Defending Claire: Jurassic World Review

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In a post Mad Max: Fury Road world, we’re coming to an interesting crossroads.  The almost universally adored portrayal of Imperator Furiosa has given feminist movie fans their biggest heroine since Mako Mori climbed into a Jaeger.   However, the interesting side effect is that female characters who have presented more of a three-dimensional personality than past popcorn movies are being dismissed as sexist.  Think about the rampant criticism of Widow in Age of Ultron.  Go back and read this if you forgot.

I’ve taken about a week to think long and hard about Claire Dearing, and I had to look up her last name.  The villain (Hoskins) is straight-up evil.  The owner of the park (Simon Masrani)  is idealistic. The kids (Gray and Zach) are generic (one’s young, perceptive, and precocious!  one’s girl-crazy and always on his phone!) The parents (Karen and Scott) are concerned. Owen (Grady) is a really, really long audition tape for Chris Pratt to play Indiana Jones.  I don’t know Plucky Comic Relief Tech’s name (it’s Lowery,) nor do I know  Female Control Room Computer Assistant (Vivian) . The point I’m making is: Claire aside, none of the characters in this movie are fleshed out very well.

Let’s address the major complaints against Claire:  Spoilers, obviously

Her clothes

Claire wears a striking white outfit to work, on a day where she has an important meeting with Verizon Wireless to sponsor the Indominous Rex.  She wears a white skirt suit and heels.  This is an appropriate outfit for a business meeting where one looks to seem polished and professional.  Is this an appropriate outfit for outrunning dinosaurs?  No.  Did Claire come to work expecting to outrun a dinosaur?  Obviously not.  If she had Grady’s job, then yes, her outfit would be really stupid.  Her tying up her shirt and pulling up her sleeves is played for laughs, but how is it any different than the owner of the park deciding to play hero by poorly piloting a helicopter?  Like him, Claire did not wake up that day planning to be an action hero.  It’s simply the role she’s got to take on that day, and unlike Masrani, she nails it.

For some reason, Ellie Satler is being contrasted sharply against Claire, especially in her wardrobe choices.  Ellie is a paleobotanist.  She went to a dinosaur park planning to walk around and explore and be outdoors.  Her clothing reflects that.  Claire’s reflects her plans for her day, too.  Ellie’s handful of feminist one-liners are being touted while Claire literally facing down a T-Rex is dismissed.

Her ability to run in heels is actually focused on- the camera makes sure to tell us she’s still wearing them when she outruns Rexy late in the film.  Owen tells her she’s not going to make it in those shoes, but she does.  A man tells Claire she can’t, but she does. Bryce Dallas Howard was the one who insisted Claire keep her shoes, explaining that she felt they symbolized Claire’s femininity.  Howard did not feel Claire should eschew her femininity as she grew into her role as hero.  As for the practicality? Claire is probably running on pure adrenaline at this point- somehow, I feel like the next day she’s not up to any running in heels, instead huddling with her family.

The Kiss and Ensuing Relationship

After fighting off a dinosaur that is attempting to kill Owen, Claire receives a kiss.  Again, adrenaline.  Owen is obviously attracted to Claire, as he establishes in the first scene they share.  She is uncomfortable around him because he has decided her very personality is a flaw. They are forced to team up because that’s what happens in movies.  As for the kiss,  Ms Magazine derides this moment as the reduction of Claire to sex object, but I disagree.  In a more traditional film, the leading lady kisses the hero after he saves her life.  This flips the script. Owen doesn’t know how to thank Claire, so he kisses her.  She does not spend any time during the rest of the film mooning over Owen, and is always more concerned with the safety of her sister’s sons.  When the boys gawk at Claire and Owen, she crisply informs them that he is her coworker.  When one of them remarks that “her boyfriend” is a badass, all she does is smirk to herself.  Again, we go back to Black Widow.  A female character can have a romantic interest and still be feminist.   A female character can have romantic interest and still be feministWe don’t really see what happens with Claire and Owen after the events of the day- they seem to be starting a romantic relationship, but again, Owen comes in to look for Claire- she is spending time with her family.  Claire asks where they go from here, and Owen states they should “stick together for survival.”  Who’s to say he doesn’t need Claire for survival, since she saved him from dinosaurs a couple of times?  Who says she doesn’t ask him where they stand because she’s trying to gauge whether their moment of attraction is  adrenaline-fueled or real?

