What Do You Mean I Cant Be Superman?

lady_avengers__assemble__by_kathrynlillie-d52idse The year was 1991 and it was time for Halloween. I was all dressed up in my Superman costume...an anxious happy budding little fangirl at the age of 5 without a care in the world. I was walking with my mom in my elementary school when a teacher approached me and asked who I was supposed to be. I proudly held my head up high and stuck out my little chest as I declared, "I'm SUPERMAN!" The woman frowned at me and said, "Oh honey, you're a girl. You can't be Superman. You're Supergirl!" I instantly got visibly upset and confused. Enter the heroine of our little story: MY MOM. "Excuse me, but don't you ever tell my daughter who she can or can't be. She is not limited by her gender. If she says she's Superman then that's who the hell she is. My daughter can be whomever and whatever she chooses to be." (My mom is awesome.) Once again, my head was held up high and my little chest poked out. I'm Superman bitch...

I tell this amazing story because in the year 2013 I find it amazing that even now we are still trying to put a limit on young girls and women by telling them, "No. You can't do this because you're a GIRL!" We tell them "You must like pink because it's for girls, you can't play with action figures, you don't like sports and you can't possibly read comic books or like anything geek related." It amazes me that when I mention to some men that I enjoy a lot, if not almost everything that they like, they look at me like I'm an anomaly or with skepticism. IT'S A LIE! GIRLS DON'T LIKE THESE KINDS OF THINGS!!!!!!! Well you'd be surprised buddy. I know a very large number of (single, beautiful) women who are bigger geeks and sports fans than the men that I know.

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As mentioned by this week's TheNerdpocalypse Podcast, "No Penis, No Batman" (great episode by the way), Paul Dini claims that executives don't want girls watching their shows because apparently girls don't buy the toys. I just don't get the stupidity and laziness of this statement. Instead of trying to figure out what they can do to get more girls buying the toys or possibly making a product geared towards 51% of the population, executives choose to just shrug their shoulders and say, "Welp we're just going to IGNORE this demographic because we assume that they won't buy our product since they obviously can't like it due to their lack of a penis." Seriously? Do you not realize that the people who shop the most are of the female persuasion? Isn't that one of the stereotypes that comes with being a woman? That we like to shop?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srnaXW9ZgZc

Shes a smart cookie...

This way of thinking is why we so rarely see a strong female lead in a superhero and/or action movie. These executives think that a movie with a strong female lead will not do well and no one will go see it. I mean they're correct right? Nobody wants to see a woman with a good head on her shoulders, quick witted and kicking ass right? Who wants to see that!? Oh look Hunger Games Catching Fire made over $700 MILLION Worldwide so far. And oh look! The main character is a strong, quick witted, ass kicking young lady! Oh and would ya look at that, according to recent reports there's an increase in young women doing archery because they were inspired by who? Katniss Everdeen the female lead of the Hunger Games! *gasp* Yeah, you executives need to get your head out of your asses and realize that the female gender makes up a large portion of your consumers, we kick ass and we want to see other women who kick ass on the big screen! Give Wonder Woman (the Queen of Badassness) a fair chance by casting a woman that pretty much embodies what it means to be an Amazon, not just another pretty face. Give many of the other popular and well liked female superheroes a shot by putting them into movies or giving them shows. Most importantly, give the little girls of the world a chance by giving them someone to look up to and aspire to be. Stop telling them that they can't do things because they lack a penis. You're missing out on a lot of money by ignoring them and plus its plain ole rude. I'm just saying...

Nerd Culture Critique: Nostalgia. Minds Blown!

Jackie Chan Minds Blown Seeing a movie for the first time can be a magical experience. We've all had a moment as a kid that seems like it can never be duplicated. To a large degree it can't be. Anticipation, information, and the sheer newness of an experience can render it unmatched by similar moments in the future. This isn't particularly debatable and if we aren't aware of this, we should be. The quote "cocaine is a hell of a drug" can be easily replaced with "nostalgia is a hell of a drug." We cling to nostalgia for a number of reasons, but the safety is the utmost one. Jumping out there with no life vest is scary. Why do I need to like new things, I have these old things that work just fine! Well sometimes the old stuff is better, and sometimes New Coke is better (in reality New Coke sucks). However, the larger point remains nostalgia can sometimes be a hindrance in how we view new properties, and more importantly, how we see our classics.

