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Monthly Archives: July 2012

My newest favorite things: Gravity Falls and Against Me!

I know I said that this post was going to be about Moonrise Kingdom, and that post will come on Wednesday, but I had to reserve this post for reasons of discovery. About the true trans soul rebel who speaks to my heart, and the clever supernatural animated show that makes me happy to be an adult while I’m watching it.

Sometime last week, I was finally convinced to watch Gravity Falls, the latest animated show on the Disney Channel. I wasn’t entirely sure until a friend of mine told me that it was basically Twin Peaks. Now I haven’t seen Twin Peaks, but any mention of a Disney Channel show that is modeled after a David Lynch TV show must be some sort of quality.

And oh, how correct I was. No… not even correct describes how quality Gravity Falls is. Centered around twins Dipper and Mabel Pines during their summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, each episode has the two dealing with a new supernatural element of the town. When the first episode dealt with gnomes that puke rainbows and form a giant gnome like a Japanese mecha, I knew I was going to enjoy the series greatly. The animation style is really cute and the characters are extremely fun and well developed. It always makes me happy when the girly girl can get rough and tumble the way Mabel does or when a boy like Dipper realizes that he doesn’t have to be alpha male all the time in order to be a man. Not to mention that the plots and writing seem to be getting more and more hilarious with each episode. As I’ve described to many people, the series is like every funny episode of The X-Files and Supernatural without the undercurrent of angst that each series has.

Even with all it’s supernatural mysteries that would have scared me as a little kid, the series is still a funny show about clever kids having the most awesome summer vacation ever. It’s hard to believe this show made it on the Disney Channel since the content feels more like it should be leading in to The Legend of Korra or Adventure Time. Still, if you like quirky and clever animated shows and your supernatural with a side of comedy, Gravity Falls is right up your alley!

My second discovery this week is something I’ve been flirting with for a while. Since frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender, I’ve been slowly getting into her band. My first foray was their acoustic Daytrotter session, but it was this weekend that I finally booted up Spotify to listen to New Wave and White Crosses.

I was barely a minute into ‘New Wave’ when I shouted “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”

I’ve liked a few bands with punk and political angles to them in the past, but something about Against Me! feels different. Grace’s lyrics aren’t just anger and frustration against the mainstream, it’s also just as much against certain things of the circles she falls in. ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ and ‘Thrash Unreal’ are prime examples of this. It’s weird to explain, but all the parts of me that get frustrated at the world seem to be spelled out by Grace’s lyrics, but also the parts of me that believe in the best. ‘New Wave’ is how I feel about being in the Steampunk scene and ‘Bamboo Bones’ gives me hope for getting through the worst times. Which, if you’ve been reading my blog lately, it’s not been a great mental place for me. Even if I’m getting slightly better.

I still have a few more albums to listen to, but I feel like I’m going to enjoy listening to and becoming a fan of Against Me! I’m sure that I’ll be considered a bandwagon jumper by some since I’m giving the band a shot after their lead singer tells the world she’s a transwoman, but I really don’t care. Grace is a woman of conviction, and if she lost a few fans because she decided to finally live publicly as her true self, then I hope she gains ones full of intelligence, love, and respect.

Because she, like all of us, deserves to be surrounded by such.

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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Music, Television

 

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Everything Rotten Tomatoes Tells You About Brave is Wrong: The six most ridiculous things I’ve heard about Brave.

When I talked about Brave months ago, I spoke about it with unbridled enthusiasm as I eagerly awaited the tale of Pixar’s first female heroine.

Well, it certainly didn’t disappoint! Brave was a wonderful story about family and growing up. Merida was a headstrong heroine that forged her own path not just by force, but by understanding what it meant to be a ruler. Plus, it was so refreshing to see a realistic mother/daughter relationship in animation. It didn’t hurt that Pixar’s scenery of Scotland was gorgeous, and there were plenty of funny moments to be had in the drama.

Of course, whenever there’s something that’s very female-positive or shows women in non-stereotypical roles, there’s just a ton of people who just don’t get it. And Brave has been no exception to this. In fact, I’ve had the worst feeling that if Brave were about a prince and a king going on a journey to reverse a curse, it would be getting much higher reviews all across the board.

Which leaves me here to compile the six most ridiculous things I’ve heard about Brave, and defending it’s honor. Because Merida isn’t real enough to do so herself. Spoilers below for those who haven’t seen it.

