Captain America: Civil War.

So last night I went to finally go see Captain America: Civil War and just have so many thoughts about the film. *Spoilers for the film.

This felt like the most relatable Marvel movie that I’ve seen because it felt less like a sci-fi thriller and aliens attacking and more like humans fucking up because they’re in pain. The bad guys weren’t outer worldly but instead the conflict came from real and honest pain. We see Steve grieving over not only losing Peggy but also grieving over how the last few decades have treated Bucky. It was really after watching this movie that I wonder how much of Steve’s fight for Bucky comes from their friendship and how much it comes from feeling responsible for why Bucky is in this position in the first place. Tony works through his shit with losing his parents at multiple points throughout the movie and it’s really interesting to see how his grief and anger compare to others.

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Captain America.

Spoiler alert for the comic Captain America: Steve Rogers #1.

So recently, the comic Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 came out and revealed a big secret at the end: Cap has actually been Hydra this entire time. For those who don’t quite know what I’m talking about: in the Marvel universe, Hydra is an organization bent on global domination and often associated with the Nazi party of WWII Germany. So much of Captain America’s history in both the comics (from what I understand) and movies has been him fighting against this organization.

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Agent Carter Season Two.

So over the weekend, I finally finished up season two of Marvel’s Agent Carter and honestly I really loved it. Spoilers ahead! This season was set in Los Angeles and the foe was Whitney Frost and the accidental creation of what they called Zero Matter. For one thing, I really loved having a female enemy that was more than a puppet in a man’s revenge plan (cough yes I’m looking at Dottie). There’s substance and depth to Whitney and her actions – through the course of the season, we learn not only about her but of Peggy Carter too.

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Inconsistent Death in Television Shows.

I watch a lot of television shows and many of them do have that superhero/sci-fi element to them. I’ve written at length about all the Marvel productions I love (both television and film) and for awhile I was really into Supernatural and Doctor Who. With the genre of sci-fi, superhero, and fantasy overall, you do have to suspend belief in order for the shows to really be enjoyable but there’s one trend that I can’t quite get behind.

**Spoilers ahead for a couple different shows and some of the articles I link to are also spoiler heavy. Some are a couple years old but still – just a heads up!

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season One and Two Review

*WARNING: This will include spoilers for the show Agents of SHIELD (season one and two). So if you haven’t seen the first and second season and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this post. I’ll be talking in depth about several things involving the show that are extremely dependent on context so if you don’t want to know before watching, this has been your warning. And I really mean I’ll be spoiling HUGE plot twists. It also goes as a warning that if you haven’t seen the series, some of this might not totally make sense.

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Your Faves are Problematic – Joss Whedon.

After watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and finally finishing up season two of Agents of Shield, I’ve been thinking a lot about the problematic man that is Joss Whedon. There is a small, tiny, really minuscule part of me that really does want to love him and his work but there is just so many problematic things that have come from him. So I thought I’d share some of the things that Joss Whedon has done to earn the position of problematic celebrity.

Rather than ramble on and on myself about the man, I’m just going to link to other things that have been critiquing him and his brand of feminism.

I honestly don’t expect people, celebrities in particular, to be perfect and flawless humans. Making mistakes and messing up is part of humanity and honestly, I don’t think that part of us is ever not going to be a thing. But one of the most awful things you can do regarding mistakes (in my opinion) is to not grow and learn from them. Repeatedly doing the same mistakes and shitty behavior over and over again starts to not be mistakes but reinforced behavior. After a certain point, it won’t be a mistake but instead will be a significant part of the person you are. Or at least, that’s my own opinion.

