Comics Review: Modesty Blaise–the Girl in the Iron Mask by O’Donnell and Romero
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This collection is a lot of fun–it has an old-school James Bond or Avengers flavor, complete with sexy, daring, whip-smart heroes and colorful, twisted villains. The art is stylized and lovely in a ‘60s sort of way, black-and-white, very high quality in a large format so a reader can hunker down to longer strings of the storylines without feeling interrupted.
It occurred to me as I read through these, that modern comic heroines can learn a thing or two from Modesty. She’s super-badass (one of my favorite panels is from Fiona, where Modesty is engaged in kicking butt in a staff fight), unabashedly sexy, yet is drawn without all the weird contortion-y stuff to add unwarranted sex appeal (see blog Escher Girls to see the kind of thing I mean). She’s got a knockout figure, and can knock dudes out with it. Her friends are as smart and kick-ass as she is, and their adventures would make Indiana Jones sweat.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend Modesty Blaise in general, this collection in particular is worth it just for the title arc: The Girl in the Iron Mask.
Nuns and vampires and Mignola, oh my!
I am new to the exploits of Lord Baltimore, but I am liking what I see. This is a horror filled frolic filled with nasty demons, nun vampire-sort-of-zombies, and a Shane like hero, who, Fugitive-like, compels us to follow him as he hunts down the vampire villain that killed his family.
Baltimore is another Mignola written gem, and as much as I like Mignola’s art, I have to say I am enjoying his writing nearly as much as his both, and am glad that he is able to be so prolific (give his readers more and more goodies) with the help of other artistic talent.
I am in the middle of a vampire novel (review coming up) at the moment as well, and this was a delightful addition to the hordes of vampires out there in popular culture today.
If you like romantic, sexy, or sparkly vampires, take heed: this is not the series for you. If you like bloodthirsty bloodsuckers that actually scare you, follow Baltimore post haste.
Like, what the f*** is this, and why haven’t you told me about this before?
I will be honest with you. When I began reading this, I rolled my eyes and thought, oh no what have I gotten myself into? This is how my thoughts went as I reacted to my first reading of Empowered: I mean, this blonde ditz has a costume that shreds off of her in a fight?? Really? Do we need this kind of…misogyny…oh she seems to be having a meta conversation and…Hm, this is actually pretty funny. Oh wow, it’s totally commenting on sexism and female body image and relationships and…okay this is hilarious, they all know they are fictional comic book characters and are worried they’ll be drawn out of the next issue. Gosh, that was actually quite a profound discussion among friends about self esteem. They have an immortal being that lives on the coffee table? Is…is he rapping “I Like Big Butts” in Victorianesque diction?? I am in love.
Oh, and the art? Is all in black and white. I really, really like that.
Drawbacks? It does get a wee bit teeny bopper for my old lady ears. It does make up for it by being extremely witty and meta, but yeah. A bit teeny bopper. And the multiple f-bombs blacked out do get wearing on the inner voice. I say use the invective or don’t but the censored invective just gets annoying. I guess it’s more of the meta, but still.
Also, this comic had something which annoyed me that I forgot to mention in my Abe Sapien review: its fight scenes are so busy on the page, it’s hard to follow what physically is going on. As a stage combat choreographer and instructor, I have to call it sloppy. Just like in a moving visual medium like a movie, we need to be able to follow the action in order to be able to follow the story fully, and certainly in order to appreciate the sweet moves Ninjette no doubt is executing. I do really like the translated kanji as accompaniments, though.
Bottom (double) line: I highly recommend Baltimore. Empowered was fun and cute, and wryly meta enough to enjoy, especially if you like ninjas.
Although not a huge follower of ‘pop art’ I’ve always felt a special draw towards the art of Tara McPherson. I own her last book, Lost Constellations, and have her prints on my wall. She has a very distinct style that manages to stand out among a sea of modern pop culture art, a delicate touch of feminine aesthetics mixed with vibrant colors and sharp lines. McPherson has worked on everything an artist can put a pen to including concert posters, circus flyers, art prints, toys, electronics and novelty items; one of my favorites is her coloring book. The bookmarks, sketch books and other fun accessories feel a bit like a grown up, slightly twisted and dark Lisa Frank, the line of super bright, sparkly sticker and coloring kits for tweens.
