To Sir, With Love

Dear Mr. Stan Lee,

Just recently I discovered that you had died at 95 years of age and I couldn’t be any sadder despite the fact that I was never a fan of your work.

However I’ve always liked you as a person. You seemed so friendly, warm and approachable, and if there had ever been an opportunity to meet you, I would’ve jumped at the chance. When I saw you host Cocktails With Stan, I had wished that I could’ve guest starred even though I’m not a celebrity (though I’m a heck of a lot more interesting than most celebrities) and I don’t drink cocktails. When you said that Spider-Man was more relatable than Superman, I begged to differ, not in hostility, but in friendly conversation. We could’ve had lots of interesting conversations.

I was also upset when I heard about your financial and personal troubles. No one, least of all legend like you, should be treated that way! I’m grateful you don’t have to deal with that anymore.

I wish I had more to say but all I can say is this: rest in peace Mr. Lee, you’ll be missed by all comic book fans, be they Marvel, DC, both, or neither.

In Grateful Memory of Stan Lee (1922-2018)

With Love,

The Lady From Planet X

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More Great Cat Moments In Genre History

As you know, October 29 is that magical time to express our love for our feline lor…er…friends. Two years ago, I posted a list of notable cats in sci-fi and fantasy but then I realized I left some characters out (by accident of course). So without further ado, here’s more great cats that are out of this world.

Cat – A – Lyst

A 1991 novel written by Alan Dean Foster. When movie star Jason Carter takes a vacation in the wilds of Peru, all he wants is a little R & R. But what he finds is much more — a lost civilization of extra-dimensional Incas out to conquer the world! The only one not worried about this mess is Carter’s cat, which acts like she’s in charge of the planet…and she just might be right!

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Nexu, Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones

It’s hard to believe that this scary looking thing that looks like a cross between a tarantula, a possum and a shark is actually a cat. But it is and it’s famous for ripping off part of Padme’s jumpsuit in the Geonosis arena. It’s also famous for getting kicked and knocked to the ground by Padme in one of her best butt-kicking moments. According to Wookiepedia, nexu are native to the planet Cholganna. Many years later, Padme’s great-granddaughter, Allana would keep one as a pet.

Uhura’s Song 

A 1987 novel written by the late Janet Kagan.

Years ago, Lt. Uhura befriended a diplomat from Eeiauo, the land of graceful, cat-like beings. The two women exchanged songs and promised never to reveal their secret.

Now the U.S.S. Enterprise? is orbiting Eeiauo in a desperate race to save the inhabitants before a deadly plague destroys them. Uhura’s secret songs may hold the key to a cure — but the clues are veiled in layers of mystery. The plague is killing humans, threatening other planets — and Kirk must crack the code before the Starship Enterprise succumbs!

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Ishtarian

A native of the planet Ishtar in Poul Anderson’s 1975 novel Fire Time. According to Wayne Barlowe’s essay on extra terrestrials, Ishtarians

…with its leonine body and nearly human torso, stands about two meters tall. The body is covered with a mosslike plant, leafy on the head and mane…removing carbon dioxide and wastes from the being’s bloodstream and returning oxygen and vital minerals. Skin color among the Ishtarians varies from very light brown to nearly  black. Females are generally more slightly built than males.

According to this website, Ishtarians are a modern-day wemic.

 

icerigger 0002

An inhabitant of the icy planet Tran-ky-ky. From Barlowe again:

The Tran are two – meter – tall mammalian entities. Their long arms end in four-fingered hands. The Tran’s three-toed feet have long, curving claws that act as skates but that can be retracted upward to allow it to walk on land. Broad, membranous wings stretch from their hips to their arms, spreading as the arms are lifted to catch the wind.

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Mr. Tawky-Tawny

A friend of Captain Marvel who happens to be an anthropomorphic tiger.  Introduced in 1947, Tawny just wanted to live peacefully among humans. At first humans are fearful of the talking tiger until Captain Marvel intervenes. In recent years Tawky Tawny has the power to shapeshift, sometimes turning into a smilodon (’cause, y’know, they were once called saber-toothed tigers). My personal favorite version is from the DC Nation short Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam.

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Lt. M’Ress

A character introduced in Star Trek: The Animated Series. M’ress serves as a relief communications officer and a temporary science officer. She hails from the planet Caitian and was voiced by Majel Barrett. You can see M’Ress in all 22 episodes of the Emmy-winning series on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

And I will leave you with this recommendation: be sure to catch Super Cats: A 3 -Part Nature Miniseries only on PBS and PBS.org. You’ll love it.

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The Best Russian Sci-Fi

Privet Amerikans. My name ees Rusa Botansky and I am guest writer in today’s ahtikle. I write because thees morning as I was eating my borscht, I saw internet ahtikle about Mother Russia sending robots to destroy film called Staw Was: The Last Hedai. This upset me so I call Comrade Lady From Planet X to express my displeasure and she invite me to educate Amerikans about Mother Russia’s contribution to nauchnaya fantastika. 

But first, few things must be said. Why would Mother Russia want to waste Her robots on sillee movie about some neudachnik old man who get pestered by little girl into fighting government when we have works of Rossiyskaya nauchnaya fantastika that are better than The Last Hedai? I show you list, da?

Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924)

Yakov Protazanov direct film about young man who goes to Mars to help workers fight ruling class with the help of exotik Queen Aelita. It silent, no talk. Watch here.

Roadside Picnic (1971)

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Aliens visit earth, leave litter behind. Humans look at litter. Is considered to be best Russian novel ever written.

Solaris (1972)

Andrei Tarkovsky direct film of Polish Stanislaw Lem’s book of same name. It win awards. It good film. Watch trailer here.

Heart of a Dog (1925)

Mikhail Bulgakov

Scientist put human glands in doggie, doggie evolve into human. Not good. Novel is classic in Mother Russia.

We (1921)

Yevgeny Zamyatin

People live in glass city, ees watched over by Blagodetel’. But one man learns he has soul. Big influence on 1984 and Brave New World. 

