Minor Spoilers for Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: the Hammer of Thor
I finally, finally was able to read and finish the second Magnus Chase book. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf all year, sad and lonely and collecting dust because I’ve been stuck reading textbooks. I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been fortunate enough to graduate with a B.A. and these kinds of sacrifices are expected. But there’s only so much reading I can do on American Constitutional law before I get itchy for some Ricky. (Wow, that’s bad. Sorry.)
Anyway, Magnus. With The Sword of Summer, I was impressed once again by Rick Riordan’s excellent storytelling, sense of humor, and ability to handle complicated issues in a kid-friendly way. I also loved how he’s actively making the cast diverse: Samirah is a Muslim, Magnus is homeless (and quite possibly queer), and Hearthstone is deaf. However, I did not consider it on par with his Percy Jackson series, even though Magnus Chase is technically in that series because it’s all in the same crazy world.
It’s probably because The Sword of Summer didn’t really offer anything new. It was basically the same story as Percy Jackson, just dropped in Norse mythology rather than Greek. Also, there’s no Nico di Angelo. Which means there’s no Solangelo. I was more excited about Trials of Apollo because we got to see more of that adorableness missing in The Sword of Summer.
For those of you who used to read my old blog, this may be confusing. I’ve ranted about romantic subplots on multiple occasions. That’s because 90% of the time they are annoying, they reduce the girl/woman to nothing more than a sex object, and they serve no purpose to the overall plot. I touched on this last week. Some examples include Megan Fox’s character in Transformers, Arwen in Lord of the Rings, and every single superhero movie ever.
The other 10% are the well-written romantic subplots. They happen when A) the romance has a major impact on the story and/or characters; B) the girl (if there is a girl) can still stand on her own within the story without the love interest; and the optional C) it’s adorable. We see this with Leia and Han in Star Wars, Anna and Kristoff in Frozen, and pretty much every relationship in Rick Riordan’s books. For instance: Solangelo hit point A in Blood of Olympus, point B does not apply, and point C needs no explanation.
Then I read Magnus Chase book two, Hammer of Thor, and I can honestly say this series is as good as, if not better than, the Percy Jackson series. I’m not entirely sure what made me love the series so much more. Maybe it was Heimdall taking selfies. It might have been the Game of Thrones reference at the very end. It could be because it centered on a Norse myth I’d actually read and knew (in a book that had illustrations; the image of a burly, bearded Thor in a wedding dress is forever seared in my memory). It could’ve been seeing Hearthstone’s family and getting more of his tragic, intriguing background.
Maybe it was Alex Fierro, who is quite possibly my favorite character, and who I ship with Magnus like 99% of Rick Riordan’s fanbase. A lot has already been said about her (sometimes him) in other reviews (like this one, and this one, and this one…). Putting a genderfluid transgender character in a kids’ book is a bold move, one I wholeheartedly support; especially since it plays into the larger theme of defying gender roles: Blitz is a man with a degree in fashion, Samirah is a kickass warrior, Magnus is a nurturing healer (a role usually assigned to girls/women), and now we have Alex, who comes right out and says that (s)he will decide what is masculine or feminine as it relates to her, and if anyone has a problem they can shove it.
But having a genderfluid character only works if it’s done well. There have been some legitimate complaints about Alex. Not from the transphobes; we’ll just ignore them. Some fans argue that Alex is a token, a vessel for Rick to educate the youngins about gender. They do have a point: her largest defining trait is her gender. It comes up in almost every conversation she participates in. And unlike Samirah, who has a career goal, a romantic goal, heavy influence from her mortal family, and religious depth, Alex...doesn’t.
Now, we still have another book in this series. We didn’t know a whole lot about Hearth until visiting his homeworld in Hammer of Thor. And Alex, being a child of Loki and coming from a rough background, has good reason not to trust anyone with her life story. She refused to let Magnus heal her for as long as possible because she was afraid he’d read her mind.
