“Proud Mary Keep on Burning” - Negative Gender Tropes and Feminist Criticism Related to Supernatural
Note: My tumblr refuses to update the tags on this post, so I’m RE-posting it and adding the tags MYself. Apologies for the rerun! - QLM
In one of my previous posts, I reblogged some excellent videos that Anita Sarkeesian from the Feminist Frequency did regarding media tropes related to the portrayal of women in pop culture sources ranging from comics to movies and television (see list below for links to these tropes and their corresponding videos).
- The Manic Pixie Dream Girl
- Women in Refrigerators
- The Smurfette Principle
- The Evil Demon Seductress
- The Mystical Pregnancy
After watching the videos, I immediately started thinking about my new favorite TV show, Supernatural, and how, sadly, it’s guilty of perpetuating a lot of these negative tropes.
One word: Ruby. But also, pretty much every female-gendered antagonistic entity the show has ever depicted. Granted, Lucifer got fresh with Sam that one time, and Crowley did french Bobby, but still… the sexualized bad girls far outnumber the sexualized bad boys. Ruby, specifically, is the quintessential example of lady baddies using sexuality to elicit sympathy and/or manipulate others because of her long term relationship with Sam that ended in complete betrayal.
Actually, besides, Crowley, are there any lower tier characters that have regularly antagonized the boys that aren’t female? Ruby. Bela. Meg. All variations on the same femme fatale theme. Even Anna, the only female-gendered angel in the show (who was actually pretty progressive to start), ultimately became an antagonist when she was reprogrammed by Heaven’s patriarchy and decided to uproot the Winchester family tree. Her sexy times with Dean was pre-fataleness though, I think.
Lilith. Eve. On Supernatural, it seems as though evil is most frequently characterized as being female. I think this is a side effect of the show’s biased male gaze, yes, but more specifically it might be also be latent homophobia.
In order for evil to be effective, it has to be intimate. It’s safer to have sexualized female characters get closer to the boys because a) sexy bad chicks are good for ratings and b) sexy bad boys would offend subconsciously homophobic viewer/creator sensibilities. Having all these antagonists constructed as women allows the writers to play with themes related to evil in terms of temptation and carnality without things getting too “gay” in the process.
Of course, those creative decisions certainly haven’t stopped the show from reeking of homoerotic sexual tension anyways. *cough* Destiel! Wincest!, *uncough*
Ah yes. Mary Winchester and the Faustian bargain that resulted in Psychic!Sam. Mary had to go through A LOT of shit on the show, and all her suffering stems from the fact that Hell wanted to use her lady oven for demonic occupancy. The Mystical Pregnancy is damaging partly because of the way it depicts a wholly natural biological process, but it also diminishing because it reduces female characters to their reproductive functions and domestic roles. Mary, specifically, is most frequently understood only within the dimensions of wife and mother. Thankfully, the time travel episodes provide us with the chance to see her in more of a three-dimensional light, as a skilled hunter, rather than just a motherly martyr.
I love Mary but from day ONE she has been there primarily to pull on our heartstrings and move the plot forward for her menfolk. Which brings us to the next trope…
Mary Winchester again, but, more specifically…Jess. We didn’t really get to know Jess as much of anything outside of a martyr figure whose death was used for a purely functional purpose in the pilot: To motivate Sam to take up arms with Dean and go a-questing for ol’ yellow-eyes. For these reasons, Jess is more so an idea worth fighting for instead of a real, three-dimensional person.
Jo and Ellen might also be seen as characters who edge on this trope, but I think they were a little more well-rounded than Jess. Still, the fact remains that their collective death was both oddly sudden and certainly ineffective in terms of resolving any crucial story conflict for that season. Their deaths really only served to create a sense of urgency in Sam and Dean by upping the “end of days” ante.
Again, women are used as plot-fodder. Eesh.
I think Lisa fills the function of this trope for Dean, but in a different way than the standard Pixie Dream Girl. Rather than comforting her man with wide-eyed, dreamer sentimentality, Lisa embodies the mundane for Dean; the luxurious ideal of “normalcy.” The end result is the same though. Lisa is likewise reduced to representation; a mere symbol of the life domestic and nothing more. That’s why she’s not relatable or particularly interesting. She’s not even a real person; she’s just a lifestyle that Dean eventually discovers he can never have. This is best embodied, again, through her ovaries, when Dean discovers Ben is his progeny.
Lisa is defined by this motherhood role (even if she is not specifically motherly to Dean). Would Dean feel so attached to her if it were not for Ben? Would her role have expanded past one episode if she hadn’t reproduced? Give me a break!
The Impala. She is the only recurring feminized entity on the show. And the poor gal is always being objectified and infantilized by Dean.
