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July 5th, 2007


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09:53 pm - More than meets the eye... unfortunately
Belated happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans (and more belated Canada Day to our northerly neighbors). I don't tend to do much for the 4th of July; I just kind of feel ambivalent about celebrating an "independence" that didn't really apply to my ancestors for another hundred years. Still, I'm not above using a holiday for all it's worth when one comes along, and I figured it was a good idea to view explosions of some kind on the Fourth, so I went to see "Transformers."


I'll preface this rant by saying that I went into the film expecting little in the way of logical plot or well-rounded characterization. As one of my viewing companions (hi garunya!) reminded me, it's a Michael Bay film, after all. I went expecting to see giant robots blowing stuff up, and mostly that's what I got. I was even pleasantly surprised by the first half of the film, which was an intriguing and heartwarming "boy and his car" tale. It brought back fond memories of my own first car, which I affectionately named "the Heap", and which also seemed to have a mind of its own about certain things. (Not about getting me laid, though. Must be a guy-car thing.) I enjoyed the nods to the old 80s TV series, though clearly I wasn't nearly as much of an old-series fan as most of the audience, who roared every time they caught some bit of fanservice that I missed. That was OK. It was all good, silly, lighthearted fun.

But. (You knew this was coming.)

As the 2.5-hour movie wore on, I found myself smiling less and less. That's because as the special effects grew more extravagant and the action became more spectacular, I kept noticing something that left a bitter taste in my mouth, and eventually ruined my enjoyment of the film entirely. Namely, stereotypes.

There were basically four black characters in the film who had speaking roles. Bernie Mac played a shady used car salesman who sells the main character a car that turns out to be an Autobot. Tyrese Gibson plays one of the soldiers who first encounters the Decepticons. Anthony Anderson was supposedly a l33t signal analysis/tech expert. And I'll include one "coded black" character -- Jazz, one of the Autobots.

Mac's character was the first to annoy me. Not because he was smarmy -- he was a used-car salesman -- but because of the way he made fun of other characters of color nearby. Bad enough that he called his Hispanic assistant "Ricky Ricardo"; on top of that he called the character who was supposed to be his mother "Mammy". Which is about as blatant an invocation of a stereotype as you can get, despite the fact that it was played for laughs in this case. Maybe this was meant to soften the fact that Mac also calls her a bitch shortly afterward? Maybe the filmmakers figured it would be harder for the audience to take issue with the misogynist slur if they've already laughed at the racial one.

This didn't bother me so much, I have to admit, because insulting mothers is a classic staple of comedy. Nor was I particularly bothered by Tyrese Gibson's character, who -- although prominently featured in the commercials -- never got to grow beyond the role of ubermacho soldier, grunting out a handful of lines like, "Bring the (targeted missile) rain!" and "Come on!" I get really tired of seeing black men depicted as violent thugs, but at least this one got to be an intelligent, disciplined, moderately effective violent thug. And I'll be honest; I'm willing to forgive Tyrese for a lot of sins. Eye candy has that effect sometimes. ::pauses to fan self briefly::

What bothered me far more was Anthony Anderson's character. OK, I'm also tired of seeing fat black people played for laughs, but at least I know that fat white people get similar treatment in our fat-phobic society. Fat is the great equalizer. However, geeky fat white people get to be competent, even clever. Geeky fat black people, apparently, are idiots. Anderson's character lives with his overbearing, overweight mother (another "mammy"), and apparently does nothing with his time beyond playing videogames and talking modern-day jive. Although another character refers to him mysteriously as "The only man smart enough to hack this (alien robot computer) signal," Anderson never gets to display this intelligence or any sort of agency at all, instead spending the entire film blubbering in terror or eating himself sick. The scene in which the feds descend upon his house to bust him and his companions is, I think, deliberately reminiscent of COPS. So Anderson gets to play two! two! two! stereotypes in one -- the cowardly ineffectual sidekick, and the criminal.

But the stereotypes that bothered me most of all were inflicted on a character who wasn't even human.

Even back in the 80s, Jazz was "the black Transformer". He was voiced by Scatman Crothers, which gave him an unmistakably African-American inflection and dialect; he loved to breakdance; his most humanoid parts (face, arms) were even painted black just to drive the allusion home. The current film version displays similar cultural referents: his transformation sequence resembles a breakdancing move; he's also voiced by a noticeably black actor; and this time he tosses out modern urban slang like, "Whassup, bitches?" Because, y'know, if you're only going to give a character two lines and you want people to think he's black, you're naturally going to make him talk like a suburban white male teenager a rapper.

