Quick thoughts on entertainment and critical thought


Fantasy reflects your subconscious desires.

–Aamer Rahman, “Game of Thrones and Racist Fantasy

Worth a read, I think. Rahman points to some of the obviously (to my mind) problematic aspects of race in Game of Thrones. I love Game of Thrones (have only watched the show, and am unlikely to read the books for quite some time) and am totally on board with this critique. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of defensive behavior in response. I think the conversations that come out of articles like this are really important, though, and I have to believe that they have some positive effect. There will be jerks, and the positive effect may not accumulate as quickly as I’d like, but I still think it’s worthwhile.

I think that one of the most difficult parts of these sorts of conversations is how to articulate, and convince others, that books, shows, movies, etc. can do one thing well, while still doing another thing poorly. They can be entertaining but not actually well-told. They can subvert one type of assumption while supporting another. Or the same one, in a different scene. I think, for a lot of people, getting something right means it’s either unfair or unnecessary to talk about the things that are less successful — like if you’re good on gender in some way, then you can’t also be bad on gender in some other way. Or on race, or class, or…

Sadly, it’s not a matter of either/or. GoT is actually a great example of this. As is Man of Steel, for that matter, though I’d put them on different parts of the quality spectrum (click here for my review). And I don’t think that quality determines whether we should just accept what’s presented, either. Game of Thrones may be more substantive and more complex than new-school Star Trek, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy them both, and it doesn’t make either of them exempt from challenges to the images they use to tell their stories.

And, once challenged, how wrong is too wrong? What takes a media product have from being something I can enjoy, but maintain that it’s important to think critically about, to something I just can’t participate in? I love Whedon, but there are issues. I watch, but I also attempt to engage with the issues. I enjoyed Man of Steel, and I do think that Lois Lane was well done, in some ways. But not in all ways. I watched, and I liked it, but I felt like I needed to say that there was room for improvement. And then there’s something like True Blood (SO MANY ISSUES), which I just had to let go of. As I write this, my brother is watching the season premiere, and I am hiding in another part of the house, to keep myself from getting sucked back into something that was fun (sometimes), but also so offensively racist and misogynistic that I just couldn’t, anymore.


My geekery would probably be much easier for me if I didn’t think so much, but I also think that would just enable me to be passively part of the problem. And I’d like to be a part of the solution. If only to make it easier for me to enjoy the geekery.

Man of Steel (***1/2)

Catching up on “summer movie” reviews. Seems strange to feel like I’m playing catch-up here, since summer doesn’t actually start until Friday…

Anyhow, I’m digging out the old movie rating system:

5 *s = “WOW!”
4 *s = “Good.”
3 *s = “Stupid fun, decent, or at least not bad enough to get 2 *s.”
2 *s = “Bad, but not awful; or awful, but enjoyable either despite or because of that.”
1 * = “The best part was the end, because then it was over.”
no *s = “*Deep, pain-filled sigh*…I will never get that [insert running time here] of my life back.”

First up is the most recent one I’ve seen: Man of Steel. My prediction was: good action, mediocre plot, bad gender. So, how did it do?

Well, the action was good, sometimes. I think the story held together better than I expected. I liked the themes they chose to focus on (hope, use of power vs. restraint, and self-determination), though I don’t think they did them as well as they could have. And, the gender stuff was  less aggressively bad than I’d thought it would be. So, I have quibbles, but I think it was entertaining. It’s definitely worth watching, if you’re into the idea of a Superman movie (or a movie with Henry Cavill in it). It’s especially worth it if you, like the gentleman I recently overheard at a coffee shop, “just want to see a big, loud movie, where Zod and Superman break some shit, and Superman eventually saves the day, and Lois Lane is a hottie.”

But, therein lie the quibbles. (And, herein lie the spoilers.) Continue reading “Man of Steel (***1/2)”

Queen & Country, vol. 1: Operation Broken Ground (Cannonball Read 5:1)

Queen and Country: Operation Broken GroundI picked up this first collection of Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country after hearing Jennifer Stuller (whose Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology I have reviewed elsewhere) talk about it at WonderCon, back in 2011. The note I made about it at the time was “female badass alcoholic train wreck secret ops.” That may end up being an oversimplification, but it’s not wrong.

Tara Chace (who I keep wanting to call Kara Thrace) is a Special Operations Officer, or “Minder,” with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. In the first collection (issues 1-4), we meet Chace in action and get a taste of her life and work. She’s been sent to Kosovo, to do a favor for a friend, and it goes about as well as one might expect. Without spoiling anything for people who, like me, tend to get exposed to graphic novels long after they’re new, I’ll just say that the story is off to an engaging start: the characters seem fleshed out enough to make me want to know more about them, and there are enough hints of complications and entanglements to come to make it seem like there will be more to it than Dangerous Mission of the Week. It’s already clear, for example, that Chace has some serious issues, that office politics is really high stakes, and that inter-agency allegiances are just as shaky as you’d expect. I know that Rucka and co. won an Eisner Award (Best New Series, 2002), and I think Operation Broken Ground gives me a good indication of why.

Queen & Country ran from 2001-2007. The collection I read was published in 2002, and I happened to find it in a used bookstore’s $1 bin. Best bet now would be Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1 (2008) — I’ve already invested in the full set, and do not expect to be disappointed.