Not to understate the gorgeous work that is the foundation of Tara McPherson’s art empire, Bunny in the Moon is yet another well developed collection of colorful, macabre scenes from somewhere deep in her imagination. As Morgan Spurlock says in his doting foreword, “From her first rock poster to her last solo show, Tara has been and remains an uncompromising artist, creating both a body of work and mainstream art-pop success that are unlike anything else in the art scene.”
The book opens with some of McPherson’s trademark beautiful females, surrounded by heavily detailed graphics that express each character in their own world. The artist has a skill for giving the impression of a story being told, one that you are as much the author of as she is, using just one main character, often blanketed by celestial entities, spirit animals or dripping in viscous fluids.
She then invites readers to follow her through the creation process from rough sketches to polished, multi-layered oil paintings. I find this quite fun, especially in a world largely dominated by digital art; seeing the hand drawn lines as she creates them feels like a rare peek into McPherson’s personal sketch book.
I’m not a ‘hearts and flowers’ kind of girl, I don’t care for art that uses the female body strictly as a cheap tool of stimulation or shock value. One of the things I appreciate about Tara McPherson is that she manages to portray a definite feminine charm without too much fluff or overt sexualism. Her characters don’t adhere to puritanical boundaries (much of the work is NSFW) but they are entangled in scenes of power, manipulation and dark, sometimes morbid engagements. For long time fans of McPherson she revisits a few classic favorites like the ‘Wiggles’. The artist’s work maintains the same trademarks as it has from the beginning: a perfect blend of sweet girlishness, rock star edge, malicious intent and floaty, surreal fantasy environments.
I recommend this book for any level of art lover, but especially those who feel less than satisfied with some of the ‘modern pop art’ available today. Bunny in the Moon is an art collection that will always spark conversation and interest among a variety of casual coffee table perusers.
Bunny in the Moon hits shelves March 14, and is available now for pre-order through Dark Horse Comics.
I used to go to WonderCon every year when I was younger. Anyone who goes to Cons regularly, knows you have your “Con Posse” (not to be confused with “clown posse” like Harley Quinn will now have with her new ICP-esqu costume… but I digress). When I was younger I was the one girl in a group of many dudes. After I had my son I stopped going, in the past year I have been back to attending. And have added more cons to my list of must see. In the time that I was away a major change happened. The con posse I’ve joined is 99% GIRLS! This is pretty phenomenal for a gal who has grown up getting the stink eye from the dudes (and gals) behind the counters at comic shops.
It’s not too surprising that we now have our own convention. GeekGirlCon –located at the Seattle Center and EMP– was a slightly bittersweet event for me. I was on the staff, one of the original members, first person to buy a pass, etc. I was the Vice President and Operations Director, filed the incorporation paperwork opened the bank account, yada yada. No one ever really cares about “Operations,” it’s the department that does all the behind the scenes work that allows the more creative types to do the shiny stuff. I had to leave the organization because of the huge amount of time it required. Since the staff is 100% unpaid volunteers I was essentially working a second full time job for no pay; and I have a husband and child. So it finally got to the point of having to choose, GGC or child. Obviously my child had to win. So the sweet part was how AWESOME of a time I had, and how amazing it was to see that both days sold out. The bitter part was that I was seeing it from the outside.
I do have to say it was a bit nice to not have to be working this weekend and was able to just enjoy the convention as a panelist/attendee. I got to romp around with a posse of amazingly talented and fun folks. I stayed out too late, drank too much (though oddly didn’t once get drunk) and was introduced to the most amazing alcohol I have ever tasted by the lovely Stephanie Thorpe.
I drove up Friday night with my “fake niece”, who is the 16 year old anime obsessed, blue haired daughter of a friend. Stopped by the airport to pick up a few friends then checked into our AH-MAY-ZING hotel the Marqueen, on Queen Ann St in Seattle. After that I met up with friends for drinks, a walk up a monstrosity of a hill and dinner with more friends.