Learning from your mistakes (and the mistakes of others) and changing your behavior from what you’ve learned should be a key part of feminism – especially for white people. I think it’s important to be vocal about the ways in which people have fucked up and hold others (and yourself) accountable. Liking a problematic person doesn’t make you a bad person but justifying their terrible behavior does. Saccharinescorpine on tumblr wrote a really great post about liking problematic people and states that:

you’re allowed to like something while being loud, vocal, and angry about how much you hate the bad parts. be mean, be unpleasant, but never just be the person who gives a pass to all the bullshit that assholes can get away with in this world just because you don’t want to feel bad for liking a tv show or celebrity

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Caution – Spoilers)

Avengers-age-of-ultron-fanmade-poster-570x857I just walked out of the theater after seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron for the first time and there is a part of me that’s mildly disappointed it took me nearly two months to see it. I’ve just seen it so my opinions of the movie will probably change the more I see it and the more I read about the movie. But I did want to write some of my initial thoughts about the movie so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to be spoiled, consider this your spoiler warning to find something else to read.

First – there is so much that I really love about this movie. The relationships between the Avengers seem real, genuine, honest (mostly). And it’s so apparent that Joss Whedon wrote this movie – his quick wit and banter is all over the screen, with the characters being sarcastic and hilarious with each other. The entire team, at times, had this sense of unbelievable teamwork that seemed completely natural when they worked together.

Also the scene at the beginning where they all bond over attempting to pick up Thor’s hammer? Definitely one of my favorite parts – there we get to see the friendships, the humanity shared between all of the characters.

And hot damn those fight scenes. I mean the opening scene itself had me on the edge of my seat with how artistic and well done it was. Every fight scene, to me, had so much going on that it was a bit overwhelming but at the same time, I was completely memorized with what was happening.

Plus, I did find it really great that there was so much of a focus on getting civilians to safety at the end of the movie (rather than the whole “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”). But it was interesting to see how concern for civillians seemed less evident in Wakanda and Seoul than in the final scene set in Sokovia. (More than anything, that’s just an observation…)

Learning more context and humanity of a few of the characters also made the movie really enjoyable. Being able to meet Barton’s family was a HUGE surprise (omg) and I really love the relationship that Black Widow has with Barton and his family. For me, it was so amazing to have that platonic relationship between the two and see how close Romanoff is with Barton and his family. That was so refreshing to see if anything else.

Okay so those are some of the big things I love about the movie so let’s dig into the things I didn’t particularly like. The Hulk/Black Widow love story for example. I just couldn’t really get behind that subplot for some reason – more than anything there just didn’t seem to be any chemistry between the characters. Like no chemistry whatsoever, making the feelings and subplot mildly difficult to really get behind. Keith Chow brought up the same thing about this relationship subplot over at The Nerds of Color, saying that:

Never mind that there was no real build up to this ‘ship in the previous movie — or any subsequent MCU film — but all of it just seemed awkward and oddly placed. Not to mention that Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johannsen lacked a lot of chemistry together. I felt more between Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell in that brief dream sequence than any point in the Hulk/Widow romance. Hell, Banner had more chemistry with Tony, but we’ll leave that to the internet.

And of course the issue that yet again, we have been given a movie that is sorely lacking diversity. So many white men have again and again been on the forefront of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (c’mon: two Thor movies, three Iron Man movies, and two Captain America movies – all of which have a white man as the leading character and all of them are just the beginning of Marvel’s lineup).

And this movie was no different really. There’s some diversity in the secondary characters that barely have any screen time to the main characters and I do have some hope based on the very last scene regarding the new team of Avengers (where they are all not white men) (please let that be a good story).

Marama Whyte wrote about the lack of women in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron” over on hypable and there are plenty of things from her analysis that I agree with. There is a severe lack of women in the movie – with many existing to add humanity and context to the men of the movie (Barton’s wife and family for example). Whyte brings up many good points about the lack of screen time that many of the female characters get in the movie and also addresses the problematic portrayal of Black Widow.

When the movie first came out, there was a feminist backlash against Whedon over the portrayal of Romanoff. For so many (myself included), Romanoff is a wonderful and beloved character so seeing her story within this movie seemed weird? Throughout so much of the movie, her involvement seems to be centered around Bruce Banner rather than Romanoff standing independently. (Also let’s stop pretending Whedon is a feminist but that’s something else for a completely different day.)

There have been a lot of critiques about one particular line that Romanoff says about half way through the movie – she refers to herself as a monster, which many have taken to be because she cannot bare children after her completion of the assassin training she went through in Russia. I knew of this critique before going into the movie so I kept an eye out for that moment to understand it better.