In the past few weeks I've seen many comments about the latest Spider-Man movie series, which I happen to enjoy and the budding Man of Steel series that Warner Bros is nursing into something great (so they hope). Statements like "the originals were way better" and "they can NEVER top what the previous ones did" are common battle cries in the war of superiority. Well some would say that's just people talking but I think it really pushes to the heart of the matter. If you make declarations like this early on than aren't you setting yourself up to already like the new property less? If a movie can never be topped in your opinion, can you really even bother giving another a fair chance? We touched on the pre-mature hate concept in a previous Nerd Culture Critique, here. However, this article focuses on one of the root causes, nostalgia.

Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as 'pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.' Sounds like every moronic debate I've seen about new movies series versus the old ones. Let's take the new Spider-Man movie series as the pitch perfect example. Some love it and some hate it. For obvious reasons many do comparisons between the Marc Webb and Sam Raimi versions. Many love the Raimi films that began in 2002 and bemoan the new Marc Webb versions as 'soulless','too gritty', and/or 'emo' comparative to the originals. My issue here is not about liking one version over the other. Its rather the rose colored glasses by which you see the originals. If you can't see them for what they truly are is there no wonder you see the new movies negatively?

Take Sam Raimi's movies for a spin without those slick rose colored specs on. The 2002 Spider-Man series is a testament to the bizarre view of comic book movies at the time. The sub-genre was just really getting into gear and the people making them happen still thought only kids read comics. Even the film creators lived in the bubble of nostalgia while cranking these movies out. For a movie in 2002, Spider-Man feels very much like 1960s comic book Spider-Man. Practically brimming with Leave it to Beaver style characters who a would rather say darn and goosh! For the average movie goer who was a current comic reader at the time this wasn't the Spider-Man they knew. This was masked by the incredible special effects, and the modernization of some key character designs (The Green Goblin specifically). So it seemed so up to date, but yet it was vastly outdated. I, like many reading this article, was blown away by what I saw. My 22 year old brain was screaming in delight, and I thought it couldn't get any better than that. Of course I was wrong. Spider-Man 2 came out and it was better! Once again, my stupid lizard brain thought 'can't get any better than that' and then Spider-Man 3 came out...and my brain was right. I still look back at that series with a great deal of fondness. It has its ups and downs, but in the end it was a good ride. Like all good rides, things have to end and you have to try something else.

So the Raimi trilogy ends prematurely, and Sony gets back on the horse by rebooting the franchise. Many fans were angry, upset, and bewildered by the possibility that their Spider-Man was no more. Flash forward to the release of The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew "he's too emo" Garfield. I put that moniker there not because I believe it but because it was such a idiotic commonality in the arguments from upset fanboys. Garfield's portrayal of Peter Parker was too emotional and just seemed out of place? I'll just leave this here:

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While I didn't think Tobey McGuire's performance was awful, he was hardly the funny/smartass Peter Parker we were use to, but those glasses are magical. Lets take a look at the trailer for Spider-Man 2. This just wreaks of cheesiness. I loved it, but come on. The character interactions and the set pieces are quite pathetic comparative to what we see today. The acting is incredibly wooden and stunted at best.

This isn't to say that the new Spider-Man movies are pure gold, as they have their issues. However, can you really look back on these movies and say it can never be any better than this? Really? These stories don't deserves another interpretation?

Age plays a pretty big part of the drug called nostalgia. When I asked someone recently what age they were when they saw the 2002 Spider-Man he replied that he was 7! I of course responded that the movie must have blown his mind, and he agreed. How could it not. A nerdy kid who loves comics sees Spider-Man come alive in front of his very eyes...seems obvious as to what happens next. So flash forward 10 years and the same person is less impressed with what they see now. The new one must be crap, right? Maybe, or maybe you aren't as enamored as you were upon the first viewing. I hear a lot of people say that The Amazing Spider-Man movie didn't WOW them or show them anything new and exciting compared to the 2002 Spider-Man movie. Well there's that drug again...nostalgia. Can you possibly recapture that shock and awe that you had 10 years ago. Likely your taste were simpler and less critical than they are now. Typical fanboys seeing these movies nowadays are about 25 years old. So when I hear them say the 2002 version is better I laugh. You were 15 then...everything was better. You didn't have bills, real responsibility, or the an actual life. This doesn't mean that you might not genuinely like the 2002 version more. It just means your perspective has changed considerably.

