FRIDAY NIGHT FIEND – MISOGYNY

no girls allowed 1What’s crackin everybody! It’s your favorite villain-loving, miscreant-embracing host getting the party started this Friday night with a SAT vocabulary word. Party over here, whut whut!

Now misogyny is a downer word replete with a downer definition: the hatred or dislike of women or girls. I’m not talking about the kindergartner “I don’t yike guls so I hitted her” approach. I’m thinking something a bit more pervasive and more institutional…and wholly unintentional. I know you’re like “Damn, Chris. It’s Friday, I love girls, and you are really fucking up my vibe.” I get it. Let me put it in comic book terms.

A couple of years ago, DC Comics and Warner Bros put out an absolutely horrible superhero flick called Green Lantern. This was at the height of the superhero craze: Heath Ledger had earned a posthumous Oscar for playing the Joker in the Dark Knight, Robert Downey Jr. had been Iron Man twice, and Marvel was one year away from pulling together the Avengers into the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. You might remember Green Lantern (if you saw it, I ‘m sorry—the support group meets on Wednesdays at the Y): it had Ryan Reynolds as Ryan Reynolds in a snug CGI suit, a villain with the largest head on film (and it pulsated), Dora-level special effects, and it made about $14 at the box office. It was a shit movie and this is from somebody who likes shit movies.

But this isn’t about Green Lantern. This is about the trailer for the Green Lantern.

I took the Honey Badger to see one of the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies—whichever one had fucking Alvin doing the Castaway on a deserted island after falling off a cruise ship. As an aside, talking chipmunks or not, once they were off the ship, fuck the damn rodents and their high ass voices—I would have taken the money and run. Anyway, as we’re waiting for the movie the start, we get to see this wonderful trailer:

The trailer was better than the movie. Trust me. But as we watch the trailer and I start to get hopeful about Green Lantern (I kinda like the character but don’t tell nobody), the Honey Badger says, loud as day, “How come it can’t ever be a girl that saves the world?”

And some of the women in the theater clapped.

But I didn’t have an answer for that. I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know what to tell her. I watch movies with her and I see her fall in love with Bella Swan—a girl stuck in a horribly abusive and controlling relationship, who refuses to act EVER, and simply lets everything happen around her. I see Katniss Everdeen start a revolution but be mired in a love triangle. SHE STARTED A REVOLUTION!! Fuck Peta! She’s changing the world. (BTW I haven’t read the books—maybe there’s more, I don’t know). I see Hermione play second fiddle to Harry’s Jesus Christ and Ron’s redheaded idiocy when she is CLEARLY the smartest, most prepared player in the game. How the fuck did Ron survive those 7 years at Hogwarts and how the hell did his broke ass pull Hermione Granger?

And, as much as I love her, I see Scarlett Johannson get played to the curb in 2 different movies. If there was a pretty perfect portrayal of a female superhero in the movies, it’s Johannson’s Black Widow. This woman infiltrated Stark Enterprises and got Tony Stark back to work, she hacked Ivan Danko’s Russian computer system and rebooted Don Cheadle’s suit AFTER beating the cowboy shit outta like 6 dudes. She took a backhand from the Hulk—THE HULK who fought Thor, a demigod—then got up and socked the shit out of Hawkeye before she dove into battle with 2 guns and a taser. There were no romantic entanglements, she was nonplussed about all these people with their amazing powers, and held her own in the Battle of New York. Oh yeah, and she outsmarted Loki (the God of Mischief) and shut his shit down.

But she isn’t considered an Avenger. They only count Cap, Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor as Avengers. She doesn’t get equal billing. She’s a token. Marvel actually removed the other female founding member of the team because…well, I actually don’t have an answer for that.

And that’s bullshit. And my daughter knows it.

A couple weeks ago, I made Canada my Friday Night Fiend. You might remember that one. A friend of mine, my villainous partner in crime, writer ED Martin, added a comment about how independent women should be my next villain. She has a point. What are TV and film studios so afraid of? The portrayals of women in cinema have a massive impact on who our daughters and sisters and nieces decide to be. Who they believe they can be. How do I convince my daughter to be less Bella and more Hermione when she’s ridiculed for her intellect and eschewed for her preparation? How do I encourage her to start revolutions like Katniss and be independent like Natasha Romanov when the world is more concerned with her love life than her capabilities? When she’ll never get the credit she deserves?