“My baby! Nobody touches my baby!”
- Dean Winchester (Every other episode)
Just kidding, but not really…It’s worth noting that there’s not a single female regular in the series, so this is a trope Supernatural avoids only because it isn’t even eligible for consideration. It’s hard to expand upon gender disparity in a given show when one gender isn’t even really represented.
How many people by now have no idea that eating more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and drinking plenty of (unpolluted) water is better for you than processed food?
I know it. Everyone knows it.
What these arrogant shits who keep aiming to “teach low income people” is not something we don’t know.
If you want to “teach” me something about food then teach me how to make $30 a week for three people stretch without processed meals.
Or how about you stop assuming we are ignorant of the fact that fresh foods are better for us than hamburger helper and look at the root of WHY we have to buy the shit.
Once again, it’s just easier to assume ignorance and laziness than it is to apply any critical thinking or empathy.
Seriously, nutritionist classes are all well and good, but most people can fucking make educated guesses.
Whether they can AFFORD those educated guesses is much different.
I would never make the argument that lower income families can adjust their diets just as easily as those families who have plenty of money at their disposal. It has been (and always will be) harder to be healthy on a budget. However, I do think that the widespread distribution of obese Americans across class lines demonstrates that this problem truly is an epidemic. Regardless of what income bracket they belong to, it seems as though the average American has NOT been capable of making healthy “educated guesses” regarding their dietary needs these past few decades.
Of course, people shouldn’t be making educated guesses when it comes to their health. They should make informed decisions. It’s tempting to dismiss dietary choices as “common sense,” but to do so is presumptuous. What is considered common sense to one person might seem arcane to another. For example, “everybody” knows that drinking soda in excess is unhealthy, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that drinking the same amount of fruit juice can be just as bad because it contains just as much sugar. Freshly squeezed organic orange juice might be nutritionally superior to a glass of chocolate drink mix, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the healthier option for someone who is pre-diabetic.
Additionally, a huge component of the obesity epidemic is related to the increasingly sedentary nature of modern living. Here, the rich are also at an advantage because they can afford gyms, personal trainers, and can work out in private gated communities. However, with the proper guidance and support, low-income families can also find ways to exercise and stay healthy. Events, like community fitness fairs and jogging groups, can be organized with the assistance of these health awareness advocacy groups. It is vitally important that programs about health and wellness be made available to low income families so that they also have a chance at living healthier lifestyles. And that’s what it is, really: a lifestyle. Not just a diet, but a far-reaching scope of behavior modification.
The average consumer is bombarded with thousands of confusing messages related to food every day of their lives. Sugary cereals advertise their whole grain content. Soda makers add suplements to their drinks to create the illusion that they’re good for you. Even if it’s only to pick between the lesser of two evils, every scrap of information people have at their disposal gives them a better chance at making better decisions for themselves and their families.
I am NOT arguing that assistance programs to help low income families should be abolished in favor of health awareness programs. Poverty is not an isolated problem that is entirely separate from the obesity epidemic. However “fixing” that problem will NOT, by itself, also fix the obesity epidemic. Even people with money are making horrible health choices these days. It worries me then, for the sake of all Americans, to see health awareness programs being discouraged, to any degree.
I can understand the frustration that people must feel, if they have the information necessary to make good health choices but not the means to optimize those decisions. Yes, that is frustrating, but we must remember that there are thousands of other people out there who have not been so fortunate as to receive the benefit of that information.
Having all the resources in the world won’t matter if they’re not utilized properly.
I’m just saying…
Note: My tumblr refuses to update the tags on this post, so I’m RE-posting it and adding the tags MYself. Apologies for the rerun! - QLM
The Winnie the Pooh movie was all kinds of disappointing. Granted, there were a couple of hilarious “who’s on first”-type misunderstanding moments, but aside from a handful of decent gags relying on wordplay, the story itself fell flat on its plush ASS.
The plot in a nutshell? Eeyore loses his tail, the gang thinks Christopher Robin has been abducted by Latoya Jackson (because Owl can’t read his poorly written letter with bad spelling that says he will be back soon), and, of course, Pooh just wants his goddamn honey already, fuck you very much!
Maybe it’s because I grew up with a different generation of Pooh, but these characterizations always felt slightly…off. Ex. Piglett always bitched about stuff before, but this time around he seemed to be particularly whiny. And stupid! Piglett may have been overly anxious at times but he was never stupid. Similarly, Movie!Rabbit always sounded like he was seriously about to lose his shit. Rabbit’s always been tightly wound, but Movie!Rabitt definitely wanted to shoot people in the face at one point in the film. I won’t get into the details because it’s not worth it. The whole affair was just, grrrr, a major let-down on several levels.