And I was even OK with that. Another 80s homage, right? We had a stereotypically black Transformer then, and we get another now. I hear they tried to bring back "the chick Transformer" Arcee too, but apparently the early focus groups hated her. (I don't know if that means the audience is less tolerant of white female stereotypes than it is of black male stereotypes, or if the character was just bad.) So it could've been worse; he could've been a Decepticon. Or we could have had an entire race of alien robots who for some strange reason all chose to sound like white men. At least the 4/5ths of this planet that are people of color got some vocal/dialect representation. (See ABW's post on Wiscon's Why is the Universe So Damn White? panel.)

Anyway, in the climactic final battle scene, only one of the good-guy Autobots dies. Guess which one. C'mon, guess. Oh, you're not even trying.

And he dies like a punk, too.

So the nostalgia in this version of Transformers seems to have also resurrected some old-school not-so-hidden messages: black women are nagging mammies who deserve the label bitch; black men are thugs, rappers, cowards, or crooks, and are stupid even when they're supposed to be smart; Latino men are effete idiots; and even alien robots aren't safe from token black guy syndrome. Oh, and I almost forgot the moronic Indian customer support guy who symbolizes the real dangers of outsourcing -- it's not only bad for our economy, it's bad for our troops in wartime -- and the Arab villagers whose sole purpose in the film is to be rescued by the tough-talking American soldiers. (Also see discussion on the Wiscon panel "What These People Need is a Honky".)

Lately I've begun to wonder whether Hollywood has declared war on people of color. Things are getting worse, not better. I mean, cheesy as he was, back in the day Jazz was played with relative dignity and allowed to display actual intelligence. These days the attacks -- because that's what these ugly depictions feel like, attacks -- are just so damned blatant. It feels as though American society is trying its damnedest to turn back the clock on diversity these days, and Hollywood is leading the charge with a multimedia assault on the senses. I don't envision a cabal of white filmmakers sitting around and cackling as they purposefully turn all their CoCs into caricatures; instead I envision them simply deciding that they don't care. It doesn't matter. They're not going to be "sensitive"; they're tired of that PC crap; they're just going to make the kind of film they really want to make, and damn the "special interests". Or maybe it is deliberate; maybe they've decided that playing with racial stereotyping is "edgy" or "hip". It brings the box office dollars, doesn't it? It makes Middle America and the 18-35 year-old white male demographic happy. So who cares if a black female in the audience is shaking her head in disgust by the end of the film? We're too sensitive, and we don't matter anyway. Besides, everyone knows racism is only when you use the n-word and treat people differently based on their color.

So alas, poor Jazz -- whose treatment, more than anything else, codes him as "the black Transformer". Because unfortunately, there's more to racism than meets the eye.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
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(25 comments | WTF?!)

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From:nojojojo
Date:July 6th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
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I'm especially disappointed because I *did* want to see it. I was excited about it; it's the first "summer blockbuster" I've ever wanted to see. But then. ::sigh::
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From:garunya
Date:July 6th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)
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I agree. The stereotyping here was quite appalling.

As for Jazz, as I mentioned before, he was my favourite Autobot in the original series. (I had quite the Transformers collection as a kid - he was one of the crown jewels in my collection, alongside Megatron and Starscream - I didn't care about owning Optimus Prime, for some reason. I guess trucks just weren't my thing.) Jazz could and should have been a hero in this film too.
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From:nojojojo
Date:July 6th, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
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I didn't follow the toys, but was there any sort of overall ranking among them? Was Jazz one of the less popular characters or something?
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From:garunya
Date:July 6th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
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Jazz was very popular, at least when I was in primary school. But most of the kids in my school didn't have very many transformers, and some figures impressed people more than others in the playground. Of my own collection, Megatron and Jazz got the best response.
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From:flemmings
Date:July 6th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC)
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Hollywood is the boyfriend who Always Lets You Down. You really think he'll ever change? He doesn't love you; he doesn't love me either. He only has eyes for Middle America and the 18-35 year-old white male demographic.
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From:nojojojo
Date:July 6th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I keep thinking he'll *have* to change, because box office profits are going down -- I think crap like this is turning people off Hollywood by degrees. They're going to have to stop insulting half their audience if they want to keep making money.