The Transition From Cold Businesswoman to Nuturing Human

The best example I can find of this transition outside of this film is male- Claire’s journey seems to mirror Jurassic Park’s Dr. Alan Grant more than anyone else.  She is caring for children she has no interest in whose parents are divorcing and have shipped them off.  Just like Grant.  She is forced to become protective of two children only once she can’t toss them off to someone else.  Just like Grant.  She grows to care for the children.  Just. Like. Grant. Again, I have the concern that when a female character shows any sort of emotion, we are starting to deride her as non-feminist.  I am not going to call any woman who realizes they like kids after all non-feminist.  Because liking kids is not a feminine OR masculine trait.  Neither is hating kids.  Claire has been handed her sister’s kids with who-knows-how-much-notice, clearly expected by their mother (who we also see at work, standing outside a meeting) to drop everything and take care of them.  On a day where operations are normal, Claire figures a VIP guided tour around a spectacular theme park is entertainment enough for Day 1 of their visit.  Claire and her sister have different priorities.  Claire’s sister bothers me as a character far more than Claire herself does.

Claire’s sister corrects her “if I have kids” to “When you have kids.” This does not speak to Claire, and rather serves to highlight the difference between the sisters.  One is a mother, and the other does not at that time feel like she is at that part of her life, but still hasn’t ruled out having kids.

Though The Daily Beast says that Claire is tamed into being a wife and mother at the end of the story, I think we need a citation there.  Yes, her nephews are front and center of her concerns now.  I don’t see Owen proposing, and Claire doesn’t suddenly tell her sister “oh my goodness I cannot wait to have children now you were so right!”  Also, the Daily Beast’s article has so many factual errors it’s barely credible anyway.  Does Claire become a more considerate person?  Yes.  Just because of children?  No.

One of the establishing moments of Claire’s growth is when she comes across the dead brontosaurus field.  While one dies in her arms, she begins to cry.  For the first time, she is realizing what John Hammond realized three films ago- the science experiments are alive, with minds of their own, and humans have not done right by them.

Falling down

This article compares Claire to Fay Wray, a helpless damsel lying on the ground during the climax.  JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER HUMAN IN THE FILM.  Owen does not save the day, either.  Blue and Rexy are the heroes who take down the I-Rex.  Oh, and by the way?  Blue and Rexy are female.

The Lack of Female Characters

This is the problem Jurassic World does have, and I again defer to the delightful Mark Ruffalo.  When you only have one female principal character, we drag her actions under the microscope as though she represents all women.

Claire’s assistant is distressing- her drawn-out, violent death is unnecessary, with none of Jurassic Park’s flair of letting the viewer imagine.  Zara’s death is memorable only because it’s so over-the-top.  Muldoon’s is memorable because it isn’t seen.  Vivian (the computer tech in the control room) is just following orders for 90% of the movie (she reminds me of every female character in Godzilla) and does not end up with her male counterpart (who admittedly got all the good lines.)  Let’s not even talk about how thoroughly the talented Judy Greer was wasted here as Karen, a woman who dumps her kids on her sister so she can surprise them with a divorce, but still feels the need to lecture aforementioned sister on her life choices.  Karen is probably the most problematic character in the franchise.