The animation was great though! I can’t tell you how nice it was to see the scratchy hand-drawn style make a triumphant comeback. But yeah, I dunno. I just feel like the film was constructed specifically to appeal to families with small children (infants, bleh). Everything felt diluted to look cute or get cheap laughs. There really wasn’t a whole lot of sentimentality or sweetness or ingenuity or anything. I remember Christopher Robin’s relationship with Pooh being really tender in the books and older movies. I didn’t really pick up on any of that here. Same thing with the Pooh/Piglett relationship and Tigger/anyone. This group just felt like a random ship of fools.
And there were no Pooh Sticks! I loved Pooh sticks! What the fuck is the point of a Winnie the Pooh reboot without fucking Pooh Sticks?!!!
Let me put it this way:
If Bobby Singer had been watching this movie, his voice would be hoarse by the end from muttering “Idjits” every five minutes.
In case you were vaguely curious about the film, I’m compiled a list of four random ass observations that I made while watching. Are they relevant to analyzing the movie? Hardly. Are they critical points of interest? Barely.
Are they funny?
Hell if I know! You be the judge.
1. JESUS CHRIST! Zooey Deschanel is f*cking EVERYWHERE.
I turn on the TV, there’s Zooey on New Girl. I walk into another room and someone is watching Elf. I go to the store and I see the She and Him Christmas album. She’s on SNL! She’s on the red carpet! She’s asking Siri to order her some goddamn tomato soup because she’s too busy not cleaning her house to get her ass out of her pajamas.
As soon as I popped in the Winnie the Pooh DVD, the FIRST thing I hear is Zooey Deschanel belting out the fucking Winnie the Pooh theme song.
The worst part is that it actually didn’t sound that bad.
Zoey’s voice lends itself quite naturally to the lullaby-esque feel of most Pooh songs. She recorded several tunes for the film and, it pains me to say this, her contributions were the most memorable music moments of the film. The original songs composed for the film, the ones that the characters sing to move the plot along, were so lackluster! Not a single one stuck in my head afterwards!
What the fuck, Disney!? You’ve made a fortune on animated musicals. You didn’t have ANY contacts that could have breathed some life into your Winnie the Pooh reboot? I’m not asking for “Under the Sea” but I’m sure SOMEBODY from the High School musical franchise needed work. C’mon!
Zooey sounds clueless in this interview. Thank God she’s pretty.
2. Eeyore is so sexual! (See photo below) They have him do this, like, at least twice in the film. It’s kind of dirty and veeeery Showgirls.
Heeeey. Wanna see me do my ping pong trick?
No? Ohhhh well. Time to go sell my body at the red light at Pooh Corner…
Hilarious! And shameless.
3. I am NOT comfortable with us seeing the white of Christopher Robin’s eyes.
Christopher Robin THEN
Christopher Robin NOW
For a split second, while watching the movie, I thought CR’s hat was a yamulke and that they had made him Jewish. The Hebraic background is questionable, but I know for sure that they made him sound four freaking years old and way more British than he should be. I mean, I know Pooh is a British export, but CR almost had a freaking cockney accent in the movie…
I half-expected for him to start babbling on about the Artful Dodger or where I can find “the worst pies in London.”
4. Winnie the Pooh has an unprecedented, schizophrenic lust for honey in this movie. He’s always loved it, but in this film his hunger overtakes his senses and he actually begins to like, Sybil-hallucinate over the foodstuff. Like, at one point, all the dialogue he hears replaces regular words with the word “honey,” so it’s shit like:
“Oh honey! I can’t wait to honey over to Christopher Honey’s house. Do you think our plan will work, honey? I sure honey so. Honey? What do you honey? Honey honey, honey-honey honey!!”
The honey-cravings also make Pooh see his friends as talking honey pots! Think back to those old Tex Avery cartoons that depicted people starving on deserted islands. Remember how they’d look at each other, fuzzy lines would appear, and suddenly a foot became a hot dog or face started to resemble a hamburger?
Pooh’s food-delusion is a lot like that, except everybody’s head becomes a faceless honeypot. Totes creepy.
Pooh’s addiction is what inspired this photoset:
Winnie Houston’s Interview With Diane Sawyer
Diane - Do you know what this is?
Winnie Houston - No. What is it, Diane? Tell me. I’m a bear of very little brain. Do you know? Do you really know? Do you know? Let’s get one thing straight: Honey is cheap. I make too much money to ever do honey. Honey is wack!
Note: My tumblr refuses to update the tags on this post, so I’m RE-posting it and adding the tags MYself. Apologies for the rerun! - QLM
Despite my better judgment, I secretly maintained high hopes for this film. I was a huge fan of The Smurfs animated series when I was little, and when I saw the star-studded casting for the film (Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Alan Cumming, Hooray!), well, I figured a half-way decent reboot was surely in the making.