And sheesh -- 18-35 year-old white males *don't buy anything,* do they??
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From:dsmoen
Date:July 6th, 2007 04:50 am (UTC)
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I want to apologize on behalf of southern California for the idiocy that comes out of Hollywood.
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From:joasakura
Date:July 6th, 2007 11:11 am (UTC)
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well, shit. I can't tell you the glee i was feeling about "autbots! explodiness~!"

POC and women (of any colour) are huge consumers of entertainment products (remember the discussion we had at the coffee shop about video games re: this?)and I just can't figure out why every fucking thing has to be a love letter to the young white male.

Oh, wait, I can. :grr:

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From:ffoeg
Date:July 6th, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)
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I remember going to see "Mortal Kombat" in the theater (don't ask). Lots of people get killed. As we were leaving, I overheard a young black male (high school or maybe college) talking to his friend about to the movie. "That was bullshit." (Said in a mostly-resigned way.) And suddenly I realized that the black characters all died, early, with no particular redeeming value to their death. And I haven't stopped noticing it.

I seem to recall that "Event Horizon" -- an otherwise horrible movie -- is a minor exception to this. The obviously token black male character who apparently dies early manages to make it back alive and rescue the main (white) character. But he's still played for stereotypes and laughs.
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From:nojojojo
Date:July 6th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Event Horizon I exempt because it had that rarest of movie combos -- *two* black males occupying the same film, neither of whom is evil or a complete moron. Amazing! You just don't get to see that often. And Lawrence Fishburne's character was the protagonist to boot. He got to be intelligent and actiony, and even though he died in the end, it was a non-punk death. So I was pleased with that film.

(You're like the fifth person I know who hates that movie. Why? Aside from Sam Neill going Pinhead/Freddy Krueger at the end, I actually really liked it.)
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From:bellatrys
Date:July 14th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)

the first film I saw which acknowledged it

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was that shark movie which everybody hates, "Deep Blue Sea," but which is one of my guilty pleasures, because it was so Classic B-Movie and yet subversive of the tropes in so many ways. (When the Beautiful Woman *is* the Mad Scientist, what then? I thought it was pretty well handled.) "The brother always dies first," that was the first place I ever heard H'wood acknowledge it openly. And, actually, the last - it's just us viewers complaining, but it was like Sigourney Weaver's chara But he didn't die, LL Cool J rescued himself and helped the other guy defeat the sharks. (sorry, not home, at a friends' computer so I don't have all my bookmarks etc to link to it.)
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From:tammylee
Date:July 6th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Initially I liked the movie for the robots and splodey bits and when I had a chance to absorb what I saw I realized I didn't care for any of the human characters; there were too damn many people and the show relied heavily on stereotypes to fill in for actual character development/backstory. (I also take issue with how women are portrayed in that movie, but I'm sure I wasn't in their target demographic.)

I blinked when Bernie Mac called his mom 'Mammy'. Overall Bernie's character came across as having internalized self-loathing for being a PoC and his racist remarks towards other PoC was the backlash.

Anderson never gets to display this intelligence or any sort of agency at all
What I couldn't figure out is, why have the Aussie analyst at all? Why couldn't Anderson's character have done BOTH roles? (So says the programmer/systems analyst.) Oh, right, because then the stimulating dialogue between the two of them couldn't have happened. >=( He could have chatted to his cousin about it and the two of THEM got arrested; rather than his cousin running away and being chased down COPS style. I'd also like to say that after watching 'Live Free or Die Hard' the technobabble in Transformers was pretty weak.

When Jazz's death was sort of shrugged off at the end of the fight... I almost cried. There's only a handful of Autobots and they can just shrug off one of their comrade's death like it was nothing? And yes, the first thing that went through my head when Jazz was torn in half was, "Black guy dies first, even with alien robots. How cheap."

I thought Bumblebee had entirely too much interest in the main character's (I can't remember his name) love life; and when they were making out on his hood at the end (WITH ALL THE AUTOBOTS WATCHING) I was vaguely nauseated.

And I'll be honest; I'm willing to forgive Tyrese for a lot of sins. Eye candy has that effect sometimes. ::pauses to fan self briefly::
Ditto! I kept wondering when he'd pleasepleaseplease take his shirt off. They WERE in a desert, after all!
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From:elenuial
Date:July 6th, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
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Hi there! Got here (I think) from Jeff Lundberg's blog.

