How am I going to be an optimist about this: Sam Wilson as Captain America.

A few weeks ago, Marvel Comics announced that the comic book character Sam Wilson, otherwise known as the Falcon, would be taking over as the iconic superhero Captain America. This news has been making waves as the change would make Sam the first canon-official black Captain America.

For those like me who are constantly advocating for more diversity in comics, this seems like a major victory. And it is. Captain America is one of the most famous comic book heroes, and the character has been around for more than 50 years. Sam Wilson as a character hasn’t been around quite as long, but if anyone is deserving of the Captain America cowl and shield, it’s Sam.

I really do love Sam Wilson and the Falcon, and given my adoration of him, I should be the first in line to buy the first issue of Sam’s turn as Captain America. That, however, will not be happening. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this upcoming story arc, and it’s all because of the man writing it: Rick Remender.

Remender, who has been working on the current run of Captain America (of which Sam is apart), and who will write Sam-as-Cap’s story as well, has been making some waves of his own lately. Recently, he wrote a scene that implied Sam raped an underage girl. The panels in question showed Sam and the female character drinking wine together and then the morning after. That would be fine, except for most of the comic arc the female character, Jet, has been understood to be 14. Just prior to the scene in question she is said to have aged due to how time passes differently in the dimension they were in at the moment, but this fact was only mentioned in one (easily) overlooked panel.

Remender gave no explanation for this scene and attacked fans for making Sam into a rapist instead of acknowledging the scene might be questionable. Meanwhile, Remender’s editor at Marvel Comics, Tom Brevoort, accused fans of using rape to further an agenda and use a comic book scene to detract from the experience of actual rape victims.

Beyond the fiasco with Sam and Jet, Remender has done terrible things with story lines in not only Captain America, but also his run on the Uncanny Avengers. He unnecessarily killed Sharon Carter, Cap’s love interest at the time, and did the same to long-time characters Scarlet Witch and Rogue in the latter series. Moreover, in the Uncanny Avengers, he had a character eschew his minority status as a mutant — referring to it as the “m-word” — and when fans reacted poorly to the scene for what it represented, Remender told them to drown themselves in “hobo piss.”

This isn’t just a case of a few very vocal fans being oversensitive: sales on Remender’s run on Captain America suffered a quick and precipitous drop in just a few months after it came out. In fact, the numbers for Remender have been rather lackluster for a big-name hero like Captain America.

The point of all of this is that, frankly, I’m terrified of what Remender might do with Sam-as-Cap. I want to see Sam succeed as Captain America, but I’m not sure that Remender is up to the task. Moreover, it is possible that if Sam’s turn as Cap leads to poor sales, people are going to chalk it up to Captain America being black rather than Remender’s awful writing and characterization.

No, I will  not be first in line to buy the first issue of Sam Wilson’s turn as Captain America. My refusal to support Rick Remender outweighs my love for Sam, and that’s a damn shame.

Top image via marvel.com. 

Snowpiercer: when class war goes off the rails

After a long and infamous delay due to studio infighting, Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s post-apocalyptic thinkpiece Snowpiercer is finally playing in American movie theaters. This is how the story goes: in the not so distant future, humanity accidentally causes a worldwide ice age in an attempt to slow down global warming. With life on Earth quickly dying out, the planet’s last survivors board a gargantuan train called Snowpiercer. On Snowpiercer, the rich live in luxury at the front of the train and the impoverished are relegated to the back of the train, also known as the Tail. That is, until the poor decide to revolt.

The poor rebel so as to take charge of the front of the train — whoever controls the engine essentially controls the world. The leader of the revolt is Curtis Everett, played by an unrecognizably scruffy Chris Evans. Everett is aided in his ploy by fellow Tail inhabitant Tanya, played by a criminally underused Octavia Spencer, plus security expert Nam and his flighty daughter Yona, played by Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung, respectively.

