The Spirit of Wonder Woman

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Honestly, I haven’t historically been a big fan of Wonder Woman.  My first exposure to her was really the DCAU Justice League cartoons (which is the reason I can ship her with Batman hehe).  While I liked her character there, she never really stood out to me.

This began to change last year, when I read The Secret History of Wonder Woman for our GeekyNerdy Book Club, and then attended a symposium for the 75th anniversary of her creation.  I still haven’t read any of her comics, but I feel like I have some understanding of her character.  And from that perspective, I was really pleased with the Wonder Woman movie, and I’m sure her many fans around the world are, too.  The movie definitely stayed true to the spirit of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman did a great job mixing in her famous symbols while at the same time creating a new story for Diana.  I liked the nod to both her “traditional” origin (a clay statue made by Hippolyta) as well as her New 52 origin (daughter of Zeus/demigod).  Her outfit has been nicely modernized, and her headband even has a special meaning within the story.

We get to see plenty of action with both her traditional, defensive weapons (bracers and Lasso of Truth) as well as her newer, offensive weapons (sword and shield).  I think both of these aspects are important to Diana’s character.  For once, we get to see a superhero fighting to defend regular people, in the form of a Belgian village caught between the two sides of WWI.  Wonder Woman always seeks to defend the innocent, and sometimes that requires going on the attack with confidence.

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Diana also has many talents that are not combat-related.  We got to see the Lasso of Truth used not just as weapon but also a tool (WW’s creator was the real-life inventor of a blood pressure lie detector test).  She presents herself ably as a diplomat who speaks many languages, seeking to increase communication across nations.

One frequent symbol over Wonder Woman’s history is bondage…not in the kinky way.  Early feminist propaganda used images of breaking chains to symbolize the struggle of women for equal rights, and Wonder Woman comics often co-opted this imagery by having Diana be bound or chained and have to break free.  There was a nice nod to this during the climax of her fight with Ares where her body is completely wrapped in sheet metal as she’s struggling to overcome her doubts about humanity as well as deal with the loss of Steve.

One thing I kept going back to constantly when thinking about this movie was how it correctly presented Diana as a “superheroine” instead of a “female superhero.”  (Check out this post for more on this distinction.)  These two narratives are quite different.  Instead of trying to defeat and expel the villain, Wonder Woman always seeks to turn her antagonists back into the fold of society.  In movie, she says something like, “If I kill Ares, the Germans will be good people again.”  In her mind, she is not fighting against the Germans and their allies; she is fighting against war and conflict itself (personified as Ares).

Wonder Woman also does not keep herself separate from humanity; she doesn’t go back to isolation on Themyscira at the end of the story.  Though we don’t yet know exactly what happens to her after the events of the movie, she appears among Western society in the present day.

Overall I was thrilled with the treatment of Diana’s character, and I really enjoyed the movie as a whole as well.  Do any big Wonder Woman fans have more thoughts on her characterization in the movie??  Feel free to share in the comments!

 

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Movie Review: Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)

Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) was the biggest movie in Japan last year—it is now the fourth-highest grossing film of all time in that country.  It was technically released for one week in LA last year, in order qualify for Oscar consideration…an then it wasn’t even nominated.  Luckily, it was brought back to US theaters this weekend, where I was able to see it.

A synopsis of the story from Google:

The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint. When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more – a chance to finally meet.

And here’s the English trailer (you can find the Japanese one here):

It’s easy to see why this movie was so popular last year.  The animation is gorgeous, and the story is a great mix of genres, with a feeling I would call bittersweet, tinged with hope.  I think even people that don’t normally like “anime” would like this movie.

I’m not sure how long Your Name will be in theaters, but I’d definitely recommend seeing it while you can.  I was able to find a theater only 30 minutes away from me showing it in both dubbed English and Japanese with subtitles.  (I’m sure it will be out on DVD soon, too.)

I saw it with subtitles and loved it. As always, there are some things that just won’t translate well. There’s actually a really funny scene where Mitsuha has switched into Taki’s body and speaks to his friends using “watashi,” and when they give her a weird look for using such a feminine form, she starts cycling through pronouns until she arrives at “ore,” which they finally accept as normal.

There’s plenty of other humor, too, which is a nice balance for the pathos of the story. No spoilers, but it ends up being way more complex than a simple teenage body-switching story.

The last thing I want to mention is the music!  As you can hear from the trailer, the music is done by a J-rock group named RADWIMPS, and it is amazing.  You can stream the soundtrack several places, including Spotify.  There are even English versions of the songs from the movie.  Definitely check out the opening song “Yumetourou,” the ending song “Nandemonaiya,” and the theme heard in the trailer “Zenzenzense.”

You can also check out the MV for “Sparkle” here with clips from the movie.

Hope you all enjoy this one as much as I did!

My Top 5 Versions of Beauty and the Beast

As I’m looking forward to the new Disney live action version of Beauty and the Beast (early reviews are vaguely positive), I recall the first time I read a Beauty and the Beast story: in elementary school, one of our Reading textbooks had among its folk tales a telling of the traditional French story, complete with illustrations and a pretty page border.

Since then, I’ve developed a great love of fairy tales and have seen and read many version of Beauty and the Beast.  Here are some of my favorites.

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Once Upon a Time (S1 Ep12 “Skin Deep”)

It’s been a few years since I watched Once Upon a Time, but the first season is particularly enjoyable, and BatB is one of the key fairy tales introduced.  Emilie de Ravin is a charming Belle, and they added some nice twists to the tale (Rumplestilksin is the Beast, and Belle becomes the town librarian) while keeping some nods to the Disney animated movie (Belle’s dresses, the chipped teacup).