I just really want to make a quick observation based off of this: I hear they tried to bring back "the chick Transformer" Arcee too, but apparently the early focus groups hated her. (I don't know if that means the audience is less tolerant of white female stereotypes than it is of black male stereotypes, or if the character was just bad.)

If I had to guess, I'd say that when you're dealing with a movie that works primarily with stereotypes -- or, if we're being charitable, "archetypes" -- (and what Hollywood movie doesn't these days?), then, as sexist as it might sound, giant robots and giant cars are the province of young white males. "Boys and their toys," after all. In the 80's, a character like Arcee was acceptable because she was pink and coded as very stereotypically feminine, a coding which would be naturally grating to the current generation, raised on female empowerment.

To the point: while stereotypically hyper-feminine stuff sells well to the female demographic, when it's coded into a property targeted at young boys, I don't think it feels like it meshes any more. Girls (not women), in teen boy fantasies, are porno-coded sex objects or tough, spunky male-alikes (who probably end up as sex objects anyways).

More depressing: if boy fantasies aren't selling well, and Hollywood does take the hint, that means we're likely in for more hyper-feminine unrealistic chick flicks. "Moronic escapism" seems to be the phrase of the decade when it comes to entertainment.
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From:nojojojo
Date:July 6th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
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while stereotypically hyper-feminine stuff sells well to the female demographic

Actually, I don't think it does. I recall reading some studies awhile back that noted how "feminine" video games didn't sell well to the female gamer demographic, but gender-neutral (e.g., the Sims) and quite a few male-coded games (e.g., Quake) had a substantial female audience. So they could've at least attempted to appeal to that female "rough grrl"/post-Buffy demographic. On top of that, *guys* like that type of female -- notice how they react to the Laura Crofts and "girls with guns" of the world. In fact, seeing how they treated Jazz, I suspect that was the problem -- they probably tried to create an old-school pink useless Arcee, instead of one who was aesthetically pleasing but could kick ass.
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From:elenuial
Date:July 6th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)
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Games, in my opinion/experience, are a whole different beast. Say what you want about escapism in various media, games fundamentally are about agency, and so a lot of the really successful games are the ones that draw you into an experience that is interesting and pleasurable. A lot of the girl-coded games didn't sell well because, for example, Barbie Fashion Design only allowed as much agency as your imagination does in real life with the dolls. The game didn't bring an experience that any other product can deliver better, and what a lot of (male) game designers have done to draw in women is simply take coding from other media (tv, movies, etc.) and bring agency to it, when those codings exist because their derivatives are already in place as an acceptable activity. And those activities provide a better experience than games.

With more passive media, however, a lot of consumers tend to look for verification or indulgence of what they want to believe is good or normal or right. Thus you have the "These Savages Need a Honky" film, or a "Wonderful White Girl Teacher" movie, just to name a few. And a lot of women who are not looking to challenge gender or racial norms get a lot of validation out of girl-coded passive media. Look at the tremendous success of "Legally Blonde," for example. Now it's a broadway show.

My original point was that they probably did include Arcee as a hyper-feminine-coded character in what is essentially boy's fantasy, and it didn't work. I think we agree here.

And I'm definitely sure we also agree that if they went with the riot grrl/frag dollz type of character, it probably would have worked. But I'm thankful they didn't, because it sets up a normalizing dichotomy that basically says, since the movie is definitely boy's fantasy: "Girls, if you want to play in a boy's world, you have to play rough and tough and that's it. Or you can be a sex object. Woo." It's not okay to be comfortably feminine and still participate in stereotypically male activities.

(Here's where we more firmly venture into the realm of my opinion, which I now state respectfully... :)

That's where feminine expression becomes masculine-coded and is not only an empty parody of any gender-coded expression, but has also become commodified by underground nerd culture to the point where such "boyish" women have become hyper-sexed sex objects, much like the Asian woman. What once may have been an expression of liberation from the gender-typical has instead been cannibalized into the boy's fantasy, turned into male-oriented pornography. And thus the need for women to masculinize to be in boy's fantasy, and the male need to fetishize and objectify anything that can have sex with them combines into one pretty awful construct.
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From:elenuial
Date:July 7th, 2007 12:09 am (UTC)

If you're interested more in games...

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...it's been observed that the games most successful with the traditionally female demographic are ones that are mostly social in nature. Again, it might be a generalization, but women prefer socialization of skill, optimization, or other goals that are traditionally a part of games, and explains why they are so popular with males (part of which is because those same males are the ones making the games).

