If She Only Looked Like…

There are definite benefits to working in a school. I always enjoy talking with my students about the most recent events that happen in our favorite shows. The thing about working at a school also gives me insight to how my students think. One of those insights is how standards of beauty still affect our society.

Just recently I got into a heated, albeit friendly debate with my students concerning the support our favorite ships within CW’s The Flash. A couple of my students were in favor of the current pairing of Barry and Patty, whereas some other students (and myself) were in favor of childhood sweethearts Barry and Iris.

I could say that the conversation focused on the abilities, skills, and attributes of the two women (which is another post altogether), but needless to say when having a conversation with middle schoolers, the conversation spiraled downward pretty quickly into who looks better with who.

Naturally, I was hard pressed to go down with my ship to the bitter end and I was game to take the bait. So I eventually asked one of my students, “How can you not like Barry and Iris? Iris is gorgeous!” She replied, “You’re right, if only she looked like Patty.”

Upon hearing her say that, I was stunned. Now of course, Shantel VanSanten is a beautiful woman and opinion plays heavily into this conversation (I might possibly be reading into my student’s response too much too). The statement made me stop and think. Is my student simply choosing Patty because of the westernized standards of beauty that saturates media or because she likes her character and personality?

The students at my school are predominantly Filipino or Chinese and they are amazing and beautiful in their own right. Unfortunately,  we still see a strong emphasis on the representation of Western features and standards of beauty. Because of such a saturation, it subtly implies that if one does not possess such features, you are inferior.  For society to set the standard and say that if your skin is not the right shade or your features are too big or too small is wrong. It invalidates a person and treats them as less than a human being.

Fortunately, there is hope for the human race. I love how women are becoming more prominent in roles like Supergirl and Jessica Jones. Let’s go a step further to show that beauty comes in all shapes and forms and is not just subject to one kind of perspective.

I don’t want my students to feel ugly. I don’t want my students to feel regret for the heritage that is inherently who they are.

I want my students to feel beautiful. I want my students to be proud of their heritage. I want my students to love the way that they look and understand that they don’t have blue eyes and blond hair to be beautiful.

Aside from being a long time friend and support to Barry she is also his lightning rod-one of my favorite concepts ever for the Flash.  I’m just gonna leave that here. WestAllen forever!

-Will

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Open Skies and a New Age

It’s been 40 years since the last time a female costumed superhero premiered in her own show on network television – Wonder Woman in 1975.

That’s right, Wonder Woman. Yes, we have the trio of Huntress, Batgirl and the Black Canary saving the city of Gotham due to an absent Batman in “Birds of Prey” for fourteen episodes run from 2002-2003. However, those episodes were easily forgettable and no television show with the tagline “Batman’s daughter goes bad – and it feels so good.” was not trying to change the stereotypes of Comic Book Heroines.

You know – The one where women in comic books are supposed to save the day in an itsy bitsy teeny weenie superhero custom while being so stacked like brick house created by Kardashian booty that the reader assumes that the character’s power is derived from her huge bosoms.

Even teenage girls in comic book lore will be diagnosed with back problems due to their powerful breasts. Maybe that’s why most of them have their midriffs showing. It’s really a regular superhero costume, but the monstrous peaks in the front raises the shirt above the belly button.

According to a Slate survey in October of 2013, Women in the United States are reading circles around men. 64 percent of ladies read at least one book in 2012 (and 56 percent read at least one literary book), compared to only 45 percent of men (only 37 percent read at least one literary book).

Those are huge circles the size of Dr. Harleen Quinzel’s eyes when she is ogling over The Joker.

Those statistics, coupled with the fact that there are slightly more women than men in the United States, women should have been allotted a more positive and less sexualized role by now.

However, women hold less than ten percent of the leading roles in comic books even though they represent 52 percent of the population.

During the airing of Supergirl pilot, she tried on various outfits that her friend made before she settled on one similar to that of her cousin Kal of the house of El. One of the outfits was a short skirt with a mid-drift showing, a Britney Spears’ school girl, pig tail days. Kara immediately asks how she’s supposed to save people wearing such an outfit.

Women are slowly but surely working their way into comics though – on and behind the glossy papers. Becky Cloonan created the hit Gotham Academy, Amanda Conner is authoring the new Harley Quinn adventures and Lauren Beukes is scribing non-female lead Constantine.