But with the context of that scene and more about her past, I didn’t necessarily see Romanoff’s comment about being a monster in reference to her infertility. I saw it more as a reference to her training to be an assassin, trained and molded to kill at will. I understood that line to mean that she was trained, experimented on, so much of herself was built and controlled by others in the beginning. One tweet (of many related ones) from Willow Maclay sums up some of my thoughts on the issue:

For me, I understood that comment to mean that Romanoff sees herself as a monster because of what she had been trained to be and her past filled with murder and violence than her inability to not have children. I can see how the comment can be construed to be in reference to Romanoff not having children but watching it for myself made me really side with the fact that the comment was to her past and training than anything else.

Libby Hill wrote an article for Salon about what this Avengers movie did get right about Black Widow and wrote about how devastating and heartbreaking sterility can be. And my own interpretation of this scene and this comment is really coming right after seeing the film for the first time and based on the fact that as far as I know, I do have the ability to choice whether or not I want to biologically have a family. My opinions of it might change the more I watch the movie and the more I read from others.

Looking over all of my thoughts, I realize now I have more opinions about the movie than I originally anticipated… There is so much that I really love about this movie but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There are flaws within it and I think that’s so important to keep in mind when consuming media. My thoughts and opinions might change about the movie the more I watch it (lord knows that has happened with other movies and television shows in the past). But for right now, I’d say Avengers: Age of Ultron was pretty decent.

Media Monday: Agent Carter

For this week’s media Monday, I thought I’d write about Marvel’s newest limited television series, Agent Carter. I know I talked about the Marvel Cinematic Universe a couple weeks ago but hey, thought I’d focus in a little more on Marvel’s latest production.

The setting of the show is post World War II New York City, with Agent Peggy Carter working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve and struggling to be noticed as an actual agent rather than the secretary her coworkers seem to think of her as. The eight episodes in this season follow a single overarching plot of Carter being asked by Howard Stark to work as a double agent and clear his name from accusations of treason.

I do love a few things about the show, most importantly being how the episodes follow an overarching plot and come out to be more like a long movie than a television show. I also love many of Peggy’s outfits (oh how I wish I could pull off and/or afford that wardrobe).

There is, of course, a lot to critique about the show – from the cast being almost completely white to an underdeveloped Peggy Carter to the writing focusing too much on the 1940s sexism and not at all on the racism of the time. H. Shaw-Williams wrote an article for ScreenRant about how the first (and possibly only?) season of Agent Carter should not be praised as a feminist triumph, articulating the phenomenon of stereotype threat and wrote that:

It’s a common problem that female characters – particularly in male-dominated genres – are obliged to be Strong Female Characters who carry a standard for their entire gender, while male characters get to just be characters. Peggy Carter doesn’t get to have personality flaws like Thor’s arrogance or Peter Quill’s dumb brashness, because she’s too busy trying to prove that women are just as good as men. The closest she comes to being flawed is crying over pictures of Steve Rogers and going through the five thousandth iteration of the “It’s dangerous to get too close to me,” superhero story arc.

And Peggy Carter is just that in her own show – a seemingly flawless character with almost no back story and the feminist messages of the show are more standard issue and simple 1990’s White Feminism than anything else. On one hand, it’s great that Marvel is (very) slowly starting to branch out from it’s usual lead demographic of attractive white men. But as Shaw-Williams points out, having a female lead is a rather low bar for something being praised as a triumph for feminism, one in which Agent Carter barely meets.

The show being hailed as a feminist triumph that it fails to live up to is not the only problem – the complete lack of diversity within the show is appalling, especially since it is set in New York City. Not only are most of the characters white, but many are white men. Ube Empress makes a ton of really great points regarding the incredible erasure and white washing of the time period done by the writers and producers of Agent Carter. Ube Empress makes the point that people of color existed during that time in a multitude of different careers, from actors to health professionals to lawyers and having people of color within the show would have been historically accurate. (With that note, we can have Captain America be an actual man made superhero but people of color can’t really exist in some capacity that same universe?! This seems to be a growing problem within sci-fi and fantasy – like Lord of the Rings, Frozen, etc. I mean, there were people of color in a variety of roles during that time, allowing for historical accuracy to actually be a thing with representation but still. If gamma radiation can turn Bruce Banner into the Hulk, I think we can handle more diversity in the characters and story lines without having to have historical accuracy.)