But I was wrong.
The Smurfs movie is pretty much a cinematic abortion. There are a handful of cute and/or funny moments, but everything about it just feels off or forced. The plot was difficult to follow because the characters just came and went, citing arbitrary magic-logic as explanation/motivation. It was like the Smurfs had been transplanted into a shitty rerun of Charmed…no offense to Aaron Spelling!
Successful movies based on older, animated TV shows have to juggle three distinct narrative knifes in the air:
A. They have to appeal to children (the primary demographic).
B. They have to use self-referential humor and/or make “adult” jokes for older viewers. This is important because adults are the ones taking their children to see these movies and, more to the point, the hard core, critical fan bases normally consist of adult viewers.
C. They have to create a high risk situation that “ups the ante” from the standard conflict that the TV show would normally feature. If the show was all about, say…witches who like to make magical salads, then the movie has to be about a young witch who mistakenly enters THE GREATEST MAGICAL SALAD-MAKING COMPETITION OF ALL TIME. You gotta make it all feel “big screen-worthy” which is never an easy task to accomplish.
So how exactly did “The Smurfs” movie stack up to this precarious balancing act?
Here are my thoughts regarding the all-star cast and their contributions to the film. If you saw the movie, then you know that not a single one of them will be making that resume bullet any larger than it needs to be…
How do you create interesting, dynamic characters out of (quite literally) two dimensional antecedents? This is probably the hardest question to answer when translating animated television properties into the big-screen format. Characters need strengths but, more importantly, they need flaws in order to be effective and interesting.
Example: In the Scooby-Doo movie it was suggested that Velma had resentment issues because she never got any credit for her contributions to Mystery Inc. This is an issue that the original cartoon never addressed, but the sentiment is a believable one. It worked for her character.
The Smurfs are like The Seven Dwarves in that all their flaws can normally be found right within their names. Brainy is the know-it-all, Grumpy is cantankerous, and Greedy has sex with anonymous strangers to pay for his ravenous heroine addiction.
Simple enough, right?
In this film, the smurf who immediately stands out as the protagonist with something to prove is Clumsy Smurf, voiced by the adorable Anton Yelchin. (Better known as Young Chekov to all you Star Trekkers out there!)
Although I think Anton is a great actor, his performance as Clumsy came off as a little too low-key for my taste. The combination of a muted delivery with forgettable personal growth made it difficult to care about Clumsy throughout the entire movie. Also, the smurfs are so positive and lacking in ill-will that nearly all of Clumsy’s criticism had to be expressed through self-deprecation, which resulted in a lot of “woe is me” faces and pitiable moments.
And what of Neil Patrick Harris? As much as I love NPH, I did NOT love his character. Neil acts his ass off, but it’s never enough to make me care about Patrick, the skeptical ad designer who needs to open himself up to the magic hidden in his own life.
Patrick’s cynicism is, unfortunately, the primary vehicle the filmmakers used for all their self-referential humor. He makes multiple preferences to the fact that the Smurfs use the word “smurf” to mean any number of arbitrary things. He also criticizes their culture, their names, and their music. Eesh! Debbie Downer over here!
There’s also this weird bond that he shares with Papa Smurf because Patrick is a father-to-be, but again, I just didn’t buy the forced connection. Plus, thinking about Papa as a literal father figure to his smurf friends is just…creepy.
In case you’re not familiar, Smurfs use the word “Smurf” (or some such variant) so that it takes the place of any other word in a given sentence. It most frequently becomes an adjective (“What a Smurfy Idea!”) but it can also be used as a verb.
For example, if Adele were a smurf, she might sing the following:
“We could have Smurfed it aaaaaaaallllllll.
Smurfing in the deeeeeeeeeep….”
Side Note: Modern day Smurf spoofers like to use this technique to censor (and simultaneously imply) the presence of offensive material. For example, The Smurf version of Nine Inch Nails might use lyrics like…
“I wanna Smurf you like an ANIMAL!
I wanna Smurf you from the INSIDE…”
You get the point…right?
Poor Sophia Vergara. I think every character she plays from now until her death will have comedic English pronunciation/communication issues.
Hank Azaria makes Gargamel believable and (mostly) comical (no easy feat) but it still isn’t enough to make him come off as a viable threat, villain-wise.
Sophia Vergara plays Odile, a cosmetics executive whose purpose in this movie is best described as…questionable, possibly even unnecessary. I guess she’s supposed to parallel Gargamel as the human world antagonist to NPH’s character, but it never seems to work. In the end, she sounds like somebody threw Gloria from Modern Family into a blender with Cruella De Vil. Odile is flanked by Henri, her assistant, played by Tim Gunn.