1.) “Merida is a lesbian!” – This is the one that’s been coming up the most and it’s the one that’s angered me the most. Basically, a journalist from Entertainment Weekly wrote an article swearing up and down that Merida is a lesbian. Because she’s a rough and tumble girl who likes archery, and isn’t interested in boys. Of course, the media picked this up and this is all that seems to be coming up about Merida. Not that she has an excellent character growth or the fact that a new generation of girls is claiming that they finally have a Disney princess of their own. It’s that she might be a lesbian.

First of all, it’s not that I wouldn’t mind if Merida identified in the queer spectrum. In fact, I eagerly await the day that there’s a canonically queer character in a children’s animated film. Disney, Pixar, or otherwise. What I DO mind about these assumptions of her sexuality is that they’re stuck in stereotypes. Merida likes riding horses and shooting a bow and arrow and isn’t interested in being a girly girl! That means she must be gay! By that logic, Katniss Everdeen has two out of three of those qualifications, and Fa Mulan was probably the first lesbian princess. However, they have heterosexual love interests, and Merida stays single at the end of her movie. Because, again, your sexuality is decided by an interest in physical sports and your lack of interest in boys when you’re 14.

Well, to be fair, I wouldn’t be interested in boys either if I was told I had to pick a husband out of three jerks I had never met before yesterday! 

Seriously. I do NOT get why people keep bringing up her lack of interest in the Lords’ sons when it was very clear that she wasn’t interested in them because she didn’t want to be forced to marry. You tell most girls at 14 that they have to pick a husband for the rest of their life from three guys they barely know, they’re going to be defiant as well! That doesn’t mean they’re all queer, it just means they don’t want to do something you’re forcing upon them!

Of course, people just don’t care about that. They want to know if the princess with the arrows is gay.

2.) “Warrior princesses are only fighting older female antagonists these days, and Merida is one of them!” – Now this is a valid piece of criticism of other films coming from Variety, but I feel like it doesn’t apply to Brave the way the journalist is intending it to. There are two older female characters in this movie, yes, but they are not antagonistic.

The first is Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson). She is Merida’s mother as well as her teacher in all things royal. She is teaching Merida how to be a ruler, but Merida isn’t interested. They argue constantly through the first act, but it’s very clear that Elinor does what she does out of motherly love and regrets the mistakes she makes. Merida realizes her mistakes as well and uses her mother’s teachings in her own way to placate the Lords. So much of their journey in the film is about the two of them learning how to give and take. Merida learns from her mother, but Elinor learns just as much from her as well. Plus, who here hasn’t argued with their mother? I certainly have.

The other is the Witch (played by Julie Walters). While she provides the curse that sets the plot of the film in motion after the games, the Witch isn’t in the film for very long and she’s very much a businesswoman in the whole ordeal. She’s not good or bad. She’s just a woman leading a quiet life making woodcarvings and spells in the middle of the woods. She doesn’t go into battle or try to antagonize Merida and Elinor. She gives Merida the curse and the way to reverse it. She is the neutral party that sets Merida where she needs to go, for better or worse.

3.) “Why does it have to be about women?” – I’ve heard various versions of this across the internet, and it makes me understand why we can’t have nice things.

Female relationships are so rare in children’s entertainment, be they friendships or parental. Parents are often pushed to the side by the narrative, and if there’s a female character in there, it’s usually just as a side character that one character might have a crush on. And if there’s more than one female character, they’re often antagonistic towards each other or don’t even interact in the slightest. When there are positive female relationships, though, the movies are dismissed or the relationships are overlooked. The Princess and The Frog was a big example of this with the friendship between Lottie and Tiana, but no one mentions this at all.

But now that there’s a movie with two female characters in the forefront and people can’t handle that. Why does it have to be about women? Why is it about mothers and daughters?

Because positive mother and daughter relationships are so rare in media, let alone children’s entertainment. We need Elinor and Merida to show that mothers and daughters are allowed to get along and be friends. We need Elinor and Merida to show that women can take the same journeys that men do in media and have positive experiences from it. Brave has to be about women in order to show that we are not just obsessed with romance.

And Brave has to be about women because girls need heroes like everyone else, and not just a plucky side character.

4.) “The movie was formulaic!” – Yeah, and so is every other major motion picture release!

Brave follows a trope known as “The Hero’s Journey.” The general breakdown of the Hero’s Journey is that the piece of media starts off with our hero as arrogant/vain/inexperienced/cowardly/what have you, and they go on both a physical and spiritual journey and by the end of it, they are a better person and a worthy hero. Last year alone, this trope was used by Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Green Lantern, and Cars 2 just to name a few. The only thing that makes Brave any different is that it’s Scottish and features a young woman going on the hero’s journey.

So why is this movie suddenly the “formulaic” one?

5.) “The men were just plot devices!”/”There are no male role models!” – I had to combine these two just to say this:

Yeah, welcome to the life of women in media. Do you want the long or short introduction?

