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Archives for : July2017

Wonder Woman and the important need of the Female Hero Moment

Holly Towler in Action

When J.J. Abrams was wrapping up Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he showed a rough cut to Ava DuVernay, the Selma director he’d recently befriended. It needed something, she told him. Daisy Ridley’s Rey needed to have one more powerful moment, one more show of strength in her final battle with Kylo Ren. Abrams took her advice, shot some new footage, and added a close-up of Rey’s face as she strikes a massive lightsaber blow. If you watch it now, it’s very clear which one it is. Just ask any 15-year-old female Star Wars fan—even now, she can probably recall it from memory. When you don’t expect to see yourself as the hero, you don’t easily forget what it looks like.

Wonder Woman has more than 20 hero moments like this. It even ends on one. They’re not all close-ups like the one Abrams added to Force Awakens, but they do show a hero in action. Filmed in slow motion, almost always in battle, they feature Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), as well as other women. It’s trite to say, but I’ll say it anyway: This is revolutionary.

The hero shot is a staple of superhero movies, and action movies in general. If you had to think of one right now, though, your mind would probably light on Thor hoisting a hammer or Superman floating above Metropolis with his cape billowing in the wind, not of a woman saving the world. Katniss Everdeen got some of them in the Hunger Games films, the female mutants have had their share in the X-Men movies, Joss Whedon gave a couple to Black Widow and Scarlet Witch in the Avengers flicks—but rarely, if ever, has one film been dedicated to them in the way Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is. Viewers not thinking to look for it might not even notice it (looking at you, gents), but the impact of those shots is hard to ignore.

As more and more women saw Jenkins’ movie this weekend, their reactions tended to fall into two categories. First, they liked it. Second, they felt empowered by it. Sure, many were just excited that after 75+ years there was finally a movie dedicated to their favorite hero, but the sentiments went deeper than “yay movie!” MakeLoveNotPorn founder Cindy Gallop tweeted a note to Silicon Valley VCs pointing out that Gadot shot Wonder Woman while pregnant, adding “Don’t ever doubt a pregnant female founder [is] not up to it.” Actresses like Lupita Nyong’o and Jessica Chastain took to social media to express their excitement over the film. Some praised Antiope’s (Robin Wright) battle face; others joked about the ability to ask guys in the theater whether they just came because their girlfriends brought them, not because they like comic book movies. DuVernay herself retweeted this:

**Much gets said (and often by us) about the lack of female heroes and heroes who are people of color, but Hollywood is only just now starting to see the results of efforts to diversify. This weekend, Wonder Woman gave audiences something they’d been waiting for for a long time. And, in return, they gave the filmmakers an expectation-shattering $103 million opening weekend in the US, and proof that women could rule the box office and save Warner Bros. and the DC Universe in the process. In Wonder Woman, Diana’s mother Hipplyta (Connie Nielsen) tells her daughter that the world of men does not “deserve” her. That may be true for the Allied powers in World War I, but for everyone who has been championing a proper female-led superhero movie since the dawn of time, they definitely do.

Holly Towler gives it to the bad guys in this GIF video-Do not mess with me she says.

Back to all those hero shots, though. If this had been a Batman movie, their sheer number might have been too much. But for the first female-led, female-directed superhero movie, showing off is necessary. It’s Dottie Hinson doing the splits to catch a pop foul in A League of Their Own—a little performative, sure, but also a way of saying “yeah, I did that.” When Wonder Woman has her first big hero moment crossing No Man’s Land (see what they did there?) to save a village, it’s tear-jerking; when she gets her umpteenth slow-mo shot in the finale, it’s just awesome. Female superheroes haven’t gotten a lot of big heroic movie moments over the years, so to make up for it Wonder Woman got all of them.

Now that Wonder Woman is a massive success, that kind of badassery just got carte blanche. It means Diana Prince can now thank Bruce Wayne for that sweet note he sent her at the beginning of her movie and tell him, “Thanks. I’ll be leading the Justice League now.” It means Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel—already slated to be the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—gets to have a movie that could leave the Iron Mans and Captain Americas in the dust. It means that Whedon’s Batgirl movie has a real shot, and if Marvel was ever wavering on whether or not to give Black Widow a standalone film, now might be the time to green-light it. And it means Rian Johnson should take a good, long look at his latest cut of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Because this time around, Rey gets all the hero shots she deserves.