Much like Sophia, Tim pretty much just plays himself in this movie. He even unleashes his trademarked “Make it work!” catchphrase when he counsel’s NPH’s character, Patrick. On a related note regarding the film’s derivative humor, Katy Perry does utter “I Kissed A Smurf and I liked it!” at one point in the movie as well…
Are you beginning to see why I hate this movie so much?
Pretty Dress. Stupid Movie.
In the first Transformers film, the movie makers realized that the emotional linchpin of the entire series was the relationship between Spike and Bumblebee (a boy and his ‘bot). If there is a parallel relationship in this movie, I suppose it would be between Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) and Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters).
According to Smurf mythology (wow, I never thought I would ever begin a sentence like that) Smurfette was originally created by Gargamel in order to sow discord among the Smurf clan. Because the default sex for all smurfs in the wild is male, their town was such a major sausage-fest that the introduction of a female Smurf nearly destroyed it. However, the smurfs somehow managed to get over their horniness (likely through Papa’s intervention). They adopted Smurfette into their collective and treated her like one of their own. The kindness the Smurfs showed Smurfette made her pull a Pinnochio. She renounced her ties to Gargamel and desired nothing more than to become “a real Smurf.” Papa Smurf then used his magic to make her into “the smurf she was always meant to be.”
Smurfette feels a special kinship to Papa because, in a very real way, he gave her life. Out of all the smurfs, I suppose he is most like a father to her.
That’s kind of sweet, but also reaaaaaly sexist:
1. The near-success of Gargamel’s plan perpetuates the image of woman as wicked seductress. Smurfette’s powerful female sexuality “threatened” the entire social structure of the Smurf’s culture.
2. It’s nice that Smurfette revoked her Smurf-hating ways, but the assimilation of her being into the Smurf collective always felt a little Jonestown to me. It’s like she’s “gone native” or fallen prey to Stockholm Syndrome or something…
3. It is only through the the power and intervention of a male that Smurfette is made into a “real” person. I guess you can argue that she must have had a personality / will of her own to get to the point where she could request Papa’s help, but it’s still kind of creepy and male-dominated.
Smurfette is so famous in this realm of pop culture feminist criticism that there’s even a trope named after her: The Smurfette Principle.
Final Note of Criticism: “A Parting Jab To Jayma Mays”
Through no fault of her own, Jayma Mays is getting type-casted as this doe-eyed, sentimental caricature and it is getting annoying as f*ck. In this film, she plays a plucky Emma Pilsbury-typecharacter (only pregnant and sans OCD). I remember the days when she used to play a villainous pregnant character on Ugly Betty. I want THAT. Give me THAT. I’m sick of all this saccharine shit…
Just look at her. Jesus Christ!
Gif/Pic Credit in order of appearance:
- Smurfs still by ingriidb
- N.P.H. Stare by mademoisellewood
- Anton Yelchin by alery122
- Neil “I’m Bored” - ?
- Smurf Adele - Me!
- Gargamel gifs - knockernightmare
- Heidi Klum - Me, again!
- Katy Perry by luckykatyperry
- Jayma Mays by getsomejaymapillsbury
- Bridesmaids Megan by…uh, I dunno. I’m sorry!!!
Avengers Disassembled - My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Moments from Marvel’s Latest Feature (Spoiler Alert!)
I likedThe Avengers, but I didn’t loveThe Avengers.
No no no! Your comments aren’t illogical or rambly at all! They’re totally coherent and you make a lot of really good points!
From my understanding, the tesseract just provided the energy to create the portal. But without the stabilizing agent, it would have collapsed no matter what.
Okay! See, this makes sense to me now. It was probably even explicitly explained at some point at the beginning, but I just did NOT catch it for some reason. I do wish they could have elaborated on the mechanism of the tesseract / its interactions with Loki’s staff, but I understand that there were time constraints in place.
I really like your interpretation of the cube having quasi-sentience! That helps me reconcile a lot of the issues I had with it throughout the course of the film.
Had the cards actually been in his pocket when he was speared, that would have been one thing. But they were in his locker. That means that Fury had to go get said cards and soak them in the blood. Why not just show the team his body?
Okay, on this point I think I just totally read the scene differently. I was under the impression that, whether or not Coulson is truly dead, the movie still wanted to create the impression that he died. That’s why the last image we have of him is the life going out of his eyes. I thought that scene with Maria revealing the truth about the cards’ actual location was meant to showcase Fury’s moral ambiguity. By (slightly) deceiving the avengers with the cards, the movie reinforces the notion that SHIELD can’t totally be trusted. (Remember the SHIELD’s-not-making-weapons-lie from earlier?)