The Slynx (2000)

Tatyana Tolstaya

Blast kill people. Benedik survive blast. Benedik es happy, niet? As long as Benedik stay away from the Slynx.

Worlds Apart: An Anthology of Russian Fantasy and Science Fiction (2008)

Alexander Levitsky

It have Russian stories that stretch from 1700s to 1950s with essays by Levitsky. It big book.

Red Star Tales: A Century of Russian and Soviet Science Fiction (2015)

Yvonne Howell, ED.

I copy intro here:

A scientist keeps a severed head alive, and the head lives to tell the tale… An explorer experiences life on the moon, in a story written six decades before the first moon landing… Electrical appliances respond to human anxieties and threaten to crash the electrical grid… Archaeologists discover strange powers emanating from a Central Asian excavation site… A teleporting experiment goes awry, leaving a subject to cope with a bizarre sensory swap… A boy discovers the explosive truth of his father’s “antiseptic” work, stamping out dissent on distant worlds…

Has stories from the ’80s and ’90s as well.

Hard to Be a God (1964)

Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

Future earth man Anton goes to planet that look like middle ages. Anton cannot interfere with planet’s evolution. It frustrating for him. Strugatsky brothers are gods in SF community. Was made into movie in 2013.

Now Ameirkans, stop blaming Mother Russia for your elections,  your smelly tomatoes and your inferior Staw Was movies. You go, read, watch these shedevry.

 

English translation:

  • Privet: Greetings
  • nauchnaya fantastika: science fiction
  • neudachnik: loser
  • Rossiyskaya: Russian
  • da: yes
  • Blagodetel: Benefactor
  • niet: no
  • shedevry: masterpieces

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Thoughts On The Captain Marvel Teaser Trailer…

After 20 films of dudes saving the world/galaxy/dimension you would think Marvel would finally listen to fans and give them that Black Widow movie they always wanted. Instead Marvel gives fans a character that had no introduction in the previous films and unless you’ve read the comics – particularly the ones written by Kelly Sue DeConnick – you know nothing about her personality or her beliefs. Yes, she doesn’t crack one smile throughout the trailer. That’s not my concern, though after seeing Larson’s meme, it explains why the MCU is so boring (can’t Captain America look happy just for once?)

What made this trailer unimpressive is Carol Danver’s lack of agency. We are introduced to her crashing through the roof of Blockbuster Video for no reason. In fact she’s on her back a lot: from a swing, at a baseball game, in military training, even on a spaceship. Now there’s nothing wrong with action girls taking a spill once and awhile but when the only fighting she does in the whole trailer is punch a suspicious “old lady”, something’s wrong.

But what really makes me suspicious is the fact that she isn’t even providing the voice over narration! That honor goes to Nick Fury. I’m guessing it’s because he’s part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it’s his job to investigate alien/paranormal activity. And speaking of aliens, Google “Captain Marvel” and the synopsis explains that Carol is “caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races”. Again, no agency.

Now compare that to the trailer for season 1 of Agent Carter and you see a major difference:

Peggy is throwing punches, jumping onto cars (in skirts and heels!), scaling buildings, walking with confidence. And, most importantly, she’s providing her own narration. She even converses with other female characters. Even though the trailer starts and ends with a hokey Captain America radio show, it doesn’t dominate the whole trailer. Also audiences got a proper introduction to Peggy via Captain America: The First Avenger and the Agent Carter One Shot.

Now some of you will point out that this is only a teaser, that there will be a final trailer. Yes, but the SDCC teaser for Wonder Woman got me excited and speculating. The promos for Agent Carter peaked my interest. This teaser just left me cold. But no matter, like its predecessors it will get a high score on Rotten Tomaotes. It will make money at the box office. It will have defenders telling me to stop being a troll, turn off my mind and be entertained by it all (or just hurl misogynistic, “DC fan” insults at me). I will be called a bigot for not falling under its spell. And it’ll probably get an Oscar nomination. The Future isn’t female, it’s Marvel.

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Great Rabbit Moments In Genre History

September 22 marks International Rabbit Day (what, you were expecting Easter?) Today, we’re looking at notable rabbit & hare characters and moments in SF/F literature and comics. I will be leaving out cartoons and certain films (like Harvey and Donnie Darko) because they deserve a list all their own. So grab a couple of carrots, wiggle your nose and peruse this list of fantastical lagomorphs.

Let’s hop to it.

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Jaxxon 

Before Jar-Jar there was another long-eared character that divided Star Warriors into the love him or hate him camps. Created by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin for Marvel’s Star Wars comics in 1977, Jaxxon was a Lepi smuggler from Coachelle Prime. His catchphrase was “you can call me Jax for short…which I ain’t” (this is indicating his height which stood at approximately 1.9 meters). In Star Wars Insider 83, Jaxxon is first on the list for “Five Goofiest Moments of the Star Wars Mythos”. However in 2012 Jaxxon was placed third in a poll for fan choice action figure. Since sales of Star Wars toys have taken a nosedive, I think a Jaxxon figure would be a sight for sore eyes. Possibly.

Watership Down 

Possibly THE novel that comes to mind when you mention “rabbits” and “epic fantasy” in the same sentence.

One day while traveling with his daughters on a long road trip, Richard Adams entertained them with stories about talking rabbits. The little girls were so enraptured by the stories, they insisted he write them into a book and Watership Down was born. Published in 1972, it tells the story of a group of rabbits, led by Hazel and his psychic brother Fiver as they search for a new warren. Mind you these rabbits are not anthropomorphic in the usual way: i.e. wear clothes, walk on two legs, etc. They switch between English and Lapine (rabbit language) and they tell myths about their gods and heroes (in particular El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit) to pass the time. Watership Down was a success and won 3 awards: The Carnegie Medal, The Guardian Children’s Fiction prize and The California Young Reader Medal. In 1978 the novel was adapted into an animated film starring John Hurt and Roy Kinnear, which in turn was added to The Criterion Collection in 2015.

