Captain America And The Real Myths Told By Superheroes (A Discussion)

A few years ago, when the first Captain America film came out, I was visiting my friend Phil Rockstroh. Phil is “a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City,” so leftist he makes me look like Ronald Reagan, and he watched the film with me. To him, of course, Steve Rogers was the very major model of a modern jingoistic character designed to arouse fascistic and nationalistic feelings in the weak-minded.

I tried pointing out that Cap had been created by a couple of Jewish kids trying to encourage Americans to stand against the Nazi threat in Europe before America was even in the war. I tried to delineate the progressive values Captain America has shown over the decades, and how at every point in the film, the creators subverted the potential jingoism that can, indeed, be a part of such a character. I predicted that in future films we would see a very strong anti-authoritarian theme at work in not just the Captain America films but in Marvel films in general. And I’m happy to say I was right.

Recently, while discussing the Joss Whedon/Black Widow foofaraw, we revisited the topic and the discussion got interesting, so I’m sharing it here. Making an occasional contribution is my friend Ed Hall,  a writer and the co-editor of Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond. Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — And Neither Is Joss Whedon (Part 2 of 2) (UPDATED 10/2017)

Art by Cliff Chiang

[Read Part 1, “I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally,” here.]

Joss Whedon is a feminist.

He claims the term as a central pillar of his identity. He exerts a great deal of his creative energy on crafting narratives which focus on complex, strong female characters, and behind the scenes he goes out of his way to create opportunities for female creatives. He is a persistent activist in feminist causes like Equality Now, and has been an outspoken supporter of feminist targets of misogynistic harassment like (the awesome) Anita Sarkeesian.

But Joss is not the “right kind of ally.”

Last week, after Avengers: Age of Ultron opened (the film from my dream in part 1), there was a vicious shitstorm of online invective against him because of his treatment of the Black Widow in the film. He also left Twitter, without saying why, and many assumed it was because of the abuse. Or, as one blogger derisively put it, “Feminist and female writers take issue with black widow depiction. A lot of them do. Joss gets saddy pants and leaves Twitter.”

That same blogger was full of scorn for Joss and admiration for “what these intelligent and brilliant women wrote about their concerns with avengers 2…” And what sort of intelligent, brilliant commentary did we see?

Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally” (Part 1 of 2)

So I woke up one morning way too fucking early, with a dream dying in my head…

I’m at a huge theater with my girlfriend and my son, waiting to see the first showing of the new Avengers movie, and a nasty racial brawl is about to break out over a stupid misunderstanding. Something annoying was said, someone replied with annoyance, and several others took that as deliberate insult. A spark of irritation falls toward a volatile pool of abiding resentment. Huge violence is about to happen.

I just want to watch the movie, but am also naturally concerned about the fact that we’re smack in the middle of a crowd about to run riot. So I foolishly interject, redirecting the ringleader’s anger my way, focusing the conflict down to me and him rather than everybody. He rushes me and I back away, drawing him from the group. I don’t fight him, I don’t submit to his violence, I try to placate him, to calm him, to help him see that I was just trying to get his attention and there’s no reason to fight. This being a dream, it works. We laugh awkwardly and return to our seats. Everybody gets to see the movie, nobody’s going to bleed or die.

And I awoke. It was still dark, and I’d gotten maybe four or five hours sleep, but I was wide awake. I found myself ruminating about a recent blog post I wrote, and about the reaction it got (and didn’t get). Only after I gave in to the inevitable and got up, while I steeped some hot tea, did I make the connection between that rumination and the dream which preceded it. Continue reading

Buffy vs. The Black Widow, Who Wins? (Joss Whedon Lets Us Know)

In a short Q&A with USA Today, Joss Whedon was asked who he thought would win in a fight between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Natasha Romanov, the Avengers‘ Black Widow. His response is a very entertaining action sequence all by itself:

Buffy would go easy at first, but as soon as Natasha popped her with a Widow Sting, she’d start bringing some slayer brawn to the fray. Natasha’s fast, but a couple of good connects and she’s wobbling, possibly something broken — she whips out her glock and now Buffy’s dodging — right where Natasha wants her. Natasha shoots the cable holding the steel barrels and they tumble onto Buffy, nearly burying her — Buffy just arcs out of the way, grabbing the splintered cable and swinging directly onto Natasha, a bullet grazing her cheek as her feet land hard on the Russian’s shoulders, sending her back flat — crack! — on the floor, Buffy wrenching the gun away and tossing it, fist ready for the final strike. Natasha, struggling to stay conscious, says the fight’s over. Buffy agrees, but Natasha explains: She poisoned Buffy hours ago. That waitress that brought her salad …? Natasha smiles. The poison is dormant — ’til it’s activated by adrenaline. Buffy’s eyes narrow. “Too bad I didn’t use any.” Wham! Natasha’s out for the count, and Buffy’s heading — slowly — to Willow for a mystical cleanse.

That’d be my first guess.


Good Memories of 2010, Day 3: The Black Widow

Fifteen or more years back, some friends and I were talking and the question arose, “If you could write and direct a movie about any Marvel Comics character, who would it be?”

I didn’t even think about it. “The Black Widow.”

It wasn’t an answer I’d have predicted. I wasn’t an enormous Black Widow fan, and hadn’t really given her much consideration in any way when I wasn’t reading about her or admiring some George Perez portraiture. But when the question appeared, my mind was on the case, and the sultry sexiness, mystery, and espionage background of the heroine offered up exactly the sort of cool superheroic options I was in the mood for.

And there’s just never enough hot femme fatales in catsuits on the screen. Continue reading