 

Is Claire Furiosa?  Of course she isn’t.  Is Claire Ellie Satler?  Is she Black Widow?  No.   Really, I would go closest to Ellen Ripley in Alien- a woman who decidedly did not sign up for the adventure and terror thrust upon her.  In a world where male heroes can be varied, so can women.  Furiosa is brave, a badass from the start, and not afraid to get her hands dirty.  Claire is a very young woman to be so high up in the theme park operations- her competence is clear.   She never hesitates when it comes to park operations.  Claire knows what she’s doing.  And when the game changes, so does Claire.  There are a few articles that side with me, saying that Claire isn’t the gender problem in Jurassic World– everyone else is.

If you still want to think about this more after reading 1500 words on it, Bustle does a great job.

 

Special Report: Game of Thrones

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As anyone even close to reading this probably knows, Sansa Stark’s rape closed the May 17 episode of Game of Thrones.  I was immediately and viscerally furious at this development.  I didn’t get to watch the episode first run, and had found out about that sequence before I was able to see it.  The episode aired Sunday, and I’m not posting about it until late Tuesday afternoon.  I wanted time to hear multiple sides of the dialogue and really think about what this means.  Sansa is my favorite character, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t having a visceral “BUT SHE’S MY FAVORITE” reaction.  Now that I’ve had time to (unfortunately) re-watch the scene and get as many answers as I can.

One of the big problems I (and many others) have with what has happened here is that Sansa Stark has essentially been shoved in the fridge to catalyze Theon’s journey.  The focus on Theon’s haunted face as Sansa’s little cries become pained, horrifed screams tells us everything we need to know- we’re supposed to be watching Theon break (or become unbroken) instead of thinking about what is happening to Sansa. The reaction by feminist geek blog The Mary Sue comments “What does this do for her story? Nothing. Sansa is already a survivor. You’ve put her through another trauma for the sake of another character.” The Mary Sue has chosen to stop promoting Game of Thrones as an immediate result of this scene.

IndieWire also poked an enormous hole in the argument that the fantasy violence stood on equal footing with the rape: “The violence that occurs on Game of Thrones is never going to happen to you. You’re not going to have your eyes crushed by a giant because you agreed to act as someone’s champion in a tournament to the death. You’re not going to be beheaded because you refused to take orders, even if you are in the armed forces. You’re not going to be castrated because you were born into a certain class. You could certainly die in a war, but it’s more likely to be by a bullet than by a sword. The violence of Game of Thrones is long removed from the experiences of most of the viewers of the series. Of course, there are places in the world where young people are forced into armies, and where atrocities as violent as the ones on Game of Thrones occur. But, on average, a person is incredibly unlikely to experience such things. The likelihood that a woman will be raped is shockingly and disturbingly high. (One in five women, is the current understanding.)”

Entertainment Weekly ran interviews with both the writer of the episode and Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa.  Turner has two quotes that stand out: ” I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up. It’s also so daunting for me to do it. I’ve been making [producer Bryan Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” But I secretly loved it.”  and ” I kind of like the fact she doesn’t really know what a psycho he is until that night. She has a sense, but she’s more scared of his father. ”

To contrast, Cogman says “This isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland. Sansa has a wedding night in the sense she never thought she would with one of the monsters of the show. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.”  As soon as the interview went live, Cogman had to tweet:   “The ‘choice’ I was referring to was Sansa’s choice to marry Ramsay and walk into that room. She feels marrying him is a vital step in reclaiming her homeland. Not trying to change anyone’s opinion of the scene (negative or otherwise) but that it what I was … Ok, LAST last word. In NO WAY… NO WAY was that comment an attempt to ‘blame the victim.’ If it seemed that way I’m deeply sorry.”

We have an actor saying Sansa has no idea what she’s walking into and a writer claiming she makes a choice to marry this man, though not victim blaming because Twitter told him it was wrong.  I also cannot help but think that their support of the scene and George R R Martin’s refusal to really comment on the scene is influenced by those artists wanting to continue being paid by HBO.  I’m a little cynical.

