions, Caution and Anger provide all the benefits of Fear and Hate without the self-destructive drawbacks.
You must be active if you wish to be free of oppression and then to keep the freedom which you have earned or inherited.
Face your oppressors.
Confront your abusers in every space they occupy.
Give not an inch.
Challenge all their fear-fueling, hate-filled rhetoric and feel no shame.
Allow no guilt to hold you from your task and tolerate no apathy to seep into your soul. Guilt is the tool through which the manipulated followers can garner self-satisfying redemption for their failures, and apathy is the excuse. That is not to say you should be immoral (needlessly cruel). The logical have no need for guilt and no patience for apathy. You have within you the discipline to not simply live by your chosen creeds, but to also seize responsibility for your lapses in judgment — a necessary action in order to fix mistakes instead of simply regretting them (as guilt would have one do). Guilt therefore, is a crutch for those who need others to validate their morality.
You do not have time for apathy. The stakes are far too high. We, as a species, are losing far too much.

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Quote 3
Freedom is not given, it is fought for and earned or lost, each and every day.

Women have and continue to be legendary philosophers, warriors, and scientists, despite being the single largest and longest-standing oppressed group of humans throughout history. Many ethnic, gender, and religious groups have and continue to face similar persecution despite our collective claims of ‘virtue’ and ‘civilization’. If you feel that the oppression of these people does not effect you, think again — every individual is adversely affected by global atrocities against the nature of our species to varying degrees, even you.
Do not bother with guilt.
Take responsibility for your apathy, then fix yourself by taking action.

Quote
To any sentient being, there is no emotion more important than Hope. Nothing can begin without first being a Dream.

One finds freedom from Fear, Hate, and Guilt when one is able to let go of everything that one clings to — and not in that ‘self-sacrificing’ way. You have to come to terms with Death and the changing nature of the universe. You have to fully love and enjoy everything you are and everything you have and everyone you care about even as you know that all those things will eventually become lost to you. You must take the time to feel that loss and grieve before it inevitably comes. Taking the time to do this, will free you of the fear of that loss and allow you to truly cherish what you have while you have it. And when the loss finally comes, you will be ready to accept it with dignity and be able to be grateful for the experiences you enjoyed.
You already faced the music before it started.
You are invincible to loss because you embraced it so fully.
Yet you are not made of stone.
You cherish and savor each emotion but you no longer despair.
Your passions are even and ever-burning.
You are an eternal fire and you are ready to stand up for something worthwhile —
Yourself.

Which is stronger, fearlessness or bravery?
Bravery implies intent and action. Fearlessness is a state of being.
“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.”

*I will strive to keep the spoilers to an absolute minimum

WDSMPI RALPH STANDEE NO.2.vc6

_________”I’m bad and thats good. I will never be good and thats not bad. There is no one I’d rather be but me.

This is a movie about video games created by Disney and it is ASTOUNDINGLY well done. It is an animated film that takes itself seriously while preforming delightful comedy and surprisingly, at times even manages to pluck at the old heartstrings. I went to see this with my little sister and while she couldn’t stop laughing I couldn’t stop grinning–we both thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic movie and tribute to video game fans everywhere. But its not all in-jokes–though there are many hilarious and much-appreciated references, one does not need to be a video game expert to appreciate this film.
I am not going to spoil the plot or go into too much detail about the movie itself, I’m sure other more qualified critics can do a better job of summarizing this tail of rebellion and self-acceptance. Instead I will focus on the feminist aspects of this film, and more specifically the four major characters and critique them for the well-constructed heroes that they are.
In the beginning we see gender roles being challenged almost immediately but in the most casual, subtle ways. Such as two boys playing a ‘girly’ racing game and a girl playing a ‘manly’ shoot ’em up game. Its not just a role reversal though because the girl later wonders over to the racing game and wants to play that too, so it is having your cake and eating it too. Now, on to the characters:
RALPH
wreck-it-ralph-ralph

I actually don’t have too much to say about the main character. He is a fun protagonist to watch. Ralph strives for acceptance and as a result rebels against his own nature or ‘programming’. He is a ‘bad guy’ who wants to do good, mostly for the sake of the recognition of his peers who shun him. As he goes along, Ralph usually ends up fudging things up and causing more harm then good. He is saved by the little girl he made friends with and then hurt earlier in the show. This is a REFRESHING exit from Disney’s usual damsel in distress scenario. Ralph is ultimately possessed by a need for redemption and simultaneously seeks self-acceptance.


