Compare and Contrast: The Judas Contract and Child Sexual Abuse

TRIGGER WARNING

One of the most famous (and infamous) DC comics storyline is The Judas Contract, originally published in 1984 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez for the New Teen Titans. The arc goes into the backstory of Deathstroke the Terminator (Slade) and the introduction to new characters. The most notable addition includes Terra, a teenage girl with incredible Earth powers who ends up betraying the other Titans…and being in a sexual relationship with Slade. At the time, her being in this relationship cemented her status as being unlikable and a villain.

Since standards have changed significantly since the 1980’s, but Terra’s relationship with Slade is a crucial part of her character, how do you portray it in modern times? Well, there are two ways to do it, as demonstrated in the Teen Titans 2003 animated series and the recent direct to DVD Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

In the former, the relationship between Slade and Terra is strongly implied, but not shown. It will fly over most kids heads, but adults (and people who have read the original comic) will know that Slade is indeed sexually abusing her in addition to physically and emotionally so. It’s clear that he sees her more than just a tool: he wants her to be his and his alone (and all that implies). But the show explicitly CONDEMNS this relationship. Whenever the two characters are onscreen it is made to be creepy, unnerving, and repulsive.

What makes this work is that Terra herself is a nuanced character. While she’s not exactly my fave character, we know that she’s scared, confused, and lost, and Slade took advantage of her. You see that she genuinely likes the Titans and does want to do the right thing, but Slade led her astray. Ultimately, she’s able to fight back against her abuser and saves the day. Of course this ending is brought into question in the very last episode, but the point is, this version of The Judas Contract expertly and respectfully handles this controversial subject matter.

The new 2017 movie does…not.

What struck me out when I watched this movie was just how…unlikable Terra was. Like she makes it really apparent that she has no respect for the heroes that took her in. It’s only when they throw her a surprise party when she suddenly starts caring for them and having second thoughts. Slade (her abuser) is given more sympathy since he talks about how hard he had it young and had to fight to get where he is now and is shown saving Terra’s life. Even the ending, when she finally fights back against him, portrays him in a tragic light.

But what really horrified me was a particularly lurid scene where Terra gets dolled up and dressed down into lingerie, walks seductively, and cuddles up to him.

The comments are even worse. Some people rightfully point out that this is pedophilic, but then there are people in the comments who are defending this, saying that SHE’S the one who’s trying to initiate the sexual relationship, that she’s a slut, that this is supposed to look like a student/teacher crush, that Slade is not taking advantage of her…like, no???? Why are they literally SEXUALIZING a fucking MINOR in an abusive relationship?

The problem with sexualizing Terra like this is because these types of representations can lead to young girls getting sexually assaulted and raped in real life. Sometimes abusers will use sexualized pictures and art of young girls (such as cartoon characters or even photoshopped pictures of real celebrities) to groom their victims. Where do you think the mentality of “she asked for it/she wanted it” when a young girl gets raped and no one takes her seriously comes from? Maybe this would’ve been fine if Slade specifically said “no, Terra, it’s not going to be like that, now go put your clothes back on”, but even if he doesn’t take advantage of her now, he’s still leading her on. It’s gross and it’s not right.

What makes this so jarring is that the relationship between Dick (Nightwing) and Kory (Starfire), a healthy relationship, is handled naturally, realistically, and beautifully. Yet the writers turn around and make a minor in an abusive relationship unlikable and sexualized?

If you’re going to show a relationship like this, you need to do it with tact and grace, because otherwise you can send the wrong message. And in our current world where young girls are sexualized, women are infantilized, and sexual assault is often blamed on the victim, maybe you’re sending a bad message when your audience thinks the sexualized minor is the one in the wrong here.

How Age and Gender Determine Disney Franchises

After my latest trip to the Disney Store, I wondered aloud why you could find Big Hero 6 merchandise at Hot Topic, but not there. It seemed odd, since BH6 is getting a TV series and every fan of the movie I’ve met wants a sequel.