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken was not a good episode by anyone’s book.  It feels like the brutal assault on Sansa was to make something noteworthy happen in the episode.  Sansa Stark was raped for shock value. What’s disturbing is that Game of Thrones has done this before.  Jaime and Cersei’s scene in the sept after Joffrey’s death was never totally pleasant (it’s still incest in front of a corpse) but in the book, it was at least consensual.  This scene doesn’t even make sense.  Jaime has long since morphed into a sympathetic character, and the story doesn’t want us to sympathize with Cersei.  The consequences are never dealt with.  Ros wasn’t in the books, and her death (tied to a bed and shot with a crossbow) has a decided sexual tone. Even Drogo and Daenerys’s wedding night is far less consensual than the books depict.  The horrifying murder of Talisa and her unborn child is not in the books- Jeyne Westerling is not at the Red Wedding and is left alive and not pregnant.  The creators of the television show have a history of creating more sexual ans sexualized violence then is clearly depicted.

Now, the books did talk about Ramsay (and Theon’s) assault of Jeyne Poole.  What happens to Jeyne is actually even more gruesome than what happens to Sansa.  Why are we less upset about that? Well, for starters, Martin didn’t need to derail several characters just to have that scene.  Chessmaster Baelish somehow doesn’t do the research and hands his greatest asset and protege off to a psycho?  Once betrothed and once married, Sansa suddenly comes out of hiding and allows herself to be rushed into a wedding TO THE PEOPLE WHO KILLED HER FAMILY?  D&D had to mess around a lot to shoehorn this in.

Additionally, while what happens to Jeyne is awful, we’re seeing it through Reek/Theon then as well, since he is a POV character and Jeyne is not.  We cannot hear her cries nor see her face.  Book vs television has a way of dulling every kind of horror, since it’s a less immediate medium.  We are presented with Theon’s thoughts and reactions only.  We also, truth be told, don’t know Jeyne the way we know Sansa.  Things are always more affecting when it’s someone you know.  None of these are truly satisfying explanations to me, but they’re how I feel.

As for me, I think I’m going to take a break from Game of Thrones, at least for a little while.  I would love to continue a (civilized) dialogue about this if anyone is interested.

Really, Disney? Princess of North Sudan?

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Jeremiah Heaton with the Kingdom of North Sudan flag.  I'm not running pictures of the child.

Jeremiah Heaton with the Kingdom of North Sudan flag. I’m not running pictures of the child.

Today, news broke that Disney purchased the rights to a story about a white American who claimed some of the “No man’s land” in North Sudan so that he could make his daughter a princess.  After his six year old announced she wanted to be a real princess, Jeremiah Heaton searched for unclaimed land so he could crown his little girl.  He found some, dubbed it the Kingdom of North Sudan, and named his daughter princess of it.

For some reason, people are mad that the first princess of Africa was going to be an white girl whose father colonized land for the sole purpose of letting her live that entitled princess fantasy.  If you don’t get that that as sarcasm, please stop reading.

Screenwriter Stephany Folsom has been swearing up and down all over Twitter that this incredibly offensive story is not the one she’s writing.

However, Folsom isn’t letting us in on what story they ARE telling, which is information that could really ease the internet backdraft.  The Hollywood Reporter says only that “The studio is focusing on the relationship between the father and daughter set against a backdrop of a fantastical adventure.”  Whatever that means.

The only unfortunate thing about this incredibly justified backlash is the little girl’s name and picture being splashed all over the place.  I’m not sure I agree with the way this little girl is going to be painted as a Veruca Salt forever when it’s her father who’s to blame.

Hopefully, Disney figures out what a terrible idea this is and cuts it off.

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The Other Widow Problem: Toys

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Guys, I decided I am mad about how someone is treating Black Widow.

The toy licenses have conspicuously eliminated our wonderful Widow from the toy lines, and that’s pretty lame.