Also, while Magnus has religious depth (being an atheist counts) and it looks like he now has the beginnings of a romantic goal in Alex, he wasn’t thinking very far ahead when he was living on the streets. He and Alex do not have the luxury Sam, Blitz, and Hearth do in career aspirations and dreams for the future. For one, they’re dead. Two, being homeless narrows your options down to surviving that day. Alex is fluid, changeable, and lives in the moment. That’s how she survived as long as she did in her old life, and that’s how she’s survived this long in her afterlife. The fact that she lacks career goals is completely understandable.
So I’m not too worried about Alex being flat and underused. She provides an excellent contrast to her half-sister Sam, and the gate is wide open for sibling disputes in book three. If she and Magnus do end up together, they’re going to spend a lot of time talking and sharing stories, which will provide an opportunity for character backstory and development. And if Rick managed to create a racially diverse cast of seven major characters, all of whom are in a romantic relationship and all of whom are complex, three-dimensional people, plus the adorableness that is Solangelo, I think he can handle Alex Fierro.
Admit it: we all want this to happen.
What’s been overshadowed by Alex in this book, and what I think is the most impressive feat, is getting into Samirah’s faith. The words “Muslim” and “Allah” never showed up in Sword of Summer. She wears the hijab, and there’s one line where she mentions going to mosque with her grandmother. Other than that, nothing. The arranged marriage with Amir is a cultural thing, not necessarily a religious thing. We’re all concerned about Alex being a two-dimensional token now? Last year I was worried about the opposite: having Sam talk about everything but her religion, like it somehow doesn’t influence any of her decisions or views of the world. I wouldn’t have been surprised, since the fact that we have an Arabic Muslim as one of the good guys is a step in the right direction. But I would’ve been disappointed.
Luckily, I worried over nothing. Hammer of Thor tackled her Islamic faith head-on. The Muslim Valkyrie says point-blank that the "gods" she's serving are not gods. They're just powerful beings created by her god, Allah. She asks Magnus to keep an eye out while she prays, with a prayer mat and everything, and we see how that ritual is a source of strength for her. Magnus overhears her muttering Arabic prayers near the end, right before the major fight with Loki and the giants. These days, when the media is clogged with portrayals of "radical Islam" and ISIS and scary brown people, Rick presents us with the peaceful, tranquil side of Islam. It's a much-needed message in this day and age.
There are a dozen reasons to love Hammer of Thor. For me, the biggest reason is this: it’s not the end of the story.
The last scene in Hammer of Thor had Annabeth deciding to introduce Magnus to Percy. We’ve all been dreaming of this moment ever since Sword of Summer came out. How do you think this meeting is going to go?
Growing up, I loved hearing the words strong female character ("SFC"). By the time I'd hit middle school I was boiling with anger. Not just because of awkward adolescence, but because I was sick and tired of seeing the same old damsels in distress and sexualized romantic interests in my favorite movies and series. I wanted more Mulans, but instead I got a truckload of Sleeping Beauties. And occasionally, an action movie or sci-fi book would deliver my semi-regular SFC.
Except they didn't. As I grew older and better at writing stories myself, I began to notice a problem with the "strong female character."
They weren't characters at all.
They were tokens. Something to get the "feminazis" off of the writers' backs, and maybe throw in some overused sexual tension for the main (man) character. Worse: they were grossly sexualized. Jessica Rabbit's exaggerated curves and revealing dress speak volumes.
So we need to get rid of the very idea of the "strong female character" for a variety of reasons. These are the big three.
The first problem is the term itself: strong female character. Not everyone with a uterus is a woman, and not everyone with a dick is a man.
Strong female character?
And what does strong even mean? Physical muscles? Confidence? Emotional endurance? Why do we need the word in the first place? It's never in front of "male character."
Easy answer: men are automatically assumed to be "strong," and women weak. So when producers and directors say that they have a "strong female character" in their movie, it's like saying, "Regular women are pathetic wimps who can't do anything. But this person is strong and capable." More on this later.