So when you look at these movies be aware of the nostalgia that might be affecting you view of these classics. Lastly, please don't pretend that Marc Webb should be chastised for changing Spider-Man's origin a bit and high five Sam Raimi for making Sandman kill Uncle Ben. That's argument is just completely moronic; be consistent. Both series have their issues, and more will pop up in Webb's as time goes on. Raimi's series and other series in the bubble of nostalgia should be looked at with a critical eye. The next time someone says: There will NEVER be able to top this. Chances are they are completely wrong. Take the glasses off.

The Villain's Master Plan: Why So Similar?

The Dark Knight So I have this idea for a movie.  We get this villain and he’s incredible. Unstoppable. Completely wrecks everything. Blows up buildings, and proves to be a menace that the hero can’t contend with. Then some how the villain is captured. Maybe he surrenders, or he’s outsmarted. But just when the hero is ready to deliver a lecture of disgust… BAM! The villain reveals it was all a part of his plan. He delivers this absolutely awesome monologue and then… and then… It all sounds familiar doesn’t it? It should. Ever since Heath Ledger’s Joker allowed himself to be arrested in The Dark Knight this has been a common occurrence? How common you ask? So common that some variation of this has occurred in no less than four other blockbuster films (The Avengers, Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and Star Trek Into Darkness).

In The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises these “planned to be captured” schemes take place at the beginning of the film. In the former Loki is already captured as a result of the end of the Thor, and in the latter Bane’s plan involves pretending to be a prisoner until taking over a plane to fly to Gotham. Despite these differences the action itself as part of a scheme becomes an important part of the movie. This is not to say that the movies are totally similar (there are a ton of similarities between The Dark Knight and Skyfall) but it is enough of an issue that it becomes impossible to avoid. The plot by the villain in these cases prove as examples of their intelligence, and their power. It also provides the face-to-face conflict we demand to see in our movies. Joker sitting across from Batman in the prison is now an iconic moment in film. Not only for Joker’s “Why So Serious” dialogue, but because this is the first time in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series do we see this figures face off. Joker was a representation of absolute chaos and it was insane enough to work. There was power in the moment.

The more films revisit this trope the less impact it has. It stops feeling like something powerful and unexpected to yawn inducing.  When Khan surrendered to James T. Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness I found myself sighing because I knew exactly where it was headed. The moment he was locked up I did a silent countdown waiting for the monologue and waiting for him to attempt to exact revenge. And it came but it didn’t carry the weight it intended.

Why is this so common? I wish I had the answer, but over the years I’ve discovered that I’m better at pointing out a problem than offering a solution. It could be the easiest way to get a villain into the situation. Brings them into conflict with the protagonist for the first time. Maybe these writers all have the idea at the same time (highly unlikely). Or simply that no ideas are original and they tend to just reach in and grab the idea that is the most readily available.

Maybe I will write that movie, but it looks like I’ll have to start from scratch.

Comic Book Movies Are Here To Stay

Superman Stating that comic book movies (CBMs) are a passing fad and will soon begin falling in popularity until they are no longer relevant seems to have become trendy lately. This is usually a statement thrown around by hyper-adults who think comic books are a childish habit and have no place in the 'grown up' art scene that is cinema.

Earlier this week, Mathew Fox (Lost, Speed Racer) went on record in an interview with Collider to say that comic book movies will be “exhausted pretty soon.”

COLLIDER: I think this is probably one of my last questions. The comic book genre seems to be just incredibly popular right now – The Avengers, The Dark Knight, I mean it’s a huge genre. Are there any comics you read, or any comic book characters you’ve always been a fan of? I’m just curious if that’s something that interests you.

FOX: Off the top of my head I can’t – you know the truth is that stuff’s going to be exhausted pretty soon, because they’ve been churning them out man.

COLLIDER: I said that a few years ago, but this year is the biggest it’s ever been.

FOX: I know, and so once they’ve established all those franchises they’ll just keep doing more, more Avengers and more Iron Man’s and so on and so forth. But as far as like original material that is part of our comic book history, they don’t have a lot of stuff left. But I would be – I’m a huge comic fan, I love graphic art and I just love, you know I love that kind of thing so I mean, you know if it was the right thing I’d jump all over it, I think it would be really fun. And if it was something that my eleven year-old boy was fired up about then it would make it even doubly fun, you know?”