Women characters are moving away from being busty bombshells with little to no direction in life to being used more and more as characters that showcase a diversity of ethnic, socio-economical and emotional backgrounds. 

As women garner more depth in the pages, they will also garner more respect from those reading them. Stronger women and complex heroines create better women and better respect for women. Would this make the world be a better place? Does Powergirl have huge….Yes….Yes she does.

-Summer

TV Shows

Gotham…I See What You Did There

I loved art history in college. One of my art history professors mentioned something along the lines of, ” Art is like a secret conversation and art history is the code to unlocking and understanding the conversation that is being spoken.”

“Art is like a secret”

Gradually as I continue to immerse myself in varying forms of visual media, I keep finding instances of how true this statement is. If there is something that references a historical artwork or other established media, those that understand the reference have a deeper and richer understanding of the tone, ideas, and conversation that is being presented to the viewer.

A couple weeks back when I was writing a draft for my post Too Much of A Good Thing, I used the painting Oath of the Horatii by Jacques Louis-David. It so happened that while I was typing this draft, I was watching the second episode of Gotham  as well. It turns out coincidentally, that I caught this painting in the background over the mantle in Wayne Manor. This painting shows up in episode three and sequentially many episodes after as well. It keeps distracting me and so I decided to get this information off of my chest.

The thing that I love about entertainment mediums is the use of visual clues to help enrich the story and elevate it as more than just a tv show. It allows you to take advantage of something that isn’t available in literary narratives but can give a message to the viewer on a subliminal level. Wanna see what I mean? Check this perspective on visual storytelling. Anyways, let’s get a look at this painting again.

Oath of the Horatii by Jacques Louis-David

 

The fact that this painting has been put into the show is a visual but subtle reference to the philosophy and ideology that drives that characters and themes of this movie. The story behind this painting is that Rome and Alba Longa are at war with one another. The Horatii (depicted on the left) are three brothers who inevitably have to fight an opposing family known as the Curaitii. The brothers are shown taking an oath to fight to the death for their country. In true Shakespearean fashion, tragedy must take precedence. The women are mourning because they know that this oath could lead the men to their deaths and bereft the women of whom they love. In the case of one of the women, Sabilla, is the sister to the brothers but is also married to one the men in the Curaitii family. (This is literary gold! It’s like a soap opera) She is torn between both sides and either way she will lose someone she loves.

I could spend a ton of time picking apart this piece with lines and color and architecture, but I won’t. My main focus is on the message and idea of the piece itself. Within Roman art, it reflected their ideology of what was important for a Roman citizen- how they should act and be and what they should strive for. Virtue was one of the things most prized for a patriot of Rome. The greatest honor you could do would be to die for your country. Everything that you did was to be for the betterment of Rome in thought, word, and deed. Looking on the expressions of the brothers, they look resolute in their decision. They lack no fear and are driven by the conviction that what they are doing is the right thing to do. Despite everything that will go wrong (and they know it), they still face the war that will come.

“There’s a war coming. A terrible war.”

– Oswald Cobblepot, Gotham

This is why I love that this painting is included in Gotham. For me, I interpret the Horatii brothers as Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth. These three men (I use the word loosely) are perfect mirrors to what the Horatii stand for. If you are familiar with these characters and the roles that they play within the comics, you know how much they have fought, won, lost, and suffered in fighting for Gotham City. Though their experiences vary between them, they all have lost. Gordon loses his family in more ways than one. At times he is alone in his fight. Bruce Wayne suffers physical and mental ordeals each time he puts on the suit and trauma forever plagues him when he loses his parents. Alfred suffers with being both guardian and servant wanting to protect and heal the little boy that was destroyed, yet dutifully serve in the crusade against crime. All of these men face war head on yet they do it for the betterment of Gotham City.

While not the most subtle message that they could have taken, it is a prime example of what these three driving forces are as they are integral to what the future of the Batman narrative becomes. If you’ve never noticed this before or taken the time to consider what the meaning of various included background objects, I suggest next time you do. As you can see, suddenly Gotham has a little more weight, a little more meaning, and a little more context that makes it better than what it would have been if it wasn’t included. Gotham…I see what you did there.

-Will

 

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