Saturday morning I got up, had breakfast at Mecca Café, if you go to Seattle you MUST try this place. They have awesome bacon, great waffles; you get a mini pitcher when you order iced tea and the receipt showed that our server’s name was “BAT GIRL”. I attended the very fun “token dudes” panel. That night I attended the unofficial CheeseCon at The Melting Pot – go to twitter, look up the hashtag #CheeseCon to see the hilarity—which was one of the most fun dinners I have ever been to.
Every panel I attended had one common theme; Women need to support one another and act as the “elders of the internet” to support the younger generation. The vendor room, while small was diversely filled thanks to the hard work of Dixie Cochran. I only peeked my head into the gaming room but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
It was nice to see so many little girls dressed in cosplay. There was one family who had I think 3 daughters, all dressed up as different versions of Princess Leia. Most people I saw were smiling and having a good time. Sunday I was the assistant for Miss Bonnie Burton’s craft panel. The creativity of the attendees was awesome. We had Yoda, Tardis, Doctor Who and even… GASP… Star Trek puppets made.
Really the only negative thing I can think of was the fact that it was spread out between the Northwest rooms and the EMP. This would have been fine if panelists weren’t scheduled for back-to-back panels on opposite sides of each other. It is about a 10 minute walk between The NW Rooms and the EMP so if your panel ends at 4 and the next one starts at 4 there is no way to make it on time. But being a first year con I am sure they will keep that in mind for next year. There are some doubts as to whether the NW rooms will be available for 2012 but I am sure they will announce the location when it is secured.
All in all I am happy with the changes to convention culture that have occurred since I first started attending them. Girls are having more and more panels aimed at them, and hopefully, sometime soon, we won’t NEED to have a GeekGirlCon because all cons will be equally targeted for all audiences. And I look forward to seeing my Con Posse as soon as I possibly can. They are a group of individuals who inspire me to push myself and go for my dreams and I love them all in special and different ways.
words by Michelle Naka Pierce, images by Sue Hammond West
Review by Jenn Zuko Boughn
In any creative-writing class I’ve taught recently, I’ve instructed students, when doing daily creative journaling, to make sure they include both image and text in each entry. I do this because of several reasons (some of which can be found in Diehn’s The Decorated Page) but the strongest reason I have for this discipline is that it seems all writing these days has an imagistic aspect to it. From blog posts to graphic novels to novels like Like Water For Chocolate with long image or sound-only chapters, to interactive, new-media presentations, it’s rare to sit down with a (short, especially) piece of writing without a visual.
Pierce and West’s volume of poetry uses this image/text interdependence with the artistry and care of a good picture book, yet for an adult audience. Pierce’s Gertrude-Stein-esque musical repetition and richness of word choice work in tandem with West’s urban/organic paintings to good effect. The best entries in this volume are the ones in which the text is arranged in an unusual visual way, and the image incorporates text, thereby adding more layers to the text/image dance. This multi-layering of literary and visual art gives the reader more and more to sit with before turning each page.
Another engaging aspect to She is the map-like, film-like titles to each chunk of text. The poems are called “Lot”s or “Cut”s and the different-fonted titles to the images are called “Legend”s. These bring to mind auctions, film clips, map keys, and other images to the entries, and again are onion-layers of meaning.
She is a book one can spend time with—absorbing each page-spread before continuing. It does what good poetry (and visual art) should do: it builds imagery in the reader’s mind, so that the book changes with the reader each time she comes back to it. ~Prof. Jenn
Before last month I had never been to San Diego Comic-Con. I have been to WonderCon many times over the years but never made the trek down south. That has all changed. No longer am I a SDCC virgin. I had a general idea of what to expect from it, having attended WonderCon, only not really. The crowds are bigger, the panels more surprising and the after-parties more insane.
I had a general plan of which panels I HAD to see and those I would like to. I didn’t realize that Ballroom 20 meant a line outside, down the stairs “you better get there at 5am” kind of situation. I didn’t do that, but did find a friend who had so, yes, I got into the Game of Thrones panel. AWESOME! I was far far faaaar in the back but that doesn’t matter I got to hear the answers and dialogue before those of you who saw it online. SWEET!