Beastly by Alex Flinn

T544891his YA novel updates the BatB story to modern times and also follows the Beast’s perspective.  Kyle Kingsbury is cute, popular, and rich…until he manages to insult a real, live witch at his high school, who turns him into a beast.  His famous father stashes him in a NYC townhouse with only a housekeeper and a blind tutor (plus a chat room for other magically transformed teenagers) for company. Our Belle here is the bookish Lindy, which is short for Linda, the Spanish word for “pretty.”

I gave this book a 4/5 when I first reviewed it.  It’s not my favorite YA fantasy by a long shot, but Kyle is a compelling narrator and it’s a nice urban update on the tale.

Masque by W.R. Gingell

I just re-read this book again recently; it was one of my great 29481285finds of 2016.  The BatB story is nestled inside a murder mystery filled with magic and intrigue.  Lady Isabella “Belle” Farrah is one of my favorite protagonists of all time.  She has such quick wit and emotional control, yet still manages to grow over the course of the book.

This book will appeal to fans of historical romance, fantasy, mystery, or even steampunk genres.  There’s so much to love!  Check out my original review here, or you can pick it up for cheap on Kindle on Amazon.

Beauty by Robin McKinley

8084This is a classic fairy tale novelization and was key in my (and I’m sure many other’s) love of the genre.  It’s a very traditional, novel-length telling, and pretty much a YA book before YA was a genre.  There’s no surprises here, just a great story with lovely writing.

Beauty is currently available as part of a $15 Humble Bundle of  “Women Of Science Fiction and Fantasy.” 

McKinley decided to revisited BatB twenty years later with Rose Daughter, which is a more daring, quirky take.  I like it a lot, too, but it’s not quite the classic that Beauty is.

 

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

This movie came out when I was about five years old; consequently it was one of the first Disney movies I saw, and it has remained a favorite throughout the years.  The opening sequence contains some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen.  And the songs!  I can still sing them all.  It stands tall as part of the Disney Renaissance, and was even the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

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I picked this movie poster for an image because we used to have a giant puzzle of it.

 

What’s your favorite version of Beauty and the Beast?

Hidden Figures

I am unavailable to march today, but one of my sorority sisters is attending the Women’s March in DC and offered to make a sign listing the names of those of us there in spirit, and I asked her to include my own.  In the meanwhile, I’m going to give a shout out to a movie featuring some other awesome women: Hidden Figures.

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This biopic follows three African-American women at NASA during the space race of the 60s. Though some of it is a bit dramatized, it is all based on real life. I saw it opening weekend and loved it…and apparently so did a lot of other people.  In its opening weekend it actually beat Rogue One (which had already been out a few weeks, but was playing in nearly twice as many theaters) at the box office, and held on to the #1 spot over MLK Jr. weekend, too.  It’s a great movie for anyone to enjoy, but I would really encourage all young women especially to see it.

On to the science!

Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) is a brilliant mathematician working as a “computer” at Langley Research Center and is assigned to the Space Task Group to help with the calculations for the launch and landing of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.  In Glenn’s case, putting a man into orbit around the Earth has never been done, so there isn’t a mathematical model for the situation.  Rather than looking at it as an “applied math” situation from a physics perspective, Goble finds a purely mathematical model that simply fits the numbers.

My favorite quote from her: “So, yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson, and it’s not because we wear skirts.  It’s because we wear glasses.”  I think I related to her most of all the women.

Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) is an aspiring engineer, attempting to take night classes at a white high school. She is supported in this by her Polish-Jewish boss, but her husband (Aldis Hodge) is more hesitant.  I liked how the movie showed the struggle for civil rights not as one united movement pushing forward to a single goal, but going in fits and starts, with many different foci, sometimes at odds within the movement (white women especially don’t appear as allies here).  When Mary doesn’t want their young kids to see the news about a firebombing of a bus, her husband replies, “Everybody needs to see this.”  It was a powerful moment for me, thinking about present day events: videos captured on phones and uploaded, violence against innocent people that can no longer be hidden.  If we want to change the world, we have to face it first.

Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) watches as men install the IBM that may put her whole staff of computers out of a job.  So she learns FORTRAN from a library book and starts working with the machine.  But she doesn’t stop there…she teaches her entire staff of African-American women how to program as well, ensuring that the whole group is kept on to work with the IBM.  Now that’s “leaning in.”

So the science part is great.  But the movie also shows these women as not just scientists, but leaders in their community as well.  They are moral women; we see them going to church, raising children, and participating in positive relationships with good men.  They support each other in their struggles and ambitions.

I was so impressed with the marketing for this movie.  It did a great job focusing on the three leading women in advertisements, so much so that I was surprised by the appearance of several white or male actors during the movie because I hadn’t even realized they were going to be in it.  I think this shows that a movie featuring black women can perform well, and hopefully Hollywood will taken this lesson from Hidden Figures and give us more.

One last note: the movie also shows astronaut John Glenn in a very good light, a point of pride for us in Ohio.  He unfortunately didn’t get to see it before he passed away last year, but it was a wonderful tribute to him.  (They also just renamed the Columbus airport for him recently.)

So if you are looking for sometime to do this weekend that will both entertain you and make you think about how far we have come–and how far we have to go–I highly recommend checking out a showing of Hidden Figures.  And I think I may go learn FORTRAN now. ~_^

Quick thoughts on Rogue One (SPOILERS)

I really enjoyed seeing Rogue One on Thursday; as a movie, I think is is better than The Force Awakens. (Though as a Star Wars experience, I don’t think much could top TFA.)

Here are some quick reflections on how my expectations from Wednesday turned out (warning: there will be some major spoilers ahead).

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