Who_Censored_Roger_Rabbit_

Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

No, this isn’t the popular 1988 film collaboration between Disney and Steven Spielberg. This is the original 1981 mystery novel by Gary K. Wolf. In this story, humans and characters from comic strips (like Snoopy and Dick Tracy) interact in everyday life. Comic strip characters speak in word bubbles (the kind you see on the printed page) and can create duplicates of themselves for stunt work. Private eye Eddie Valiant is hired by comic strip “toon” Roger Rabbit to investigate a suspicious contract between him and his bosses. Thereafter Roger is murdered, or “censored” and now Eddie must work with Roger’s doppelganger to solve the ever deepening mystery.

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The White Rabbit and the March Hare 

There’s no need for introductions when it comes to these characters from the immortal Alice books.

I have no idea why Lewis Carroll chose a white rabbit or a rabbit hole as an enticement/entrance to Wonderland, but I know that there was a saying in Caroll’s day that someone was “mad (or crazy) as a March hare”. This is because hares are known to engage in extreme acrobatics during their mating season, which is in March, though mating is the last thing on the March Hare’s mind.

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Usagi Yojimbo

A character first introduced by Stan Sakai in 1984, Miyamoto Yojimbo (usagi is Japanese for rabbit) is a ronin fighting injustice in feudal Japan. The comic series is famous for 1.) being one of the longest running comics written and drawn by one person 2.) it’s well-researched depiction of feudal Japan and 3.) crossing over with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from time to time. Hmmmm, rabbits and turtles together in one story. Who would’ve thought of that?

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Bucky O’Hare

Another comic book about a green rabbit and his crew fighting an evil Empire in space. Except the rabbit is the main character, the human is the sidekick, the ship is called the Righteous Indignation and the Empire is made up of… toads. Like Miyamoto Yojimbo, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars was created by a Japanese man (Larry Hama) and debuted in 1984. Unlike Miyamoto, the series was short lived. However it’s been adapted into a 1991 cartoon series and two video games.

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Hoppy the Marvel Bunny and Captain Black Bunny

Trying to cash in on the “funny animal” comics craze, Fawcett Comics introduced Hoppy and Black Bunny to the Captain Marvel universe in 1942 and 1945 respectively. Hoppy idolizes Captain Marvel so much he gets bonked on the head and earns the powers of Shazam! from the Bunny Wizard (just go with it). Unlike his human counterpart, Hoppy has a love interest named Millie who (like Lois Lane at the time) was attracted to Marvel Bunny but couldn’t stand to be around meek and mild Hoppy. Then there was his foe Black Bunny whom, you can guess by now, is modeled after Black Adam except he comes from the earth’s core and is aided by imp henchmen. So I guess he’s a hellbunny.

Image result for thunderbunny

Thunderbunny

40 years after Hoppy, Charlton Comics gave us Thunderbunny, the heroic alter ego of a boy named Bobby Caswell. How did a human boy develop the power to turn into an anthropomorphic rabbit? Well, Bobby got his hands on a box shaped device that held the essence of Thunderbunny, the last survivor of an alien race. The power inhabited his body, turning him into a muscled, humanoid rabbit (again, just go with it). He also has super strength and flight. Not surprisingly, Bobby is embarrassed to be seen as his cunicular alter ego and the more he stays in that form, the less likely he can change back to his human form. But, duty calls…

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Night of the Lepus

In case you didn’t know, lepus means rabbit in Latin.

A 1972, “horror” movie about giant mutant killer rabbits who “terrorize” a town and must be destroyed. That’s all you need to know about the plot. You can watch the trailer here and enjoy the Rifftrax video here. I, for one, was rooting for the rabbits.

Did I make you mad as a March hare when I hopped over your favorite? Sound off in the comments. In the meantime here’s some pictures of “mythological” rabbits far scarier and more bizarre than Night of the Lepus. Enjoy.

jackalope-art

Jackalope

Wolpertinger

Wolpertinger

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Cabbit

Image result for al-mi'raj

Al-mi’raj

 

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Let’s Break Down This Article By Kelly Marie Tran, Shall We?

Kelly Marie/Loan Tran, the Vietnamese-American actress who left Instagram supposedly because of online harassment recently broke her silence by penning this article in The New York Times. You can read it here.

Forgive me for sounding callous, but I’m just not buying into her story. Here’s why.

Let’s look at the first sentence:

It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them.

Who’s words exactly have made you doubt your self-worth, Ms. Tran? Can you provide some examples? Some screen shots of these “words”? Or can you at least give a description of these “trolls”?

Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.

Again, whose “lives and stories” are you talking about: Star Warriors? The Star Wars franchise? Please be specific because right now, the Star Wars community is becoming a marginalized group all its own. I can’t tell you how many internet articles – from the MSM and personal blogs – that are painting Star Warriors as nasty “trolls” and “incels” and “boys stuck in their parent’s basement”, a depiction thats really unfair to fans and those with legitimate grievances with Disney’s handling of the franchise. It would be helpful if you, Ms. Tran, would assure the public that we’re not all like that.

And those words awakened something deep inside me — a feeling I thought I had grown out of. The same feeling I had when at 9, I stopped speaking Vietnamese altogether because I was tired of hearing other kids mock me. Or at 17, when at dinner with my white boyfriend and his family, I ordered a meal in perfect English, to the surprise of the waitress, who exclaimed, “Wow, it’s so cute that you have an exchange student!”

You’re not alone in this, Ms. Tran. I too was mocked as a child for having an overbite, for being skinny and for having thick hair. And this bullying came from children of all ethnicities because, you see, I’m a mixed-race woman who’s racially ambiguous. Like the waitress you mentioned, I’ve been mistaken for Hispanic, Asian and Native American. I’ve had people come up to me speaking Spanish only  to get from me a blank stare because I don’t speak the language. One Hispanic man even expressed offense that I didn’t speak Spanish. I’ve had to say in my broken Spanish, “no Latina, Mulatta!” to strangers. I’ve had people come up to me and ask me, “what are you?” Don’t even get me started on one incident where a haughty black girl asked me which parent was the black one/ white one, to which she declared: “you have a black mother and a white father? Mmmm, that’s a first!” Or the time a Mexican girl hated me so much, she shouted that she wanted to beat me up and pull out all my “nappy hair”. And the misogyny I faced from boys and grown men, oh lord, that’s a subject for another post, which is why I’m more passionate about sexism than racism.