Second problem. Let's assume that strong means "capable of looking after/rescuing herself." Essentially the writers are trying to create the exact opposite of a damsel in distress. That's a noble effort, so long as the character doesn't end up needing to be rescued anyway. Not that she should be invincible; she'd be boring if she was. But she should rescue the man at least as often as he rescues her. You know, that whole equality thing.
Good examples of this give-and-take are the characters of the Percy Jackson series, particularly Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena. For all her intelligence, she does need help getting out of tough situations from time to time. The entire third book The Titan's Curse was dedicated to Percy going on a rescue mission after she was kidnapped, and he got critical help from Thalia and a couple of Hunters of Artemis, all of them girls. This was one book after Annabeth rescued Percy in Sea of Monsters when he was turned into a guinea pig by a witch and two books after she saved him with her intelligence a half a dozen times in The Lightning Thief. In all the books after Titan's Curse, Annabeth routinely battles and outsmarts monsters, Titans, and giants, often saving Percy's life as a result.
But as for stories that aren't written by Rick Riordan, an embarrassing number of "strong female characters" need rescuing by the man, and at no point is she given an opportunity to return the favor. Worse, she who has trained for years in the military, or was designed to be a weapon, or is otherwise entirely qualified to do whatever dangerous thing she and the other characters are doing, she must be rescued by a bumbling beginner. The guy who just entered the adventure, who has zero experience and very little idea of how to defeat the bad guy, ends up rescuing the supersoldier. In what world does that make sense?
The entire point of the SFC's existence--being a kickass woman who "don't need no man"--is completely undermined by falling into the ancient damsel in distress trope. Just look at Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy (twice!) and Valka in How to Train Your Dragon 2 (also twice).
The third and final problem with SFCs is the most aggravating to me as a professional writer: it's lazy storytelling.
Black Widow (a.k.a. Natasha Romanov) in Age of Ultron was so disappointing because the writers didn't go into her complicated, mysterious past as much as they should have. During her conversation with Loki in the first Avengers movie, she mentions that she's on the team to balance out the "red in my ledger." To which Loki replies, "Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Dreykov's daughter, Sao Paulo, the hospital fire? Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping, it's gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything?"
There are three things in that single line of dialogue that make us go wait, what? It's the doorway to an excellent redemption story not unlike Tony Stark's. But instead of doing that, the writers decided that Black Widow's story in Ultron would be how sad she is that she can't be a mommy, and that that's what makes her a monster (which is a whole other rant altogether). The romantic subplot between her and Bruce Banner made her flat and two-dimensional, when she could've been one of the most intriguing and awe-inspiring characters in the movie.
Unfortunately, Natasha has lots of company. There are dozens of other intriguing women who've been doomed to a dull love interest: Trinity from The Matrix, Tauriel from The Hobbit trilogy, and Grace in Armageddon.
Not to say that all traditional SFCs in books and television are flat and undeveloped, or even those caught up in romance. Buffy has to juggle school, family, friends, love life and work with her Slayer duties, putting her and her friends through rigorous character development throughout the show. Annabeth cuts down more monsters than almost any other demigod in Camp Half-Blood while struggling to overcome her personal demons of pride and betrayal. Brienne of Tarth is loyal to a fault, yet she does not play well with others; in fact, she usually cuts them in half.
So, yes, you can have some kick-ass heroines with swords and stakes and guns. That is not the issue here. The issue is when that is all that defines them.
Buffy isn't a classic character of the vampire genre because of her karate skills. It's her ongoing struggle to try to live a normal life with friends and family while everything else is (literally) going to hell.
Annabeth doesn't inspire thousands of Percy Jackson fans because of her knife, but because of her strong sense of purpose and confidence.
Brienne's story in Game of Thrones is interesting not because she's hacking sexist jerks in two ("It's a bloody woman!"), but because of the difficult choices she makes. When she and Jaime were on opposite sides of the siege at Riverrun, she told him that she would do battle with him despite their friendship (and her crush) because "honor compels me."