I wanted to make sure I supported my friends who were on panels more so than see celebrities, because I am of the opinion that Friends are better than celebrities. In waiting for the Archaia Immortals panel I saw on the schedule that Dark Horse had something going on in the same room, and the door guards were letting people in mid-session. So I popped in with my friend Dina and, oh look, Guillermo Del Torro was on the panel; in a room with maybe 60 people in it. I was blown away; I didn’t see his name on the schedule he was just… there. He was, by the way, cracking jokes and cursing up a storm. That was probably my biggest, “HOLY CRAP” moment; mostly because it was so unexpected.
As anyone who knows me is aware I’m a huge Star Wars fan so of course I attended the Star Wars Lego panel. Where they showed clips from the new Lego Star Wars cartoon that aired that night (thank you Xfinity iPhone app! I was able to set my DVR to record it at home, from the panel; WE ARE IN THE FUTURE!). They also revealed a few new toys and a Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. This is probably the coolest thing ever. Every year I get Seth an advent calendar, and every year it has crappy old chocolate. This year we will have the Star Wars Lego one for sure. They go on sale in October if you were unable to purchase it at the Con.
I also attended Bonnie Burton’s Star Wars craft panel on Sunday instead of waiting in the crazy person line for the Doctor Who panel (see again Friends are better than Celebrities, but I still love you crazy people I call friends who stood in that line!). She was hilarious as usual and entertained the crowd with stories about condiment googly eye murder scenes in the fridge and sparkly doggie poop with eyes. We made felt Yoda puppets from her Star Wars Craft Book. I own the book and it was on my list of projects so getting to make it with a bunch of other people was a lot of fun!
On Thursday morning I attended the much talked about “Oh, You Sexy Geek” panel. Kristen McHugh goes into the panel in detail here, so I will only touch on a few of my own personal observations and thoughts.
The fact that I am friends with and/or know ½ of the panelists and where they stand on the issue of sexy cosplay I was expecting a good back-and-forth. I was a little disappointed that the self-described “humorless feminists” did not make a larger effort to speak and get their points across. And I was even more disappointed when one panelist said to another “Well would you wear a Slave Leia costume?” This was said to someone who has never been seen in a Slave Leia costume, so from an audience member’s point-of-view it appeared to be an attack on her personally and not a legitimate attempt at furthering the conversation. On the specific topic of “Slave Leia” there is a post over at FanGirlBlog that makes the points I would love to, in a much more eloquent way than I ever could.
I have never identified as a “feminist” mostly because the feminists I had been exposed to were very much of the “This penis party’s got to go hey-HEY ho-HO” ilk and that is not a world view I agree with or wish to spread. I am also not one who enjoys looking at the world though one very specifically colored pair of glasses, always looking for a reason to get angry about things. However, recently I have been exposed to a much different flavor of feminism that falls more in line with my personal beliefs and view on things.
Which, in a much condensed and quickie version, are this: We are responsible for our actions and how we react to and feel about ourselves and the world we live in. We have no right to dictate what another individual does, says, wears, etc. unless that person is causing direct harm to us or another individual whose care is our responsibility. I do not believe that a girl walking around in a metal bikini is causing anyone any harm, so let her have her fun and who gives a damn if she is doing it to be “empowered” or just to be “sexy” or “cute” what matters is if she is having fun while doing it. And if she isn’t having fun doing it, then it is on her to make the necessary change.
One more thing I would like to talk about before we resume our regularly scheduled programming is the Chris Gore comment and subsequent fall out. Yes, Chris was late to the panel, bad on him; yes he made a bad joke, some of us speak before thinking perhaps he should look into that. I personally was not offended by it, mostly because it was not directed AT me, but also because I tend to have the sense of humor of a teenage boy (farts are HILARIOUS, so are poop jokes). The only individuals who truly have a right to be offended are the ladies on the panel; the comment was directed AT THEM and no one else. If they have a problem with it, it is their responsibility to address it with Chris. People seem to be forgetting that Kat asked him immediately after he said it if he was trying to get kicked off the panel, the moderator DID address it immediately. I was horrified when I saw this post online. It is one thing to be upset by a comment someone makes on a panel, to blog about it and discuss it with the person who said it if possible; it is another thing entirely to try and negatively impact their livelihood because of your upset feelings. That is taking your personal beliefs and feelings too far. It wasn’t as if he said he was GOING TO, or would do so against their will. He simply said he would be willing to. It was in poor taste, especially considering the content of the panel, but it certainly wasn’t a punishable offense to the extent of his livelihood being threatened.