Because the same society that taught some people they were heroes, saviors,taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests — and perhaps the most damaging — waiting for them to rescue me.

Their stories? Have you looked into the stories of your own culture and continent Ms. Tran? Have you ever seen any of the films of Akira Kurosawa? Or Hayao Miyazaki? Have you seen the original Godzilla/Gojira? Have you read the Joy Luck Club or any of Amy Tan’s other books? Or the books of Lisa See? Have you seen Snow Flower and the Secret Fan? Or the 1985 gem, Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart? Have you ever checked out Advantageous, a 2015 sci-fi film made by two Korean women, I just can’t praise enough? Did you know Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon still holds the record for the highest-grossing foreign language film of all time? Have you forgotten about Disney’s Mulan which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary? And let’s not forget that right now, Crazy, Rich Asians is currently #1 at the box office. Are you familiar with beloved Asian characters like Sulu? Melinda May? Katana? Number Eight? Samurai Jack? Silvermist? Or Star Wars characters like Jan Ors and Bultar Swan? I could go on and on with examples.

And why do people think that nail salons are racist because they’re all owned and run by Asian women? These women were not forced into nail care, they want to work on people’s nails. Women (and some men) of all backgrounds go to nail salons for mani/pedicures. I got a manicure and a pedicure recently for health reasons and I learned that you have to go to beauty school for 3 years to operate a nail salon. It’s not a sweat shop.

I had been brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval. I had been tricked into thinking that my body was not my own, that I was beautiful only if someone else believed it, regardless of my own opinion. I had been told and retold this by everyone: by the media, by Hollywood, by companies that profited from my insecurities, manipulating me so that I would buy their clothes, their makeup, their shoes, in order to fill a void that was perpetuated by them in the first place.

Now this is something I can get behind: it was HOLLYWOOD, the MEDIA, and the COSMETIC companies that brainwashed her into believing that she had to look a certain way in order to spend money. This is something ALL WOMEN, regardless of color can relate to. From childhood to adolescence and beyond, girls and women are told that we’re not pretty enough, not lovable enough to live. That we must lose this much weight, wear this type of clothing, wear our hair like this, buy this brand of lipstick to be loved. There are so many statistics to prove this that it would take all day to provide links to them, however here’s one article to prove Kelly’s point.

But, again, who’s the one group Ms. Tran doesn’t name. You guessed it, Star Wars fans.

This is what it is to grow up as a person of color in a white-dominated world.

Excuse me, since when has the world ever been “white dominated”? Is Asia dominated by white people? What about South America? Is Mexico white dominated? Is all of Africa, white dominated? No. And the only white domination in Antarctica is the snow.

These are the thoughts that run through my head every time I pick up a script or a screenplay or a book. I know the opportunity given to me is rare. I know that I now belong to a small group of privileged people who get to tell stories for a living, stories that are heard and seen and digested by a world that for so long has tasted only one thing. I know how important that is. And I am not giving up.

I think if you really want to tell the stories you want to tell, Ms. Tran, you’ll have to give up acting and get behind the camera because there’s real power there. You are the puppet master instead of the puppet. You should take up producing, directing or – most importantly – screenwriting because we sure could use a lot more women screenwriters in Hollywood. In the meantime I hope you’ll find better roles after Star Wars because you certainly deserved better. Fans didn’t hate you, they hated Rose Tico and most of the vitrol was aimed at her: a frumpy, poorly written character who served no purpose except as a shoehorned in love interest to Finn because execs didn’t want him with Rey or Poe.

I also suspect that because the Star Wars community’s interest in the franchise is waning, Disneyfilm made you the sacrificial lamb in their planned backlash against the fans. It’s telling that news of you leaving social media dropped after Solo bombed at the box office and you break your silence on the heels of the first Star Wars Resistance trailer and these curious Lucasfilm trailers. I suspect you didn’t even write this piece, someone at Lucasfilm or Disney wrote it under your name.

I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair.

First of all what does that have to do with anything? Did Vanity Fair pay you to give them a plug? Second, if you are the first Asian woman on the cover of the fashion magazine, maybe you should’ve written an open letter to the magazine on why it took so long to have an Asian woman on the cover (and publish it in The New York Times after your issue hit newsstands). Now that’s an article I would like to read.

I’m sorry you’ve been dragged into this, Ms. Tran. I wish you nothing but success in your acting career.

Oh, and I’m still not seeing Episode IX.

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10 Cases That Should’ve Been Featured On “Unsolved Mysteries”

This post is about Unsolved Mysteries, a 1987-2002 documentary show that profiled cases that dealt with crime, legends, lost loves and the paranormal. Hosted by Robert Stack, who reported cases in an eerie, monotone, yet warm and avuncular voice, this show was loved by Generation Y kids (myself included) all over the country for spooking us out weekday nights. The creepy electronic music helped too. This show was my introduction to cryptozoology, where I learned about Champ, Ogopogo and Bigfoot. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I’ve been able to watch the show and revisit many famous mysteries – some of which have been solved. But in the years since the show went off the air, I’ve come across many cases that were never featured on the show and I wished had been. So I’ve come up with a list of 10 cases that were never investigated by Unsolved Mysteries. Each case title will provide a link to an article or video that gives more information on the case. I will only list mysteries that happened before 2002, and I’m not taking into account the Dennis Farina series. What you are about to read is not a news broadcast.

Pay close attention. Perhaps you may be able to help solve a mystery.