But I don't consider them "strong female characters." They all have strength, of course; physical and emotional. But why would you use "strong" to describe someone like, say, Hermione Granger? The first words that come to mind for this classic witch are intelligent, stubborn, brave, arrogant, compassionate, and loyal. Not once does strong ever pop into my head.
"I think the major problem here is that women were clamoring for “strong female characters,” and male writers misunderstood. They thought the feminists meant [Strong Female] Characters. The feminists meant [Strong Characters], Female."
A character--man, woman, or anyone else--does not become a memorable, flesh-and-blood person in the eyes of their audience just because there's a sword in their hand. What makes them great characters is that they drive the story.
For example: the blind fighting champion Toph Bei Fong from the Nickelodeon series Avatar: the Last Airbender embodies all the stereotypes of the "strong female character": she's cocky, a total tomboy, loves fighting and dirt, she's stubborn and often arrogant, but deeply loyal and loves her friends. And those stereotypical features work because she has clear motivations and a narrative arc. She wants to get out from under her oppressive parents and save the world, and while that largely includes teaching Aang (the main boy character) how to earthbend (basically earth magic, for the uninitiated), it also involves fighting alongside her friends while they storm castles and kingdoms, inventing an entirely new branch of earthbending, discovering a passion for teaching, and trying to reconcile with her parents. She does finally get back on good terms with her father, but only when he accepts her as who she is, instead of her "softening up" (re: becoming more feminine and taking a back seat).
Opposite of Toph is Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. She's very feminine, wearing dresses and makeup and chatting with girls about boys in her down time. She has no military training and relies heavily on her bodyguards if she's caught in a physical fight. But she doesn't need a sword. She doesn't even need her dragons to be badass. She takes what she has--essentially nothing--and ends up with a massive army, three dragons, and ultimate authority over half the continent. She refuses to be tucked away into the Dothraki Sea when the horse lords capture her, and instead kills all of their leaders in one blow with a couple of friends and some kindling. And now the seventh season will be completely defined by her invasion of Westeros. As it happens, her main opponent is also a woman: Cersei Lannister, another great (though certainly not good) woman character.
The main takeaway is this: the strength of a character is not determined by how many bad guys she can kill or how sexy she looks with a gun. It's determined by her power over the story. If she has none and is only there as decoration/sex appeal/tokenism, then she needs to be rewritten. Maybe give her some girlfriends so she's not the token of the boy band. But if she has significant influence over the plot, then she truly is a strong, woman character.
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Interesting counterargument to Valka being a damsel in distress: "Why How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a Radical Feminist Triumph"
Know any good movies, shows or books with badass women? Comment below!
These days, almost everyone's stumbled across the term "whitewashing." With Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, and everyone in Noah--among many, many others--there are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about Hollywood's race problem. And yet, some people are still confused about what whitewashing is and why it's so offensive. Worse, they tend to confuse it with racebending and are more offended by that. Hence, this beginner's guide. Because if those other thousands of articles didn't get the message across, surely this one will!
(Hey, a girl can dream, right?)
Everyone's heard of blackface, right? Back in the day, white actors would smear inky makeup over their faces to play black characters, usually in a horribly stereotypical, mocking manner. They did the same thing with Asian characters, and every other character of color. Thank goodness we don't do that anymore, right?
Hollywood might not practice blackface (or yellowface, or brownface, or redface) as much as it used to. Instead, they just hire white actors to play non-white roles, a practice called whitewashing. It's basically the same thing as blackface, except without the makeup.
One contemporary example is The Lone Ranger. When the show aired in the 1950's, the role of the Native American warrior Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels, who was, in fact, a Native American himself (born on Canada's Six Nations Reserve). But when they made the movie in 2013, Tonto was played by a very white Johnny Depp.
When the 1950's is more culturally sensitive than a movie in the 21st Century, you've got a problem.