I had an excellent time all around, my cosplays were well received, and I got to see friends old and new. Met some of my twitter friends in person for the first time and got some awesome graphic novels from the Archaia booth. Wednesday night I went on a Haunted Tour of San Diego with my friends Matt & AJ and had a BLAST! We didn’t see any ghosts but that’s ok, it was still fun and I found the “haunted” hotel where I hope to be able to stay next year. All in all it was an awesome 5 day vacation. It had its ups and downs, I had a few moments where my anxiety kicked into high gear and I needed time to myself. But the good far outweighed the bad and I cannot wait till next time!
Going into the Oh, You Sexy Geek panel on Thursday morning, I was excited by the prospect of seeing some of the latest attacks on the concept of women as geeks dissected. The panelists were knowledgeable and varied: Bonnie Burton, Adrianne Curry, Jill Pantozzi, Clare Grant, Kiala Kazebee, Clare Kramer and Jennifer K. Stuller are steeped in geek cred.
Unfortunately, there are two things that soured some of the discussion for me: Ms. Stuller (ironically or not,) referring to herself as a, “Humorless feminist,” and late arrival to the panel, Chris Gore, talking about being willing to stick his penis in any member of the panel.
I can take a joke, but that summed up the problem for me pretty succintly. The misogyny and pre/proscriptivism that we get from external media sources is driving the continued marginalization of women as geeks. I also felt that Ms. Stuller’s inference wasn’t simply that she was there as the academic, legitimate voice of, “Humorless,” i.e., “Serious,” feminism, but that the rest of the women on the panel somehow weren’t. I don’t know Mr. Gore or Ms. Stuller, and I’d like to think these were simply bad jokes gone awry, but if they aren’t. . . these extremes are exactly why this panel exists.
So I’m rejecting the premise. Can women be geeks and be sexy? Let’s ask Nathan Fillion how being a sexy geek is working out for him. Are hot starlets pandering to a geek audience? Oh, hey, John Barrowman says he’s a lifelong sci-fi geek, let’s ask him if he’s pandering. My rule is this: unless it is a direct biological function, asking someone of any gender whether they’re capable of being x, y, or z is unacceptable.
The panel was too short, and Chris Gore’s flippant comments felt like they derailed a conversation that was turning over at least a few of the issues faced by women in the geek community. I’ve never met Mr. Gore and I’m not ascribing a motive, but tacky doesn’t begin to describe that remark.
If a man looks at a woman while thinking he’d like to screw her and simultaneously thinks that she can’t possibly be an authentic geek, there’s the breakdown in a nutshell. If women look at other women and think that because men will want to screw them, or because women look like they don’t mind men thinking they want to screw them, they can’t possibly be an authentic geek, are two sides of the same coin. There’s no one way to geek, or be a woman, but I’ll be damned if people don’t keep trying to say there is.
I found most of the discussion productive, but the fact is: there are so many intersections when it comes to simply being women, that when we’re talking about being geeky women, let alone sexy, geeky women, it’s the big red button of overload. There’s not enough time to cover everything in a meaningful way. I also felt that with so many panelists, it was hard to ensure that everyone got equal time. Bonnie and Adrianne were obviously the most extroverted members of the panel, and addressed the questions asked by both moderator Katrina Hill and the audience, with blunt aplomb.
Some women just identify as geeks, without the qualifier. This is no more or less valid than my choice to identify specifically as a geek girl, because I want recognition that I’m both. That we see repetitious questioning of women’s geek credibility, and then see the marginalizing of attractive women who claim to be geeks, is and will always be absurd.
A high point for me, among all the discussion of cosplay, comic book characters’ costumes, and the what is sexy/is sexy okay for female geeks, was some discussion of why there aren’t more sexualized male characters in geek media. I loved that the panel, most prominently Bonnie Burton and Adrianne Curry acknowledged how underserved the female gaze is. Yes, we do need more scantily-clad men in comics and cosplay. The female presence at SDCC is growing, and if we’re not at least half the attendance numbers already, then that day is coming soon. Again, it’s time to reject the premise that we’re in the minority. We’re not. We’re half the audience. Some of us consider ourselves sexy, some of us don’t. Some of us want to be, some of us don’t. Some of us are more introverted, some are extroverted. None of those things determine our value as people, as women, or as geeks.