I talked about it with my Mom, and she suggested that might be because Big Hero 6 is geared more for older kids and teenagers. And you know what, I think she’s right, and it extends to a lot of other non-Princess animated Disney films.

Films like Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia all handle complex themes. Wreck-It Ralph is how labels don’t define you, Big Hero 6 is about grieving, and Zootopia is about prejudice. While Zootopia’s handling on its topic has been debated, they’re all generally great at handling more mature topics and having layered stories. And notice how the protagonists of these movies tend to be older (WIR is about a thirty year old man, BH6 features college students as main characters, and all the characters in Zootopia are adults) as well. I think while they’re initially marketed to children and can be seen and enjoyed by people of all ages, older people will be able to really appreciate them. I probably would’ve liked Wreck-It Ralph if it came out when I was a little girl because of Vanellope, but I realize that the reason why Big Hero 6 is my fave movie is because it came out precisely when I needed it: when I was a depressed university dropout.

Consequently, a lot of the new Disney Princess movies (yes that includes Frozen and Moana) are for little girls, with simpler stories and an emphasis on Girl Power TM. I wouldn’t mind so much except that these movies kind of dumb down their stories and characters (there’s a lot of telling rather than showing, such as when Moana sings about how much she loves her people without actually showing her feel real compassion and care for them) and have a lot of themes that would’ve been handled better in a non-Princess movie are kind of glossed over. Your grandmother dies without warning? You’ve been abandoned as a baby and it scarred you for life? You’ve spent years in isolation being led to believe that you’re dangerous? Eh, a couple songs and you’re all good!

But you can see why there’s so much merch for movies like Frozen, Moana, and other Disney Princess films and hardly any for films like BH6 and WIR (except at Hot Topic): the former is much more easy to market to children, with a specific demographic that will eat that princess shit up. Not every older fan will want to buy dolls and action figures for their fave non princess movie. (Though if I could get a collectible doll or figure of my fave movies that aren’t Funko Pops, I would be very happy.)

All this also explains why Disney purchased Marvel and Lucasfilm. Disney has had great success with their animated properties, but with very few exceptions, their live action films have not. Even today, Disney’s original live action films struggle to make a profit. With Marvel and Star Wars, they are now able to make movies that people will definitely watch and have another huge demographic: little boys AND older fans that are easier to market to. Similarly, they can market their live action remakes of animated classics to kids and adults with nostalgia.

As you can tell, this is a very brilliant merchandising plan, albeit one that isn’t entirely fair to successful non-tentpole movies that have their following. Will this last forever or hold up? We’ll have to see, though I am a little concerned for Star Wars (as summarized by another person HERE). But the best I can do is support the movies I love the best way I can to show that it IS easy to market films that aren’t Princesses, Star Wars, or Marvel.

Little Things I Appreciate About Big Hero 6

This week on Tumblr was Big Hero 6 Appreciation Week. Every day, fans of the movie would make a post (gifs, fan art, videos, analysis, etc.) describing their favorite character, location/set piece, song/score, quote, parallel, and scene, along with a free day to post whatever they want at the end. I wanted to participate but…that didn’t happen. (I think I may have executive function problems, but I can’t be too sure.) But that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it here!

Fave Character

Well I love everybody, but my absolute fave is definitely Hiro. I loved him since the first teaser (where we see Hiro trying and failing to put armour on Baymax). My very first thought was “Oh my god he is beyond adorable”. My love for him only grew since the movie came out. Not only is he absolutely precious, he’s also a complex, layered character. He’s highly intelligent and skilled, relates better to older people and robots (something I can relate to), mentally ill and is totally ready and able to kill a man but is brought back from the brink through the power of love and friendship. He is also a total dork who loves gummy bears. Overall I just find him a really interesting, relatable, sweet, and adorable character that must be protected at all costs.

Fave Location

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The aerial view of city of San Fransokyo, especially when seen at the beginning and during the first flight scene. It’s a beautiful city, incorporating advanced (and eco friendly) technology and Japanese culture to create a truly unique environment. You can tell it’s a great city to live in, and that there’s plenty of opportunities. It looks so vivid and almost REAL and ALIVE. I wanna go there!

