Can We Cool it With the “Woman Disguised as a Man” Twist Already?

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During the summer of 1997, Mulan was seven year old Vrai’s very favorite movie; during the fall of 1997, it was therefore assured that a costume from the movie. What that small child quickly found, however, is that while they wanted to dress up as Ping, all that the stores were selling was the matchmaker dress. Nobody thought it worth selling the masculine clothes when obviously the girly girl no really totally a girl bit was obviously more appealing. This trend never stopped. Your author just got more bitter about it.

As for why it’s come up now, a story: I’ve been inundated lately with comments about how I should watch Voltron: Legendary Defender. It’s the Legend of Korra writing team. It’s really clever and adorable. And, most alluringly, it supposedly had a canonically non-binary character. I’m nothing if not predictable.

[Minor Voltron spoilers follow]

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How Wander Over Yonder Fell Through the Cracks (and Why I’ll Miss it)

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We’re in a renaissance of television animation at the moment. As the medium’s come to be taken more seriously in the West and been given more leeway in the kinds of stories it tells, there’s been a push to grapple with more substantive content. There was Aang’s struggle to remain a pacifist in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time’s later seasons have flirted with a bizarre existentialist sort of vibe, and Steven Universe is hard at work trying to grapple with the question of whether peace, love, and understanding can really heal all wounds.

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Ghostbusters is a Movie About Women Fighting to be Heard

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Here is what I knew about Ghostbusters prior to this weekend: there are proton packs, one shouldn’t cross the streams, there’s a bit with a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the cartoon (in which Slimer was mascot) came on before Digimon, and if the song was playing that meant they were going to break out the smoke machines at the local roller rink.

Yes, despite my love for supernaturally-tinted 80s movies and a frankly alarming number of viewings of The Blues Brothers and What About Bob?, I managed to go 26 years without ever quite making time for the original Ghostbusters – I’d remember that I’d been meaning to watch it only to find that the copy from the library had been stolen, or it had been removed from Netflix the week prior, and it was never enough of an urgent concern to pay money for. That might make me the ideal experimental viewing audience for the new reboot.

Or it’s possible that I am not a True Fan, and that my opinion is completely invalid at best and propaganda at worst – because I liked it, you see. But let’s stave off that inescapable cultural context just for a moment, though, and look at the movie on its own merits.

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Do This, Not That: Writing Women With Agency (Legally Blonde the Musical vs. Hannibal)

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The question of “How Do I Feminism?” is something the media has grappled with for years. Too often the answer falls into the Strong Female Character, who can punch things really good and is an absolute asshole to everyone until the male Chosen One comes along to surpass her and also melt her stunted heart. While there’s nothing wrong with physical strength, the niggling problem of it all is, of course, diversity. Too often writers (mostly Straight White Men) mistake physical strength for depth and respectful treatment, creating a stopgap that lets themselves pat themselves on the back for their progress without having to actually examine their writing (see also the “writing the exact woman I, the writer, would like to sleep with over and over again” school that your Joss Whedons and Stephen Moffats tend to fall into).

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The Witch – Horror as Anthropology

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Horror is the most of-the-moment genre out there: by its nature it makes itself a time capsule, simultaneously responding to gut-level fears in its surrounding culture and almost always reinforcing an Other vs. status quo arrangement. You can tell a culture’s history in no small part by the stories it weaves to scare itself. Which might explain the chilly reception The Witch received at my late-Sunday viewing: the audience (if I might grossly simplify by what I overheard) was prepared for a visceral emotional experience that would speak to them, and were thus at a loss for how to respond to a colonial-era pastiche of fairytales that was far more interested in examining its characters’ era-appropriate fears than mapping them onto modern ones.

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Why The Rocky Horror Picture Show Still Has Meaning (But the Remake is a Terrible Idea)

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In 1973, the Rocky Horror Show opened in London. In 1975 it was adapted into The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Tim Curry in arguably his most iconic performance, and the fandom that grew up around that theatrical flop came to define the cultural reference of what a cult film following looks like. You can go to just about any city in America and find a midnight showing of the film, and the show is all but guaranteed to show up at Halloween (in America and its home country of England). And FOX, after hemming and hawing about it for years, is finally looking to cash in on that sweet, sweet remake money (or “reimagining,” but hold that thought). This is the worst idea, and not in the usual “worst idea” way in that remakes tend to be poorly thought out and offer little new interpretive value beyond “we cast younger actors and got better cameras, money please.”

The deeper trouble is that Rocky Horror is in the unenviable position of having become a cultural mainstay for long enough that it is really starting to show its age. The disparity between what queer culture was when the stage show and film were produced and what it is now are whole universes apart. And that has resulted in a gap of sorts: you have the predominately straight or mainstream audience who views the film as a fun exercise in camp and potentially takes the parody on display at face value (thus perpetuating harmful stereotypes), and you have a young queer audience who’ve grown up in a world where a spectrum of positive, diverse representation from Steven Universe to Orange is the New Black exists, and they dismiss the film as harmful trash with no redeeming value whatsoever. The truth, by my estimation, is somewhere between these extremes: Rocky Horror has certainly aged poorly in some regards, and to say that those outdated portions are more harmful than helpful is a perfectly valid position; at the same time, not only has the film been a respite for thousands of outcasts since its release (and the play before it), but it continues to be subversive in some interesting ways that I rarely see addressed.

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