Everett and company make their way through the train mostly thanks to the skills of Nam and Yona, both of whom Everett bribes with drugs. As they all progress car by car, the internal world of the train is slowly revealed until they reach their destination at the front of the train, where Everett has a final and surreal confrontation with Wilford (played by Ed Harris), the mysterious creator of Snowpiercer.

***

Snowpiercer is one of the most visually arresting movies I’ve ever seen to the point that I think it’s on par with Tarsem Singh’s masterpiece The Fall. I was not expecting this given that the setting of a train interior wouldn’t seem to lend itself to interesting sets, but I was proven quite wrong. Another surprising thing about Snowpiercer is how quiet of a movie it is in the sense that there is not a lot of dialogue between characters until the very end. As with many other aspects of the movie, this silence is rather jarring given that it takes place on a gargantuan locomotive and most scenes should be quite noisy as passenger trains are anything but quiet. All of that being said, Snowpiercer is quite visceral at times, almost physically so. I say this in reference to a final speech of sorts that Everett gives to Nam before he confronts Wilford. He reveals the gory truth about life in the Tail, at which point I practically fell out of my seat over the disgusting revelation.

From a sci-fi standpoint, the movie requires a certain amount of handwavium, more so than most sci-fi movies. Admittedly, just the idea of packing humanity’s last survivors into a giant train seems rather farcical, but to me that was part of the appeal. Nonetheless, there are some details that just have to be accepted, like the fantastical substance that inadvertently caused an ice age and how people in the train are able to apparently raise livestock. Moreover, the overall pacing of the movie seemed rather off in some scenes, especially toward the end after Everett reaches the front.

Overall, Snowpiercer is, in turns, dark, awful, funny, surreal and cruel, and I highly doubt I will see anything like it any time soon.

Top image via enzozid.com. 

 

Four things this feminist would like to see in Pacific Rim 2.

One of my favorite movies is Pacific Rim, the story of humanity coming together to fight aliens from another dimension. These aliens are fought via giant robots called Jaegers, and the successful operation of a Jaeger requires absolute cooperation between its two pilots. The premise sounds rather grandiose, and it is, but the movie also has quite a bit of heart and features an amazing female protagonist named Mako Mori. The film’s director, Guillermo del Toro, recently announced that a sequel will be made, and while there are still a few years before the movie is released, I have been thinking about what I’d like to see out of the second installment of Pacific Rim.

1. More women!

Although Pacific Rim is ostensibly Mako’s story, to me there is a huge hole missing in that story, and that is the overall lack of women in the movie. Mako often seems to be alone in a sea of men, although a close viewing of the movie reveals that there are often women in the background of the Shatterdome, the epicenter of action in the movie. We do not know any of these women’s stories, not even that of the only other female Jaeger pilot shown on-screen (Sasha Kaidanovsky). Del Toro has shown an aptitude for creating strong women characters, and it’s time he added a few more to the Pacific Rim roster.

2. No compromises with Mako.

Speaking of Mako, she is one of the many reasons I enjoy Pacific Rim as she is one of the best female movie characters to come along in a long time. There is a good deal of plot devoted to her developing relationship with her co-pilot Raleigh, and while the movie could have ended with a totally cliche kiss, thus sealing their fate as romantic partners, the movie’s ending actually left their status somewhat open-ended. Del Toro did this intentionally: he has said in interviews that,

“I wanted to show that men and women can be friends without having a relationship. [Mako and Raleigh’s] story [is] about partnership, equality and a strong bond between partners. It’s important for little girls to know not every story has to be a love story and for boys to know that soldiers aren’t the only ones to triumph in war.”

I have faith that even if Mako and Raleigh become a de facto couple, del Toro will keep Mako at the forefront of the story and not relegate her to being silent love interest.