VANELLOPE

The_Rotoscopers_-_Wreck-It_Ralph_-_Vanellope_von_Schweetz
This little dynamo is a ‘glitch’, basically meaning she has abilities outside the norm and is therefore even more of an outcast from her society (game) than Ralph is. She is spunky, energetic, somewhat annoying, and is generally a lovable brat, challenging the status quo just like her big brute friend Ralph. Unlike Ralph, she has no interest in being a hero, but rather wants to be a racer–a part of her community. She does not so much care about acceptance so much as achieving her potential. Vanellope is an invigorating on-screen character with a delightfully twisted side. At one point she sheds the confines of society (a dress) and remain herself, while teasing those who used to torment her.

FELIX
1735WIR_VideoGame_Felix_Pose

Felix is a typical goody two-shoes kind of guy. While his powers are undoubtedly useful and his official role is ‘the hero’, he is in this role-reversal story, a support character. Felix is the epitome of a submissive personality, bouncing his own existence off of the presence of others. He fixes what Ralph breaks, is the hero for the people of his community and pines after and is a (at one time literal) punching bag for the domineering woman he has a crush on. His interaction with that woman is of particular interest and is the point where his character shines through the best. Unlike his friends on this list, he IS the status quo, yet simultaneously serves as a catalyst for the progress of others. He has no real conflict or fault to overcome, which is unfortunate as he could potentially have had more depth, (perhaps if they had taken the time to illustrate the pressures of everyone expecting him to succeed or how it can be lonely on the top too) instead they compare the worst time of his life to any old day that Ralph has, thereby making him little more then a good-natured hanger-on. Instead of redemption, fulfillment or self-love, Felix instead strives to uplift others and make everyone around him happy.

SERGEANT CALHOUN

Wreck-It-Ralph-Jane-Lynch
She is the ‘tough chick’ character on a quest to destroy the evil alien bugs of her world. Calhoun is single-minded in her mission to keep the bugs (literal viruses) from spreading to the other games. Though totally capable and without a doubt the most badass of the group, she seems to desire some reciprocation–someone she can count on. Calhoun, like Vanellope, are their own characters. Reflecting on the film it feels like Ralph and Felix are no more or less important then their female counterparts. This is a story about the dames as well as the dudes and no character feels overshadowed. Calhoun’s ending in particular made me laugh almost to the point of tears.

*MASSIVE SPOILERS!*

*MASSIVE SPOILERS!*

*MASSIVE SPOILERS!*

*MASSIVE SPOILERS!*

*MASSIVE SPOILERS!*

*MASSIVE SPOILERS!*

Calhoun marries Felix. Wearing a dress just like she always wanted (unlike Vanellope, who is in her own right the BEST Disney Princess to date).

This film is cute and touching and succeeds in creating not just strong female characters, but compelling ones as well. The ladies of this game world manage to grow (level?) and keep their individualism intact. That rarity in cinema alone is worth all the praises this movie deserves in spades.