10. A One Hour Special Devoted to the Famous Mysteries of Polar Exploration

Until the mid 20th Century, the North and South Poles were “the final frontier”. Underneath all that ice and snow, there are plenty of mysteries to explore. The first that comes to mind is the quest for the Northwest Passage. Why did so many expeditions fail, in particular the Expedition of Sir John Franklin? Now I know what you’re thinking: thanks to new forensic evidence and the discoveries of the shipwrecks Erebus and Terror, we’ve come close to solving the case of the missing Franklin Expedition. But in the 20th century the ships weren’t discovered yet and to this day there’s still unanswered questions: what killed Sir John Franklin so early in the expedition? What happened to Captain Francis Crozier? Why was the company contracted to provide the expedition with canned goods careless in their sealing methods that led to the downfall of the crew? Did Franklin pick the wrong route to travel in his quest for the Northwest Passage? If so, how could he – who had Arctic experience – pick such a disastrous route? Were there any survivors and did they spend the rest of their lives with the Inuit? Regardless, Franklin and his men were a big influence on Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who, thanks to his resourcefulness and humility, founded the Northwest Passage in 1906. But in 1928, while traveling by plane on a rescue mission, Amundsen disappeared. His body and plane were never found…

9. The Disappearance of Glenn Miller

We’ve all heard of plane crashes involving rock stars but when it comes to planes and jazz legends, only one name comes to mind: Glenn Miller. A big band leader and trombone player, Miller was best known for songs like “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”. Like other entertainers during World War Two, Miller traveled from base to base entertaining the troops. But on December 15, 1944 while flying in a UC-64 over the English Channel, he disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. What happened to Glenn Miller?

8. The Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter

In 1955 12 eyewitnesses – Elmer and Vera Sutton, Billy Ray and June Taylor, J.C. and Alene Sutton, O.P. Baker, Glennie Lankford and her 3 children – told Hopkinsville, KY police that the Sutton farmhouse in Kelly was “attacked” by unwanted visitors resembling aliens resulting in a two hour shootout. There were estimated to be about twelve to fifteen invaders. Despite intensive police investigation, no evidence of alien contact was ever verified. Were the farmhouse residents really startled by the presence of “goblins”? Was it just a case of mass hysteria and mistaken identity? Or was it all just a hoax? You be the judge.

7. The Boy In The Box

A case that still puzzles and disturbs people to this very day. On February 25, 1957 in Philadelphia, Frederick Benosis, a college student, came across a box filled with the remains of a little boy (estimated to be around 4-6 years old) covered with bruises, possibly malnourished and wrapped in a flannel blanket. What made this case even more difficult for police was that they couldn’t even figure out the identity of the little boy. And so he was christened “The Boy In the Box” and “America’s Unknown Child”. In the days following the discovery of the body, police did a thorough investigation of the crime scene, took postmortem photos of the child and distributed flyers all to no avail. The case remains open. Who was The Boy In the Box?

6. The Disappearance of Richey Edwards

Lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards was a member of Manic Street Preachers, a Welsh alternative rock band. At 7 A.M. on February 1 1995, the day he and a friend were scheduled to fly to the U.S. for a tour, Edwards vanished from his room at the Embassy Hotel in London. He took with him his passport, wallet, car keys and some Prozac. He had also withdrawn £2,800 from his bank account. Although eyewitnesses have stepped forward claiming to have seen or encounter Edwards, he’s never been seen or heard from since. What happened to Richey Edwards? What drove him to walk away from his career? Did he commit suicide or was he murdered? Is he still alive?

5. Who Was Indrid Cold?

While the Mothman was wrecking bridges, another bizarre legend arose in West Virignia in 1966. While driving home one night, sewing machine salesman Woodrow Derenberger came across a bizarre aircraft that stopped him in his tracks. Out came a man that looked like any other man save for one defining feature: he had a big grin frozen on his face. Communicating telepathically with Derenberger, he revealed that his name was Indrid Cold and that he would meet with Derenberger again, which he did. Derenberger reported this encounter to famed investigator John Keel, who then claimed to have received phone calls from the mysterious “Grinning Man”. But weeks before Derenberger and Keel had their encounters, two boys from Elizabeth, New Jersey – James Yanchitis and Martin Munov – were walking home when they passed by a fence and saw a man just standing there with a big grin across his face. It was the creepiest experience they ever had. Curiously the Grinning Man/Indrid Cold legend remains an event of the ’60s. There’s been no reported sightings since. Was Indrid Cold an actual alien? Was he just a drunken prankster? Or was this all a case of mass hysteria and frayed nerves?

4. Dune Tunes

Unsolved Mysteries once did a segment on mysterious hums and another segment on the Gurdon Lights. Now combine those two phenomena and you get singing sand dunes. Eye (ear?) witnesses claim to hear certain musical instruments (kettle drum, zither, tambourine, foghorn or harp) emitting from sand dunes. The most reported places are the Mojave Desert, Death Valley National Park and the Kelso Dunes. What causes this musical phenomena? Is it the dunes? Is it an echo from nearby cities? Or is it just the human imagination?

3. Who Killed The Red Baron?

One thing we can say with conviction: it wasn’t Snoopy. On April 21st, 1918, German ace pilot Manfred von Richthofen, commonly known as “The Red Baron”, was shot down over Vaux-sur-Somme. He was 25 years old. Despite the roster of possible “suspects”, no one can pinpoint who fired the shot that ended the military career of the man with 80 victories under his belt.

2. The Death of Dorothy Kilgallen

Before Oprah Winfrey, there was Dorothy Kilgallen, an influential – and I mean influential – journalist who wrote play reviews in her column The Voice of Broadway. She also hosted a radio show with her husband, Breakfast With Dick and Dorothy. She was a recurring panelist on the game show What’s My Line and she covered crime cases on the side. It was her sharp journalism skills that helped acquit Dr. Sam Shepherd of the murder of his wife.

These skills would be used again in 1963 with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After the assassination, arrest and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kilgallen wrote in The New York Journal American: “The point in this historic case is that the whole truth has not been told.” In other words, Kilgallen wasn’t buying what the FBI – and the press – were reporting to the masses, so she decided to do some investigating of her own. Then in 1965 she was found dead in her New York townhouse. The coroner ruled it a suicide, then a drug overdose. But some believe it was murder. Did she know too much?