Guest post written by T. Johnson. T. Johnson is a blogger, au pair, and part-time tutor who has been obsessed with science fiction and comics since roughly first grade. One of her life`s big revelations was discovering Wonder Woman comics-another milestone was starting to read the works of Heinlein and Aldous Huxley. She has always been convinced that girls can be as truly nerdy as any fanboy.
Recent re-screenings of several Disney films has got me thinkng about the “Disney princess” phenomenon. As animation fanatics and a majority of parents know, Disney Studios made a bunch of movies with female heroines over a fifty-odd year time span. Most of them were based on fairy or folk tales, so the heroine was usually a “princess,” even if she started out disguised as something else. The “princess” movies remain hugely popular with audiences. They were re-mastered in handsome DVD and Blu-ray box sets, inspired hundreds of Halloween costumes and were responsible for the “princess party,” that staple of little girl birthday celebrations.
The films have their detractors, however. Most of the critical vollies aimed at them have come from feminist thought. Critics complain that Disney has placed images of women in a time capsule, portraying them as passive victims waiting to be rescued, as debutantes dreaming only of their prince. They cite the 1950 film Cinderella as a prime offender: sweet-natured girl is pushed around by her stepsisters, remains sweet despite doing all the housework, then is rewarded for being a doormat by a fairy godmother who enables her to attend a ball and meet a prince.
Admittedly, Cinderella is not big on my list either. I don`t really agree, though, that all of these films present terrible images of women. I think there are some redeeming qualities in the princess film canon. I`ll discuss just a few of the movies in this post, specifically those which present heroines who are fully fleshed out as people. Quick note: I`d love to include the warrior-princess film Mulan here, but I don`t feel justified in talking about it since it`s one of the few Disney animation flicks I have not seen.
Consider Snow White of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). As she scrubs the palace steps in a tattered dress and wooden shoes, SW sings a song about wishing and hoping for the one she loves. But there`s a lot more to her than waiting around. When her wicked stepmother/queen decides to have her killed, she must fend for herself in a dark forest. She`s obviously scared, but doesn`t give up, pressing onward despite mysterious sounds and logs that resemble alligators. Snow White shows similiar courage when she meets the dwarves. This is a girl who`s never been away from home before, but she readily adapts to a group whose culture she`s totally unfamiliar with.
Instead of judging or mocking the dwarves, she befriends them. And yes, she does the housework. But one should keep in mind that the original Snow White story was told in the 1400s, a time when housework involved a lot of manual labor and the skills needed for tasks like spinning and washing clothing by hand. The dwarf fraternity respects her for pitching in, and she respects and likes them (I remember thinking as a child that they were way more interesting as people than the Prince)! Snow White displays a lot of sense and independent thinking, not to mention a genuine kindness for both animals and people.
Looking at later Disney movies makes one wonder what became of heroines like Snow White. Maybe, like characters played by Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn in the 30s and early 40s, she was shelved due to cultural reasons. After World War 2, real-life women often had to quit the jobs they obtained while men were away, leading to a quasi-Victorian idealization of the home and traditional femininity. Hollywood seemed to reinforce this by producing few films with strong female leads, and during the fifties, Disney followed suit. After the likable but maudlin Cinderella, we got characters like Wendy of Peter Pan (1953-sweet and bright, but hung up on Peter) and Briar Rose of 1959`s Sleeping Beauty (sweet and hard-working, has to be awakened by a prince). This is not to say that fifties Disney cartoons were total fiascos- they were well animated and ahead of their time- but strong heroines were not a huge priority here.
Gradually, times changed and so did the Disney empire. After several financial upheavals in the 70s, animated films began to emerge from the studio again in the mid-80s. “Princess” characters were beginning to be written in a different way, a prime example being Belle of Beauty and the Beast (1991). Belle, the daughter of a small-town inventor, is sweet-natured and hard-working like many a Disney girl. Unlike them, she seeks knowledge through reading and dreams of leaving her home and having adventures. And she`s not afraid of the ferocious-seeming Beast: when he orders her to come to dinner, she refuses until he issues a civil invitation. They gradually come to know each other as equals. The troubling issue here is the whole conceit of the Beast keeping her captive in his castle. This is how the original story went, but I can also see why some commentators read Belle warming to him as a form of Stockholm syndrome.
