Thursday, November 27, 2008

Superhero Antiheroes

I watched and enjoyed Will Smith's Hancock, whose tales troubled production and mediocre reviews might make you expect a worse movie than you got. Now, the deleted scenes might help, too - the original movie felt very rushed, especially after the midway point. And some of the jokes seem geared towards the lowest common denominator. I loved Justin Bateman as a ethical PR guy trying to reform Smith's classic antihero, and I liked the explicit connection between the mythology of ancient worlds and today's superhero myths - something that I usually have to explain to classes when I'm explaining archetypes and the way that comic books reflect out culture in the same way that, say, Greek mythology reflected that culture at a certain point in time. I'm pretty sure the female superhero character was underdeveloped and underwritten - I wonder if trying to create the "twist" became more important than helping the audience connect to and understand her backstory?
Anyway, not the disaster I was expecting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Video Games for Girls?

Salon just did a new piece on a female video-game designer named Mary Flanagan:
I've seen these kinds of articles before, and I'm interested: what do you think? Do women prefer different kinds of game-play - more social interaction, less puzzle-solving and shooting? Or is this a lie? There are a lot of you grrl gamers out there these days - what do you think?
My first experience with video games was my old Atari and the text game Zork. I also tried programming basic maze games and alien-or-asteroid zapping games in BASIC as a kid on my TRS-80. (Yes, I'm old enough to have had a TRS-80 as a kid!) Some of my favorite games currently are old-school Galaga, the first or second arcade version of Area 51 (the kind you can still find at pizza places and movie theaters,) some of the more advanced snowboarding games, or games that have an appealing storyline to me. I don't know if any of those preferences make me any different than my gaming little brother. I think maybe the gender thing gets overstated - I don't think girls or women need pink ponies or anything to pick up a game.
Do men like to play female video game characters purely for the voyeurism or because they are experimenting with gender-swapping?
That's an interesting question. Tell me guys - why do you play female characters?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Heroes has started to cheer me up by being slightly less bad! Yay! I hear Brian Fuller (whose Pushing Daisies, I hear, is sadly on its way out - a charming, offbeat show) may be back on the writing staff at Heroes. And what about Joss Whedon? Can he come write the female characters?
Anyway, this week's episode, which actually added human dimension to characters rather than spinning them through mystifying plots in all directions (clones? alternate futures? dead Linderman?) felt satisfying, and most of all, I felt that there was something at stake during the episode. They made clear-cut bad guys (like HRG's former boss) ambiguously good, while HRG himself seemed ambiguously bad, creepy even. They tied random bad fire dude from level five back to the cheerleader's biological mother - they are brother and sister. ("Remember what Daddy told you? God gave you a big sister instead of a brain.") This is something they always say in writing classes - there's got to be something at stake in the poem or fiction piece, or else, who cares?

Anyway, not enough to get me out of my chair to cheer, but definitely a positive direction.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Review of the new Futurama Movie, "Bender's Game"

So, of course, after the election, we went out and purchased the new Futurama movie, "Bender's Game," for some non-election-related relaxation. How was it, you ask?
Better than the first two movies. Better, but still not great. If you squint, and run the air conditioning really loud, you can make believe you're watching the old Futurama of the television series.
The animation seemed more expensive, more sophisticated, and I could also swear they've upped the budget and gotten a full orchestra going again (something missing from the first two movies.)
My favorite bits? "Tea with Morvo" and a "Scary Door" episode in which in which the attacking aliens' weakness is exposed...
Strangely, there were no references in the movie to "Ender's Game," which seems like a lost opportunity, and a lot of references to D&D and Lord of the Rings, some of which were funny, some of which were "meh."
My least favorite thing: a bizarre misogynistic bit having to do with Leela and a shock-collar that seems very female-viewer unfriendly, and bad guys labelling Amy's "water-nympho" character a "slut," which again, seems female-viewer unfriendly. You hear what I'm saying, Futurama writers? Get a girl to go over your jokes with you, boys, before you release them into the world. A cool girl. Call me, for instance. Although, I guess Family Guy does all right and contains tons of misogyny.