Generally speaking, unless a character must be played by a person of color--such as Nelson Mandela, Solomon Northup from 12 Years a Slave, or any person that the vast majority of viewers know for a fact is not white--Hollywood will cast a white actor. If a white actor can pass or "pull off" the look of a character of color (especially Asians), they will be cast as those characters. If Hollywood can ignore the ethnic backstory of a character and simply say that person is white--such as the Hispanic Alisha Nash played by Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind--they will cast a white actor. That's whitewashing.
The problem gets worse when you consider the already-limited roles for characters of color. Take action and superhero movies, for instance. Think of a superhero. Any superhero. Let me guess: it's a white man. That's because the vast majority of superheroes are white men. Look at last year's Captain America: Civil War. The story centers around Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, both white men. They each have 1-2 black sidekicks on their teams (Sam Wilson, James Rhodes, and King T'Challa). They each have one woman (Wanda Maximoff and Natasha Romanov, also both white). Everyone else, and the vast majority of the supporting cast and extras, are white men. Well, and Vision, who technically doesn't have a race. But since he's played by the British actor Paul Bettany...
Basically, each team made sure to have just enough token characters so they could say they weren't being racist or sexist. Every other superhero movie is pretty much the same. Black Panther comes out in 2018...and that's it in terms of superhero movies that center around characters of color. Ghost in the Shell was supposed to be another POC blockbuster, but instead they changed the lead from Japanese to white.
If you're a black, Latinx or Asian actor, here are your options:
-sidekick (see above)
-a teacher/guide who ends up killed (such as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange...oh, wait, that was played by a white woman)
-or a villain (such as the Punisher's villain Barracuda). And even the villains are slim, especially in action movies, who tend to have a hot white British guy instead.
Basically, whitewashing is filling as many roles as possible with white actors and limiting already slim pickings for actors of color. It's a practice that Hollywood has been doing for as long as there have been movies.
Deadshot in Suicide Squad: comics (left) and movie (right)
So what happens when a person of color plays a traditionally white role? That is two things. One: rare. Two: that's racebending. It's basically the flip-side of whitewashing. And it's a good thing.
Remember, actors of color have slim pickings and limited opportunities in Hollywood, while there's a surplus of white roles. Plus, there's no history of black actors diminishing, minimizing, and mocking white people as a whole on a massive scale. So there is no reason to be upset when directors decide to practice racebending. In fact, that's reason to celebrate.
Case in point: Suicide Squad. In the DC comics, Deadshot is white. Yet they cast Will Smith in 2016. (Cue major controversy and racists losing their heads.) Obviously, Smith isn't going to have much trouble getting work, especially for action movies. But Shailyn Pierre-Dixon wouldn't have been able to play Deadshot's daughter if they'd gone with a different casting choice. Meaning she wouldn't have been able to put "played a minor character in a blockbuster superhero movie" on her IMDb profile, like the children in Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Iron Man 3.
Although to be fair, Suicide Squad isn't the best example. While Deadshot is one of the protagonists (re: a character you're rooting for), he is still a villain. A better example would be Aquaman in the new D.C. League of Justice reboot; the usually blond King of Atlantis will be played by the native Hawaiian Jason Momoa. Or Nick Fury, who started the comics as white before they made him black in another universe and hired Samuel Jackson for the Phase Three Reboot.
Bottom line: white actors need to stop being greedy and hogging all of the roles that should go to actors of color. Honestly, they're acting like little kids grabbing all the cookies out of the jar, and the parents--re: the casting directors--are encouraging it. They're shoving the cookies in those kids' hands while the black, Asian, and Latinx kids only get the crumbs. It's unfair, annoying, and getting really boring.
The best way to end whitewashing is to pay to see movies that practice racebending, and boycott the others. I mentioned last week that I did not go see Ghost in the Shell, and not just because it's apparently a stinker (although that certainly made boycotting it a lot easier). If you don't want to see white actors plays characters of color, then don't pay to see it.
Know any good movies or TV shows that have been race-bent? Comment below!