I’m gonna end this little diatribe with the most important female superheroine who, for the dumbest of reasons, cannot get ANY cinematic love: Wonder Woman. It is an absolute travesty that, in 2013, after Hillary Clinton garnered 16 million votes and led the most viable campaign for a female president in history, Wonder Woman cannot find a place on film. Or TV. Or her own cartoon. Do you know why? She’s “tricky.” That is the actual reason.

“We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky.”

Tricky. Tough. Hard. So fuck it, right? By the way, it was the female president of DC Comics who gave us that quote.

I’ve paid for shitty Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (well, I didn’t pay for that piece of shit), X-Men, Star Wars, and Spiderman movies. Jackass is a SERIES. You saw Bill and Ted just like me. And Gremlins 2. And any of the Child’s Play movies. Jason Vorhees has like 57 shit movies. My point is someone is greenlighting these bullshit movies and you cannot say a guy who stalks you in your dreams or a retarded kid who lives at the bottom of the lake and cannot die or a group of idiots who film themselves hurting themselves makes more sense than Wonder Woman.

So there you have it: Friday Night Misogyny courtesy of superhero movies. I’m gonna leave you with this tweet about Marvel’s response to DC’s “Wonder Woman is tricky” comment. I thought it was just funny:

brett white Marvel:DC See ya Tuesday!

Hero Highlight: IRON MAN

Iron ManGuess what I found? A posting schedule! Yeah, funny things, those pesky schedules, they actually tell you what you’re supposed to post and when. Never been a schedule fan so bear with me.

If you remember back a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we were, for the first and probably the last time, I was doing the A to Z Blog Challenge and we were looking at some heroes and what their true villains were. We’d looked at the Avengers as a group (still my favorite movie right now…until Superman comes out), at Batman’s crazy ass, Captain America and his relationship with time, Don Draper’s mad mad world, ET and his retarded self, Foghorn Leghorn—the big ass chicken, Carl MF Grimes from The Walking Dead, and Hawkeye, the most useless archer ever. Then life got in the way.

Now we’re back and we’re looking at the man and the suit, Tony Stark AKA “I am Iron Man.”

I should start by saying I’m a big Iron Man fan—I have comics from the 80s when people thought it was both sexy and wholly heterosexual for buff men to run around in mesh half shirts. I’ve been with ‘ol Shellhead during his depression, his alcoholism and his Armor Wars. I thought the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was genius. I own all the movies and have seen Iron Man 3 3 times (though I’m pissed about the Mandarin). Once I run the race, I’m gonna get an Iron Man tattoo (haven’t decided where). I’m an Iron Man fan.

But as a hero, the Iron Man suit (or prosthesis, as it formally called) is only as good as it’s pilot. And Tony? My man got problems.

In the comics, Tony Stark is plagued by a deep insecurity caused by his relationship with technology. In the movies and the comics, Tony is injured on a battlefield and depends on an electromagnet to keep a cluster of shrapnel from trying to burrow its way into his heart—the only thing that changes is the locale (in the comic, it’s Vietnam; in the movie, it’s Afghanistan). His very life depends on the reliability and efficacy of technology. After seeing the depravity of humanity and blah blah blah, Tony becomes something bigger than human—a technological superhuman.

Iron Man is different from other superheroes in that he’s manufactured. There’s no gamma radiation, no Super Soldier serum, no spider bite, no birth from an alien world with a red sun, no extensive martial arts training and seething revenge-based impetus to fight crime. Iron Man is a suit; Tony Stark is just a man. Anyone can wear the suit. James Rhodes can wear the suit and be Iron Man (and has). Pepper Potts wore the suit. Shit, even Happy wore the suit and he’s the chauffeur. Anyone can be Iron Man.

In The Avengers, Cap asks the most pertinent question of all: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off and what are you?” See, this is where the insecurity sets in. While the quippy response was great for laughs and elicited a nice head nod from Scarlett Johanssen’s sexy tail, there is a whole lot of truth to this. And it’s the whole point of Iron Man 3: there has to be more to the man than the ability to make a suit. Otherwise, you have another Doctor Doom on your hands.

What it comes down to is a moral center. Spidey has the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing couple with Uncle Ben’s death. Superman has his middle America earthly father to guide him. Batman has the senseless murder of his parents burned into his psyche. But Tony Stark? This is what he’s lacking. In the comic, he has an unfortunate injury in an unfortunate war and capitalizes on his escape to become something bigger, something greater. The movies pick up on this and use both his imprisonment and his relationship with Pepper to give him that moral compass but, the truth is, Tony Stark is and remains a shallow guy. And he knows it. In fact, Iron Man 3 was about this very idea.