1. The Dyatlov Pass Incident

In 1959 nine Russian ski hikers were found dead in their tents in the northern Ural Mountains (Kholat Syakhl). Examinations of the remains found evidence of hypothermia, skull and chest fractures, missing eyes and tongue from one of the victims. During the night, the skiers, inadequately dressed for the sub-zero environment, tore out of their tents and flee into the night. What made the group abandon their camp? Was it an avalanche? An animal attack? Or something more sinister?

Honorable Mentions:

For every mystery there is someone, somewhere who knows the truth. Perhaps that someone is watching. Perhaps…it’s you.

If you have any information, call us at 1-800-876-5353 or go to unsolved.com. Or just leave your thoughts in the comments section.

 

 

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I’m Not Surprised About James Gunn Getting Fired From Marvel

In fact, I had to smirk. It was a long time coming.

But it’s disgusting how all these celebs and fans are coming to the “disgraced” director’s defense with these lame excuses. Let’s look at some of them.

1. He was only joking, he wasn’t engaging in pedophilia.

Those tweets are no joke to the victims of childhood sexual abuse. In fact Gunn’s nasty humor is an example of “pedophilia culture”, when society normalizes, enables and celebrates sexual behavior involving children or teenagers. This includes movies, TV shows, music videos and porn. It also includes fashion and beauty ads that promote the ideal female (and sometimes male) body as prepubescent. And tasteless tweets like the ones Gunn posted.

2. Disney is no better, just look at Song of the South.

Song of the South is a 1946 animated/live action film about a white little boy who seeks advise from Uncle Remus, a black sharecropper who uses stories about “Br’er Rabbit”, “Br’er Fox” and “Br’er Bear” to help the little boy with his problems. Gunn’s supporters are comparing this 72 year old film made during a time when racism was common, to some 10 year old tweets, a 40 something Gunn made. That’s a pretty big age gap and not only that, Disney has announced over and over again, that SOTS is an old shame they will keep in their vaults and never release to the public.

3. Gunn was a different person 10 years ago, he’s changed!

I can expect this kind of behavior from a school age boy, but not a man in his 40s. What grown man makes such disgusting jokes publicly? Did you make pedophilia jokes 10 years ago?

James Gunn hasn’t changed. Never did, never will.

Long before Gunn was hired to direct Guardians of the Galaxy, girl geeks unearthed a list he typed of female superheroes he’d like to bed. It isn’t pretty. (Not surprisingly, the writer of the post asked readers to write to Disney to fire Gunn from GOTG.) Of course Gunn took down the post and issued an apology. However, when GOTG was released in 2014, it appeared that Gunn didn’t learn his lesson. The same old sexism was there, as pointed out by some critics.

Lady Geek Girl and Friends:

For one thing, it literally started with a lady getting fridged. Peter’s mom dies to give him angst throughout the rest of the movie, and then Drax brings our “fridged for your manpain” death count up to three with his wife and daughter. Women are also used as props: for example, shortly after escaping from the planet where he found the orb, Peter realizes his hookup from the night before is still on board his ship. Her presence and the tired “what was your name again” repartee are there entirely to establish Peter’s playboy status. I was surprised and pleased, though, that the scene in the trailer which seemed to imply that Gamora and Peter hooked up mid-movie was not actually included in the film.

But the fact that there was a hookup scene to begin with is still bothersome.

Andrea Morgan:

Melia Kreiling portrays Bereet, a vaguely-alien humanoid whose key scene involves Quill shamelessly admitting to forgetting her existence even though they’d recently had sex. In the next scene, she speaks broken English and is servile to Quill; it struck me as an extraterrestrial variation of the Asian girlfriend trope. This was one of the few moments in the film where I actually didn’t like Pratt’s character. Unfortunately, this a-girl-in-every-spaceport sexism is leaned on for laughs throughout the film. Pratt is still playing a heterosexual white male lead, and Gunn won’t let you forget it.

 There is a female character credited only as Tortured Pink Girl (Laura Ortiz). For some reason, Benicio Del Toro plays the sadistic Collector (kind of an older, huskier Ziggy Stardust), with whom Quill seeks to do business. We see that the Collector has enslaved at least two women; both are displayed in pigtails and pink jumpers. One is forced to wash the glass cage of the other. The woman in the cage is on her knees, bound and gagged with electric ropes, a clear look of pain and fear in her eyes.

Quill and crew are less concerned with the fate of the women than with money and exposition. When the uncaged woman, Carina (Ophelia Lovibond), desperately attempts to use the power of an ancient artifact to free herself, she’s immolated instead. We’re left to assume that the other captive woman is also killed in the subsequent cataclysm.
Things didn’t get any better in the 2017 sequel. Clara Mae had this to say about the character assassination of Mantis:
Whereas in the comics Mantis is a celestial goddess, in GOTG2 she’s simply a servant to a celestial god, Ego, Peter Quill’s father. Stripped of her powers and physical strength, we are explicitly told that Mantis is only an empath, and that she travels with Ego to “help him sleep.” Just sit with that for a second: in the comics, Mantis is a young Asian woman who’s trained from birth as a skilled fighter, becomes an Avenger, and eventually transforms into a goddess. In the film, Mantis is an infantile, wide-eyed Asian woman who is introduced as the servant to an old white man who she calls master. The white man raises her and keeps her by his side so she can use her skills to put him to sleep. She’s clearly afraid of him, and it’s revealed that she’s never interacted with anyone outside of her master. This relationship has horrendous connotations, and it’s a wonder why Gunn completely rewrote Mantis’ backstory to include this. It’s the exact kind of demeaning Asian woman trope that comics Mantis herself avoided, so why is it in GOTG2?

 

Mantis exhibits all the signs of a woman who is being mistreated, but rather than save her immediately, the Guardians simply ignore it. Excited to finally meet his father, Peter is never bothered to acknowledge Mantis or her plight in any tangible way, a marked difference from the comics where Peter goes out of his way to recruit Mantis and has a positive relationship with her. As for the rest of the Guardians, they actively participate in Mantis’ abuse: not only are their insults and violence against Mantis normalized, they’re even used for comedic effect. Each of the Guardians’ actions help to enforce an idea that film Mantis has already internalized: she is worthless.