As an experiment, I ran a search on three big toy sellers to see what I could find for Black Widow.  As a control, I also ran a search for secondary lead Captain America, since running a search for Iron Man just isn’t fair.  I picked one big-box store, one specialty toy seller, and then tried the Disney store.

Target: 9 relevant hits.  3 of them are wigs. 1 a pair of costume accessory gloves. 4 are her catsuit in children and adult sizes, and one is a (non-film) action figure.  I suppose I should be grateful the powers that be even offer a Widow costume for children.  To compare, Cap had 225 hits across several departments, offering his comics, various action figures and clothing.  Even discounting the fact that some of those are going to be the films themselves with his name in them, still pretty not cool.

Toys R Us: 30 results for Black Widow, only 25 of which were even remotely Marvel-related.  At least they didn’t fail entirely, offering the Iron Man and Black Widow 2-pack and a Black Widow and Captain America 2-pack, as well as various costumes and non-specific Avengers merchandise. A search for Captain America produced 44 items, none of which were 2-packs.  Apparently, if you want Widow, they have to throw in a male hero to sweeten the deal.  Hawkeye fares even worse than Widow, because for some reason we all hate Hawkeye.

Disney Store: Here’s where crap gets very interesting.  Disney Store provided a princely 39 search results for Widow and a big fancy splash graphic, but only 9 of which were actually Black Widow centric. And none of them were for children.  There were a few t-shirts for adults, a laptop case, a mug, and a mousepad.  The only toy that shows up at all is a $90 Lego Quinjet Playset.  Captain America produces far more results at 81, with eight different action figures.  There is also this already-controversial QuinJet playset, where Black Widow has been removed from one of her best scenes in the film.  The only review of the piece is a mother who is pretty irritated with the situation, pointing out that she’s the one in the scene.  The thing that really irks me though, is this shirt.  The only piece for little girls.  Black Widow is replaced by Spider-Man in the Avengers.  On the only shirt for little girls.

So what does this mean?  It means that little girls who like superheroes- a demographic oh so very near and dear to my little feminist heart- are getting the short end of the stick.  Being at Wizard World Philadelphia this weekend, I can tell you that girls are definitely spending money on fandom related things.  When are Disney and Marvel going to get with the program and realize that not every little girl is solely devoted to princesses?  Some of them like superheroes, too.  Some of them only like superheroes.  Stores like Hot Topic and Her Universe have plenty for adults, but we need to remember our littlest ladynerds.

 

 

 

BREAKING: Nintendo and Universal Studios Have Made a Deal

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Image from videogameologists.com

Image from videogameologists.com

That’s right, kids!

Universal Studios is bringing Nintendo into the parks, in the next move of the intellectual property arms race the park has with rival Disney World (who in the last five years picked up both Marvel Comics and Star Wars.)  Universal has the Simpsons, but there is no arguing its greatest catch was the Boy Who Lived and Then Had Two Theme Worlds in Two Theme Parks So You Have to Pay Admission Twice.

According to the (surprisingly difficult to find) press release, “The immersive experiences will include major attractions at Universal’s theme parks and will feature Nintendo’s most famous characters and games. More details will be announced in the future, as the Nintendo and Universal creative teams work to create specific concepts. ”

That’s it.  No tentative dates.  Nothing else is known about what properties we’ll see.  Safe bets are Mario (duh) and Legend of Zelda.  I’m holding out for some Kirby.  This is a great get for Universal, who can appeal to small children and much much bigger ones alike with clever use of the properties.

What do you want to see?

The Widow Problem

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There’s been a lot (and I mean a LOT) of criticism hurled at Avengers: Age of Ultron for its treatment of Black Widow/ Natasha Romanoff.  Honestly, a lot of it isn’t fair.  The rumor (refuted here) is that Joss Whedon was even driven off Twitter by all the rabid feminists calling for his head.