Fave Song/Score

The movie has a great soundtrack, it’s hard to pick an absolute fave. One score I definitely like is “I am Satisfied with my care”. The music goes with each moment–from the triumphant ones to the tragic ones–perfectly. It definitely makes the scene where Hiro and Baymax have to say goodbye even more heartfelt.

Fave Quote

“Hiro. I will ALWAYS be with you.”

This is a great quote because Baymax means this both figuratively and literally. Figuratively because, no matter what happens, Baymax (and Tadashi) will remain in Hiro’s heart and memories and will guide him in life. Literally because it shows just how much Baymax loves Hiro and will do anything for him. He has become devoted to him and will go to any length necessary to protect the boy and be there for him. The fact that a robot has become capable of love is so…*sobs*

Fave Parallel

I think any part where Hiro references or quotes Tadashi (such as sighing “Unbelievable” or telling his teams to use those big brains of theirs) is feels worthy. Of course the scenes where Hiro sees himself reflected in the mirror along with his brother/robot companion is a subtle, emotional moment, but the parallel that is perhaps most chilling is when Hiro and Tadashi both sense that someone is in danger and their first instinct is “Someone has to help”. It just goes to show how willing both these brothers are to put their lives on the line to help those in need, and how much of an influence Tadashi really is. I’m just glad Hiro got out of it okay!

Fave Scene

Hiro and Baymax hug

Easy pick here: the hug between Hiro and Baymax at the end. I just wish it went on much longer.

Be sure to check out all the amazing works of art made this week HERE and HERE and the blog bh6daily.tumblr.com for more! What are your fave things about this movie?

“Happily Ever After” is True Disney Magic

This month, a new show, “Happily Ever After”, premiered at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Florida, replacing the previous show “Wishes”. And I got to say, it perfectly encapsulates everything that we love about Disney. Watch it for yourself:

It has everything: fireworks, awesome music, gorgeous animation (with some brand new hand drawn animation!), heartfelt moments, heroic moments, funny moments, dashing heroes, beautiful princesses, dastardly villains, you name it! It’s a masterful medley of Disney music and characters. We got a nice wide range of Disney characters included, too. Frozen didn’t take up too much of the show, though I think Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia should’ve been in the show longer (though there was a very audible loud cheer when Hiro and Baymax showed up; take note, Disney!).

But what really made my heart soar was that The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules played significant parts. These are two movies that don’t get a lot of attention or recognition nowadays, but here, they move the show along. The song Out There had a standout moment (with new animation and a new rendition of the song), and the song Go The Distance served as the climax of the performance, including all the Disney heroes. This gives me some hope that these two and movies like them will grow in stature and get the proper recognition they deserve.

Overall, a fantastic show, I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope one day I can see it live!

POST Preparation for Moana Review #4: Treasure Planet

Shh let’s just keep the theme going for awhile. Anyways, here’s another review of a movie connected to Moana in one way or another: Treasure Planet (since they both have the same directors).

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Several decades ago, John Musker and Ron Clements pitched a unique idea to Disney: Treasure Island IN SPACE!!!!!! It was rejected a few times. Eventually, they got their wish: after completing Hercules, they were allowed to work on this film, utilizing some revolutionary animation techniques (the CG animation blends almost seamlessly with the hand drawn animation) and a lot of heart and soul. They marketed and hyped the film big time, and it even got an IMAX release. What happened?

It bombed. Very badly. To the point where Disney would give up on hand drawn animation altogether in a few years.

There are a few reasons it didn’t do so well. Up until the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, pirate movies were box office poison. Plus a lot of people probably looked at the film and thought the premise was boring and/or stupid and decided to take their kid to the latest Pixar film, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, or Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I remember, very clearly, when I went to see it for the first time, there was hardly anyone in the theater!

I feel like this movie gets a really raw deal, because it’s honestly amazing.

