Category Archives: feminism

Relevant Reads: “The Screwfly Solution”

Call me a Gilead-loving Martha, but I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. Compared to books like Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, the Persepolis duology, Infidel, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced and Not Without My Daughter, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian story about a theocratic U.S. that oppresses women feels more like a Disney movie than a cautionary tale.

Which is why I’m glad I discovered James Tiptree’s (note: Alice Sheldon wrote this story under the name Racoona Sheldon but it’s always recognized as a Tiptree story) 1977 Nebula-award winning short story “The Screwfly Solution”, a spine-tingling yarn that’s one-part alien invasion, two-parts femicide, with a heaping helping of religious fervor.

Now why am I comparing “The Screwfly Solution” to The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, one speculates on a future that may or may not happen. The other can happen anywhere and anytime to any woman regardless of her age, size, class, color or beliefs. It can happen in the home, the office, the school and even on the street. Not all women can relate to The Handmaid’s Tale but every woman can relate to “The Screwfly Solution”.

It’s unknown what inspired Tiptree to write “The Screwfly Solution”. Was it the many serial killer cases (of whom the majority of victims were women) that occured in the ’60s and ’70s – among them the 1977 Hillside Strangler case? We may never know because Tiptree died in 1987.

The story is framed in the form of letters between a husband and wife named Alan and Anne. Alan is in Columbia studying insects and Anne is telling him about some disturbing news reports back home:

The Red Cross has set up a refugee camp in Ashton, Georgia. Imagine, refugees in the U.S.A. I heard two little girls were carried out all slashed up.

All I could see about the clippings was that they were fairly horrible accounts of murders or massacres of women. The worst was the New Delhi one, about ‘rafts of female corpses’ in the river. The funniest (!) was the Texas Army officer who shot his wife, three daughters, and his aunt, because God told him to clean the place up.

In case you haven’t guessed, men are spontaneously murdering women in droves. From New Delhi to Cape Hatteras, bodies of slain women have been piling up in rivers and gulfs and everywhere else. It’s gotten so bad that an advertisement catches Alan’s eye:

THE FORSETTE FUNERAL HOME REGRETFULLY ANNOUNCES IT WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT FEMALE CADAVERS

Go ahead, shudder. Then pause for a moment because it’s all too familiar. Just look at these current events in our world:

A man in Turku, Finland attacks six women with a knife, resulting in two deaths.

In Marseille, France two cousins are stabbed to death while waiting at a train station.

Journalist Kim Wall’s body was found floating in a bag decapitated, dismembered, full of stab wounds and stitches sown into her torso. 

A man who identifies as a woman, murders a lesbian couple and their son in Oakland, CA.

A female torso is found floating in the Oshawa Harbor.

Here’s an in-depth article about violence against women.

WomenCountUSA is a website devoted to the number of girls and women murdered by men.

And let’s not forget India’s “missing girls”.

Yet what do all these cases have in common? They’ve gotten minimal news coverage or have been dismissed out of hand. Just as the murder of women is taken for granted in the story, misogynistic violence in real life isn’t taken as seriously as, say, racial violence or homophobic violence (the murder of the Oakland lesbian couple was barely mentioned in LGBT news media).

But systematic femicide isn’t the only problem affecting society in “The Screwfly Solution”Anne reveals another disturbing trend: a new religion has been gaining acceptance in society:

They’re calling it the Sons of Adam cult now.

What does this cult believe? Alan pulls out a flimsy sent by his friend Barney who explains via a book titled Man Listens to God:

Man must purify himself and show God a clean world…as long as man depends on the old, filthy animal way, God won’t help him. When man gets rid of his animal part which is woman, this is the signal God is awaiting. Then God will reveal the new true clean way, maybe angels will come bringing new souls, or maybe we will live forever, but it is not our place to speculate, only to obey.

And when they say “man gets rid of his animal part which is woman”, Barney means it in a literal way. In the same flimsy he relates a meeting with the Mayor (a devoted member of the new religion) of Peedsville to investigate this new cult – which ends in the casual murder of a female colleague:

Mayor Blount drove up in a police cruiser, and our chief…explained our mission from the Surgeon General. Dr. Premack was very careful not to make any remarks insulting to the mayor’s religion. Mayor Blount agreed to let the party go on into Peedsville to take samples of the soil and water and so on and talk to the doctor who lives there.

The mayor was about 6’2″, weight maybe 230 or 240, tanned, with grayish hair. He was smiling and chuckling in a friendly manner.

Then he looked in the car and saw Dr. Elaine Fay and he blew up. He started yelling we had to all get the hell back. But Dr. Premack talked to him and cooled him down, and finally the mayor said Dr. Fay should go into the warehouse office and stay there with the door closed.

Then Mayor Blount…came in…he smiled at me sort of fatherly, but he looked tense. He asked me where Dr. Fay was, and I told him she was lying down in back. Then he kind of sighed and went back down the hall, closing the door behind him.

After a while the door opened and Mayor Blount came back in. He looked terrible, his clothes were messed up, and he had bloody scrape marks on his face. He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me hard and fierce, like he might have been disoriented. I saw his zipper was open and there was blood on his clothing and also on his (private parts).

I didn’t feel frightened, I felt something important had happened. I tried to get him to sit down. But he motioned me to follow him back down the hall to where Dr. Fay was. “You must see”, he said. He went into the toilet and I went into a kind of little room there, where the cot was. I saw Dr. Fay lying on the cot in a peaceful appearance. She was lying straight, her clothing was to some extent different but her legs were together… Her blouse was pulled up, and I saw there was a cut or incision on her abdomen. The blood was coming out of there…Also her throat was cut open.

I returned to the office. Mayor Blount was sitting down, looking very tired. He had cleaned himself off. He said, “I did it for you. Do you understand?”

He went on to explain how Dr. Fay was very dangerous, she was what they call a cripto-female (crypto?) the most dangerous kind. He had exposed her and purified the situation.

Judging from what I’ve highlighted in bold you can guess why the mayor got away with murder. That’s right, “religious tolerance”. Early on in the story Anne raises the question:

Why can’t they do something, even if it is a religion?

Sound familiar? Here’s some more examples from our world:

At the Women’s March this year a woman holding an “Islam is Misogynistic” sign was attacked by protesters for “spreading hate”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled feminist, FGM survivor and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an “extremist”.

I myself was subjected to this. When I was a high school junior, I told my class about the way women were treated in Saudi Arabia (thanks to the previously mentioned book Princess) in the name of religion and a Muslim boy (who was a real thorn in my side) interrupted me and accused me of Islamophobia. Guess who the teacher (who hoped that one day the US would have a woman president) sided with?

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As the story reaches its conclusion, Alan kills himself after murdering his and Anne’s teenage daughter, and Anne – possibly the only woman left alive on Earth – is living in seclusion in the woods of Canada (at this rate the men are now murdering little boys in rapid numbers). Disguised as a man, she only comes to the local general store in her area for whatever she needs and hears talk from the men about angel sightings (proof to the men that they’re doing God’s Will). Then one day Anne sees the “angel” for herself and she realizes that it’s not an angel but an alien:

Let me repeat – it was there. And I think they’ve done whatever it is to us. Made us kill ourselves off.

Why?

Well, it’s a nice place, if it wasn’t for the people.

So it turns out that the aliens are spreading a mental delusion/disease among men, influencing them to murder the female half of the population, then boys and eventually each other. Once humanity goes extinct, the earth is ripe for the taking.