His crime?  He wrote Natasha into a romantic relationship with Bruce Banner.  Some fans were infuriated to see the brilliant assassin be placed into a romance.  However, literally every other Avenger had, at some point, a romance.  Thor/Jane, Tony/Pepper, Steve/Peggy, Bruce/Betty, Clint/Laura (never stops being weird typing out my own first name.)  Even Phil Coulson had Audrey, the cellist, and Wanda Maximoff had a bit of ship tease with the Vision.  I think it’s eerier if we don’t see any of the female characters not tied to an Avenger with a love interest.  Helen Cho?  Maria Hill?  Are we expected to believe that women who are good at their jobs stay single?  (Obviously, Jane and Pepper are great at their jobs, but both were introduced as love interests.)  I would find it stranger if Widow was the only Avenger never to enter a relationship at all.

In his Reddit AMA, Mark Ruffalo summed up the issue perfectly: “If anything, Black Widow is much stronger than Banner. She protects him. She does her job, and basically they begin to have a relationship as friends, and I think [the outcry against the relationship is] misplaced anger. I think that what people might really be upset about is the fact that we need more superhuman women. The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to.”

The other criticism is in the scene where Natasha and Bruce discuss being monsters, with Natasha believing herself to be as much of one as Bruce after she reveals that her training ended in sterilization. A lot of people are getting “sterilized=monster” when I’m pretty sure it meant “trained to straight-up murder people and losing the ability to make these choices, and not being sure if you’re fit for anything besides killing people= monster.” Especially because in the flashbacks, Madame B admonishes her for failing on purpose at some point, and we see in the trailer Natasha be slammed back onto a gurney.  The scene could probably have been tweaked a little to make this clearer.  I understand the concern people have, but I’m fairly sure the intended message was assassin is monster, not sterile woman.  A lot of critics are conveniently forgetting the other part of her graduation ceremony: shooting a helpless person in cold blood. 

Finally, people are mad that Ultron at one point captures Widow, causing critics to accuse Whedon of writing a damsel in distress.  However, with the way the scene is written, the only alternative would have been to have her be driving the plane.  Tony MUST go to Oslo (no one else can hack like he can) and Thor has to go to the Plot Point Waterpark (because Norse mythology.)  Steve is a better choice to fend off the robots, because the tech is new and it’s better for Natasha or Clint to work with the tech.  There’s no good drama if Bruce is captured, because he just Hulks out and then he’s free.  Natasha immediately devises a way to contact Clint, which is hardly a damsel move.  This also sets up Bruce’s rescue of Natasha and his reiteration of the offer to run away.  In quite possibly the least damsel-in-distress thing ever, Natasha chooses the mission, betraying Banner in the process.

Honestly, I think Whedon did right by Widow.  Were there lines that could have been tweaked? Yes.  Letting a cold assassin grow closer to her peers and open up to them?  Not anti-feminist.  She still chose the safety of the world over her relationship with Banner.  Yes, she mourns, but at the end of the film, she heads out to her next adventure: joining Cap to lead the New Avengers.

 

Woman Crush Wednesday: Amy Schumer

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Amy Schumer is finally an overnight success.   One of the best feminist voices in comedy today, Schumer is a Cool Girl who doesn’t care if you like her, which only makes you love her.  Her sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, hits on some truly funny jokes about being female.

In a world where it’s hard for women to be seen as funny (work twice as hard for half the reaction) it makes me incredibly happy to see her so successful. Her show has scored not only a second season on Comedy Central, but a third?  Imagine that!  As Daniel Tosh’s commercial breaks will tell you, Comedy Central cancels a lot of shows, but Inside Amy Schumer is only climbing higher.

Why else do I love Amy Schumer?  Because in her recent Entertainment Weekly cover(!) feature, she stated, simply, ““I didn’t mean to become a beacon for feminism, but I’m really embracing it. I’m an unflinching feminist, so it makes sense for me. It’s the cause I’m most interested in helping.”  In a world where actresses hem and haw about whether to call themselves a feminist, for fear it might make them unmarketable, Schumer doesn’t shy away from the term, not even a little bit. It’s clearly not hurting her career.

