‘Kubo’ and Casual Ableism

Image result for kubo and the two strings

So despite Kubo and the Two Strings being problematic (if not outright racist) for casting white actors in the lead roles of a movie set in ancient Japan, I decided to go see the movie for myself. After all, the movie had garnered many glowing reviews calling it a masterpiece and being poetic and deep I decided to give it a go.

I wish I had those two hours of my life back.

Okay, I’ll give the film credit: it is certainly beautiful to look at, no question. The adventure story is pretty exciting, and the dynamic between Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle is lovely. But I’m sorry, it does NOT make up for the blatant display of ableism.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.

Continue reading “‘Kubo’ and Casual Ableism”

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One Last Post on ‘Steven Universe’

SPOILERS AND UNPOPULAR OPINION

So tonight’s episode of Steven Universe was…very awesome and very frustrating at the same time. Or rather, it started off great but then took a wrong turn for the third act.

At first, I was so excited. Finally, some character development from Connie and knowing more about her life outside of Steven and her parents! Finally, we get to hear Garnet sing again! And we have a really great song about facing your problems and working together to get through them in a healthy way! It was awesome…and then it got undone by the climax.

At the climax, after the song, Connie has learned to make up for her mistakes. After accidentally hurting a schoolmate, she apologizes to him and everything’s good. Then Connie and Steven fuse again to train more, and we get a glimpse of Steven’s problems. He’s upset over the fact that he couldn’t save Jasper (fair enough, she was going to hurt him if he tried), the Eyeball Ruby (there wasn’t anything stopping him or the Crystal Gems from saving her or the other rubies by looking for them in their spaceship but okay), and…Bismuth. Even though he just bubbled her away and there’s nothing stopping him from unbubbling her, reconciling with her with the safety of his friends, and maybe having her chill out elsewhere. She wasn’t exactly malicious, she was just very upset, hurt, and traumatized. So…good job lumping these characters together, show.

Then we get this ominous shot of Steven’s perspective of his mother:

Image result for steven universe mindful education

I think the implication here is that Steven feels responsible for the death of his mother, or he feels like he can’t measure up to her, or both.

Anyways, after all that, Stevonnie falls into the sky and unfuses. Steven cries and says: “I didn’t want to hurt anyone! I’m sorry! None of them would let me help them! I had no choice!”

Except…you did have a choice. Again, maybe you really couldn’t save Jasper or the Rubies (at least, not on your own, you could’ve got the other Gems to help you), but there is literally nothing stopping you from making amends with Bismuth. And honestly? These lines all read to me of Steven feeling extremely sorry for himself but refusing to take responsibility. Instead of doing what Connie does and tries to make amends, he just pities himself and makes it sound like all those gems (who are very unfeminine, mind you) are just too damn unreasonable and irredeemable.

In the end, Connie has to comfort Steven and they manage to work through the situation together. It ends with Stevonnie lying on the grass and saying “I’m here” and that’s it.

Look. I have to be extremely honest: I’m really, really frustrated with Steven’s character. He’s fourteen years old but he acts like an eight year old. He’s too innocent, too idealistic, too childlike, and he’s not behaving remotely like a teenager. He doesn’t talk about his problems at all (not even angrily venting at the Crystal Gems even though he feels like they discreetly hate him) or vent out his frustrations. The show is presenting him as this perfect little kid who isn’t allowed to properly grow up or develop. This is getting especially bad because he’s not facing proper repercussions or taking responsibility for possessing people’s bodies or tossing Gems into space, nor is he allowed to get any help for how badly he feels. It’s especially embarrassing that he needs to be comforted by someone YOUNGER than him even though it should be the other way around. I understand that Steven is sheltered and all, but it’s getting really old and grating to see him stay like this for YEARS.

I want him to be honest with the Gems about how he feels about them and his mother. I want him to emphatically yell “I am not my mother. I AM STEVEN”. I want him to really rebel, and not just disobey orders in order to ‘help’ them. I’m just tired of Steven being a precious cinnamon roll ALL the time. Precious cinnamon roll characters are good for movies, but for television shows, where we see the character go on for a long time, it gets annoying. You want them to go through some form of development. And I think it’s precisely because of Steven being a cinnamon roll that he’s not properly dealing with his feelings or getting the right help for his bottled up emotions. Instead of telling the Gems how he feels and how he’s hurt and angry all the time, he just acts sad.

And this is why I’m officially done with this show: I’m tired of Steven’s character. I no longer get any enjoyment out of him. At first I could tolerate him (he was fine, but didn’t do anything for me) but now Steven actively repels me. I’m bored and frustrated with him. I want him to actually grow up and mature and act like a real teenager. The point of the show is that he’s half alien and half human, and I feel like we get too much of him being an alien.

So I’m signing off. I’ll keep tabs on any worldbuilding tips and more fusions (I want to see all of the Diamonds!) but I’m not going to keep watching the show. It’s just gotten way too frustrating for me. I just hope by the time the show ends I can start enjoying it again. I don’t want to leave it completely with a bitter taste in my mouth.