Are you interested in reading “The Screwfly Solution”? It’s available as a selection  of the only Tiptree anthology in print (bummer) Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. If you have read “The Screwfly Solution” or seen the Masters of Horror adaptation, what impressed you most about the story? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under classic sf horror, feminism, James Tiptree Jr., science fiction, speculative fiction

I’m Not Surprised About Joss Whedon’s Leaked “Wonder Woman” Script (Updated)

Or “I’m Not Surprised People Are Flipping Out Over This Unearthed Hokey Wonder Woman Script Joss Whedon Wrote”. Nope, I’m not. If anything I’m smirking and saying “I told you sooooo!”

As women across the nation are rediscovering their love for Wonder Woman, word on the street is there’s a leaked script online of Joss Whedon’s rejected screeplay (dated August 7, 2006) for a proposed Wonder Woman movie. At the time people thought that a film about the First Lady of Comics made by the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a match made in heaven. So when the project was dropped, screams of outrage arose over DC’s “misunderstanding of women” (a sentiment echoed repeatedly throughout Tumblr). Now femgeeks have to eat their words as they read this ridiculous script. And you can read it here – if you dare.

I’ve only read the first four pages and it already reeks of stupidity. The story starts off from Steve’s – not Diana’s – point of view as he crashes his plane on Themyscira. Diana has no characterization – none of the Amazons have characterization, they have the personalities of fembots – but Whedon describes her/their physical beauty in detail. The dialogue is sloppy: characters say lines that make no sense and conversations are cut off and never finished. So much so that you have no clue why the characters say what they say or what their talking about.

So you may be asking: “how could Whedon, an avowed feminist, mess up such a feminist character? Especially when he’s famous for creating ‘strong female characters’?” I’ll let you in on a little secret:

Joss Whedon doesn’t respect Wonder Woman.

How do I know this? I have in my possession, from the November 26, 2010 issue of Entertainment Weekly, the Benjamin Svetkey penned article “What About Wonder Woman?” The article runs from page 42 to page 46 and talks about the difficulties of getting the heroine onto the silver screen. Throughout, Whedon gives his two cents about why this is the case and it’s not very flattering…

In Whedon’s own words on page 44:

“She has no city,” Whedon says, ticking off a list of problems he had with the character when hired to write and direct a Wonder Woman film five years ago. “She has no great rogues gallery. And she’s distant in a way that makes it hard to create identification. Spider-Man is a nerd. Batman is in pain. But Wonder Woman is from an era where superheroes were supposed to be like Greek gods. She’s above us and different from us. That makes it hard to make her emotionally relevant.”

Continuing on page 45

“Tone was an issue,” he says. “People still think of Wonder Woman as kind of silly. They have fond memories of the TV show but think of her as a kind of goofy lady.”

“I didn’t make it about how we view women. I never got hard-feminist with it. I didn’t need to. She’s a goddess. She’s stronger than Steve Trevor. We get it.

And finally, on page 46:

Even Whedon sounds like he’s souring on the old girl. “If someone else can come along and create a cool Wonder Woman movie and pull it off, that’s great,” he says. “But I don’t necessarily think we need a Wonder Woman movie per se. We need more female heroes. We need ‘wonder women’ movies. But Wonder Woman may not be the wonder woman we need.”

Make that of what you will, but reading this made me want to punch Whedon in the face with an iron glove. I just couldn’t believe he got away with saying such garbage. But then why should I be surprised? Whedon was never a feminist. Here’s some reasons why.

He’s Given Us An Unrealistic Portrayal of Women

The biggest issue I’ve always had with Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the casting of the 5’4″, doe-eyed, girly Sarah Michelle Gellar as a butt-kicking slayer. To me she looked more like a Seventeen cover girl than an action shero. Just the sight of her drives me nuts. Some of you will point out that as a slayer, she’s can fight because she’s superpowered, so height and weight shouldn’t matter. But so’s Wonder Woman, Big Barda and Supergirl and they’re still physically imposing. Anakin and Luke Skywalker were strong in the Force yet Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen are 5’9″ and 6’0″ respectively. “But they’re men,” you may argue, “Of course they’ll be taller. Sarah’s a woman.” Yeah, and so is Sigourney Weaver (6’0″), Hayley Atwell (5’7″), Uma Thurman (6’0″), Lucy Lawless (5’10), Pam Grier (5’8″), Gal Gadot (5’10”), Lynda Carter (5’9″) and Charlize Theron (5’10”). Buffy looks like a pathetic weakling compared to their characters. Now if you’re a Star Warrior like me, you may be wondering how I can embrace short actresses like Natalie Portman (5’3″) and Carrie Fisher (5’1″) as action girls? Because they used firearms to help them fight. They were expert markswomen. When they had to use physical force, they really had to put some muscle into it. Leia had to pull with all her might to strangle Jabba and Padme had use her chain in any way possible to fight off that nexu. If Buffy used firearms instead of fists, I might let her off the hook.

Buffy is not the only tough skinny gal in the Whedonverse. We also have River Tam, in J.F. Sargent’s words – “a badass kung fu killing machine”- played by “the pretty, wispy Summer Glau”. Thanks to Whedon, these women have become such a fixture in pop culture that its coined a new phrase: waif-fu, where a woman without musculature or fat on her frame can beat up (mostly male) trained soldiers twice her size. Some of you will accuse me of body-shaming but I believe that waif-fu is another way to water down feminism to make it appealing to men who are threatened by powerful, strong women. Case in point, an issue of the defunct Wizard magazine.

In the previous decade, I used to check out issues from the library all the time because I wanted to read about the latest in comics and action figures. But something was bothering me. While there were plenty of articles about Buffy, there were no issues about Xena – not even a nostalgic article about the Warrior Princess’ influence on popular culture (Starlog on the other hand, once had an interview with Lucy Lawless titled “Life After Xena”). If there were any listicles about “the hottest women in sci-fi and fantasy” or “women that had an strong influence on sci-fi and fantasy”, Buffy – and Sarah Michelle Gellar – were among the honorees. But not Xena or Lucy Lawless. So I wrote a letter asking why Xena was being ignored. I even said that she was far more feminist and groundbreaking than (my words) “that cutesy vampire slayer”. To my surprise my letter was published in one of their issues – and it spoke volumes.

The person to answer my question was a guy named thwack. I kid you not. Thwack said: “Thwack is deep inside a scared man-child who’s afraid of a tall, powerful woman with a phallic sword. And you said it, Buffy was cute.”

Talk about your castration fears. Xena is too tall, too physically imposing and too powerful to be respected. Buffy, despite her butt-kicking nature, gets more love because, at the end of the day, she’s not a threat to men. Maybe this explains why Whedon struggled with Wonder Woman – she’s too powerful and intimidating for him to handle.

Firefly and Prostitution

Firefly, ah Firefly. Fans are still mourning your early cancellation. Rupert Murdoch has become Satan incarnate for axeing the Greatest Story Ever Told since the Bible. I checked you out from the library once to see if you were worth all the fuss and what scene makes me sick to my stomach? Some soldier atop a woman, humping her till she reaches orgasm (complete with cries of “Oh God”. I thought you didn’t believe in God, Whedon.). The woman in question is Inara, a prostit- er, “companion” who’s main reason for existing is to be present on a spaceship for legal means. So in the future, prostitution, an institution that harms women’s bodies, will not only be legal it will be mandatory in order to rent a spaceship (According to the DVD commentary for Serenity, there was going to be a scene where Inara would teach archery to other girls but it was scrapped because “she appeared too much like Wonder Woman”). Let’s not forget the lingering closeups of her body as she bathes. I also have to mention the controversy regarding its plundering of Asian culture and language but no Asian actors among its cast. I have to say I’m glad Rupert Murdoch had the good sense to cancel this garbage.

