Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jurassic World Accused of Promoting Mommyhood (and other things)

Sometimes the feminists get it right, sometimes they just like to crap on things, and sometimes they do both at the same time.  Molly Fitzpatrick makes great points about how much more feminist the movie Jurassic Park is than Jurassic World, but sometimes her argument falls a little short.

Jurassic World does not offer a well-rounded, capable female character for us to look up to in Claire Dearing.  The mucho macho Owen Grady rescues her on multiple occasions, which struck me as nothing new in a movie culture that loves the knight in shining armor.  However, Claire’s arc is hardly about, as Fitzpatrick describes it, being taught "the importance of motherhood."

True, when Claire says "if I have kids," her sister Karen changes it to "when," as if motherhood will come whether Claire likes it or not.  Is it annoying to women who don't want families, myself included, if people assume that we want kids or that we're good with them because of our gender?  Oh yeah.  But we shouldn't base all of our interpretation of Claire on one piece of dialogue.

Fitzpatrick discusses how Alan Grant’s "discovery of his fondness for children is joyful,” while "Claire's is colored with shame and anxiety."  Grant doesn’t have children with Ellie Sattler, or anyone else, after the events of Jurassic Park.  Even though he did start to like Hammond's grandchildren, he apparently didn't consider it a path to actual fatherhood.  Meanwhile, Claire becomes protective of her nephews when she realizes how much danger they're in.  Is that really mothering?  Claire doesn't know her nephews' ages, and she hardly speaks to Karen.  Because of her workaholic tendencies, she's not just disconnected from children, but from her family in general.  Is she supposed to learn how to be a mom?  How about she learns to be an aunt or a sister?  I think that's closer to what the movie was aiming for, especially since Claire gives no indication that she wants her own kids at the end of the movie.  All she does at the end is run off with a hot guy.  What character growth!

Claire also doesn’t get to play the hero like Owen.  Fitzpatrick rightfully points out the unfairness of her nephews saying, "We want to stay with him" even though they just saw Claire take out a Pteranodon.  However, Fitzpatrick becomes unfair herself when she asserts that Claire's "genuinely heroic moment" of summoning the T. rex is "swiftly undercut by the fact that she must then flee from the animal in her heels."  Honestly, what did she expect Claire to do?  Punch the dinosaur in the face?  When you call out a T. rex, even if it's purposeful, you run for your life.  Truthfully, Fitzpatrick should commend Claire for running in her heels.

Wanting a female character to kick ass with no questions asked is one thing.  However, expecting her to do the impossible or to show no weakness is another.  That's expecting her to be a super-woman.  Headlining women are in short order among movies, especially blockbusters, but we must take care not to heap all of our hopes and dreams for feminism onto a single character.  Feminists besides Fitzpatrick have unfortunately done that to plenty of female characters that overall are pretty fantastic but aren't absolutely perfect.

When I first came out of the movie theater, I thought that, while nowhere near Jurassic Park's excellence, Jurassic World had some cool mythology, awesome dinosaurs, and, let's face it, eye candy that made it entertaining and enjoyable.  Then people like Fitzpatrick pointed out all its anti-feminist ways.  I never considered it feminist, but I still felt guilty for not catching the more minute misogynies throughout the film.  How dare I even call myself a feminist when I can't uncover all the ways a movie reinforces sexism and shout "Down with the patriarchy!"?  I'm only partially kidding.

Lately I've wondered what feminism is supposed to be about.  As I pursue my bachelor's degree in a highly liberal college environment, I've learned a lot of the words and ways to criticize society for oppressing women and other groups of people.  To be honest, I've heard less (not none, but less) about actual things to do about it.  Which is easier: typing away about how much this author or that director mistreated a female character, or getting involved in grassroots organizations that work for women's rights?  Perhaps one can do both, but as feminist lingo runs around my head, I can't help but think I haven't done much besides the former option.  I wonder how many people like me are out there, saying all the right things and receiving all the appropriate praise and yet feeling a distinctive lack in their convictions.  Do we just say feminism, or do we do feminism?  The answer may not be as easy as we hope.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Well, I finally know what S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for.  It only took me about five years, but this show finally hammered it in my head.  I would say I regret putting off watching this show until now, but that would have meant that I couldn't binge watch it all on Netflix in less than a month.  Pros to procrastination.

The best part about the show by far was the characters.  I didn't care that much about Phil Coulson in the Marvel movies, mainly because there were so many superheroes around that I didn't have much attention to spare for some stoic-faced agent.  However, this show gave me a chance to see Coulson's character on the ground level, as a human being with a good heart and real struggles.  In a way he reminds me of the pre-serum Steve Rogers, a guy who was considered a nobody but who had so much faith and strength that it's hard not to root for him.  I imagine Coulson would explode at my comparison if he were to read my review.  As for the other characters (in season one and two), I fell in love with every one of them--even the character who I knew ahead of time was going to be a traitor.  I knew it was coming, but the moment that character turned, I still gasped.  I had the sense that I was supposed to like this character, as much as I tried to hate them with every ounce of my body, so I was very interested to see what happened next with them in the following season.  Too bad the person ended up becoming a true blue psychopath, but, well… spoiler.

Can I say how much I enjoyed having so much diversity among the cast of characters?  Season one gave us a main cast that was half full of badass woman, two of them being women of color.  Both seasons gave us a slew of other women and people of color, both as major and minor characters.  Thumbs up for that, Marvel!

And oh, THE CAMEOS!  Nick Fury, Maria Hill, in the FIRST FEW EPISODES of the first season.  And then Sif came, too!  And then Peggy Carter came in for the first episode of season 2.  I could hardly handle that much awesomeness at once.  The show had so many connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe via characters, plot lines, and references.  You can easily see the events of Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers Age of Ultron play out in the lives of the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  It really felt like the characters were living in the same world as the Avengers.

Ties to the overall Marvel universe are not the only thing that the writers kept an excellent handle on; within the show itself are a multitude of multi-faceted characters who have new mysteries to discover all the time.  The many and complex threads in the various episodes were almost always consistent, which is impressive considering the episodes are long and numerous.  The writers kept their hands on the reins throughout the entire crazy ride of spy adventures, uncovered secrets, more uncovered secrets, character development, shocking turnarounds, and more.  My dad compared the series to a soap opera, which is very apt considering I could not stop watching until I absolutely had to.  By the end of each season so far, little is left undone or overlooked.

Honestly, anyone who appreciates good writing, well-rounded characters, thrilling action, oodles of sarcasm, or Marvel in general would appreciate Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  So if you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?