(Source: http://collider.com/matthew-fox-emperor-alex-cross-lost-world-war-z-interview/195776/)

I say that the naysayers such as Mathew Fox and director David Cronenberg cannot be more wrong. CBMs have a long history in Hollywood. Comic books, as a medium, really began in the mid 1930s, but gained popularity with the introduction of Superman just eight years later. Within three years of Superman's debut and the subsequent rise in popularity of comic books, movie serials (short films that played in conjunction with a movie in theaters) starring superheroes began playing.

For about thirty years after the last movie serial featuring a comic book character aired (Superman, 1948) comic book characters were largely relegated to the small screen. Until Richard Donner's Superman in 1978.

Side note: I know this is like reading a love letter to Superman. That's not where this is going.

After Christopher Reeves gave us an awkwardly charming Clark Kent to carry the movie, CBMs were beginning to be looked at more closely. CBMs were released sporadically throughout the 1970s and 80s until Tim Burton's Batman hit the box office in 1989. Since then, there has not been a year that did not see a CBM in America.

There is a reason for that. Comic book movies have simply become a film genre, like science fiction or horror movies. Both of those genres are commonly associated with the “nerds” of the world, but they have the ability to appeal to everyone. Science fiction movies can appeal to everyone with their tendency to get people to think about their surroundings and how nature or technology effects their lives. Horror movies appeal to the adrenaline junkies in all of us, giving us a fright that serves as a release in a very base way that we usually don't get otherwise. Comic book movies, specifically superhero movies, give us an escape from the banality of our normal lives by allowing us to live vicariously through the gods of the new age. Because, let's be honest, how many of us wished (or still wish) they could be Spider-Man for even a day?

If everything that I've said thus far does not have you convinced that comic book movies won't suffer from any type of exhaustion, consider a final point. As long as the concept of 'the remake' exists, comic book movies (as well as Shakespeare, movies based on books, and all other genres) will never go out of style. Fortunately, though, I think CBMs have only scratched the surface.

To that end, here's hoping for a World War Hulk story arc on the big screen before 2020.

My final plea for The Amazing Spider-Man

When the initial news hit the internet that Sony would no long keep the money train going with Sam Raimi but instead reboot the Spider-Man movie series fan boys went ballistic! If we were in Victorian times I pretty sure they would rolled out the guillotine at the time. As time went on and a director and star were chosen the madness escalated and it appeared that fans had forgotten about the flaws of the Raimi films. Were we so clouded by our sheer hatred for change that we couldn't even give these new guys a chance? "Its to soon," was the battle cry of the anti-Spidey-reboot brigade. However, at the same time they enjoyed in mass the reboot of Batman by Christopher Nolan. Why wasn't it too soon for that franchise to get a reboot? The difference between reboot time frames was only 3 years, surely not enough for the internet fan boys to lose their collective minds over, right? So fast forward to the first teaser trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man. All we get to see is some heavily digital work showing our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in a first person perspective. We get a glimpse of him in the last frame, enough to get our movie lizard brains squirming. While I realized the intent of the teaser, to make the reveal of Spidey as mysterious as possible, but most of the fan boys found it to be lackluster, and I certainly get that.

So we get little bits of behind the scenes shots of the movie, some casting news, and now we are on a roll. Fans love Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans addition to the cast and we get the first news that the villain would be The Lizard. Fans were fine with this and we moved on. The notion that the Raimi films were untouchable has gone away or at least slowed. We get a full trailer and some back story is flushed out. A little bit of excitement starts to shine through on The Amazing Spider-Man. Then we get the latest trailer. One that I think puts the movie in the must see category:

So that for me was it but it might still not be enough. The fever pitch was high and Spidey was riding the wave. Come July 3rd he was the hero to see until a little known movie called The Avengers hit theaters. A comic book movie so good that it sucked all the air out of the room for other comic films this summer. I have even heard people say they aren't excited for The Dark Knight Rises after seeing The Avengers...BLASPHEMY! However, now that we are in week four for the Avengers and Spidey and Batman are on the horizon how can you not be psyched! Take a look at the latest TV spot for Spidey and tell me that the web swinging in the beginning is absolutely badass. If this movie isn't getting your summer block buster meter going then check your pulse, you might be dead.

The level of arrogance, web swinging, and perspective shooting is setting up Spider-Man to be the second major comic book movie hit of the summer. Final word: The Raimi movies had heart but were totally campy. These movies seems to have some soul and bad ass fun. This is the Spidey style we have been waiting for. July 3rd can't come fast enough.

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