‘Kubo’ and the Whitewashing Controversy

When Kubo and the Two Strings was first announced, I was excited. A new film from Laika, the creators of ParaNorman and Coraline! It looked like it was going to be an interesting film…until I read the cast list.

Charlize Theron? Ralph Fiennes? Rooney Mara? Mathew McConaughey? As main stars in a movie set in ancient Japan? And the main character, a Japanese boy, is voiced by the Irish Art Parkinson? When the movie was first announced, there were absolutely no Japanese or even Asian actors listed, so my interest in the movie went out the window.

Later, I was informed that George Takei would take part in the film…but not a very big one. In fact, the extended cast list does list a few Japanese actors, but they are all conveniently minor characters. All the major characters? No no, they belong to white people.

I know what some of you are thinking: but it’s not live action, so why does it matter? Well, the thing is, in all mediums, Asian American actors don’t get a lot of opportunity. (To the point where some Asian American actors have to go to to Asia to get roles!) And worse still, a lot of actual Asian roles get downplayed or erased completely to make room for white characters and actors. So Kubo ends up rehashing the Hollywood formula of taking parts of Japanese culture they like and not bothering to give enough roles to actual Japanese people.

This article is especially insulting because the director, Travis Knight, insists that Art Parkinson was picked on talent (oh so Asian actors aren’t talented enough to voice a character of their race?) and it’s clear that white actors were cast pretty much to rake in the money. Well it doesn’t look like that worked because this movie is disappointing at the box office, so really, it was all for nothing.

And what especially makes me especially wary of this film is that it looks like no Japanese people, save for a few actors, were involved with the film’s production (and please let me know if that’s not the case). So how do I know for sure that this film accurately portrays Japanese culture? Say what you will about Big Hero 6, but at least they accurate cast the characters (Ryan Potter, a Japanese/white actor, plays the Japanese white protagonist Hiro Hamada, Jamie Chung voices Gogo, Damon Wayans Jr. plays Wasabi, etc., and they even went the extra mile of casting black/Jewish Maya Rudolph as the white Aunt Cass), and Asian people were heavily involved with the production. Jin Kim and Shiyoon Kim worked as character designers, and Scott Watanabe created the world of San Fransokyo, just to name some of the more important examples. What is Kubo‘s excuse?

So I’m disappointed. Am I going to see this movie? Probably, because Laika is capable of telling amazing stories with progressive themes, along with some beautiful stop motion animation, and I wouldn’t want them to go bankrupt. But I want them to learn from this. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the whitewashing of their cast hurt this movie’s success, and while I don’t want this mistake to completely ruin them, they need to keep this in mind before they make more movies about non-white characters and non-Western worlds.

Compare and Contrast: DC Animated Sex Scenes

While we’re all fighting over how good or bad the live action DC Extended Universe are, I would like to take a moment to remind people that a DC animated movie series exists.

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These are direct-to-video, hand drawn animated films, usually based on popular comic storylines, and they tend to vary in quality. Some of them are really great, others…not so much. And I think right now two animated movies are very relevant: Batman: The Killing Joke (the newest offering) and Batman: Assault on Arkham (which is basically the ORIGINAL Suicide Squad movie).

Batman: Assault on Arkham is amazing. It’s just as good–if not better–than most Hollywood blockbusters out right now. It’s genuinely exciting and compelling, with a plot that’s layered but not too complicated, characters you actually like and feel sorry for, and it’s graphic without being overly gratuitous. Batman: The Killing Joke is…pretty bad. The main reason for this is because it chooses to have a long prologue dedicated to Barbara Gordon, which makes her out to be an insecure, sexually frustrated young woman who loses more than she wins, and does make her own choice to retire…only to get shot, paralyzed, and assaulted later.

But I think the main thing that illustrates what makes Arkham great and Killing Joke not is how they deal with the sex scenes regarding the main female characters, Barbara and Harley Quinn.

This is the sex scene between Batgirl and…Batman. You know, the man who is much older than her and is supposed to be a father figure. And who she’s never had a real romantic or sexual relationship with in the comics (she had one with the first Robin). Throughout the scene, she is extremely angry at him, and he makes it clear that he doesn’t see her as an equal. She fights him and pins him down in anger…and awkwardly kisses him. They embrace, and she takes her clothes off and we get an offscreen sex scene. On a public rooftop. Where someone could see them. Oh yeah. *Insert erotic music here*

(Image via Time.com)

It doesn’t look like either character is truly enjoying it. It also feels like it comes out of nowhere. Why are these two having sex? Why don’t they look like they’re into it? Apparently it’s to make us feel more sorry for Barbara when she gets shot, but it just makes the situation infinitely worse, especially since their relationship only gets more awkward from there.

See, The Killing Joke is an INTENSELY misogynistic story (to the point where Alan Moore, the original writer, disowned it). Not only is the Joker’s main reason for going insane the (offscreen) death of his wife and unborn child (yay for fridging women!), but the treatment of Barbara is disgusting. She only appears two times: once, when she’s at home and shot (and there’s even a pause between when she sees Joker and when she gets shot, she doesn’t even fight back) and again when she’s in the hospital, frightened and paralyzed. And we never see her again. The movie tries to remedy this by giving her an extended role, but rather than humanizing Barbara by expanding on her relationship with her father (which would’ve made her paralyzing actually tragic), the movie focuses almost entirely on her sexuality, having her lust after characters and characters lusting after her (which causes her to nearly go over the edge and kill someone, after which she decides to retire), thus making what happens to her all the more insulting. It reinforces Barbara as a body, not a person, and as a plot device, not a character. Course, that might have to to with the fact that the writers and producers are literally ALL MEN, but hey, the glass ceiling is thick.