He Blames Alien: Resurrection on the Actors

Did you know Whedon wrote the screenplay for Alien: Resurrection? Did you know it’s also considered among fans to be the one of the worst entries in the franchise? Here’s why the film failed according to Whedon:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong they could possibly do. That’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking. Because everything they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from it. And people assume that if I hated it then they’d changed the script…but it wasn’t so much they changed it, they executed it in such a ghastly fashion they rendered it unwatchable.”

What makes this complaint so laughable? The fact that talented actors like Sigourney Weaver (again, a physically imposing woman), Winona Ryder and Ron Perlman were cast and he said “they cast it wrong”. Need I say more?

He Makes Asinine Tweets

I will end this post with a link to one of the worst tweets in the history of Twitter.

Go away Joss. Go away and hand the Batgirl movie over to Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppela, Amy Heckerling, Niki Caro or Penelope Spheeris.

Go away and never return.

Update: Now we’ve learned that his ex-wife Kai Cole has written a tell-all essay about how miserable he made her during their 15 years of marriage. The mask is REALLY starting to slip…

 

 

 

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I Am A Queen

I am a queen.

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I’m brave sometimes,

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I’m scared sometimes.

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Sometimes I’m brave even when I’m scared.

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I believe in loyalty and trust,

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I believe loyalty is built on trust.

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I am a queen.

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I think standing up for myself is important,

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I think standing up for others is more important,

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But standing with others is most important.

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I am a queen.

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I believe caring makes me strong,

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Kindness is power,

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And family is the tightest bond of all.

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I’ve heard that I’m beautiful,

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I know I’m strong.

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I am a queen.

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Long may I reign.

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(This was made in response to Lucasfilm’s International Day of the Girl video to promote the women of Star Wars, which previously excluded Padme, but, thanks to fan demand, now includes Padme. So, in the spirit of irony, I lifted the words from Disney’s “I Am a Princess” video, to celebrate the unsung queens of Star Wars, because not enough little girls go through a queen phase.

And seriously, there needs to be a “Disney Queen” collection!)

 

 

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You Must See “Advantageous”

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Watch out – spoilers about.

“The Best Sci-Fi Film of 2015 is Here – And It’s Not ‘Mad Max'” read the headline of a Business Insider article one summer day.

Whaaaat?!  You mean to tell me that MM:FR wasn’t the only SF film released this year that dealt with feminist themes? That another filmmaker, a woman named Jennifer Phang, also wrote (along with actress Jaqueline Kim) and directed a movie about a woman’s struggle against an unfair society (note: this is not to say Mad Max: Fury Road is a bad film. I enjoyed it very much. But it shouldn’t be the only sf film to address feminist issues. We need more films like this and Mad Max)?

Yes, Advantageous, starring Jaqueline Kim and Ken Jeong, is about a future where the economy is in decline, jobs are hard to find, a good education is achieved by the lottery instead of enrollment, a majority of the homeless population is female and infertility is at an all-time high. But unlike Mad Max, which shows us a desolate post apocalyptic wasteland, this unnamed futuristic city by all appearances is pleasing to look at. One of its citizens is Gwen Koh (Jaqueline Kim), a Korean-American woman who works at the lucrative Center For Advanced Health And Living as a spokesperson. All she wants in life is to give her only daughter (Samantha Kim) a bright future. She will stop at nothing to make sure Jules gets into the most prestigious school in the country…

But there’s one problem: she’s about to lose her job because the company wants a new spokeswoman who’s younger and more “racially ambiguous”. The only employment she can get at her age is that of an egg donor. This is laughable because Gwen is only in her forties and is a very beautiful and intelligent woman.

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There’s only one other solution for Gwen. Try out this new experiment where she can transfer her consciousness into another body. However, for a year she will have to deal with constant pain and take shots to help her keep breathing. There’s also a more serious side effect that’s not revealed until later in the film.

Before undergoing the procedure, Gwen visits her estranged cousin, Lily, (Jennifer Ikeda) and her husband, Han (Ken Jeong) for help. It’s at this moment in the film we learn of Gwen’s dark secret: she and Han had an affair years ago and he is Jules father. Gwen has been able to stay out of their lives since then, but now she needs them more than ever but Lily refuses because she and Han have children of their own.

After their last Christmas together, Gwen and Jules pick out a body and Gwen undergoes the procedure. Due to the success of Gwen 2.0 (Freya Adams), customer demands for the procedure have skyrocketed.

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But not all is successful for Gwen’s and Jules’ relationship as mother and daughter. Gwen 2.0 can’t seem to rekindle that emotional bond with Jules she had before the transfer. Her memories are slowly fading away as Gwen’s original consciousness ceased to exist during the procedure. There’s no way for them to continuously transfer her old memories into her new body. To all extents and purposes, Gwen Koh is dead.

But not all is lost. Lily and Han have seen footage of the new Gwen, had a change of heart and decided that they will help her and Jules after all. They decide to meet at the park for a picnic where Jules will meet her “new”, extended family for the first time.

In an age of genre films where big budget special effects, explosions, violence and fast paced storytelling have become the norm, Advantageous feels like a breath of much-needed fresh air. It doesn’t have any action sequences (The only action scene in the entire movie is where a flying “car” crashes into a building as an act of terrorism. The only reaction is one of weariness from the characters because terrorism has become too commonplace). It’s not loud and boisterous. It’s quiet and reflective. It takes its time. You also have to really pay attention to “clues” as to how this society works. One scene has Gwen sitting in the park talking to her mother on the phone. She notices a teenage girl in the distance wearing a strange mask. Behind a tree she changes her clothes. She takes off the mask with a different identity. Is this a mask sold by the Center For Advanced Health And Living? Is changing one’s appearance the norm?

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, the story would’ve devolved into some “conspiracy thriller” where Gwen would’ve confronted the company she works for, demanded her old body back, possibly at gunpoint, transferred back into Gwen 1.0 and lived happily ever after. You won’t find that here because it would undermine the message of the story. There’s no sex and very little profanity. Most importantly, it uses the future to warn us about the present. After all isn’t that what science fiction is all about?

Another refreshing aspect of the film is its diversity in its cast. There’re only four men with speaking roles and most of the cast is made up of women of different ethnic backgrounds. Unlike others who’ve done nothing but criticize Hollywood for lack of inclusion in genre films, Phang and Kim, took the initiative and made their own sci-fi movie where the protagonist wasn’t a white male. Most of the main cast is of Asian descent, yet their problems are not related to a specific cultural identity. But most importantly the film uses science fiction to address  current issues relating to women’s rights which is why it’s just as good as Mad Max.

Maybe even better.

Winner of the 2015 Sundance Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision and only available on Netflix. 

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Gwen (Jaqueline Kim) and her daughter (Samantha Kim) enjoy a quiet moment.

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Jennifer Ehle plays Isa Cryer, the head of the Center For Advanced Health And Living.