I will admit that the men in this film were mostly comic relief, but I didn’t mind that. Because that’s probably what would have happened if the film had been about Merida and Fergus or about the triplets. They picked some fine Scottish actors and comedians to play the over-the-top Lords, and it was well executed.

But women in media are constantly reduced to plot devices, but most reviewers aren’t going to call that out. Parents haven’t cried out about the lack of female role models. Well, not often. Merida is a fine role model for growing up, and she shouldn’t have to be “only for girls” because of her gender.

Plus, Fergus is a good father who only wants the best for his daughter and supports her choices in life. He got hotheaded at one point and didn’t listen to the warnings his daughter gave him, but even his anger was driven by a love for his family. How is THAT not role model worthy?

Well, the family supportiveness is role model worthy. Not the not listening to your daughter in a moment of passionate revenge and almost killing your wife in the process because you didn’t know she was a bear.

6.) “The visuals weren’t impressive!” – I have nothing more to say to say about this besides “I’m sorry that rewriting the software for the first time in 25 years to replicate SCOTLAND wasn’t good enough for you!”

Seriously, I feel sad for anyone who looked at that scenery on a big screen and just said, “…Meh.”

Not to mention her HAIR. Oh my god, I have never seen naturally curly hair look so accurate on screen, either in live action or animation.

Well, there are my many thoughts about Brave. At the end of the day, all I can really say about it is to go see it with your own thoughts and experiences in mind. Pixar holds themselves up to a high standard, and Brave is a wonderful addition to their legacy. I can only hope that we don’t have to wait another 17 years to get a female protagonist from them, because while Merida is a lovely character, she wants me wanting more awesome leading ladies from Pixar. I know Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are a huge influence on their work, and that work includes gorgeous journeys lead by amazing young women.

Next post will be a journey into Moonrise Kingdom.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Film

 

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Happy (late) Fourth! My Six Favorite Songs About America

I meant to toss this list up yesterday, but I was slightly drunk and very tired after returning from the barbeque I spent my Independence Day at. I also have a post about Brave in my queue that meant to go up on Monday that I will be finishing up later today. But first…

America has a tendency to inspire musicians. Sometimes out of pride, sometimes out of protest, and sometimes just pure sarcasm that has a tendency to be taken seriously. Here are my favorite songs about the United States, for better or worse. Also, this list is in no particular order. Just sort of what came to mind first.

1.) ‘America, Fuck Yeah!’ by Matt Stone and Trey Parker – Anyone who’s seen Team America: World Police knows that the film is a very obvious parody of every Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer film to ever come out. The music was no exception, with songs that had such lyrics as “Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you” and “freedom cost a buck o’five.” Still, there’s no song from that movie that inspires so much ironic national pride as much as ‘America, Fuck Yeah!’ does. Which might have been the point. Either way, I blast this every Fourth of July, every time the US wins a gold medal at the Olympics, and whenever I watch the sequence from Captain America: The First Avenger where he takes out Hydra across Europe.

2.) ‘The Star-Spangled Man’ from Captain America: The First Avenger – This is pretty much my entire justification for the Disney/Marvel merger. Co-written by Alan Menken, this catchy jingoistic jingle is reminiscent of 1940s WWII propaganda and fitting for the original image Americans had of Captain Steve Rogers.

3.) ‘American Idiot’ by Green Day – As I mentioned before, some of my favorite songs about America were written out of protest. The first time it clicked with me that this was even possible was when Green Day released their 2004 masterpiece American Idiot. The album was a gorgeous piece of protest about the first years of the 21st century. The band would try to repeat it again for the recession in 21st Century Breakdown, but no song off of that album could come close to the furious call to arms that was the titular single of that 2004 album.

4.) ‘America’ by Prince and the Revolution – From the criminally underrated Around The World In A Day, this song about the later years of the cold war is both funky and relevant as ever. Prince has always had a bit of protest in his music and this is one of the bigger examples of it.

5.) ‘Americano’ by Lady GaGa – Maybe I should have named this list My Six Favorite American Protest songs. Still, beneath this catchy dance beat lies Lady GaGa’s protest against Proposition 8 and the anti-LGBT fundamentalists in the USA.

6.) ‘Made In America’ by Jay-Z and Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – I never thought I would use the word “sweet” to describe a song from Watch The Throne when I first listened to the album, but ‘Made In America’ is it. For Jay and Kanye, the American dream exists, but not without the people who got them there in the first place.

That’s it for this list. I’ll be back in a few hours with my post about the six most ridiculous things I’ve heard about Brave.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Music

 

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