Of course, it's really hard to program a realistic social simulator. The best we've got thus far that's been widely marketed is the Japanese dating sims, which -- if you've ever played them -- fall flat of actual socialization. They're parodic, repetitive, and formulaic, unlike real social interaction. That's why nerdy boys are drawn to them: it's an area they're not good in which they can find empowerment in through using their more developed skills of metagaming, logical deduction, and basically objectifying the cardboard women through treating them as optimization problems. Sad to say, this tends to be detrimental to their social development with real people.

Point being, women don't play those either. What women do play are games where they get to enjoy interacting with real people. The games often are just a context, a backdrop for the social interaction.

Even though I would say the Sims is more masculine-coded than you posit (mostly because of this omniscient objective God-like role the player takes in this fictional world), my informal conversations with women who really enjoy it have led me in a similar direction. They like playing with the people they create and developing relationships between them. It's like playing with Barbies that talk back. And one of the most popular things that women do with the Sims is create Sims communities of their friends or famous people and then sharing the stories that result.

And so, if game developers want to target women, then coding it with stereotypically girly things definitely isn't the way to do it. Instead, look for things women enjoy doing and find ways that games can do it better. Many MMORPG's do that. The Sims does that, but in a different way. In any case, it works, but I don't think the still male-dominated games industry has quite caught on yet.

Anyways, sorry for rambling on your journal. You just raised a lot of thoughtful questions that I enjoy thinking and talking about. :)
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From:nojojojo
Date:July 7th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)

Re: If you're interested more in games...

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Wow, you've tossed out a lot to digest here...

...but since gaming is one of my favorite topics and I rarely get to geek over it, I'm delighted. =)

I agree with much of what you've said here -- girly girl stuff doesn't appeal to girls in part because of the lack of agency that's inherent; the Transformers creators probably used the 80s Arcee, who sucked even back then; games are a more "active" medium and therefore tend to pull *everyone* toward the male end of the continuum, because that's where most of the action is. I can't speak to the Sims or MMORPGs, since I personally hate the former and find the latter boring; I've just read a number of articles mentioning that the Sims is popular with women and speculating that MMORPGs someday will be. (Not if all the player-inflicted misogyny and racism that's rampant in such games continues, but that's another discussion.)

But. (Lots of buts.)

"Girls, if you want to play in a boy's world, you have to play rough and
tough and that's it. Or you can be a sex object. Woo." It's not okay to
be comfortably feminine and still participate in stereotypically male
activities.


See, this is my biggest disagreement. In particular I think it might primarily be true of American games, which wield their gender roles with much more blunt force than Japanese games. I mostly dwell in the Japanese side of female gamer fandom -- not Japanese players, I mean, but American women who play Japanese-made games. And there's truly a different cultural sensibility in those games re: gender. For one thing, I don't see the same kind of "choose! tough or sexy!" dichotomy there that I see in American games. (Dunno why -- there's something here that's rooted in Japanese cultural aesthetics and ethics that I don't fully understand. I know Japan doesn't have any more gender equity than we do, but there's something in the way the gender roles are expressed that leaves more room for women somehow.) I also don't see women making as much of their femininity in this side of fandom -- because they don't have to. I've never heard of any all-female Final Fantasy XI guilds, for example, or if they exist, it's not a big deal. The games aren't as heavily coded-male or coded-female, so there's less of a need for the players to paint themselves with the tribal colors of their gender in order to feel safe if they're venturing into "enemy territory".

Then there's the fact that J-games generally incorporate a lot more characterization and story than A-games, which invites greater involvement on the player's part (at least for women it does). Most of the female gamers I know are capable of *making* even the most male-oriented game comfortably feminine, as long as they've got enough characterization to work with. Even where there isn't much to work with, the players can create female spaces around the games through the act of sharing them with friends -- gameblogging, for example, which is basically like playing the game with a roomful of friends online. But when there's plot and characterization, a level of interactivity is possible via that quintessentially feminine pastime, shared fantasy. The latter I see expressed in a wide variety of ways: doujinshi and fanfiction are probably the most well-known. Women thus claim agency by taking control of the characters -- *particularly* the male characters -- usually with an aim toward exploring their vulnerabilities.

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From:nojojojo
Date:July 7th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)

Re: If you're interested more in games...