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Star Wars and Female Representation – Part 3

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Since I’ve been getting a lot of feedback for my previous posts on female character-centered merchandise, I realized that I didn’t expand on the ladies of the Expanded Universe that much. I just mentioned that there were action figures of them and that’s that. Well shame on me because now I’m going to fix that by showing you which ladies got represented in plastic form and where to find them (Yes, I’ve just heard about how SW toymakers were told not to include Rey in their merchandise. Why am I not surprised? Once again, this would’ve never been a problem when Lucas was in charge.).

I wasn’t much of a star warrior in 1995-6, but I do recall seeing commercials for lots of Star Wars action figures. It wasn’t until the release of the Special Editions in 1997, that Star Wars toys really started taking off and they haven’t lost steam since. The earliest wave of EU inspired action figures was the release of Shadows of the Empire, a multimedia project that revealed what happened to Luke, Leia, Chewie and Lando between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Sadly, there were no action figures of Guri, Xizor’s right-hand, er, woman and only two figures of Leia (one in her famous Boushh disguise and the other in an outfit provided by Xizor). But in 1998, fans caught a glimpse of  an action figure of one of the EU’s most popular female character: Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand. Here it is. But that’s not all. In 2007, Hasbro released some two figure packs that came with a comic. One of them was Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade from Heir to the Empire. And recently Mara was included in the Black Series line. I bought mine from the Disney Store, of all places.

Speaking of 2 figure comic packs, most of them contained ladies: The Dark Woman, Lumiya (the first ever made), Deena Shan (twice!), Ysanne Isard, Darth TalonJarael and T’raa Saa. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Remember Bastila Shan, the wife of Revan, in Knights of the Old Republic? She got an action figure too. And so did bounty hunter Shae Vizla from The Old Republic.

In 2008, Lucasfilm embarked on the most ambitious multi-media project since Shadows of the Empire except this time some female characters were included. Among them was Felucia Shaak Ti (a movie character that surivived Order 66) and her apprentice, Maris Brood. Another important character was Juno Eclipse, the woman who melts Galen Marek’s heart. And as an added bonus in this TFU five figure pack is the first and only Darth Talon action figure, a long dead sith lord resurrected as a holographic figure for Galen/Starkiller to duel with.

Shall I resuscitate you now? No? Good because I’m not finished yet.

Before Rey, there was Jaina Solo, daughter of Han and Leia, niece of Luke Skywalker and “Sword of the Jedi”. In 2009 she was included in the Legacy Collection with her brother, Jacen.

And what about Asajj Ventress? Even though she became canon with The Clone Wars, she was first introduced via the EU. Her first action figure appearance was as stylized as her animated counterpart in Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2003-2005 Clone Wars series. Then there was a five figure Battle Pack set from 2005 that included her, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Yoda and General Grievous. Then in 2007 she was in the aforementioned Comics 2 Pack line with Tol Skorr.

I would mention her 2008 Clone Wars action figure, but that’s not considered Expanded Universe. 😉

For part one of this series, look here. For part two, click here.

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3 Short Stories Worth Reading From “Warm Worlds And Otherwise”

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“Who is Tiptree, What Is He?” asked the introduction to the 1975 anthology, Warm Worlds And Otherwise. It’s one of the most infamous introductions in the history of literature, because the author that wrote it made this now-awkward statement:

It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.

I wonder if Robert Silverberg’s still eating his words.

James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon, who published her first sci-fi story in 1968. She took the surname, “Tiptree” from a brand of marmalade and her husband suggested the title, “Jr.”. She chose a male name because:

A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.

She kept up this ruse until 1976, when fans discovered that “he” was in reality a “she” and that’s when, according to Pamela Sargent: ” a lot of people had to reexamine their assumptions about the differences men and women writers.”

Four years after her death in 1987, fellow SF writers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, initiated the James Tiptree Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for works of science fiction and fantasy that explore the concept of gender.

But I’m not going to talk about that. Today, I’m going to talk about three stories from the aforementioned anthology that stood out to me. They are:

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”: In this 1974 Hugo Award winning novella, a sickly girl named P. Burke is used by a corporation for product placement. Through electronic implants she “controls” an artificially grown beautiful girl named Delphi and becomes an international celebrity. But then everything unravels when she falls in love…

“The Night-Blooming Saurian”: A scientist promises a big game hunter that his team can go back and time and bring him back a dinosaur to hunt…

“Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death”: Poor Moggadeet! Because of instinct, his species go through a bug-eat-bug cycle (literally) every winter’s eve. He so desperately wants to break that cycle but nature is stronger than love… A 1973 Nebula Award winning short story.

If you want to learn more about Alice Sheldon, see the book, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

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Star Wars And Female Representation – Part 2

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In my last post I addressed the complaints made against Star Wars regarding the lack of female representation. I also talked about some of the Leia-centered merchandise that was released over the years and the fact that Lucasfilm and toy companies were actually very mindful about female representation in their products. But my focus was most on the Empire era with Leia, Aunt Beru, Toryn Farr and Oola. Now we jump to 1999 where Lucas has tantalized us with three new Star Wars movies. How did female representation fare then? Hate to burst your bubble, haters, but if there’s one thing the prequels did better than the originals, it’s that they added more women in their stories. They also brought in a larger female audience. They created new fans – many of them women. The prequels were also an inspiration for many cosplayers because of Queen Amidala’s many wardrobe choices. But there was also her handmaidens, Aurra Sing (more on her later) and Zam Wessell, and lady jedi like Aayla Secura and Bariss Offee. Then in 2008 came the Clone Wars TV show and we got Asajj Ventress (who first appeared in many comics and an earlier Clone Wars TV show), Mother Talzin and of course, Ahsoka Tano. If you doubt her popularity, you’ve definitely been spending your entire adult life hanging upside down in a wampa cave.

But how did Star Wars fare when it came to female representation in merchandise? From what I remember, there was enough Amidala merchandise to rival Disney’s Princess line. T-shirts, stationary, posters, costumes, even a makeup collection! But most of all: fashion dolls to showcase Padme Amidala’s fabulous wardrobe. There was the Queen Amidala Portrait Edition Collection where you could get dolls of the teen queen in her various gowns as seen in The Phantom Menace. There was also another collection called simply, the Queen Amidala Collection and they were more kid-friendly dolls that involved different ways to arrange Amidala’s dress, disguising her as a handmaiden and of course, styling her hair. Twice. I forgot to mention a two doll pack collection where she’s in her battle outfit with Qui Gon Jinn. Sadly there wasn’t as many Padme dolls for Attack of the Clones (except one) but other ladies got their time in the spotlight: Shaak Ti, Aurra Sing and Bariss Offee

But since Star Wars dolls are not a new thing, there was also something that was never released before: paper dolls. Yes! You could play the part of Amidala’s handmaiden and dress her in different royal attire. There was also a Padme paper doll book for Attack of the Clones (because she made more costume changes in that film than in episode 1!)

And of course we can’t forget the action figures. To date, I personally have 13 Padme Amidala action figures, 6 from TPM, 4 from AOTC, 1 from Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars and 2 from ROTS. I also have two Sabe action figures and two bounty hunters: Zam Wessel and Aurra Sing respectively. I could go on and on about my collection but we’d be here all day. Here’s a list instead. (Confession: I’m secretly drooling for that “realistic” Ahsoka Tano Vintage Collection action figure but it’s only available on Amazon and the price offers range from $105 to $139. Yeesh!)