First things first though: this is the type of movie you NEED to see on the big screen in order to fully appreciate. I tried watching it on my computer and had a little trouble staying focused. I decided to watch it on the big screen and BOOM I was hooked in. I think more people might be able to get into this movie better if they watched it in the proper format.

I love the unique world this movie is set in. It’s a traditional culture with access to advanced technology, creating a sort of Steampunk, anachronistic setting that works. It’s a very awesome setting with some truly beautiful scenes and shots. This movie is also really EXCITING, with some truly compelling action sequences and moments of peril.

But what makes this movie really great are the characters of Jim Hawkins and John Silver.

Jim is a well-written teenage boy character. He is sullen and doesn’t always like authority, and can be morally grey at times, but he is very clever and skilled and does develop empathy for others. He has angst issues (all teenagers do), but he’s not whiny, and he seeks to improve or is able to be comforted by Silver. He also has a clever character design: when we first see him, when he’s a delinquent, he wears a black shirt and jacket. When he’s ready to make a change in his life, he still wears the jacket, but is wearing a lighter colored shirt. He later ditches the jacket when he starts to step up into the role of a hero. Finally, when he has set out to make his own path in life, he is wearing all white. Overall, he’s a relatable, enjoyable character.

And Silver is incredible. Given how he’s both fat and disabled, it would have been very easy for the writers and animators to make him repulsive and pure evil. Instead, he can be harsh and authoritative, but can also be warm and comforting. He has loose morals, but doesn’t want to cause unnecessary violence or bloodshed. We sympathize with him because he has longed to have the treasure for what I can assume is most of his life and has made some sacrifices. And despite a rough start, he really and truly does care for Jim, to the point where he is willing to let Jim come with him to go on new adventures.

And that’s the heart and soul of the movie: these two and their bond.

Jim’s father left him, and Silver has no children. Jim sees in Silver a firm but kind father figure who is genuinely interested in him, and Silver sees a capable young boy who he grows a paternal attachment to. The desire for treasure nearly drives them apart, but ultimately, their relationship proves stronger than gold. In the end, they’re not quite as close as they were before, but they still have a strong mutual respect and affection for one another.

I can’t help but get a little sad over the ending though. Silver is free, but he has to say goodbye to Jim and Morph. Jim goes back to his mother and decides to become a respectable member of society but still clearly misses Silver. I like to think they get back together at some point. Either Silver becomes an active good guy, or Jim decides that being a ship’s captain is not for him and joins Silver on his adventures. There was a planned direct to video sequel that would have Jim and Silver teaming up again to fight an even worse pirate, but it was not meant to be. So I can only imagine.

The film still has a few problems. I don’t particularly care for Doctor Delbert (he can be a little too annoying at times) or Amelia (all she does is act prim and proper, yell orders, and gets injured; and btw, did you know at one point she had tentacles for hair? why didn’t they keep that in), and B.E.N., well, let’s just say he won’t be replacing WALL E or Baymax as anyone’s fave robot characters. And how did the crew get hired in the first place when it’s pretty obvious they’re up to no good? Like if you look at Scroop you can tell right away that he’s evil incarnate, why would you let him on a respectable voyage? Amelia points this out, but instead of doing anything about it, she just tells Jim and Doppler not to talk about the map in front of them. Really? And I suppose the story isn’t THAT original or groundbreaking.

But honestly? I absolutely love this movie despite all odds. It holds a very dear place in my heart, along Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This movie has a small cult following but I hope it will grow in stature and become a true classic. It really deserves it.

 

 

The Mother of All Psychological Horrors Is All Too Familiar

Hmm, it’s Mother’s Day and I haven’t written in awhile. I know! I’ll talk about Rosemary’s Baby!

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What have you done to it? What have you done to its eyes?

A dark parallel to the story of the Virgin Birth, what makes this film scary is that it lulls you into a false sense of security. The first two acts or so aren’t very scary so much as weird and off-putting. But as the movie progresses you realize how horrifying and hopeless the situation is and in the end you’re on the verge of tears over the plight of Rosemary.