Most of us have probably heard the term “rape culture” before. Its definition is “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.” A good example is this article from Everyday Feminism, which describes ten pop culture characters who stayed friends or lovers with their rapists, usually as the punchline of a really bad joke.
There are dozens—if not hundreds—of factors that play into and influence rape culture, which in turn influences us. I’m going to focus on how sexism in our movies, TV shows, and books fuels that culture. In other words, we’re going to talk about how those rape jokes everyone laughs at in the theater lead to a more dangerous environment, especially for women.
At this point I should mention who exactly rapists and rape victims are. Perpetrators are usually—but not always—men. Victims are usually—but not always—women. Stats vary from CDC to WHO to FBI, but the general consensus is that roughly 1 in 6 women in America will be raped/sexually assaulted in her lifetime (1 in 4 if she’s on a college campus), which translates to one every two minutes. 1 in 8 rape victims are men. This does not mean that 1 in 6 men are rapists, but it does make the problem and the perpetrators a lot more common than most people realize. Perpetrators are not abnormal. They’re not sociopaths or psychotic or crazy old men who hide in the bushes. Their average age is thirty-one, and slightly more than half of them are white. Most don’t even think they’ve committed a rape, and even more believe they didn’t do anything wrong. (More stats here.)
So with that in mind, this article is going to focus primarily on heterosexual rape (re: man-on-woman), as that is the most common form of rape, and the kind our movies, shows and books encourage.
The fact that Hollywood has a sexism problem is no secret. The lack of speaking roles for women, the fact that so many of their roles are reserved for the young and pretty, and how those roles are limited to that of girlfriend, mother, and daughter have all been documented and argued over for years. The internet is saturated with editorials and commentary of how we need more women in our movies, more diverse women, more diverse roles, etc.
One excellent example of that sexism is the romantic comedy. I don’t like rom-coms anyway: the clichés, the tropes, the sheer ridiculousness of the entire premise, and, of course, the sexism. But while drowning the female lead in stereotypes that paint all women as men-crazed fashionistas who go into credit card debt for clothes is bad enough (or the opposite: men as unfeeling jerks ruled by their penises), there is something much worse: the use of stalking. Stop me if this sounds familiar: he wants her, she doesn’t want him, he keeps pursuing her and eventually she falls in love with him. That’s not just inaccurate, that’s dangerous. It teaches men to ignore a woman’s clear discomfort and fear, and even an outright “no” if she’s confident enough to try to put a stop to it. It teaches women to be flattered by his “persistence.” Worse, law enforcement agencies do not take complaints of stalking seriously, and often laugh in the victim’s face.
Now you might say, “Yeah, right. They’re just cheesy movies, Chris! Nobody takes them seriously.”
No? How about this man accused of stalking two women in Australia in 2015? He used the “Bollywood defense,” by arguing that he “learned from Bollywood movies that relentlessly pursuing women was the only way to woo them.” The argument worked, and his case was thrown out.
That’s just rom-coms. Now think about all the movies we take a little more seriously: historical fiction, superhero movies, horror films…they all carry the same sexist messages, and they all have the same consequences.
So, what exactly is the difference between a perfectly innocent man who drinks beer and yells at the TV on Sunday during football season, and the man who does the same and then rapes his girlfriend? It’s that men who are sexually violent “have ‘hyper-masculine’ attitudes and self-concepts—their approval of male dominance and sexual rights is even stronger than that of non-rapists…The difference between sexually violent men and others appears to be only a matter of degree.”
In other words, men who are sexually violent believe that it’s their right to be sexually violent. That that kind of behavior is acceptable, and in some cases even encouraged.
There are many places a person can learn this message. Parents/guardians, friends, and of course, media. Modern movies desensitize viewers to violence, particularly violence against women. Some, especially porn, encourage it.
Sometimes the sexist messages and promotion of rape culture are blatantly obvious (see above: rom-coms). Other times it’s a little more subtle, and serves more to reinforce what we’ve been taught about gender roles and male dominance. The Fast and Furious franchise (and most other action movies) uses women only as decoration: sex objects, damsels in distress, occasionally a minor supporting character who gets to drive a car. The men in these movies and others like it—Captain America, James Bond, Bruce Wayne—are ultra-masculine and dominating, both features male rapists value.