And what of the Expanded Universe? Though it was kicked off in 1978 with Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, toys based on the books, comics and video games of TGFFA shot skyward with the prequels and they covered different eras, from the early days of the Old Republic to the adventures of Cade Skywalker. Characters like Lumiya, Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Juno Eclipse and Shae Vizla were given their own action figures.

It’s hard to say how Disney/Hasbro will fare in the future when it comes to female character driven merchandise since they’ve only owned Lucasfilm for 4 years now. I’ve been bored with a lot of SW merchandise lately because it’s all been OT and TFA era and I want more representation of the entire saga. I feel that the #WeWantLeia campaign was too limited in its demands. I don’t want just Leia, I want Padme and Ahsoka too. So girls, keep speaking up. Keep demanding. Ask for more female characters in merchandise – not just Leia.

But also, look for that silver lining: DIY merchandise. Sewing and crafts have always been considered a feminine art form and instead of sitting around on their computers, wishing, hoping and tweeting for female-centered merchandise, some fangirls have made their own merchandise. Heck, it worked for Ashley Eckstein.

I will also leave you with this idea, girls: use Star Wars as inspiration to make your own movies. We can’t keep on demanding men to represent us when we have the brains, the hands and the imaginations to represent ourselves. We can’t have more women in front of the camera until we get more women behind the camera. And instead of demanding inclusion in a 40-plus franchise that needs to be retired, let’s create new SF and F stories with female characters or adapt SF novels written by women for the big and small screen.

In the meantime look online and at your local comics, toys and collectible shows for merchandise.

Happy shopping, star warriors.

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“Star Wars” and Female Representation – Part 1

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If you’re a girl who loves Star Wars like me, by now you’d be familiar with all the brouhaha that’s been floating around the internet about TGFFA’s “female problem”. From actor dads who introduced their daughters to the saga (via only two episodes if I may add) to Hasbro’s contemporary lack of female characters in their toy lines, to screams of outrage when the first pictures of the cast of The Force Awakens at a script reading were released.

And I have to admit: I don’t get it.

I mean, I’m all for increased female representation but I don’t get the timing of these arguments. The franchise is nearly 40 years old. It took fans this long to realize that the male to female ratio was disproportionate? Shouldn’t we’ve been complaining about this when the first trilogy was released? And why is a 1977 film being called out for using the Smurfette Principle, while a 2012 film like The Avengers gets a free pass?

Let’s go back to 1977 and look at things in an historical context.

While the 70s will forever be remembered as the decade of The Women’s Liberation Movement, the concept of feminism was still foreign in many parts of the U.S. The subculture of science fiction was no exception. Despite being a genre of futuristic, scientific possibilities, it was a genre that was still ruled by older white men, even though there had always been women SF/F writers from the get-go. One woman writer in particular, Pamela Sargent, describes her dilemma when she was collecting stories for a pet project of hers:

Twenty years ago, my first anthology, Women of Wonder, was published. It was the first anthology of its kind: science fiction stories by women about women. For over two years, I tried to find a publisher for Women of Wonder, and the reactions of the editors were instructive. A few editors thought the idea was wonderful but decided not to do the book anyway. Some editors found the idea absurd, a couple doubted whether I could find enough good stories to fill the book, and one editor didn’t think there was a large enough audience for such an anthology.

Let’s backtrack a little. Not only did society look down upon the idea of women liking science fiction, they couldn’t comprehend the idea of sci-fi as a genre to be taken seriously.

 It’s hard to believe now, but many SF films and TV shows that are now considered classics, were at one time critical, commercial and ratings flops. 2001: A Space Odyssey was hated by the critics and despite positive word-of-mouth, took years to regroup its costs. Darryl F. Zanuck had to overcome a lot of obstacles, both political and creative, to make The Day the Earth Stood Still. Arthur P. Jacobs needed Charlton Heston’s star power and John Chamber’s makeup talent to convince studios to distribute Planet of the Apes. And both Star Trek and The Outer Limits suffered so much from low ratings and executive meddling that it lead to the departure of their respective creators. So what point am I trying to make? That if these classic films and shows had a hard time getting respect with male leads, imagine how much harder it would’ve been if the leads had been female. George Lucas was no exception (It’s been said that one of the reasons he called Star Wars science fantasy was because if he said it was SF, the film would’ve never been accepted).

Speaking of Star Trek, there are times when female portrayal on that show set my teeth on edge. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show as much as the next nerd but there are times I secretly felt that Leia could kick the butts of every woman on the Enterprise (not that she would do that). Having loads and loads of female characters doesn’t automatically make something pro-woman. But a story can have only one or two women and they can be written extremely well. And now back to Lucas.

According to the book The Art of Star Wars Galaxy (Gary Gerani, Berkeley Pub Group, 1993), Luke was originally written as a girl on a mission and Han Solo was a general who was helping her in her quest. But studio executives refused to distribute the film unless there was a budding romance between the two characters, something Lucas did not want (one thing he was adamant about was that the main hero, male or female, would not have a romance). Maybe it’s because classical mythology always featured male protagonists or maybe because male characters aren’t expected to fall in love as much as female characters, but either way Luke became a man. Oh well…

But there is one thing Lucas had been adamant about: in his script there was going to be a woman.

Star Wars has become such a fixture of pop culture, it’s hard to believe that Princess Leia Organa was a shock to filmgoing audiences in 1977. No one had seen anyone like her before because unlike those before her, she was more than just smart and determined, she was an action girl. She knew how to shoot a gun and wasn’t afraid to use it. Before Leia, action sheroes were mostly seen on television (like Emma Peel, Honey West, Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels), not film. Leia was the first. Yet, it’s inaccurate to say she’s the only female character in the films, she’s the most important. How would audiences have sympathized with Luke’s desire to leave Tatooine if it wasn’t for Aunt Beru’s support? How could we truly comprehend the evil nature of Jabba the Hutt if we weren’t witness to Oola’s demise?

Yet what the first Star Wars lacked in two-hour cinema, it made up for in comics, television, novels, video games and toys. Yup girls, at one time you could girl-themed SW merchandise to your heart’s desire. Here’s a Princess Leia doll. Here’s another one. Here’s one that was released in the 90s. Here’s one of her on a speeder bike.

Dolls not you’re thing? Well did you know there was a 1997 Princess Leia Collection? These were two figure-packs of Leia in different clothes with an accompanying male character. Here’s one in her ceremonial gown with Luke. Here’s another one of her in her Ewok-made dress. Here’s one where she’s with Han on Bespin. And last, but not least, here’s her famous senator gown. And they’re all made with real cloth.

But you didn’t have to be the heart of the Rebellion to get an action figure. You could simply stand there in the background and become an action figure. You could have only one scene and become an action figure. You didn’t have to be in the movies and you could still be an action figure! Many various characters from Kitik Keed’kak to Toryn Farr to Sy Snootles got action figures so that girls could make up their own adventures with these characters with limited screentime. And I’m forever grateful to Lucasfilm for that.

But what about the aforementioned expanded universe? And the prequels? And the Clone Wars? How did female representation fare in those eras? Find out in part 2!

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A Mighty Princess Turns 20

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My God, has it been 20 years already?! 20 years since a woman in armor rode across our TV screens, fighting gods, monsters, warlords and kings? 20 years since this TV show revolutionized the way women were portrayed as action heroes? Yup, Xena: Warrior Princess turns 20 this week and I remember what it was like to be a viewer of the most popular feminist action fantasy show of the 90s. There hasn’t been a fantasy series before, or since, to measure up to the brilliance of this show.