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It's this ability to create female "safe spaces" by enjoying the game in a feminine manner (so basically agreeing with you here), that's key IMO -- far, far more than whether the protagonist is female or not. And it's far more important than whether the game effectively emulates real life or not. I honestly think most women aren't interested in emulating real life; what they want is to use realism to enhance their fantasies. You point out yourself that female Sims fans *create and share stories* about what their characters do in the game. If just emulating real life was enough, then playing the game alone would satisfy their craving for agency and activity. But what you're describing -- playing the game, then using that as the basis for fantasy and further social interaction -- suggests that the game alone isn't satisfying the need.

(And why do you suggest that "playing god"/omniscience is male? For most cultures on this planet past and present, the first metaphysical "creators" and "controllers" were maternal. A girl who plays with dolls is playing god, yes, but also is practicing for motherhood. Having total responsibility for the fate of others -- others you have created, and who are helpless without you -- is a quintessentially female role that men have only tried to claim for themselves in recent history.)

And there's something else going on in all of this that I don't think American game designers have cottoned on to yet. You don't have to identify with someone of the same gender. Sure, I like to see female protagonists. But as every Tomb Raider fan can tell you, just because the protag is female doesn't mean she's the kind of woman female players can/will identify with. Correspondingly, just because the protag is male doesn't mean he *isn't* identifiable for a woman.

Case in point -- joasakura plz join in if you're reading -- the Devil May Cry series. Most of the DMC fans I know are female, because Dante is about as coded female as you can get in a supposedly male-oriented game. He's bitchy. He's moody and fickle. (Yeah, OK, these are stereotypes, but there's always a little truth in stereotypes; that's how they perpetuate themselves.) He's got constant "torn between two worlds" angst, which pretty much describes any oppressed group in this society. He's got an older brother who completely owns him, which constantly puts him in the position of "weaker"/oppressed character who must fight back against a dominant foe to survive. He's pretty -- an important point, because aesthetics is one of the core facets of a woman's identity. Basically, dye his hair blonde and give him tits, and you've got Buffy.

I think the same applies to all the most popular male video game characters with women -- half the cast of Squaresoft/Squeenix's entire lineup, Solid Snake, Leon Kennedy, the Shin Megami Tensei characters to a lesser degree, etc. The ones who aren't coded women are easily identifiable to women, no matter what their actual gender.

(And I keep using Buffy as an example deliberately, even though she's a TV example -- I'm not sure I agree with the idea that TV is a passive medium, BTW. Can any medium truly be called passive in this day and age, when we can blog it and podcast it and post our own covers of the themesongs on YouTube? But I digress. Buffy IMO represents a successful blend of femininity and toughness that manages to appeal to both male and female viewers. She hasn't had to give up her womanhood in any way that I can see -- childhood, yes, but not womanhood.)
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From:elenuial
Date:July 7th, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)

Re: If you're interested more in games...

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As you say, a lot to digest here...

...so I'm going to put a placeholder here and say that I'd like to answer later. I'm working at a summer program right now which basically monopolizes my time, but this is an interesting convo, and I'd like to continue it when I get some more time to do so properly. So don't be surprised when I come back in a couple of days. :)
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From:joasakura
Date:July 7th, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)

Re: If you're interested more in games...

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you call, i answer.

re: dante's coded femaleness vis a vis your description above. God, yes. I half suspect that the over-the-top bravado evidenced by the character in 3 is the producer's way of saying "LOOK! MACHO! XTREME! CRAZY! **NOT FEMALE**!" which still doesn't work.

(as an aside, when I was playing the first game, for the first time, the Spouse came in, watched and said "wow. He's incredibly gay." )

His fragility, as perceived by the other characters is a constant theme throughout the games, as is the constant surprise when he triumphs. As a woman, I enjoy that little "fuck you! i'm stronger than you give me credit for!" moment every time.

(another aside: almost universally in DMC doujin, which is almost *always* produced by women, Dante is uke. The main times he's considered seme is in interaction with the demon-teenager dude from Nocturne Maniacs. That's how strong the perception of Dante as a feminine figure is. Stereotypical in yaoi conventions that "female"="dominated" to a large degree, but there you have it)

and FTR, I loathe the Tomb Raider games (but i liked the movies, because i have a massive crush on angelina jolie). A coded-female male character is infinitely preferable to a male-fantasy female character in my book any day.