Like I said, I’m an Iron Man fan and the truest statement the movies ever made was in Iron Man 2 when he told Congress, “I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one.” For Tony Stark, the challenge is making the man measure up to the hero and becoming someone worthy of wearing the suit.

That’s my word. See ya on Tuesday for another installment. Next we’re gonna be talking the Justice League.

Day 8: HAWKEYE #atozchallenge

hawkeye-5One of my favorite exchanges in the Avengers comes when Tony Stark is talking to Captain America and he says, “Following’s not really my style.” Cap responds with, “And you’re all about style?” And Tony says, “Of the people in this room, which one of us is a) wearing a spangly outfit and b) not of use?” Classic material. However, when considering the most useless Avenger, that distinction must go to Hawkeye.

Yes, friends and foes, heroes and villains, there is actually one relatively worthless hero in our supersquad. I loved the Avengers movie (surprise surprise) and I like Jeremy Renner. I even like the Hawkeye character, though I think his costume could use a little work. In the movie, they call him a master assassin but I see him as a bow-wielding, there-are-twelve-enemies? I-only-brought-eleven-arrows jackass with no sleeves.

That’s probably harsh, huh? Okay, I’ll give him his due.

In the comics, Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye is a little better than the bit part they gave him in the movie. He is an assassin of sorts, a superior marksman, and a former carny (for real). He starts out as a villain, crossing both the Black Widow and Iron Man before turning to the straight and narrow (because he got the cowboy shit kicked out of him). He gets sponsored to be an Avenger and becomes an integral part of the team.

Until his bow breaks.

Seriously, my man had his bow break in battle and adopted a whole new identity. Took somebody else’s powers and everything. And then he started going blind. Did I mention that he was deaf? What are you going to do with a deaf and blind archer? That’s like giving Helen Keller a weapon and a costume and calling her a superhero.  In the movie, they give him a little more: he shoots Sam Jackson and manages to take down the ENTIRE Floating Fortress with 2 arrows. He also sets up the best part of the movie: his exploding arrow tosses Loki into the hands of the Hulk.

In the movie, it’s worse. He ain’t deaf, just pointless. He was the first to switch teams when Loki arrived, got his ass handed to him by Scarlett Johannsen, and, rather than follow the fucking plan, got his plane shot out the sky while carrying the half of the Avengers that CAN’T FLY. I’m not a tactician but if a flying, bulletproof dude with a hammer forged in the heart of star is fighting another dude in a cape with a spear, perhaps you should let then do their thing and turn your air support on the invading aliens!

For all his snazzy arrowheads, my man has a limited supply of arrows. He’s forever going to be running out of ammo, sitting on the sidelines like he got hit first in dodgeball, leaving the heavy lifting to everybody else. In the end, there ain’t much use for Hawkeye (though he leads a couple iterations of the Avengers in the comics) and that’s his biggest villain: uselessness.

And if you’re wondering, I did the Hulk in last year’s A to Z Challenge. He was the villain.

Next up, Iron Man! Yeeaaaahhhh!

Day 3 (sorta): Captain America #atozblogchallenge

captain_americaAs much as I love the Avengers, I’ve never really been a Cap fan. He’s too much of a Boy Scout for me, he didn’t really have any powers, and he just had that damn shield. Throwing it never seemed that awesome to me. And he had wings on his head. Little bitty ones. It’s kinda tough to act like you’re all raw and you have little hummingbird wings on your head. I’m surprised no one ever brought it up.

Then I saw the movie. And what Captain America didn’t have in powers, Steve Rogers had in heart. He was a good guy who was willing to do what it took to make the right things happen. He lied to join the Army for the opportunity to die for his country, underwent a chemical transformation, fought the Nazis hand to hand, and got trapped in an iceberg trying to do the right thing. Problem is, he tried to do the right thing at the wrong time.

And time is, for Cap, his greatest villain.