Though the series premiered September 4, 1995 as a spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, I didn’t start watching the show until 1997, when I was a 7th grader in middle school. I remember hearing a lot about the show but not seeing it until channel surfing one day. I’ve been hooked ever since.

You had to have been a hermit, to have not heard of Xena: Warrior Princess or Lucy Lawless. She was everywhere: t-shirts, books, magazines, toys, coloring books, comics, and jewelry. She was named dropped on every other show that aired at the time. IMDB.com has a complete list. Lucy Lawless was one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People In the World”. She was also on the cover of TV Guide, Ms., and featured in Entertainment Weekly.

But I’m not going any further explaining Xena’s contribution to pop culture. I will leave that honor to freelance journalist (and devoted Xena fan) Kathy Young with her awesome 2005 article, “What We Owe Xena” . Instead I’m going to make a list of some of my favorite episodes, season by season, summarize them and explain why they’re my favorite episodes. Let’s begin, shall we (warning: watch out! Spoilers about!)?

Season 1

“The Path Not Taken”: Xena infiltrates a band of criminals to rescue a kidnapped princess. There she’s reunited with an old flame, Marcus (Bobby Hosea), an arms dealer who secretly regrets his lifestyle choice. Xena convinces him that it’s never too late to turn a new leaf.

Why I Chose It: This episode probably marks the first time network TV depicted a sexual relationship between a white woman and a black man, something that’s still controversial to this day. Xena and Marcus’ kisses are so passionate and consensual it would put Kirk and Uhura to shame. Lucy Lawless’  tearful delivery of the episode’s final lines are also memorable: “he was my friend. He was my friend!”

“The Reckoning”: While trying to save a group of men from being attacked by a mysterious cloaked figure, Xena is caught and accused of murder. This is all a part of Ares’ (Kevin T. Smith) plan to make the Warrior Princess resort to her evil ways.

Why I Chose It: Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor) shines here when she uses her bard skills to prove Xena’s innocence. Xena shows off her brilliance as a tactician when she takes up Ares’ offer to grant her request for an army. She chooses the men that were killed. They call her a hero. Case closed.

“Prometheus”: Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst guest star in this episode as Hercules and Iolaus respectively. The noble Titan, Prometheus has been chained to a mountain and humanity has lost their ability to heal and make fire. Guess who has to free him?

Why I Chose It: It gives a fresh take on the Prometheus myth and has a scene where Gabrielle explains to Iolaus why people search for their soulmates.

“Death In Chains”: The ancient Greeks believed that Death came in the form of a woman holding a candlestick. King Sisyphus has chained (see a pattern here?) Celestia, the personification of Death, so that her candle will melt and death will be no more. Think that’s a good thing? Think again.

Why I Chose It: It presents a very interesting argument on why we need death: because without it, we’d be left with pain, disease, old age and bad people would never die. You need to get rid of these things first before you can end death.

“Hooves And Harlots”: Xena must solve a murder mystery before war breaks out between the Amazons and the Centaurs.

Why I Chose It: One of the show’s greatest aspects was its depiction of the Amazons as an authentic warrior culture with customs, laws and government as opposed to mere fantasy no different from Atlantis or Shangri-La.

“Warrior…Princess”: Xena has a twin! And she’s an actual princess! And she’s in danger! Xena must take her place! But the princess is to be married! Will Xena find the assassin and avoid a walk down the aisle?

Why I Chose It: Lucy Lawless’ talent as an actress shines here. She has to play two roles. The uberconfident Xena and the naïve, pampered Diana. And she pulls it off beautifully.

“Mortal Beloved”: A ghostly Marcus returns from the underworld to ask for Xena’s help in retrieving Hades’ stolen Helmet of Invisibility.

Why I Chose It: Xena’s heartfelt plea to Hades to grant Marcus an eternity in the Elysian Fields while having to face separation from him again is touching and food for thought.

“The Royal Couple of Thieves”: Autolycus (Bruce Campbell) can steal anything! He’s The King of Thieves after all! So will he help Xena steal a secret “weapon” from some arms dealers?

Why I Chose It: It has Bruce Campbell for heaven’s sake! Any episode where he shows up as Autolycus is bound to be hilarious. And the slapstick between an incognito Xena and Autolycus is golden!

“Callisto”: Who is that blonde woman committing crimes in Xena’s name? A former victim of Xena’s crimes.

Why I Chose It: Thanks to Hudson Leick’s twisted performance, Callisto became one’s television’s most memorable villains. Plus we’re introduced to Joxer the Mighty (Ted Raimi)!

Season 2

“Orphan of War”: Xena is reunited with the son she gave up for adoption years ago.

Why I Chose It: We see another side to Xena: a more softer, maternal side.

“Intimate Stranger”: With Ares’ help, Callisto switches bodies with Xena.

Why I Chose It: Once again Lucy Lawless and Hudson Leick show off their supreme acting chops by playing each other’s roles. And they succeed.

“Ten Little Warlords”: Ares has lost his divinity. Xena is still trapped in Callisto’s body. And everyone is acting crazy. Xena, Gabrielle, Joxer and a mortal Ares have to race against time to make things right again.

Why I Chose It: Once again, Hudson Leick gives a knockout performance as Xena and we learn why the world needs a God of War.

“The Xena Scrolls”: In 1940s Macedonia, Janice Covington, an archaeologist and Melinda Pappas, an interpreter, are searching for the fabled “Xena Scrolls”. Scrolls that will “turn myth into history”. Unfortunately finding the scrolls also awakens Ares, the God of War.

Why I Chose It: Have you ever secretly wished that you were the descendant of some famous warrior woman? Do you imagine yourself getting bonked in the head only to possess  the fighting abilities of said warrior. I myself secretly wish I was the descendant of Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, but that’s beside the point. The scene where Mel gets knocked out and awakens as Xena with sword in hand and theme song is one for the ages.

“Here She Comes…Miss Amphibpolis”: Xena enters a beauty contest to see who’s trying to sabotage the pageant.

Why I Chose It: “A WOMAN’S A NATURAL THING!!!!”

“A Necessary Evil”: Power hungry Amazon, Velasca (Melinda Clark) has eaten ambrosia and became a god. She wants rival Amazon queen Gabrielle dead. To Gabrielle’s dismay, Xena enlists the help of a now immortal Callisto to fight Velasca.

Why I Chose It: The highest-rated episode of the series and it’s easy to see why. Two scary villainesses for the price of one!

“A Day In The Life”: Xena and Gabrielle have to prevent a warlord from plundering one village and the world’s biggest giant from destroying another. Xena also has to fend off an annoying admirer. All in a day’s work.

Why I Chose It: This episode introduces Minya (Allison Wall), a comedic character who wants to be a “tough broad” like Xena.

“Lost Mariner”: Xena and Gabrielle are trapped aboard the cursed ship of Cecrops, doomed to sail the seas for eternity. But there may be a way to break the spell.

Why I Chose It: You can’t help but feel touched by Cecrops plight, thanks to Tony Todd’s performance. It also teaches a lesson about the true meaning of love.

“A Comedy of Eros”: Speaking of love, Cupid’s son, Bliss has escaped with his father’s bow and arrows. He shoots an arrow into Xena, Gabrielle and their enemy, Draco. Xena falls for Draco, Gabrielle falls for Joxer and Draco falls for Gabrielle. Love stinks.