We see this a lot in Mantis’ troubling relationship with Drax, who is the only one of the Guardians who even remotely attempts to interact with Mantis, but half of those interactions involve Drax insulting Mantis’ appearance. Later, when Mantis rushes to his room in a panic to warn him about Ego’s evil plan, he automatically assumes Mantis is there for sex, to which he exaggeratedly makes retching noises about.

And then there’s the physical violence that Mantis suffers. When she meets Rocket Raccoon, Drax leads her to believe he’s his pet. When she reaches out to touch him, Raccoon snaps around and bites into her hand; she cries out, terrified, as Drax roars with laughter. Later, when Mantis reaches out to Gamora to demonstrate her empath powers, she’s immediately grabbed by the wrists and told, “Touch me, and the only thing you’re going to feel is a broken jaw.” When Gamora finally finds out the truth about Ego’s plans, she runs up to Mantis, grabs her by the throat, slams her against the wall, and tries to choke her. Gamora never apologizes for this, and we never see any follow-up to assure us that Gamora and Mantis will have any relationship beyond these moments of animosity.

“But what about Gamora?” you may ask. “She’s a strong female character. She’s the most dangerous woman in the universe.” Is she? Not according to Dylan Dembrow:

When they’re planning their prison break, Rocket proposes that Gamora use her body to make a trade with the male guards to aid in their escape. Later, Drax the Destroyer flat out refers to Gamora as a “green wh**e.” This makes little sense considering that Drax is a literalist, and he’s had no reason to believe Gamora has worked in this capacity in the past.

The Gamora we often get in the MCU is more bark than bite. She certainly comes across as an intimidating force thanks to Zoe Saldana’s powerful performance, but when she’s actually engaged in battle with an enemy, Gamora often ends up on the losing side.

Outside of engaging in combat, doing a bit of heavy lifting, and being able to jump really far in a pinch, Gamora powers seem diminished to nothing more than some boosted strength. What’s more, is that her strength and fighting skills haven’t been all that impressive to date, with even Peter getting the better of her during a skirmish.

So much for being one of the most dangerous women in existence.

Or Hugh Armitage:

The MCU’s Gamora has been too much defined by the men in her life, minimising her own narrative for the sake of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and later, Thanos (Josh Brolin).

Gamora’s main narrative in the Guardians films was about Peter Quill seducing her. The film falls into all the old, well-worn clichés, reducing Gamora to a damsel in distress dying in space so that Peter can save her. How much more interesting it would have been for her to save him for a change, and it would have made more sense considering that she is manifestly tougher and more reliable than our designated hero.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 continues the theme, with Peter convincing her to like his music and dance with him. Maybe it’s just not her thing – leave her alone, you creep.

Yet despite these criticisms – or maybe because of them – Guardians of the Galaxy became the highest grossing film of 2014 and Volume 2 got an Oscar nomination for… something, thus proving that if you’re not not disgusted, you’re not paying attention.

Firing James Gunn from Guardians 3 will not doom the franchise. They can always rehire Nicole Perlman (who wrote the script for the 1st movie, only for it to get rewritten) to write the script. There are other qualified directors to hire (like Taika Waititi or even a woman director). Critics are so enamored of the MCU (or at least bribed to like it), they’ll give GOTG 3 a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

While Karma continues its rampage.

 

 

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Ladies, I’m Worried About Her Universe

Note: This post was first written in June so the numbers may have changed.

Recently I watched the 2018 Her Universe Fashion Show on YouTube. While I was impressed with the creativity and hard work put into these geeky haute courture designs, it reminded me of something I’ve been noticing over at the company lately.

There’s a lot of Disney clothes and accessories.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Her Universe, it’s a fashion company launched by Star Wars actress Ashley Eckstein, dedicated to fighting the stereotype that science fiction is for boys. On the site girls and women can shop for clothes and accessories mostly inspired by Star WarsStar Trek, Marvel and Doctor Who. I wasn’t a regular customer but once and awhile a shirt  would catch my fancy and I’d buy it, like this one:

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this one:

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and this one:

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However, it’s come to my attention recently that Her Universe may be slowly drifting away from its original mission. The flames of doubt were lit when I saw this summary of Ashley’s new book It’s Your Universe:

Ashley Eckstein grew up inspired by all things Disney. She launched Her Universe, an apparel company catering to fan girls, which has become a preferred partner for Disney and their girl power initiative. In IT’S YOUR UNIVERSE, Ashley shares her own life lessons, as well as lessons from iconic Disney characters, as a way to inspire girls to create big dreams and work to make them a reality. Ashley tells her story of being a little girl dreaming of being on a Disney stage, voicing the first female Jedi, Ahsoka Tano, and starting Her Universe, a blockbuster clothing line and community for fangirls. With prompts for journal entries and quotes from iconic Disney characters, Ashley shows how princesses, Jedi, and super heroes were great role models for choosing her own path.

Disney! Disney! Disney! All it talks about is Disney! What a stark contrast from this 2010 video introducing Her Universe:

No shout-out to princesses what so ever. And the clothes in the video is Star Wars, Star Wars, STAR WARS! Because, of course, Ashley got her big break with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. 

Now here’s Her Universe’s current merchandise line up. As I click on “New Arrivals” I tallied for each category:

Disney: 59 items

Star Wars: 57 items

Marvel: 28 items

Misc.: 23 items

Studio Ghibli: 17 items

Doctor Who: 3 items

Star Trek: 1 item

As you can see, Disney took the top spot with the most items while Star Trek and Doctor Who came in last.