On the other hand, she does try to escape at one point in order to check on her father, and this makes Beast realize that he can`t merely keep her as a pet. Belle is a fully realized character who is intriguing as well as pretty. She does change clothes more than other Disney princesses, but hey, she is living in a palace with well-equipped closets-why not? And she has the courage to try and rescue her father from the creepy village folk by herself, not waiting for Beast or any of his servants to accompany her.
The Princess and the Frog (2009) has a female lead who is more than able to carry the film. This princess is merely dressed as one for Mardi Gras-she`s actually an industrious waitress named Tiana, a fine cook who is saving money for her own restaurant. She becomes involved with the lazy and conceited Prince Naveen only because he`s been turned into a frog and requests her help. Kissing him turns her into a frog as well, so the pair must hit a Louisiana swamp in search of a voodoo priestess who can transform them back. Tiana is totally uninterested in Naveen at first, considering him hopelessly hedonistic. But the two bond as they journey through the swamp, and the prince is evantually ready to embrace work and give up his player-like ways for Tiana.
Throughout the film, Tiana`s ditzy friend Lottie epitomizes the stereotypical “princess” viewpoint, in contrast to the former`s practical ways. When read the old Frog Prince story as children, Lottie sighs in contentment, while Tiana exclaims, “No way am I kissin` no frog, no matter what!” You`ve got to love a girl who`s that feisty from childhood up. She also has a strong sense of morality. The evil Dr. Facilier offers to make her human again if she surrenders a charm- trouble is, he`ll use the charm to facilitate his takeover of New Orleans. Tiana refuses, vowing to “stay in the swamp forever”, rather than aid the voodoo dark side. All ends well, but with a twist: though Tiana and Naveen become restored to humanity, they achieve her dream of opening a restaurant, instead of looking for a kingdom to luxuriate in. Good film, great heroine-finally, an action princess! Yes, there`s still a prince, but the relationship dynamic is totally different. We see the pair get to know each other as people, not just become infatuated.
Disney cartoon features have become more progressive in terms of female heroes. It`s certainly true that they lagged behind the women and girls of anime for a few decades- compare any pre-eighties Disney heroine to Millenium Actress or Princess Mononoke- but they`re genuinely losing the passive princess mindset. Now that the studio is supposedly still going to do some hand-drawn animation as well as CGI, why not research some girl power-friendly storylines? How about a remake of The Black Cauldron with more emphasis on feisty heroine Eilonwy? Or a retelling of the Artemis or Amazons myths? Future generations of girls are waiting to see their own adventures in animation- they want to protect the castle, not just clean its courtyard.
I would like to take this time to introduce you lovely ladies to my newest British obsession, Dr Mark Kermode.
Mark Kermode, also known as The Good Doctor and Number 75, is an English film critic who has a segment every Friday on Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio Five Live show. For those of us not in the UK, the radio broadcast is also released as a podcast that is roughly 80 minutes long and shorter clips of individual reviews are put up on youtube. Kermode also has a video blog called Kermode Uncut.
One of the most enjoyable aspects about the podcast is how very intelligent the reviews are. Kermode has a PhD in English from Manchester and wrote his thesis on modern horror fiction. While he can occasionally come off a bit pompous, it is his educated and well spoken manner that makes Kermode’s rants so utterly delightful. Even when I disagree with him, Kermode’s rants are still a thing of beauty. The podcast would not be nearly as enjoyable without them.
It is also very refreshing to see such a vocal feminist in the media, especially a male one. Mark Kermode is a genuine feminist and it shows in almost every review. He is very quick to point out misogyny or homophobia in films and always takes filmmakers to task for it.
The icing on the Kermode shaped cake is that he also plays the base in the skiffle quartet The Dodge Brothers. Recently they have been touring and playing a live accompaniment to silent films, including one gig where the silent film was projected by an eight bicycle powered projector.
Additionally the man knows how to rock a Quiff like no other.