The reason why a body isn’t/wouldn’t ever be shown (whether or not Coulson’s dead or just fake dead) is because doing so would just feel funereal/mournful. By showing blood stained Captain America cards instead, the experience is personalized for the Avengers (especially Steve). The cards also represent what Coulson thought was worth fighting for. Blood stained cards mobilize the troops. A body would just create a somber sense of loss more so than righteous indignation.
Also, blood-stained cards are a hell of a lot easier to throw across a conference table when you need to make a point ;)
Bad joke. Too soon :X
I agreed with you that having a death grounds the world of the movie by emphasizing what’s at stake, but I don’t know think that it should be done for a major character when the same effect it creates could be accomplished through other methods. Still, I’m operating under the premise that Coulson is dead-dead, not fake-dead, so for me his death just feels like a crude way of infusing sentimentality into the movie. That being said, I’ve heard other theories about him being alive that sound pretty reasonable, so I too am hoping/suspecting that he comes back. Yay!
But then she fucking tricks the trickster god. And then you think oh and you realize that Natasha isn’t just a pretty girl who can fight. She’s clever and she knows people.
I still maintain that the Loki scene echos the structure of the interrogation scene (feigning physical vs. emotional weakness to procure info), BUT I will concede that in Tasha’s case, this reiteration is excusable. Women so frequently get the short end of the stick in superhero genre movies (when they even have a part to play AT ALL) that it’s worth reinforcing the fact that her success can be attributed to her intelligence rather than her appearance; her ability to deduce/interpret rather than just lie convincingly or look helpless.
She does trick the Trickster God. That’s no small feat.
Edit: I just went and watched the scene in question on youtube. Let me point out that Fury brings up the Hulk first…
I think the big thing for me was that Loki says “monster” in one of his snide comments to Fury, and then with his reply to Natasha he simply repeats that prior judgment about Bruce being a monster. I still don’t see how Natasha made the deductive jump using, what is effectively, the same information she had earlier. Again, it would have been so easy to fix this either by cutting bits of Loki’s previous talk with Fury, or else having Loki reveal just a SMIDGE more in his anger-fueled response to Tasha. Of course, maybe I just need to watch the movie again. The details about that scene are a little foggy to me.
I appreciate you bringing up the exact details after youtubing, but the mere fact that we have to rewatch these scenes should be a sign that there is something structurally deficient with certain parts of this movie.
If something complex is explained explicitly, but it’s uttered too quickly or mentioned in the midst of chaos, then it might as well not exist at all. It should be perceived and understood in that crucial initial viewing. It is the film maker’s responsibility to make the story flow in an intuitive fashion by inhibiting moments of potential confusion.
I will admit, however, that perhaps I’m just a little slower on the uptake or else too nitpicky, because a lot of people obviously weren’t thrown by some of these (perceived) problems with the film.
Honestly? It’s about broken people. It’s about these fucked up individuals who have to overcome their trust issues and save the world.
I realize that the movie is character driven, but I was hoping for something bigger than the individual characters’ drama. Look at the Superhuman Registration Act. That’s something that doesn’t just threaten a building or a city…it threatens what it means to be a person. I love the avengers, but we get so little time to explore their individual traumas. Things like, Steve’s acclimation issues or Bruce’s suicide attempt… We only ever get glimpses! Crumbs! Cruuuuuumbs!
Of course, it’s only a what? 2:30 hour long movie? It’s understandable then that we don’t get to delve too deeply into their drama. In fact, it’s possible that no matter what we were shown, given the magnitude of the topics involved / the complex interweaving storylines…anything would feel grossly insufficient.
And maybe that’s really my problem. It wasn’t that the film lacked meaning. The problem is that the film had the potential for too much meaning. It can’t possibly do justice to all these characters because there’s just not enough time. And that’s not Joss’s fault at all. That’s just the nature of the material…
Thank you so much for reblogging this and interacting with it! I was afraid that my questions would go unanswered or that nobody would care (just like my Smurfs review! Sob) But I really enjoy dialoguing about this stuff with you. Yay! Hugs!
Thank you for caring enough to write all that down!
Avengers Disassembled - My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Moments from Marvel’s Latest Feature (Spoiler Alert!)
I liked The Avengers, but I didn’t love The Avengers.
(braces self for barrage of hatemail)
What? No rotten tomatoes? No flaming daggers?
Awesome. Okay, let’s break this down.
Given the fact that Clint and Natasha are the least “superpowered” members of the team, it would have been so easy to let them collect dust while the franchise’s bigger stars did the heavy lifting. Thankfully, Joss Whedon managed to find ways for them to not just contribute to the story, but really play crucial roles. Their characters are rich with strength, angst, depth…just tons of good stuff. Also, given that they are both serious SHIELD agents, they could have easily occupied the same “character space” in less skilled hands. But no! Joss kept them distinct from each other. That’s not something that’s easy to do with a big ensemble cast like this one.