Why I Chose It:  Not even infatuation can stop the Warrior Princess from doing the right thing! Star Warriors will recognize Jay Laga’aia as Draco before he was cast as Captain Typho in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Season 3

“The Furies”: In another attempt to make Xena revert to her evil past, Ares strikes a deal with the Furies. It involves her sanity and her mother.

Why I Chose It: Seeing Xena overcome mind control (again) proves how really brilliant she was at beating enemies at their own games.  Unlike other female protagonists with missing moms, it was always refreshing to see how Xena’s relationship with her mother was depicted throughout the series.

“Been There, Done That”: The same day’s events just keeps repeating itself over and over again and only Xena’s noticed. Can she get to the bottom of this conundrum? Or will she go crazy from just trying?

Why I Chose It: What other TV show can make an episode that seamlessly blends Romeo and Juliet and Groundhog’s Day into one story? Answer: none so far.

“The Debt, Parts 1 and 2”: Xena receives a message from the land of Chin (China) to repay a debt for an old friend.

Why I Chose It: It introduces Xena’s greatest influence, the beautiful and wise Lao Ma (Jaqueline Kim), true ruler of the Lao Dynasty.

“Warrior…Priestess…Tramp”: Xena reunites with Meg and meets another look-alike who works as a high priestess in the temple of Hestia, the Virgin Goddess. Leah is her name and her temple’s in danger. It’s up to Xena (and *sigh*, Meg) to find out who’s after the sisterhood of the Hestian Virgins.

Why I Chose It: “I hope that was a petting zoo! PLEASE TELL ME THAT WAS A PETTING ZOO!!!”

“The Quill Is Mightier”: Aphrodite curses Gabrielle’s scroll with the ability to make anything Gabrielle writes a reality.

Why I Chose It: Minya returns in all her wanna-be warrior glory. Xena fights an entire army with seafood.

“The Bitter Suite”: Xena blames Gabrielle for Solan’s death. Gabrielle blames Xena for her unwanted pregnancy by Dahak. They stumble into the musical land of Illusia to patch things up.

Why I Chose It: It was (arguably) the first time a major prime-time TV show did an all-musical episode. It’s also tear-jerking to hear Xena sing an apology to Solan for not being a good mother.

“Forgiven”: A feisty teen named Tara (Shiri Appleby) picks a fight with Gabrielle so that she could help the duo find the stolen Urn of Apollo.

Why I Chose It: I like how this episode teaches us that helping someone change their life isn’t always easy especially when the person is very difficult to get along with. But when we learn about their background, and we overcome those personality hurdles, we can make new allies, if not friends.

“Fins, Femmes and Gems”: Cursed once again by Aphrodite, Xena becomes obsessed with catching a special fish, Gabrielle becomes obsessed with her appearance and Joxer believes that he’s a legendary “ape-man”.

Why I Chose it: I like how the curse was lifted when the ladies came to terms with the source of their obsessions.

“Vanishing Act”: A statue of Pax, the goddess of peace has been stolen. Two cities accuse each other of the crime. Autolycus, the King of Thieves, is also a suspect. But did he do it?

Why I Chose It: By now, you should understand the formula: Autolycus + Xena & Gabrielle = hilarity. And Xena is hilarious as a wacky bidder named Ezra with a mole for an eyesore while Gabrielle is another bidder named Myopia.

Season 4

“In Sickness And In Hell”: A Scythian army is advancing towards a defenseless village. Xena has lice and Gabrielle has a nasty skin infection. What’s a poor girl to do?

Why I Chose It: You know the saying “an army moves on its stomach? Well now we can say “defeat an army with its stomach.”

“A Tale of Two Muses”: Gabrielle and Xena reunite with Tara who’s about be punished by her new home for committing a shocking crime: dancing.

Why I Chose It: It’s Footloose Ancient Greek style. Good to see you doing well, Tara.

“Daughter of Pomira”: Xena and Gabrielle once again face the dreaded Horde, only to discover that a Greek girl is living among them. Turns out that she is the kidnapped daughter of one of Xena’s soldiers from the past – and the girl’s biological family wants her back home.

Why I Chose It: If you’re familiar with the 1956 film The Searchers you may be familiar with true life accounts of little white girls taken captive during “Indian raids” and made to assimilate into Native societies. Many of these girls grew up with these tribes and when given a choice to leave instead chose to stay with them. The Ancient Greeks used to call all non-Greeks “barbarians” because the languages they spoke sounded like they were saying “bar-bar”. Xena suggests that the Ancient Greeks may have also suffered from this clash of cultures. Being a child of two worlds myself, I like how the episode resolves the conflict by having Vanessa/Peelee learn that she doesn’t have to restrict herself to just one family or culture. That she can be both Greek and Pomira and love both her families.

“If The Shoe Fits”: Gabrielle, Joxer, Xena and Aphrodite help a runaway princess return home by relating their own version of Cinderella.

Why I Chose It: A gap-toothed Gabrielle, warlords in drag and “swimming instructors”. The LOL meter just got louder.

“The Play’s The Thing”: Two con artists discover one of Gabrielle’s scrolls. They convince her that it’ll make a great play. But the play is financed by vicious warlords and theatergoers want sex and violence. Can Gabrielle stand by her beliefs and produce a good play?

Why I Chose It: Minya: “Gabrielle, I wanted to thank you! I never would have met Paulina if it wasn’t for you! In fact, the two of you made me realize something deep down about myself that… I guess I always knew, but… just didn’t dare admit. Yes… I’m a… thespian.” Gabrielle’s new mature, sexy look. Faster Chakram! Kill! Kill!

“Takes One To Know One”: A bounty hunter lies dead in Cyrene’s (Darien Takle) inn. Cyrene, Minya, Lila, Autolycus and Gabrielle are suspects. A goddess (Meighan Desmond) wants Xena to solve the murder or else she’ll take someone with her.

Why I Chose It: The Xenaverse take on Agatha Christie and Clue.  Discord: “So, you’re saying that your horse killed her?” Xena: “In self-defense!” Discord: “But I can’t take back a horse! I don’t do animals!” Minya: “That’s not what I heard!”

“Deja-Vu All Over Again”: In modern-day America, a woman named Annie believes she was Xena, warrior princess, in a past life. Her boyfriend, Harry, scoffs, but they both get a surprise when they visit a new age practitioner who takes them through their former lives.

Why I Chose It: Lucy Lawless and Ted Raimi flex their acting chops by switching roles as the reincarnations of Joxer and Xena respectively. And they pull it off.

Season 5

“Chakram”: Xena gets resurrected but has lost her warrior memories. Ares and Kal, another god of war, are plotting to use her to get their hands on a new chakram with the power to kill gods.

Why I Chose It: It’s a shame Kal got killed off because we didn’t see anymore of Antonio Te Maioha (in the role at least). He’s easy on the eyes.

“Succession”: In order to fulfill a promise to an aspiring warrior, Ares merges Xena and Gabrielle into one person to battle her to the death.

Why I Chose It: Ares merges Xena and Gabrielle into one body so that one of them fights Mavican by day and another one fights by night yet both women manage to avoid bloodshed.

“Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire”: Gabrielle, Cyrene, Joxer, his flamboyant brother Jace, and a pregnant Xena must face off against Draco in a “battle of the bands” for the possession of Terpsichore’s Lyre.