Loki said it best when he called Captain America the “man out of time.” My man was frozen for 40 years in the comics, 70 years in the movies. He wakes up and the world he was fighting to save—and the morals he was trying to uphold—were gone. Think about this, think about those parents or grandparents who saw their entire adulthood defined by World War II and imagine if they weren’t around for what happened next. Steve Rogers, the kid from Brooklyn, gets frozen before WWII is over—he never gets to see the Nazis surrender, never sees the US drop the atomic bomb, never gets to come home to a hero’s parade. Never sees any James Bond movies so he has no idea of how awesome he could have been.

It doesn’t really matter who Captain America fights. In fact, the only villains I know that belong to him are as chronologically misplaced as he is: Baron Zemo, the Red Skull, the Winter Soldier. More often then not, Cap was fighting the very nation he swore to uphold. For a while he rejected being Captain America because he had a problem with what the United States did. Then, during Marvel’s Civil War series, he sided AGAINST the US government (and half the Avengers, including Tony Stark) in having superhumans register themselves and that stance culminated in his assassination. In the movie, he’s distrustful of SHIELD even though he’s the one meta-human that actually works for them.

Captain America is the right man in the wrong time. I don’t know what that says about him or us. Is his ignorance bliss? Is he better off for having missed what we’ve become? Did we stray too far away from what we should be? Is he the ultimate American, a physical embodiment of our nation’s values and purpose? Even with the wings? We’re having a love affair with Tony Stark right now, with his shiny new armor and witty disdain for structures and teams and monogamy. Tony Stark is us now. Steve Rogers is who we were supposed to be. And if that’s who we’re supposed to be, if he’s what it means to be an American, who’s really out of time?

OK, that’s too deep for me. We’re going to lighten it up with my favorite animated bird, Daffy Duck!

Assemble Your Avengers

Guess what?! I’m BAAAAACCKKK! Did you miss me? Don’t be coy; you know you did. I know I said I was gonna take a day off: well, after being laid out by a pretty nasty sinus infection and then moving my house AROUND THE CORNER, here I am 6 days later. Good as new. Well…kinda. Let’s just say I’m 10% better than last week.

And I get to talk about the Avengers.

You knew this was coming, right? For all my discussion about villains, I’ve spent plenty of words and pages on comic books and comic book heroes. Talking about the Avengers was inevitable.

Now if you’ve missed the Avengers’ $200M US opening this past weekend (which is the largest opening in history) or the total $641M the film has taken in over the last 2 weeks or the commercials and trailers that dominate every television program on the planet, the Avengers is the explosive, rip-roaring production featuring 6 Marvel superheroes—Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye—battling for the salvation of Earth against, Loki, the Asgardian God of Mischief (and Thor’s brother) and his otherworldly army. I should have written copy, huh?

This post is less a review about the movie (which is SPECTACULAR! Seriously, just drop your shit and go see it!) than it is a review of the idea. Nick Fury, played by the masterfully angry Samuel L. Jackson, says “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could. It’s called the Avengers Initiative.” This could be said for Marvel’s approach the entire Avengers franchise, starting back in 2008 with Iron Man (and later Iron Man 2), then a new and improved Incredible Hulk, Thor and finally Captain America. 5 films. 6 heroes. More than $2B (that’s B for Billion) in ticket sales worldwide—half of what Disney paid for Marvel.

But, in the beginning, there was an idea.

Call it a gamble, call it hubris, call it balls—Marvel waged 4 years and nearly $800M on an idea of introduce the principal characters in individual movies, cast them masterfully (seriously, who else could have played Tony Stark?) tie them together with 2 minute long snippets after the credits, and culminate with a tremendous production that would be thrilling entertainment for everyone. An idea. An idea no more or less powerful than making us care about a kid from the desert pulled into a galactic war to save a princess. No more or less powerful than having us emotionally invest in an orphaned child with unimaginable power and even greater enemies. No more or less powerful than the most forbidden of love stories—a bloodsucking killer and a virginal high school student.

Ideas shape worlds, change cultures, and apparently destroy the city of Cleveland—they, and the stories they live in, are the basic form of human communication. They strike us, emotionally, psychically, physically; make us perceive our environment, and one another, in new and interesting ways; force us to re-examine ourselves. Ideas have power. They can be palpable, tangible, kinetic forces. They can fuel revolutions and quell rebellions. And ideas, in the hands of writers, change people. They can people. Become part of them, part of their lexicon, become a new prism on the lens through which they see the world.

So take your ideas and palm them like the gems they are. Hug them close like nuggets of gold, stroke them like magnificent beasts. Then hold them to the light and give them to the world.

And believe in them.

They might save the world.