Then I clicked on “Shop By License”: Star Wars takes the lead with 264 results thanks to The Last Jedi (porg merch) and Solo. Disney comes in 2nd with 198 results. Marvel comes in third at 140. Next is Studio Ghibli at 72. Doctor Who has 40 results. Wonder Woman comes in at 6th with 34 results, while Star Trek is left again in the dust with a measly 9 results. While I breathed a sigh of relief that Star Wars is still the “face” of the company, the percentage is, by a rough estimate, 80% ST, 20% OT and 10% PT thanks to Ahsoka merchandise (note: with SW:TCW in its 10th anniversary, that’s jumped to 273 results). But don’t be surprised if Disney merch soon eclipses the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Now I’m not saying that girls and women can’t express their undying love for Disney in their wardrobe. I’m just saying that it doesn’t challenge societal expectations. Nobody bats an eye when a girl expresses her love for all things Disney. Nobody says “girls don’t like Disney” because Disney has always appealed to girls. More than half of Disney movies feature female protagonists. The Disney Princess brand has made billions of dollars in toys, costumes, clothing, school supplies and anything else you can slap an Ariel or a Cinderella on. There’s also Tinkerbell and the Disney Fairies and Minnie Mouse. Female visitors to Disneyland can get princess makeovers. Disney caters to girls so much that boys started to complain about it and they introduced pirate makeovers. If I wanted Disney fashions and jewelry I could just go to my nearest Hot Topic, Target, Box Lunch or the Disney Store.

And as for the Studio Ghibli stuff, I don’t even think that’s much of a fangirl stretch either because the majority of their films are about female protagonists (because of this, Hayao Miyazaki is considered an ally among feminists).

But people have said that comics, Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who are for boys and girls have had to prove otherwise, over and over again. Again, Her Universe was supposed to subvert that mindset, right? In fact my biggest pet peeve with HU is that they never expanded their line to include other IPs like The Twilight Zone, Babylon 5, Alien, Planet of the Apes, Lord of the Rings, Xena: Warrior Princess, The Outer Limits, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Battlestar Galactica, Forbidden Planet, Jurassic Park, heck, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I once sent an email suggesting Xena merch but so far, nothing’s come of it). Perhaps we, the Fangirls, should follow my example by speaking up and demanding new sci-fi centered merch. But if we shrug our shoulders and ignore it, Her Universe could become Her Disney.

May the Force be with us all…

 

 

 

 

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I’m a Woman and I Don’t Like The New She-Ra

If you’re a child of the ’80s, chances are you’ve seen Masters of the Universe and its spinoff show She-Ra, Princess of Power. If you were a girl, She-Ra may have been your childhood hero. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the show, read this. The latest project in Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with all things ’80s (read: Ready Player One), Netflix will be rebooting the beloved cartoon show for a new generation of children with all new designs for She-Ra (and Adora), Bow, Catra and Glimmer. Here they are:

She-Ra

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Catra

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Bow

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and Glimmer:

 

Glimmer__Bow_and_Adora

 

So you can guess that by now fan opinion is strongly divided and we’re back to the whole Toxic Fandom™ discussion again. On Twitter I’ve been coming across these kinds of tweets from the pro New-Ra side:

(I have no clue what this guy is talking about.)

It appears the common complaint these people have is, once again, men (and it’s always men) are griping over the new She-Ra because “she’s not sexy enough”, “she’s not feminine enough”, etc. etc. and their counter arguments are – wait for it – “This She-Ra isn’t for you! She’s for a new generation of little girls! She’s more realistic! Women come in all shapes and sizes!” blah, blah, blah. They accuse these “incel” haters of never liking the original show in the first place, yet the impression I’m getting from these people is that the old She-Ra was some “porn star” that presented an unrealistic body image to little girls.

(And the old one wasn’t? It had campy characters like Madam Razz, Cowl, Lookee, Sorrowful and the inhabitants of Whispering Woods.)

Then there’s this:

“She’s a warrior, so she’s not gonna look too womanly.” Did this guy forget that Gal Gadot once served in the Israeli military? Has he ever seen the documentary Served Like a Girl on PBS?

(There was another tweet a couple of days back – naturally I can’t find it now – where a man said that there’s finally a She-Ra for girls and women. So what was the original show written for, barnyard animals?)

Then they argue that New-Ra is a teenager which is why she doesn’t have breasts. Last time I checked most teenage girls have developing breasts. In fact all women have breasts because – *deep breath* – THEY’RE WOMEN!!!

Now let’s look at ’80s She-Ra:

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Does this look like a woman with a tiny waist and heavy cleavage to you? When I watched this show as a child, I never saw anything sexual about it. She-Ra appealed to me because she was brave, wise and kind. She saw potential in everyone she met, whether it was a cowardly dragon or the nephew of Hordak. She proved that women can be strong and feminine at the same time. The show appealed to girls and boys because it embraced its masculine and feminine sides. While I like the fact that the new She-Ra is more covered up, I’ve noticed that ’80s She-Ra was more covered up than her male companions, who almost wore next to nothing!

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(OK ladies, confession time: raise your hand if He-Man was your first crush.)

My point is this: not everyone complaining about the upcoming new show is a sexist man who jerks off to pretty fictional characters. Some women aren’t impressed and I’m one of them. I don’t like the new designs because a.) the characters look ugly, b.) they’re too androgynous, and c.) it’s just another lazy reboot we don’t need.

Why can’t we just keep introducing new generations of kids to ’80s cartoons like She-Ra and create new female heroes instead? If the television industry wants to reboot/remake, why not reboot forgotten properties like Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, Sheena: Jungle Queen, Phantom Lady, Moon Girl or that short-lived, totally awesome, Calamity Jane cartoon I adored as a 13 year old? Personally I wished Netflix and DC had teamed up to expand the DC Nation cartoon adventures of Amy Winston.

Again I repeat, if  you’re one of those people on Twitter who thinks that only men are unimpressed with this show, here’s one woman who’s not excited for the new She-Ra and doesn’t care whether the show is aimed at me or not. No boyish, animesque She-Ra will ever replace my Princess of Power.

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Watch this video, this woman is super-pissed about the new design:

One more thing: Noelle Stevenson, the creator of Netflix She-Ra wasn’t even born when the original She-Ra was on TV!

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