In her upcoming film Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays a woman named, well, Amy.  Trainwreck’s Amy is an emotionally stunted commitment-phobe who turns around because of a caring, grounded man (played by Bill Hader, who I’m admittedly totally in love with.)  In other words, she flips the script of many man-child coming-of-age stories by letting a woman be the one who gets the laughs through emotional issues and immaturity, while the man plays straight.  I’m excited to see it, and I’m excited that Amy Schumer has written and headlined a movie with this much advance buzz.

I know this is a little bit of a departure from my usual writing (more comic books later, I promise!)  I’ve seriously been thinking all week about how much I admire Amy Schumer, and I’m really excited to see what she does.  Below, a teaser clip from Season 3 of Inside Amy Schumer.  I shouldn’t have to tell you, but it’s at least mildly NSFW

 

No One Told Me You Were Clever: Alayne Stone in the Winds of Winter

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Yulia Nikolaeva, image from George RR Martin's web site.

Image by Yulia Nikolaeva, image from George RR Martin’s web site.

On Thursday, George R.R. Martin saw fit to bless us with another chapter of the long-awaited The Winds of Winter.  Most recently, we received word of what one Stark daughter was doing when we met a little mummer called Mercy who only shows her wolf colors when murdering the man who had killed her friend Lommy.

Now it’s the elder daughter’s turn, with Sansa- still in hiding as Alayne Stone, bastard daughter of Littlefinger- preparing for a tourney held in the Vale.  In this chapter, she meets her next betrothed- Harry the Heir. Throughout the chapter, we find Sansa doing something she has only started recently- playing the game.  Calmly but firmly refusing Sweetrobin’s awkward pre-adolescent advances toward her, she manages to turn his words around into an insult, providing herself an opportunity for a graceful exit.

Like her sister, Alayne is firmly “Alayne” here, never going by Sansa, and only slipping up occasionally in her thoughts, calling Lord Eddard Stark her father before correcting her own thoughts, and remembering Robb when meeting a man of the same age.  We also find Alayne happy for the first time in ages, able to act the part of her father’s daughter.  We also find out the tourney she is witnessing the preparation for was her own idea. Throughout the chapter, Alayne is many things Sansa has never been- witty, quick, sly, and proactive, to name a few, although she is still watching every word she says.  She has learned to watch her words and conceal her emotions when needed.

We also receive some insight into Alayne as student of Petyr Baelish, as he highlights Harry the Heir’s weaknesses and coaches her on how to use her placement at the feast to her advantage.  Sansa is motherless, and Petyr is teaching her how to deal with men not as someone’s future wife romantically, but as a political seductress.  Sansa understands exactly why Harry the Heir is important to wed, and has less romantic notions than the little girl who once fell in love with Joffrey Baratheon.

But what does all this mean?  It means that the Stark daughters are becoming survivors, in different ways.  Arya works outside the system, but Sansa works from within.  Think Batman vs. Jim Gordon.  Both are fighting for the same goal, but in wildly different ways.  Arya’s other motivation is revenge, while Sansa seems to bear the Lannisters no real ill will.  She calls Joffrey a monster, but remembers Tyrion as being kind.  Sansa’s other goal seems to be getting home to Winterfell, able to rebuild.  Marrying Harry the Heir provides that goal, and she is happy to do it.  She still believes one thing from her childhood: courtesy is a lady’s armor.

The sisters are different even in their similarities.  One is living in the past through her quest for revenge, while the other can only survive by moving forward.  Though Arya is trying to become No One, Sansa really has successfully buried her identity, rising to prominence in the Vale as Baelish’s bastard.  Sansa blends in by standing out, becoming the fallen Princess of another kingdom instead of the mummer/ assassin her sister becomes to survive.