Honestly? If the movie wanted to be respectful to Barbara, they should’ve written her out entirely. You don’t have to add any of this. Just have Joker kidnap Commission Gordon and try to drive him insane with all the horrors of the world. Focus more on the dynamics of Batman and the Joker. You don’t need to bring Barbara into this mess.

By contrast, here’s a sex scene between Harley Quinn and Deadshot in Arkham:

Look how into it they both are. Harley has found someone to move on from the Joker, and Deadshot has found a companion. It’s also very quick and contained. Both partners are willing and enthusiastic. And later, you see them have a steady relationship, where they both look out for one another and work together. And Harley Quinn isn’t objectified one bit; here, she owns her sexuality, and has her own character, and is important throughout the movie (and we don’t need to have her defiled)! She even helps save the day in the end! And it’s important to note that there are also two other women (Killer Frost and Amanda Waller) who have their own character development and role in the story (unlike Barbara, who was the only woman in her movie and had a lot to bear).

In short, how a female character expresses herself sexually can tell a great deal of what her character is like and how the narrative treats her. And considering how a lot of superhero movies are struggling with how they represent their female characters, these two movies can be used as lessons on what to do and what NOT to do in handling them.

The Quiet Brilliance of the Latest ‘Overwatch’ Short

To help build the world of its hit game, Blizzard had released four Overwatch shorts: Dragons (focusing on Hanzo and Genji); Alive (focusing on Tracer and Widowmaker); Recall (focusing on Winston and Reaper); and Hero (focusing on Soldier: 76). All of these shorts have garnered millions of views and hype for the game. Now, Blizzard has added another short, called The Last Bastion. 

While the other shorts have ranged from good to fantastic, this short is a masterpiece. In just over seven minutes with no dialogue (but with brilliant use of sound effects) we are told a simple yet compelling story. The character of Bastion and its relationship with the bird are fleshed out, and the story effectively uses the slow burn method of contrasting Bastion’s life during and after the hell of war. It is also one of the most chilling portrayals of PTSD flashbacks and triggers; the calmness of the forest helps the intensity really hit you.

It also makes you excited for more to come. What else will we learn about the war, and how it’s effecting the characters? Will Bastion be accepted in a post-war world? At any case, we’ve definitely come to care for it.

I’m definitely looking forward to more Overwatch shorts, and I hope they get better and better (and maybe nab an Oscar or Annie award). Till then, The Last Bastion is proof of Blizzard’s skill of being great storytellers and filmmakers in addition to fantastic game developers, and I look forward to supporting their further efforts.

New Moana Footage!

It’s finally here! New footage of Moana with the titular character actually speaking! I’m so happy. I love her voice.

So far we’re still not given any real insight to the plot (beyond Maui and Moana going on an ocean adventure and coming across some adversaries), but we did get a few details:

  • Maui doesn’t want to go on a mission of any sort (especially with a young mortal) but Moana convinces him to go
  • Maui’s tattoos have a lot of sass
  • The Lava monster (which was hinted at in concept art) is still in the movie, albeit with a different design. So far we don’t know how big a role she’ll have
  • The coconut pirates have huge ass boats holy shit
  • Moana can hold onto the chicken with her mouth???
  • There’s a scene of Moana in this secret place…a cave?
  • Lots of shenanigans

The trailers still put more emphasis on Maui than Moana, but that’s probably because he’s voiced by Dwayne The Rock Johnson. This TV spot is only a minute long so I don’t think this is the official trailer just yet.

I’m a little anxious for more info but we’ll probably get some soon. I’ll have to remind myself not to read the Junior Novelization before the movie!

The movie is only a few months away! Can’t wait!

 

WHAT THE HELL???!!

Sorry, but I have to point this out…I can’t believe I live in a world where there’s going to be an honest-to-God stage adaptation of The Nut Job.

Yes, that movie.

You know, the movie that has been panned by critics and hardly anybody likes or even remembers? The movie that made less than $200 million but still somehow constitutes as a success? Well, yes, it’s getting a stage show!

Oh it gets worse.

I could understand if this was being performed in South Korea (where the movie was animated was a big success) but this is touring in 100 countries for four years. 100 countries! And it will sell all the merch and hype up the sequel no one asked for.

No, I’m not making this shit up. I wish I was.

Apparently they’re trying to ride the coattails of the Ice Age stage show, but keep in mind, Ice Age actually has a franchise and has raked in billions. What the fuck does The Nut Job have to prove its worth????

I’m just…

I think this broke me. This honest to god broke me.

I can’t believe I live in a world where genuinely popular and successful animated films are struggling to get the merchandising and promotion they deserve but this movie can get a stage show AND a sequel like it’s no problem. I’m done.