I can’t say enough nice things about Black Widow / Hawkeye as characters in the script OR the acting that Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson provided to bring these characters to life. No matter what qualms I have about the rest of the film, these two EASILY made it worth the price of admission!
Great Action Sequences
Too often one can get lost in an elaborate action sequence. The Avengers was probably particularly difficult to manage because of the six principles characters, each with specific goals that had to be carefully monitored. Here’s where the use of excellent pacing/flow is so crucial to preventing viewer fatigue/confusion. You need to balance the big booming explosion moments with the quiet moments of frustration or desperation. If you’re not careful, too many “high energy” moments can create a white noise effect that makes the whole scene feel anticlimatic or draining. You need to maintain a steady pace while constantly shifting points of view while, keeping mind of who needs to do what to whom. It’s not an easy balance to strike! But Joss did an impeccable job in this film.
Usually, during a given big summer movie action sequence, I end up glancing at my watch at least once. With The Avengers’s big finale, I was too captivated to dare attempt such blasphemy :)
The Not So Good
Too Many Questions
Why did the SHIELD base blow up after the tesseract was removed? How did the science guy from Thor have the foresight to install a safety feature while he was under Loki’s spell? Speaking of which, Loki’s staff is part of the tesseract or connected to the tesseract? How why and where did this happen. Also, why did Pepper leave Tony’s apartment without shoes? LOL. JK, but for reals…that DID happen.
I ask too many questions, yes, that’s my burden to bear…but I wouldn’t have been scrambling for answers if I wasn’t being bombarded with information. The first half of the movie up to Banner’s Hulk-Out was a strange mix of too much exposition combined with too little exposition. “Too much” is to be expected, given the fact that this movie builds on events from three separate films, but certain moments of confusion could have been avoided if only more care had been taken with the story. I would have had no problem believing that a safety feature to the tesseract portal could have been installed by a brainwashed individual IF I had seen somebody struggle with control over their body while under Loki’s spell. It would have taken, what? 30 seconds of screen time?
Death of Coulson
First off: This is not an attack on Joss Whedon because of his tendency to kill beloved characters. I’m not flailing with fangirl anger because Coulson’s death upsets me so much / fills me with “feels.” I’m never against character death if it brings out something new in the survivors or propels the plot in a direction it couldn’t otherwise take. But this was NOT a necessary death.
Think about it. Was this the only possible means of motivation Joss could have used in order to force the avengers to assemble? Fury paints it as a necessarily push…But was it really obligatory?
Thor witnesses Coulson’s death, but he’s primarily concerned with resolving his quarrel with Loki. Bruce, Clint, and Natasha were all personally harmed or threatened by Loki, so the impending final fight couldn’t be any more intimately charged, with or without the death of their colleague. That leaves Tony and Steve. Steve’s connection to Coulson was manufactured in this movie with the fanboy cards / watching you sleep bit, but Steve didn’t really know Coulson. He’s more nonplussed by the death than truly saddened by it. Besides, Steve has his unflinching moral compass to look toward for motivation. He never needed another death to convince him to enter the fray of battle. Coulson’s death is really just a push for ONE character then: Tony. It somehow motivates him to consider Stark tower as the place where the baddies are headed, but there are ANY NUMBER OF OTHER WAYS that epiphany could have emerged SANS the death of an adorable secondary character.
Why have Coulson die then? Fury’s half right. It is needed, but NOT to motivate The Avengers. It was meant to motivate YOU, the audience, instead.
Coulson’s death is a cheap way of forcing YOU to regard Loki’s attacks not as cutesy tantrums, but serious threats. What better way to rob us of our security than to murder the one character who, because of his involvement in so many other movies, was considered, on a subconsciousness level, invulnerable? Additionally, from a thematic standpoint, the avengers have to avenge someone, so rather than look at the faceless 80+ victims that they can’t briefly mention without looking callous, they concentrate the retribution on one, familiar character: Agent Phil Coulson
I get why it was done, but I feel certain there was a better way to accomplish the same goal. A way without collateral Coulson damage :(
Loki talked about Bruce / the cage / Banner being a monster for, like, five minutes as soon as Fury locked him up. The only special trigger word that Natasha got him to say while she deceived him was “monster.” The reiteration of THAT word was the clue that finally helped her figure out his master plan? How does that make any sense?