Little Northern Princess Sansa is becoming a woman, and her confidence is apparent throughout the chapter, breaking only in her brief scene with Petyr in the crypts.  The last line shows how self-assured Alayne has become.  After denying Harry the Heir her favor to wear in the tourney, she tells him it’s promised to another, and then thinks: “She was not sure who as yet, but she knew she would find someone.”  She is confident in her beauty, and knows she can use it to manipulate Harry and other knights if need be.  Sansa was a pawn.  Alayne is an emerging player.

Which way will prove successful?  Only George RR Martin knows.  But I’m excited to see what is in store for both sisters when book six arrives (next year?!)

Wrestlemania: Is anyone excited?

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Wrestlemania 31....or Wrestlemania Play Button.

Wrestlemania 31….or Wrestlemania Play Button.

Monday night was the go-home RAW before Wrestlemania, and the crowd went wild…ly apathetic towards the evening’s proceedings.  What went wrong with this year’s WM build?  Here’s a five-point list.

1) No one likes Roman Reigns. He’s been the lucky recipient of a Willy-Wonka Golden Ticket to the top of the card, despite not being all that popular.  John Cena, while largely unloved by the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC, or “those goddamn smarks,” if you will,) is well loved by children, who buy lots of merchandise.  His place at the top of the card, while sometimes annoying, is understood.  Reigns doesn’t make any sense.  In one year, or even two, he could have been someone the audience could grow to love.  Right now, however, it’s still too close to the Shield’s glory days, and Ambrose and Rollins are both better on the mic and in the ring.

2) Too many part-timers, not enough appearances.  Come on, Undertaker.  You couldn’t show up once to accept Bray Wyatt’s challenge?  I honestly think Bray is doing a fairly good job building a match all by his lonesome, but couldn’t Taker have met him halfway?  Once?  Sting’s decidedly half-assed appearance schedule is also annoying.  Triple H doesn’t appear every week.  So this is a “main event” level feud that’s only built up some of the time.

3)Plotlines?  What? Bray and Taker are fighting over who is the “face of fear.”  What does that even mean, really?  Sting and HHH are fighting because WCW went out of business fifteen years ago or something.  Nothing feels personal.  It feels like Creative found a filmsy reason for each fight and went with it, with very little idea of how to make the fight personal.  Yes, beating the stuffing out of people is pretty much Brock Lesnar’s thing.  To him, nothing is personal, and that’s awesome.  It’s more awesome when it is personal to his opponent.  Nothing feels personal to Reigns, who elicits pretty much no emotion from the crowd.  Out of the card, only Cena vs. Rusev seems to have any kind of real, personal fight.

4) You get a match.  You get a match.  EVERYBODY GETS A MATCH….except most of the Divas. Since pretty much the entire current roster has been kept out of the top of the card, we get a ladder match of supremely talented people that could be way higher on the card, and the Battle Royal, or the miscellaneous pile of the WWE.  Cesaro’s treatment after his Battle Royal win doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in what the WWE will do with whoever wins.  So why not Zack Ryder?  These huge matches are very fun, but there isn’t much by way of storyline involved, and Creative more than likely won’t use this great opportunity to set themselves up with more storylines.

5) All of the matches they left off the table.  I am still furious with Memphis for ignoring the very good Stardust vs Goldust match at Fastlane.  With the storyline incomplete, I thought we would get a Dust Bros match at WM31, with Dusty Rhodes guest refereeing (or better yet, Dean Ambrose just doing his Dusty Rhodes impression.)  The Brie vs Nikki storyline that just got forgotten about when they turned Brie heel and elected to not follow through with the sister vs sister storyline.  Ambrose and Seth Rollins?  Probably not still thrilled with one another, probably Ambrose should keep trying to ruin Rollins’s life, you know, for funsies.  Hopefully, we’ll get some of these for Summerslam?