Henry Sapiecha

Female Monsters need a Voice says Theodora Goss

In 2011 fantasy author Theodora Goss received a PhD in English, which involved writing a 400-page dissertation on Victorian monsters. In the course of her research she became frustrated with a pattern she noticed over and over again, in stories ranging from Frankenstein to “Rappaccini’s Daughter” to The Island of Dr. Moreau.

“A lot of these mad scientists, somewhere along their trajectory, create female monsters,” Goss says in Episode 262 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And they don’t get to say a whole lot, usually. Sometimes we get little bits and pieces of their stories, but we don’t get much.”

She decided to remedy the situation by writing her own short story, “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter,” which explores the lives of female monsters such as Justine Frankenstein, Diana Hyde, and Catherine Moreau. “All these girl monsters have found each other and they’ve formed a club, and they live together in London,” Goss says. “That’s the premise.”

She recently expanded that tale into her new novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, a book that allowed her to deepen the relationships between the characters and explore their quieter moments. That’s a big change from most monster stories, in which the male heroes tend not to spend much time bonding.

“Jonathan Harker and Holmwood and Seward don’t sit around going, ‘Hey, did you see what Van Helsing was wearing the other day? Did you think that looked good on him?’” Goss says.

She hopes the book will be adapted for film or TV, where it could provide a much-needed platform for talented actresses. “There are a lot of female characters in this book, and seeing some really amazing actresses getting to be a puma woman, or a gentle, melancholy giantess, or the very proper Mrs. Poole, that would be amazing,” she says.

Listen to the complete interview with Theodora Goss in Episode 262 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Theodora Goss on the Victorian era:

Rational Dress was a movement to, first, get rid of the corset, because the corset, which women had worn, in one form or another, for a very long time—basically most of the century—really did affect your ability to do a lot of things. I mean, a Victorian woman wearing a corset is much different from a modern woman wearing a corset, because a Victorian woman would have been wearing it from a very young age, so it would have been much more comfortable for her. The rationale for a corset at the time was not just a fashion rationale—it was thought that women’s bodies were weak and they needed support, so the corset would actually give you support, it would help you do things. Nowadays we get that support from having muscles, but actually if you’d worn a corset all your life, you wouldn’t necessarily have developed some of those muscles, the abdominal muscles that we really focus on in our Pilates classes, for example.”

Theodora Goss on Hungary:

“If you read Dracula, which is one of the novels that I wrote about in my dissertation, there’s a certain attitude toward Hungary, because of course Dracula is Hungarian. Actually Dracula is Székely, which is a tribe that settled in a certain part of Transylvania—at least this is what Bram Stoker tells us. I don’t think Vlad Dracula, the historical figure that he’s based on, I don’t think he was, but Bram Stoker tells us that Dracula is Székely. And my grandmother came from that tribe—she was Székely—so I belong to that, my family actually comes, historically, from that part of Transylvania.”

Theodora Goss on The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter:

“The narrative itself is actually written by [the character] Catherine, who’s a writer. She’s writing this book to make money, but the other girls are in the room with her—or they come and go—as she’s writing this book, and they look over her shoulder and they comment on it. So sometimes the narrative is interrupted by two of the other characters having an argument in the middle of a scene, and then Catherine says, ‘Why are you interrupting my narrative?’ So it’s almost like a novel that’s interrupted by little bits of script. And I knew I was taking a chance, because I knew that some readers would go, ‘Wow, this is annoying.’ … But I wanted to take that risk, because I thought it worked, I thought it fit. I knew some people wouldn’t like it, and in the end the kind of annoyance you might feel at being interrupted is also the annoyance that Catherine feels at being interrupted in the story that she’s writing.”

Theodora Goss on Bram Stoker:

“His short stories are really weird. I think they’re now published in a volume called Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories. The first story is ‘Dracula’s Guest,’ and it’s a short story that was meant to be the first chapter of Dracula, and it actually was taken out of the book because he felt like it didn’t fit. But it’s Jonathan Harker going to Styria, and he meets a female vampire. And here’s a little funny thing—when you read Dracula, there’s one point where Jonathan Harker sees a beautiful blond female vampire, and he says, ‘She reminded me of something but I don’t remember what.’ He recognizes her because she was in that earlier chapter that was taken out of the book.”

Henry Sapiecha