*this has nothing to do with my usual feminist tilt*

funny-pictures-auto-mass-effect-455257
I have a problem with ending Downloadable Content (DLC) for video games. I’m not talking about the endings of DLCs. I’m not even talking about DLCs that come out after the official ending of a game and then carry on an additional story–no, I’m perfectly fine with that idea. I am talking about DLCs that require you to disregard your progress in the main plot and reload to a save before the official ending. This seems like an odd sort of thing to gripe about, doesn’t it? Well thats okay. I’m not the super rad kind of reviewer who always raves angerly (I’ve got plenty of positive articles too!) Personally, I can only think of two games that I really enjoy that do this: Mass Effect 3 by Bioware and Fallout: New Vegas by Bethesda. I actually happen to like the dlcs quite a bit, but they always feel empty at the end, because you know that none of it really mattered much. Unless you are BRAND NEW to the games, these dlcs would have been completed well after you have defeated the ‘final boss’ of each game, which is REDUNDANT. And by then your character is either dead or probably doesn’t give a shit about backstory. But instead of giving you an excuse to continue from the main quest onward, or just give you a whole different character to play with, they force you to reload to before the ending took place in order to experience PLOT CRITICAL missions and stories after the fact. WTF? Why? So many games release additional dlcs but none of them do this to you! Forcing you to go back after you finished the game instead of offering a way forward is anticlimactic as HELL!
Omega6101Mass Effect 3 was the conclusion of a legendary video game sci-fi epic that for those of us who had been crafting our custom characters since the start, were with it for 5 years. The first DLC for this game, From Ashes, was released along with the game itself. The second was a clarification of the famous Mass Effect 3 ending. But after that, they came out with (to date) two more! (not counting the multiplayer packs). Leviathan and Omega are both quite important to the overall plot of the Mass Effect universe, so when I heard they were being released, I reasonably figured (since my character was dead/undead/ascended/unplayable) I would be taking control of other characters. Maybe I would take control of members of my team, or maybe other quest-critical characters all together. This didn’t seem like such a big stretch since you do this several times when new folks come on to you team…you just level them from 1 up to whatever level you managed to reach (60). But instead, they took a page out of Fallout New Vegas (see below) and decided they would just have you reload to hours before the final fight. What? WHY? What the hell does it add except story? Nothing! You don’t see the Leviathan in the final fight! You don’t see Aria doing jack shit in the battle for Earth. Its all exposition! So why the hell would they FORCE you to backtrack like that? You don’t have to be able to travel around and talk to all the surviving characters, so its not like they had to program the aftermath very much. You could just start right up in the dlc, right? Why not? Its pretty much that anyway, except now I play as Shepard and get this empty feeling at the end of each of these (otherways great) dlcs because I know I might as well be playing a ghost and everything I just did, doesn’t really matter because the final fight would have been won whether I did this shit or not. In the Omega DLC you influence Aria T’loak through your dialogue as so many other before her. But since in my mind I’m FUCKING DEAD, why couldn’t this have been an opportunity to PLAY as Aria and influence her just the same? It would have been a hell of a lot more interesting! So instead of allowing you to take a fresh perspective and flesh out some new character and giving Commander Shepard the respect he/she deserves and letting him/her rest in peace, you are forced to reanimate a long forgotten save and zombie around! The result is a watered down sensation of otherways great additional stories.

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Fallout New Vegas features 3 story-critical dlcs that were released after most folks have long since completed the main quest. The DLCs are Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road all of which are extremely important to the advancement of the main story and would feel much more at home AFTER the chaotic war in the Mohave has been resolved (with additional Gun Runner’s Arsenal weapons cache dlc…which would have been bloody useful BEFORE I fought the big end baddie!) Instead of following in the steps of its own predecessor (Fallout 3) and allowing you to carry on after the climatic battle, they force you to reload to a save that you presumably have before the Big Fight. Why? WHY? Bethesda has shown time and again that this type of shit is not a problem! At the end of Fallout 3, you die. But the subsequent dlcs find a way to bring you back so you can keep playing the multiple awesome stories that they later release. Thats PERFECT! In Fallout New Vegas, you don’t even die, but they refuse to do this. Why? Are they just lazy? Is there too much shit they have to program in after the fight? Bullshit! A few lines of dialogue saying “Good job! You helped destroy the Legion/NCR/House/etc, now on to this mysterious Next Thing!” That would have been just fine! Further, Bethesda is responsible for Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, and Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, all of which had interesting as hell dlcs released and allowed you to keep on trekking along their massive environments doing quests to your heart’s content long after the official ending. So WTF kind of excuse do you have Bethesda? Why muck up Fallout New Vegas by a single act of laziness?
Because in-spite of the awkwardness of this ‘reload’ bullshit, we still bought these (awesome) dlcs, thats why. They clumsily tacked on some amazing side-stories and we the fans ate it up then grimaced at the taste.

Addendum: A third DLC for Mass Effect 3 called Citadel has you visit with your comrades and revives some of the best experiences of the game (it still forces you to load to before the final battle but)…I don’t hate that.