Why I Chose It: The second musical episode of the series but this time with covers instead of original content. Nevertheless you can tell the cast had a lot of fun doing it. Jay Laga’aia returns as a lovestruck Draco and Ted Raimi acts for two as Jace.

“God Fearing Child”: Xena is about to give birth to her daughter but Zeus (Charles Keating) has other plans…

Why I Chose It: As they say on Tumblr, so many feels! Xena reuniting with her deceased son, Solan and assuring him that he will always have a special place in her heart (the name Eve was his suggestion). Hera (Meg Foster) decides to put aside her hatred of Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and help him defeat Zeus. Zeus’ dying confession to Hercules.

Season 6

“Who’s Gurkhan?”: Gabrielle learns to her horror that a northern African warlord kidnapped her niece and killed her parents and brother-in-law. Will her desire for justice be met or will she become obsessed with vengeance to the point of betraying Xena?

Why I Chose It: This episode takes a big jab at polygamy, ’nuff said.

The Rheingold/The Ring/Return of the Valkyrie: I’m lumping these stories together as a trilogy because the Norse are famous for their trilogies. Did you know that Xena was once a Valkyrie? Neither did Gabrielle, who secretly travels to the Norselands to meet up with her soulmate and help her correct yet another grievous mistake from her deadly past. To bad she’s been cursed to eternal slumber by a jealous Valkyrie and can only be awaken by her soulmate.

Why I Chose It: If Xena can have episodes about Amazons, why can’t there be episodes about the other most famous race of warrior women? I’m glad that Xena finally broke Grinhilda of her curse and helped her regain her rightful place at Odin’s side.

“You Are There”: A modern-day news reporter (Michael Hurst) follows Xena around and interviews everyone she’s come into contact with on whether she has ulterior motives in her quest for the Golden Apples.

Why I Chose It: Aside from the humorous aspect I like this line Xena says: “you can’t have love without a little bit of hate and you can’t have peace without a little bit of war.” So true.

“Send In The Clones”: Three Xena fans, with the aid of a scientist, successfully clone Xena and Gabrielle into the 21st Century. But can this new Warrior Princess and Battling Bard handle the modern world?

Why I Chose It: The three fans bear a striking resemblance to a certain heroic trio. Xena and Gabrielle eat Pizza and drink soda as they watch clips of past seasons. Then the duo ride off into the sunset in a taxi while sipping champagne.

“Soul Possession”: Xena once made a deal with Ares that involved marriage. Now Ares wants to “seal” the deal. But Xena and Joxer are still in the “wrong” bodies (see “Deja Vu All Over Again”).

Why I Chose It: Annie once said that she could be Xena in her next life. Now she finally gets her chance. What a way to end a marriage contract.

“A Friend In Need, Parts 1 and 2”: A mysterious woman from the island of Jappa (Japan) sends a plea for help. Xena must fight in the land of the dead to defeat an evil spirit while Gabrielle uses her chakram to fight in the land of the living.

Why I Chose It: Yes, I actually liked this controversial episode. I thought it was the most poignant episode to address death since the Star Trek: TNG episode “The Evil Skin”. All warriors must accept their deaths sooner or later, it comes with the job (and since Xena lived in the ancient world, she’d be dead by now). But while other fans were saddened and angered at the finale, it left me with more questions about Gabrielle’s fate. Now that she’s inherited the mantle of the Warrior Princess, what will her new life be like without Xena? What adventures will await her in the Land of the Pharaohs? Will she get a new sidekick? Will it be Eve? Or someone else? Since Xena “will be alive in her heart”, does mean she can still get advice from a Xena apparition a la Obi-Wan Kenobi? What type of mythical creatures, gods and historical figures will she meet/fight? Which historical events would she have a part in? It’s questions like this that make me wish that some talented writers would publish some spin-off novels and comics chronicling Gabrielle’s post-Xena adventures…

Anyway, happy 20th anniversary, Xena: Warrior Princess! There will never be another show as unique as you.

P.S.: Which Xena episodes were your favorite? How did this show impact your life?

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Of Dinosaurs and Dames: A Feminist’s Take on the Jurassic Park Franchise – Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the women of the first three Jurassic Park movies and how they were written. Now this time, I’m going to focus on the heroine of the latest film, Jurassic World.

Her name is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and she’s the operations manager of Jurassic World.

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She’s been the subject of much controversy, from her choice of footwear to the way she’s been “mommy shamed” by her sister (for lack of a better word). Even Joss Whedon got in on the criticism (the one that put him at odds with The Mary Sue). I’m not going to go into every detail about what made Claire so “problematic” (according to her critics) that would go into spoiler territory (and I’ve already posted a link in part 1). But I will talk about what makes her a great character.

The more I think about it, the more I realize Claire is actually a step up from the previous female characters of the last two films. And unlike Dr. Satler, who was a secondary character, the film mostly focuses on her and the way she runs her park.

 I like Claire. She’s professional, she’s hands on and she’s not afraid to face a challenge, even if it means leaving her comfort zone. This ranges from riding in a helicopter flown by someone whose just got their pilot’s license to trekking in the jungle with Owen to find her nephews. Unlike the other women, who were supporting characters, Claire is the main character of Jurassic World. The story is about her, how she runs her park and how she handles the chaos that erupts when the I. Rex breaks loose. She even saves Owen (Chris Pratt) at one point.

So why has the film garnered so much controversy for “shaming” Claire for not having children? Well there was that scene where she’s talking with her sister and the sister is chastising her for neglecting to spend time with them. Her sister says, “you’ll feel differently when you have children” to which Claire responds, “if I have children” and her sister insists “when you have children”. This, however, is a reflection of what pressure people get from their families when they don’t start one of their own. Heck, I’ve been pressured to get married by family and friends, even though I’ve stressed time and again that marriage wasn’t for me, I still get a “you might change your mind when you meet the right man” argument. A teacher once told me about an aunt she had who never married or had kids and how family would whisper among themselves, “what’s wrong with her?!” So basically this scene is simply art imitating life. What’s also ironic about this scene is that her sister is lecturing her about the joys of parenthood while she’s in the middle of getting a divorce (after all don’t kids need a father and a mother?) And she’s keeping the news from her sons by dumping them on Claire. This doesn’t score her Mother of the Year points.

If anything, the problem was Claire’s lack of maternal instinct towards her dinosaurs. She viewed them as nothing more than theme park commodities instead of living (dangerous) creatures with needs and feelings. Maybe if she had been more in touch with her nurturing side, she would’ve never created the I. Rex.

Speaking of I. Rex, I’ll end this post by asking all you Jurassic gals to be honest with yourselves: what impressed you most about the films, the humans or the dinosaurs? Were you impressed when the I. Rex tricked security by camouflaging herself? Did you spend most of your sleepovers engaged in T.Rex vs. Velociraptor debates? Did you ever pretend that you were the Spinosaurus and your little sister was the T. Rex so you could have an excuse to kick her butt? Did you imagine yourself as a Dilophosuarus when you pulled out the pepper spray on your would-be assailant as he tried to attack you? Did you feel sad when the I. Rex was defeated by being pulled in the sea by the Mosasaurus (I was)? And remember, all these dinosaurs were female and deadly, the most feminist aspect of the Jurassic Park franchise. So while I’m not offended with the way Claire was written, I was offended that Hasbro turned all the dinosaur toys male. No really.

Note: If you need further convincing of Claire’s awesomeness, here’s a link to an article on bustle.com.

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Filed under dinosaurs, feminism, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World