The movie is several decades old but is hailed as a master of horror. It has very little blood and gore and no jump scares; instead, it gets under your skin by building up the feeling of dread and paranoia with ominous music and shots, culminating in a pretty shocking twist. But because the twist isn’t explicitly shown, it leaves room for some interpretations.

To me, though, what makes it scary even now is that it’s still pretty relevant. It presents the all too real plight of the lack of reproductive rights and justice.

When Rosemary is not pregnant, her husband dotes on her and she is quick to make friends and acquaintances. When she states her desire to become pregnant, though, attitudes towards her start to change. By the time she actually is pregnant, she is not treated the same. She is essentially treated as a brood mare, being withheld important information about her body, being manipulated by her neighbors, and being verbally abused and controlled by her husband. The one person she can trust, her old doctor, doesn’t believe her when she says what’s going on and immediately turns her over to her husband. When the baby is born she isn’t even initially allowed to see him, and does not receive a warm welcome when she comes to the congregation. Almost all the members of the coven disrespect or even outright show contempt for the mother of their savior.

Hmm…does that sound familiar?

What struck me right away is that the only people who are on Rosemary’s side are young women. Literally all the men (with one exception) and the older women see Rosemary as a walking incubator that has to be carefully controlled.

Rosemary herself is a really great character. Initially submissive and docile, her fierce love for her unborn child drives her to take action, seeking a safe place to give birth and get away from the coven. She is one of the few female horror movie protagonists to actually have character development, albeit development that is too late to save her.

The climax is especially horrifying. Imagine the baby you worked so hard to protect turned out to be an unholy demon, the product of a brutal violation. In the end, her motherly instincts kick in, but her smile seems a little halfhearted. Ultimately the viewer will have to decide the fate of her and her child.

This movie has a wide range of interpretations, ranging from calling it feminist to misogynist. I lean more to the feminist interpretation for a few reasons. The first reason is just how frank the movie is when it talks about periods, abortions, and childbirth, all topics that a lot of movies shy away from. Secondly, the whole situation, from the moment of conception to Rosemary’s acceptance of the baby, is seen as genuinely HORRIFYING, not as a cheap shock or drama.

Ultimately, this is a horror movie of something all too familiar and relevant: being a pregnant person having your bodily autonomy, rights, and dignity taken away from you. And that is something that will always scare you on a psychological and personal level.

Drax the Destroyer: The Autistic Alien Done RIGHT

Let’s close out Autism Acceptance Month (and start getting hyped for the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie) and take a look at a good example of an autistic-coded character: Drax the Destroyer.

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Like Peridot from Steven Universe, Drax is an alien that is very strongly coded to be autistic. He does not understand sarcasm or metaphors (very common with autistic people), may have some sensitivity issues (he never wears a shirt), is pretty blunt, and has some trouble with social skills. He also has other quirks that aren’t associated with common people.

With this, it would be very easy for the writers to botch up this character. (Look up ‘gremlin Peridot’ and you should get a good idea of how.) But while Drax can be a little rough around the edges, he ultimately proves to be a competent and even compassionate hero. He’s also an interesting character: he’s a man of honour grieving the loss of his family and will do anything to avenge them but ultimately can’t do it on his own, so he closes the gap between himself and the other Guardians in order to save the day. He grows to respect Gamora and even becomes good friends with Rocket. Best of all, he’s not a STEREOTYPE. He’s not a skinny, nerdy white man with obsessions and is a genius in math and science and has little to no empathy or even feelings. He’s not overly childlike or hard to understand or a burden to the people around him. He’s a SUPERHERO.

But the reason why I state that Drax is an autistic coded character done right is that real autistic children relate to him, as explained HERE. Autistic people can be superheroes, and don’t you forget it.

Let’s hope the sequel continues to inspire and help other autistic kids as well. As it is, Drax is a great character and an example of how you should code a non-human character as autistic without relying on harmful tropes.