Amoeblog

Pop Cultural Feminist Icons and Why I Really Don't Like Wonder Woman

Posted by Charles Reece, September 2, 2012 11:48pm | Post a Comment
wonder woman 28 cover

My interest in Wonder Woman has always been lukewarm, with a back issue collection ranging somewhere between Dazzler and She-Hulk. This essay was the result of an invite from Noah Berlatsky over at the Hooded Utilitarian who's currently working on a book devoted to William Marston and Harry Peter's Golden Age run on Wonder Woman (they created the character). Noah had blogged his way through every issue of the comic, and was celebrating with a roundtable on the final issue (#28). Since it was clear that I pretty much loathed Marston's ideas, Noah figured it would be fun to get a negative take, and the following was what I delivered. At one time, the bondage theme had led me to try a volume from the DC Archive editions, but the mind-numbing repetition of  “oh, you’ve bound my bracelets” and “now, I have you tied up with my lasso” only proved what I thought impossible: how meek and boring sadomasochism could be. I imagine what Suehiro Maruo might do with the character -- questionable as feminism, true, but free of tedium. This is a roundabout way of saying I prefer my feminist icons with teeth. And Marston wasn’t interested in artistic ambiguity, but propaganda:

[That w]omen are exciting for this one reason — it is the secret of women’s allure — women enjoy submission, being bound [was] the only truly great contribution of my Wonder Woman strip to the moral education of the young. The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound. … Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. [quote from p. 210, Jones]

Submission as an essential quality of womanhood might sound dubiously feminist, too, if not for Marston’s insistence that what is woman’s by nature should be a virtue for man to follow. There was no Sadean intent for us perverts. Submission was Marston’s end to violence, not a subset. When moralizing critics of his day objected to the overtly fetishistic nature of Wonder Woman, Marston’s response was that bondage is a painless way of showing the hero under duress. Unfortunately, he was correct: his and Peter’s depiction is about as troublingly kinky as the traps laid for Batman in his sixties TV show. As issue 28 indicates, even the villains use physical force only to subdue the heroines, never for torture: When Princess Diana and her mom are bound by burning chains, Eviless makes it clear that the flames don’t actually burn. [p. 20] As fetish or drama, this is about as flaccid as it gets.

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The Late, Great Tony Scott

Posted by Charles Reece, August 20, 2012 06:26am | Post a Comment


People don't fuck standing up any more, nor do they fuck while driving cars. They certainly did in Tony Scott's Revenge, the perfect capstone to 80s cinema. So here's to the ridiculous sublime in his art. (And how about that clothes closet with billowing curtains?) He jumped off a bridge yesterday.

Near Perfect LPs from Death Waltz

Posted by Charles Reece, August 13, 2012 01:42am | Post a Comment
I'm pretty much committed to getting every release so far announced from Death Waltz Recording Co.. They're putting out LPs for great cult scores, which are either newly remastered for these editions. Some are appearing for the first time on vinyl (e.g., Zombi 2 and Let the Right One In). I'm really happy that the additional cues from Carpenter and Howarth's Escape from New York can now be heard sans dialog interludes on vinyl (the inclusion of which was what I didn't like about the Dagored release from about 10 years ago). The company has also hired a great bunch of artists to do the covers:

Out Now:

let the right one in death waltz
Johan Söderqvist's Let the Right One In - art by Candice Tripp

zombi 2 death waltz
Fabio Frizzi's Zombi 2 - art by Graham Humphreys

escape from new york death waltz
John Carpenter & Alan Howarth's Escape from New York - art by Jay Shaw

What Sight & Sound (Mostly) Missed: My Personal Top 20 Films of All Time

Posted by Charles Reece, August 3, 2012 06:49pm | Post a Comment
Sight & Sound has released its "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" list for the decade. The good news is that Hitchcock took over the number 1 position from Welles and Eisenstein was kicked out of the top 10. About time. The top 20 from the list are: (1) Vertigo (2) Citizen Kane (3) Tokyo Story (4) The Rules of the Game (5) Sunrise (6) 2001 (7) The Searchers (8) Man with a Movie Camera (9) The Passion of Joan of Arc (10)  (11) Battleship Potemkin (12) L'Atalante (13) Breathless (14) Apocalypse Now (15) Late Spring (16) Au hasard Balthazar (17/18) Seven Samurai and Persona (tie) (19) Mirror (20) Singin' in the Rain. This got me to wondering: which films do I always feel like watching, regardless of what I'm reading, thinking about or feeling? After about an hour (which is more time spent than these kind of lists are probably worth), the following is what I came up with as the films that have and will likely continue to provide me with the most enjoyment, discarding any historical concern for the aesthetic enrichment of the cinematic commonweal. In no particular order, my 20 list:

bladerunner poster
Blade Runner - Ridley Scott

sweet smell of success criterion cover
Sweet Smell of Success - Alexander Mackendrick

high and low criterion cover
High and Low - Akira Kurosawa

Malazan Book of the Deaden: Gardens of the Moon

Posted by Charles Reece, July 30, 2012 10:37pm | Post a Comment
 gardens of the moon steven erikson 

Having long since caught up to George R.R. Martin's progress in finishing his A Song of Ice and Fire saga, I've been on the hunt for some fantasy methadone to make waiting for the man a little more bearable, but, most importantly, only if it doesn't make me wonder why I'm not reading something else. (It's always been much easier to find well-written science fiction.) One such series that's regularly suggested in Google searches is Steven Erikson's 10 volume Malazan Book of the Fallen (e.g., this site suggests it's one of the best, as does NPR's list). I was wary, since its densely imbricated world has its origins in Erikson and co-creator Ian Cameron Esselmont's formative years as role-gaming enthusiasts (the latter has his own series of novels based in the same diegesis). But most writers don't have Tolkien's background in history, language and mythology, so the counterfactual worldbuilding has to come from somewhere, I guess. Besides, Martin himself has been influenced by gaming and my goto critic of weird fiction, Jeff Vandermeer, seems to admire the series. So I tried the first book, Gardens of the Moon, only to suffer through it until page 221 (of 484), when I threw in the towel. The possibility of nine more volumes of this:

The flat tone of her voice told Toc that her invitation had not cost anything -- and this horrified him, shook him to his very core. A quick glance showed a similar response from Tayschrenn and Dujek, though the latter veiled it.

was too much. It doesn't matter who the 'her' refers to or what the invitation is (it's the Adjunct Lorn, FYI, inviting the person who killed her family, the sorceress Tattersail, to the dinner table as a show of political tact), only that without knowing anything about what's going on, you can tell exactly what everyone's emotional reactions are and that this woman is very capable of coldly repressing her own. There's no character opacity here: even though Dujek "veils" his reaction, the narrator assures the reader that this character, too, is "horrified." Page after page, the book reads like a dungeon master telling his players what they're facing. Erikson hollows it out further by assigning every character clearcut roles from the D&D manual: a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, a god, etc.. This is adult fantasy only relative to a lifetime of reading Dragonlance novels.

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