Beauty and the Beast is an excellent study of Stockholm syndrome, as Beast effectively kidnaps Belle and forces her into submission. The Notebook has elements of emotional abuse as Ryan Gosling’s character threatens to commit suicide if Rachel McAdams doesn’t go out with him. It’s even been argued that Ron and Hermione’s relationship in the Harry Potter series echoes abusive elements, especially in the movies (as any Potterhead will tell you, Hollywood really screwed that up).
“Wait a minute, Chris. Harry Potter? Disney? You’re telling me that rape culture is everywhere and in everything?”
Yup. Pretty much.
“So I can’t enjoy any of my favorite movies, shows, and books and should just avoid everything?”
Well, no. We all have guilty pleasures. And frankly, the rape culture in our media is so common and widespread that you literally cannot escape it without shutting down every electronic device and spending the rest of your life in a cave in the Himalayas. The number of sorority sisters I have who are feminists and yet love to spend their Saturday nights watching crappy rom-coms is enough to drive me out of the house for a few hours. I personally love the Marvel Phase Three reboot, even though almost every single major character is a white male, and every single woman with more than ten minutes of screen time has been reduced to a love interest.
And there are some franchises and sources of entertainment that go against stereotypes and sexism. Game of Thrones is one of my favorite examples: look at all the prominent women of diverse skills, from Arya and Brienne to Sansa and Daenerys. Mad Max: Furious Road actively tackles sexism and the issue of human trafficking with a flame-thrower guitar. And the Percy Jackson series (especially the later books) has a wide variety of girls, LGBT+ teens, and people of color.
But nothing’s perfect. Thrones has a rape problem and a race problem (especially in the show). Mad Max apparently thinks the only people who will survive the apocalypse are white people. Percy Jackson…that is perfect, actually.
But you have a voice, and you probably have the internet if you’re reading this article. So when you see Hollywood falling onto bad habits and the directors try to cover it up with BS, call them out on it. Tweet, blog, vlog, Facebook, Snapchat. Make the internet explode with outrage. Even better, hit them where it hurts: their wallets. Buy tickets to movies like Zootopia and boycott the others. I didn’t see the Beauty and the Beast reboot despite my love of Emma Watson, nor did I pay to see a whitewashed Ghost in the Shell.
And to my fellow writers. You aspiring Rick Riordans, you Marvel geeks who scribble comics in the margins of your notebooks, you Comic-Con regulars who dream of people creating costumes for your characters. Keep writing. And then step past that dark wall of fear and self-doubt and get published. (Your writing does us no good if we can’t read it!) If someone says, “Why did you make this witch trans? Can’t you just make her normal?” unfriend them on Facebook. If someone says, “I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but that’s a really bad rape joke on page forty, and your starship captain is sexist AF,” give that person a medal and edit the scene.
Write what you want to read. Pay for what you want to see more of. And never stop the crusade against rape culture and bullshit.
What movies/shows/books have you seen that promote rape culture? Do you know any that try to fight it? Comment below!
That's right! The blog of fantasy, science fiction and horror has returned to the internet! This is bigger, bitchier and better than ever!
For those who don't know, I made my debut on the internet by starting the blog Dragons, Zombies and Aliens in the summer of 2015. Unfortunately, in late 2016, I had to put it on hiatus. I was in my last year of college, I'd just started writing for TheThings.com, I was looking for a "real" job and an apartment, and overall just trying to salvage the tattered remains of my sanity. But now that I've graduated, secured a career in advocacy, and have a living space that's not my parents' basement, I have returned!
Not that I ever really left the internet in the first place. It's been a busy month: multiple short stories published, two novellas written and contracted, and dozens of articles making a splash on TheThings.com.
And we're just getting started.
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The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!