5 Quick Things: December 2018

Welcome to 5 Quick Things that I saw since last month that I thought were interesting enough to share with you. None of them are particularly timely so feel free to just enjoy 🙂 This month is a special all fandom edition.

>Number One<

Truly Outrageous Gender Theory

If you missed the Jem and the Holograms comic books you might want to take a second and read this article and then immediately run out and buy them.

So as a kid I was really in love with Jem and the Holograms the cartoon and it’s such an amazing gift that its comic adaptation got such a wonderful treatment and update from one of my favorite artists, Sophie Campbell (check out her comic Wet Moon too!). The show combined all the things I really loved in life: independent women, music, wild and colorful clothing, and friendship but it was doused in 80’s ideals and kid versions of PSAs so it can be hard or impossible to stomach for folks today. I’d also mention that despite my enjoyment of the cartoon the cheesy, off-beat songs and loosely related stories represent the best and worst impulses of children’s TV of that era but the idea was solid: stories about women featuring women, and then actually centered on women, not the men around them.

The comic does a great job preserving that spirit while updating the window dressing to more modern times with a slight aging up of material from child to teen audiences. The comic updates the designs and personalities of characters but keeps them colorful and playful, adding in even more diversity and expression to match stories that tackle a more complex version of what it means to be yourself and express yourself into a truly outrageous version of identity.

With only 26 issues (and an extra six issue mini series) Jem and the Holograms comics aren’t a big commitment and are 100% worth a few hours and dollars thrown their way.

>Number Two<

One for the (Toxic) Men in the Back

I can’t remember if this is actually referenced in Dan Olson’s “Folding Ideas – Fight Club and Toxic Masculinity” or if I just looked up this paper after watching that (which is a fantastic YouTube video and you should absolutely watch it).

This piece talks about the tension between film, masculinity, and modernity. Arguing the self-parody and absurdity of the hyper masculinity in the Fight Club movie parallels to a lot of the things happening in the real world these days. That masculinity is a construction and one that, in the end, is as meaningless as it is damaging. That these notions have visual film language which ties to real world commodification, violence, and the male body to its presentation in film in a way so dehumanizing that men are at a disservice for embracing themselves through this lens of a one dimensional being (a violent body lens). So you know, a light read.

>Number Three<

Free Speech, Fanfic, and AO3

I’m not ready to wade into the wild world of think pieces about Tumblr’s latest ban on all things good and porn on the internet but what I will tell you is that I have been on the internet for just about 25 years now, and we always have been at war for free speech on the internet. Even just looking at AO3, it’s been happening there for over a decade and some of the most pressing issues are outlined in this article.

I’m pretty sure the average layperson knows that Reddit exists no matter what angle they come at the internet from but AO3 is actually one of major places in terms of pure traffic on the internet and it is also at the forefront of the free speech debate despite almost no one save people in major fandoms seem to have ever heard of it.

When people talk about content warnings, talk about triggering, talk about snowflakes and safe spaces I always circle back around to AO3 (also known as Archive of Our Own) because not only are they an archive of fanfic and fanart and doing amazing work in keeping fandom (and by extension, all transformative art) legal, but they also have a complex and thoughtful system of tags and content notices that allow people to more carefully choose what people are and aren’t exposed to.

Fandom has always loomed in my mind as a very safe space despite being flooded with every flavor of porn and political opinion (and every other opinion) on the face of the Earth. Even before AO3, before fanfic.net, fan works were often tagged” not just with content by character but also rating systems, warnings, and common courtesy in order for people to see more content they wanted and to avoid content they didn’t. I hope more people can look at AO3 as a consideration for how to interact and tag content all over the internet (and deal with content curation in real life as well) in the future.

>Number Four<

Yay More Books!

I was actually very lucky to be given some preview pages from this book the other month. I was really hyped after reading them. I’ve read quite a number of books about fandom, especially about race and its intersections from American and Japanese side of the anime divide but this book is a new voice from a wonderful professor who has been publishing great works in fandom for a long time. I don’t have a lot to say because the book just came out on December 7th and I haven’t started reading it yet because I was in the middle of a few other books but I might, in the future, give a full book review.

(I probably won’t but you should read it yourself and send me a book report instead!)

>Number Five<

CAPTAIN AMERICA FEELINGS

It’s fandom month so you’re going to have to deal with a little bit of squee.

I love this article.

I don’t even know where to start when I try to explain what is so appealing to me about Captain America: Winter Solider. It’s a great movie. It’s well acted, it’s fun, it’s action-y, it’s got fantastic character AND world building. It’s got easter eggs for comic fans and better yet, it builds its strong, cohesive narrative and themes on a topical modern issues of freedom, privacy, and trust.

I don’t like Captain America comics. I’ve read them in several time periods and from several writers coming up with storylines that just couldn’t make me like the character. I watched First Avenger and rolled my eyes and Captain America in Avengers is basically a Joss Whedon mouthpiece (everyone is basically a Joss Whedon mouthpiece in that film, even if it’s a very successful film in a lot of other ways). But Winter Solider did it, it cracked some sort of code and it broke me. It made me absolutely fall in love with Steve Rogers and this article gets somewhat close to answering a very nebulous “why?”.

By comparing the Winter Solider to Man of Steel (a serviceable movie but a terrible Superman vehicle), we can start to see what makes Winter Solider such an effective movie both as a movie and as a platform for falling in love with a character who by all rights, should be the least interesting part of the film. Especially because in terms of characters they both generally have a vague outline of the same boyscout, good guy, old timey feeling [they don’t actually come off this way in the comics either but this is how a general public member might describe them as a rough outline, don’t @ me bros].

At the end of the day I think there is just always going to be something that struck me like lightning in the film and it’s very heartening to know it struck other people too.

(ALSO WHO IS SO HYPE FOR INTO THE SPIDERVERSE AND CAPTAIN MARVEL AND AVENGERS: END GAME? OH YES, IT’S ME).

See you next year!

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