I love the fact that Natasha manipulated Loki using the whole “you think I’m a weak emotional woman—BOOM I just subverted that shit” scheme, but THINK ABOUT THE EXECUTION OF this concept. Anyone could have come to that same conclusion without ever talking to Loki one on one. Natasha could have figured that out the moment he was thrown in there given all the vitriol he was spewing about Bruce.
More to the point, the subversion of Natasha as the hopeless damsel in distress thing was done the very first time we meet her in the film. In her first scene, she does the exact same thing to her captors that she does with Loki. In both cases she appears to be in danger, but is secretly in control of the entire interaction. She appears to be helpless but uses that position to help her gain information. Rather than affirming this as a part of her character (given the clumsy method of deduction) her second moment of espionage feels redundant rather than powerful. It hits the exact same notes that the first scene already slammed to the floor.
I WANT to cheer along with the audience. I WANT to applaud her courage and her cunning, but the strange mechanisms of this exchange confuse me long enough to where I can no longer be excited about what’s happening. This would have been SUCH an easy thing to fix too. Just eliminate Loki’s ranting about Bruce earlier in the flick. The look he gave Banner on his way to the chamber was foreshadowing enough. Then, Natasha’s revelation could have been really and truly revelatory!
Tony’s Stark’s Overcompensating If You Ask Me…
Did everyone catch that ever so slightly homophobic Tony Stark moment at the end of the movie when he’s mistaken for dead but actually passed out? He wakes up and says: “Please tell me nobody kissed me.”
Why is this line funny? It’s funny because, at the time of it’s utterance, Tony’s surrounded by dudes. The implication then is “please tell me that a DUDE didn’t kiss me.” This setup is a sleeping beauty reference, so if he HAD been kissed by a guy it would A) Feminize Tony by putting him in the damsel role and B) Imply that there was homoerotic sexual tension between he and his team mates.
And, of course, there’s nothing worse than being a woman or having dudes hit on you, right? GAH! How oh HOW could Joss have let this through?!
He’s usually really sensitive about this sort of thing…
Message? What Message?
What is this movie about?
I don’t have a problem with popcorn movies that lack profundity, but what’s the point of this film? The X-Men movies are about discrimination. Iron Man had the arm’s race ethics / warfare. The Hulk is about the animal within…so what is The Avengers about? There are some vague security vs. personal liberties / privacy moments, but you have to squint really hard to see them.
I’m not saying that I have to feel enlightened after seeing a movie in order to make it a winner, but depth certainly never detracts from the movie-going experience. When people say that this movie set “a new bar” for Marvel movies, I can’t help but facepalm a little. The Avengers was good, but did it really change anyone’s life? Did anyone feel inspired afterwards or committed to something? Did anyone feel that their eyes or heart had been opened to something greater than themselves? Besides the Natasha/Clint action, I don’t feel like the story was really all that intimate or thought-provoking.
Joss Whedon Brand Humor OVERLOAD
I love Joss, but he really overuses his unique humorous phrasing in this movie. Everything that gets a big laugh is in the form of “lofty set up” —- “witty undercut.” Don’t you remember? “He’s adopted.”
To reiterate- I liked The Avengers. Really! I did! But the fact that so many people think it’s the second coming makes me feel really awkward and slightly defensive about having an opinion that isn’t something along the lines of: “OMFG I JUST OVULATED!”
See? It’s especially hard for me because I don’t have ovaries…
Recently, one friend told me he thought I was being too contrarian. That comment forced me to look at myself critically. I asked myself: ”Am I just making too big a deal about these little things? Maybe it’s just supposed to be a fun movie with pretty people. It didn’t suck…isn’t that good enough for you?”
Well, frankly, it’s not.
I firmly believe that if something appeals to you, there’s a reason why. Similarly, if something doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s a specific, concrete reason why you can’t connect to it. It may be a biased reason, or a complicated reason, or a subconsciousness reason…but there’s a reason why any piece of art makes us feel the way that we feel.
I am most critical of the fandoms that I love the most because I want to be able to understand them holistically. I want to appreciate both their flaws and their virtues. I want to learn from their mistakes and avoid those shortcomings in the future with my own creative works. Listing them out like this and talking about them helps me work through those fandom feelings in order to uncover the structurally and technical issues that make a work superb or sucky. I don’t think that means I’m being overly critical or contrarian. I think that just means I care too much not to explore these issues.
I know I dwelt a lot on the negative side of things, but that’s only because I expect a lot from Joss Whedon / Marvel. The truth is that even if you have a critical eye and high standards, you’ll still probably enjoy The Avengers. I had some beef with it, but I still applaud it for all the things it did well, and I look forward to a more intimate sequel.
Question for the Audience: Was it just me, or did you guys/gals out out there also feel that The Avengers started laying the groundwork for incorporating the Marvel Civil War into the movieverse?!!!!