(which leads me to Dante's female leads. Trish is awesome because she's like him. Fickle, moody, sarcastic, and conflicted. Lady I enjoyed for the same reasons, in addition to her obvious overcompensating -I don't know if it was deliberate on the writers' part, but her actions feel like what it's frequently like in real life to be a woman (or a PoC, i would imagine)- failure isn't an option. Lucia, OTOH, strayed into bleagh territory- tough but not TOO tough. Kinda dainty, largely useless. Of course her VA made me want to stick forks in my ears, but that's a different matter entirely)

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From:sargent
Date:July 6th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
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I was amazed they killed off Jazz, did so in an extremely lame way, and then had Optimus Prime say, “Yeah, it’s sad that Jazz died, but at least we’ve got these new humans to replace him!” It was every stereotype of the lone black guy who dies in one convenient package.

I do disagree that the villagers were shown as only there to be rescued by Americans. Although the movie wasn’t explicit about it, it was clear that the Americans brought the danger on the village by going there, so I felt it was less of “these people need honkies” than a continuation of the running battle the soldiers were fighting.
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From:nojojojo
Date:July 6th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
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It's true they showed that the soldiers put the village in danger, but once the danger showed up, the sole focus of the action was on the soldiers. The villagers had guns, and they were defending their homes and families -- so wouldn't it have been logical to see some of them doing heroic/suicidal things to protect their own? Instead we got butt jokes ("LEFT CHEEK! LEFT CHEEK!"), cracks about Indian customer support, and macho technobabble (more "Bring the rain!").
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From:sargent
Date:July 6th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)
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I can see that more as a focus issue than anything else, keeping our attention on a group they've been focusing on from the beginning. Though, oy, how that group was introduced.
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From:nenena
Date:July 14th, 2007 08:13 am (UTC)
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Hi! I hope you don't mind this belated comment. I saw your post on ABW, but didn't read it until today, since I didn't actually see the movie until last night. I agree with pretty much all of your points. I felt the same way during and after the movie. Especially regarding Jazz.

I'm still boggled that Jazz died. I mean, I'm not even sure why he died. Why did the producers feel that it was absolutely necessary to kill one of the Autobots in the first place? To show that Megatron is badass? To add a tragic twist? To make the little kids cry? Why?

And why, if they killed one, did it have to be Jazz? Oh wait... I can guess an answer to that question all too easily.

What pisses me off is that Jazz's death was so anticlimatic and pointless anyway. His fight against Megatron lasted two seconds. Nobody mourned him in the end. It was like, bwuh?

If I could magically re-write the movie, I would do this: Make Jazz's fight against Megatron longer and more meaningful. Like, say that Jazz jumps in and distractes Megatron long enough for Sam to escape toward The Building, or something. And make that fight longer. Come on, a Jazz versus Megatron fight should be fun! Jazz would be mostly on the defensive, doing his crazy pseudo-break-dancing moves while Megatron swipes uselessly at him and gets more and more annoyed. Finally Megatron would land a lucky blow and swipe off one of Jazz's legs. Or something. Anyway, the fight would end with Jazz immobilized somehow, and then Megatron would hurry off without delivering the final blow, because he's too obsessed with going after the Allspark. Then, at the end, when Megatron is dead and all of the Autobots are gathering around Sam, Ironhide would show up with Jazz piggy-backing or leaning against him. Jazz would make some cheesy quip about his injury, and Ratchet would wonder out loud how he's going to find the parts to repair him.

So there. That's how the movie should have ended, in my head. ;)~ Mostly, though, I'm just pissed that Jazz didn't get a *single good fight scene*, not even when he was going toe-to-toe against freakin' Megatron.
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From:jamiam
Date:July 16th, 2007 05:55 am (UTC)
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I just saw the movie. And so many people were laughing at hacker guy and his donuts and the Mammy jokes and Jazz's closing lines... and I was willing to laugh at the stereotypical white trash parents. And the Mexicans (1/3 of the audience was Mexican; I live in Tucson) were laughing at the Spanish lines. And so I was wondering, if I were black instead of white, would I find this humor genuinely funny? Because it just looks like Hollywood trying to invoke minstrelism to me, and it makes me feel slightly ill. But maybe that's just my white guilt?

Seriously, it's making me feel nauseous. It's 2007, and we still have to have white guys in all the positions of actual power? The only black women are tertiary mom/grandmother characters who are only on screen to act as targets of misogynist jokes? It's 2007 and we're still playing minstrel jokes for laughs?
Nora, World. World, Nora. - More than meets the eye... unfortunately

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