One of the great points that Ube Empress brings up is that:

It’s hard to understand why the writers didn’t think to include a single thing that indicated how race was playing a role in society at that time. Just imagine all of the POC who contributed to the war effort, only to return home to and be subjected to terrible wages, racial slurs, discrimination, hate crimes, and little to no government or legal protection. Imagine how that tension would influence the world around Peggy: the city, the thing she sees on TV and in newspapers, the conversations she overhears, the people she interacts with. Talking, thinking about, and/or seeing race would be unavoidable.

Ultimately, I want to like Agent Carter a hell of a lot more than I actually do because the show had incredible potential to be amazing but fell really short of an already low bar. And it’s important to keep critiquing and analyzing things that come out – blindly praising a production because it barely meets a few criteria won’t fix the rampant under representation, complete lack of diversity, and overall problematic nature of mainstream media.

Media Monday: Marvel Cinematic Universe

There are plenty of things that I’m an absolute nerd for: Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Warehouse 13, Supernatural, and several others. I grew up reading and rereading Harry Potter (practically damaging a couple of the books because I read them so much) and read so many other fantasy/sci-fi books. Mugglecast (a podcast about Harry Potter) was the first podcast I ever listened to and I’m about halfway through knitting my own fourth doctor scarf.

But as nerdy as I was (and still am in so many ways), I never really got into comic books or the comic world. A part of it was no one I knew was into them so I never really had an introduction to them growing up. Another part was I really didn’t see comics being marketed to or being made for me – I didn’t fit into the stereotypical demographic of comic book nerds and going into a comic shop was intimidating. (Which I now realize is complete bs.)

My introduction to the Marvel universe really came from watching the Avengers in mid 2012. I had seen Iron Man and Iron Man 2 before watching the Avengers and knew some random things that bled through popular culture but a lot of the universe was very new to me. So watching the Avengers opened a completely new door for me. Since that summer, I’ve watched all three Iron Man movies, both Captain America movies, both Thor movies, Guardians of the Galaxy, a couple of the X-Men movies, the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Agent Carter. (Although, I’m a little behind with Agent Carter unfortunately.) While I’m not big into comics still, there is so much I love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and of course, so much I don’t like).

captain-america[GIF image of Captain America in the Avengers saying “I understood that reference”]

One of the things I do love about the cinematic universe is how the movies and shows tie into one another in subtle and not so subtle ways. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has several episodes that tie in with Thor: The Dark World, the Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Plenty of the movies reference/flash back to each other and rely on a single universe for context. The characters and stories exist in a world with each other. Marvel has created a world that is interconnected and complex and for me, there’s something so satisfying about how there is so much that ties in together. (Although, different studios working on different Marvel character movies makes the shared universe a bit more difficult.)

My least favorite thing about the Marvel cinematic universe (unsurprisingly) is the almost complete lack of diversity among the characters in the movies and shows. There are so many white men in the movies and shows and I just want to flip tables over every time I think about it. We have three Iron Mans, two Thors, and two Captain Americas that are all played by white men but god forbid Peter Parker might be black in a future movie?? (Fully on board for Donald Glover to play Peter Parker. The video below is from his stand up hour and he starts talking about #DonaldForSpiderman roughly a minute into it.) Or that there be more diversity and media representation in the movies and shows?!? Nerdy white boys aren’t the only people who love the comic book world – it’s definitely time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to follow the Marvel comics and have more representation. (Ms. Marvel movie maybe??) (And even the comics aren’t 100% great.)

Diversity and media representation is definitely not limited to just the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are so many shows and different media mediums that are so white washed and lacking in diverse/complex characters. And of course, a big corporate business like Marvel isn’t always going to get diversity and representation right.