3. Vanessa Gottlieb.

Vanessa is not mentioned in the movie, but we know from the movie’s novelization that the scientist Hermann Gottlieb is married to a woman named Vanessa and that she is pregnant during the events of the first film. Moreover, Travis Beacham, who helped co-write the movie, confirmed on tumblr that Vanessa is mixed race and also a model. A popular fan theory for Vanessa is that she is a prosthetics model, which goes well with Hermann’s PWD* status. Aside from these few details, Vanessa is essentially a blank slate. Personally, I like to think she is a strong, confident woman, and I think she would make an excellent addition to the cast.

4. GLBT characters.

Another reason I love Pacific Rim so much is the diversity of the characters. Okay, I’ve established that there could stand to be more women, but otherwise the movie is wonderfully diverse in terms of its Jaeger pilot teams and crews. In the movie, there is on-screen representation from the U.S., China, Russia and Australia, and we know from supplemental material that there are many more teams from countries all around the, ahem, Pacific Rim. Racial and ethnic diversity is all very good, but as a queer chick I would like to see some GLBT Jaeger pilots. Representation matters, and there’s no reason a queer character can’t be included or be an important part of the story.

Top image via filmcolossus.com.

*person with disability

Where are all of the queer superheroes?

I’m well known for loving superhero movies, especially anything that’s a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even in my interminable fangirling, I am able to recognize and acknowledge the flaws of these films. First and foremost, many superhero movies just aren’t that diverse in terms of casting. There are no current MCU movies lead by a woman (or a person of color, for that matter), and the MCU’s main competitor, DC/Warner Brothers, isn’t much better. However, with constant talk of a Black Widow solo film and African-American men cast in major roles in the next Fantastic Four movie, it seems we are slowly inching toward more diverse superheroes. That being said, there is still something missing from the conversation, and that is the topic of queer superheroes.

LGBT people exist in comics just as they do in the real world, but you wouldn’t know it watching a mainstream superhero movie. There have been a few characters in the MCU who are identified as queer in the comics but are not out or acknowledged as such in the movies.

For example, in the Marvel comics, the character Mystique is bisexual and has a significant relationship with another character named Destiny. In fact, Mystique and Destiny were originally meant to be Nightcrawler’s biological parents, but this idea was ultimately abandoned for being too controversial. Compare this to the big screen version of Mystique, who has been in every X-Men movie, and whose sexual orientation, if referenced, is usually in relation to a man and only men.

Victoria Hand, a newer character who is very much an out lesbian in the Marvel comics, appeared on Agents of SHIELD this season, but was quickly killed off without ever coming out. As noted in her MCU Wiki entry, “Had [her sexuality] been addressed on the show, she would’ve been the first confirmed non-heterosexual character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Interestingly enough, the actress who played Hand, Saffron Burrows, is openly bisexual.

Finally, if you really want to get down to it, fan favorite Deadpool is quite queer in his respective comics, (see here for a somewhat NSFW if in-depth analysis of his queerness) and he has also been in a major superhero movie — X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However, his characterization was so botched, the erasure of his queer identity is hardly the most egregious thing about his movie portrayal.

Fortunately, a fully realized LGBT superhero might be just around the corner. On the TV show Arrow this season, Black Canary came out as bisexual and shared a kiss with another female character on screen, making her the first confirmed LGBT person in any DC or Marvel television or movie continuity. Ironically enough, Black Canary is not queer in any way in the DC comics, although she is speculated to be.

Furthermore, the DC character Renee Montoya, also known as The Question, has been confirmed as a regular on the new show Gotham, a Batman prequel series. In the comics, Montoya is well known for dating Kate Kane, the current Batwoman and arguably the most famous lesbian in the DC universe. Montoya was created for the show Batman: The Animated Series, but no mention was made of her sexuality. In fact, it was not until the character was a part of the comic book run Gotham Central that she was revealed to be queer. At any rate, I’m holding out hope that Gotham will give her her due as a lesbian.

Likewise, I hope that as my beloved superhero movies and TV shows become more diverse in terms of gender and race, so too will they become more diverse with sexuality. After all, (some) superheroes are queer, and they’re here, so get used to it.

Republished with permission from The Powder Room. Image via comicvine.com.