Recap: As she walks toward school, Miki is ambushed by her best friend and classmate Yumi, who quickly drives the conversation towards boys, specifically, which one(s) Miki is interested in. Miki claims that she’s not interested in any of them, and that she doesn’t need them.
“Look, Miki, no offense, but truth and excellence and all that junk can only take you so far. At the end of the day a girl without a boyfriend is just…sad.”—Yumi
“Miki, you are waaay too picky. I mean, look at me and Kazu. He’s far from my ideal, but you know what? It beats being alone.”–Ditto
I’m a reasonably big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve seen the entire series, read some of the comics, and enjoy partaking of the discussions it generates on the internet. It’s far from my favorite show, but I like the it fine, particularly in its earlier incarnations.
One of my favorite characters in earlier seasons of Buffy was Cordelia Chase, the popular Sunnydale high alum who served as Buffy’s archnemesis in that particular realm. While her more noticeable role was that of comic relief, she also self a deeper purpose: if Buffy was a character who in existing served to invalidate (some) traditional gender norms, Cordelia existed to enforce them. Where Buffy tried to reconcile the masculine (vampire slaying) and the feminine (her desire for a “normal” life and all that entailed), Cordelia stayed at the sidelines arguing that it was impossible: real, successful women were those who embraced sexist norms.
In her introductory scene, Yumi serves much the same role as Cordelia, without any of the things that made Miss Chase fun to watch. While she doesn’t share her concern with popularity or class status, she makes up for it in her belief that Girl’s path to fulfillment can be found only via Boy. Not The Boy or any that would make her happy, even, just Boy. Any boy. Love the one you’re with, even when that guy is a sleazeball or goes catatonic every time a girl makes eye contact with him, as Miki describes guys who Yumi suggests she should hook up with.
And that would be fine, if it ended there. Yumi is perfectly entitled to her beliefs, no matter what I personally or anybody else thinks of them. They only become problematic in her insistence that her ideas are universal, and that any others are literally laughable. It makes her intolerable in my eyes, and while she does get scenes where we find that this is not all she thinks, they are not enough to wash away the bad first impression this scene creates.
What’s more, I’m not entirely sure what the book thinks I should be taking from this scene. While Cordelia and her ideas exist to be proven wrong, the same can’t really be said of Yumi’s. After all, Miki’s thoughts will eventually come to focus on a boy, and the whole series is about how said boy brings her life to a tailspin. We never do see how Miki has “plenty going on” (her words) without boys: while she’s single for half the series, she’s only really happy insofar as her friendship with her love interest goes well. At best, what one can take from this scene is that Miki is fooling only herself, and that while she can’t be happily single, other people can*, proving Yumi wrong in general if not in the specific. At worst, the book believes what Yumi believes: women need a relationship–any relationship–in order to be truly happy. And while I don’t believe that second one is actually the case, just the fact that it may be so depresses me.
* At least, if the idea of happy single people weren’t arguably contradicted in the third volume, for reasons I will get to then.
Publisher: Archie Comics
Script: Ian Flynn
Pencils: Jonathan Hill
Inks: Gary Martin
Colors: Matt Herms
Recommended Audiences: People who like the Young Justice cartoon and wish it looked more like Astro Boy.
Below is a list of women who have written for DC Comics organized by year and including the titles they worked with. It was originally compiled by Alex “Gorblax” Jaffe, whose claim to fame, aside from being the moderator of the Insert Credit podcast, is as selectbutton.net’s foremost archivist and taxonimist, and is the mastermind behind a project to organize videogames chronologically based on the year each is set in. I reproduce it here, with permission, as the original is behind a registration wall in a message board that is subject to periodic purges (until then, it can be found here) and this is too useful to lose. As I have not independently verified this list, I cannot vouch for its completeness (I will, however, knowing Gorblax, vouch for its general accuracy), so omissions will be welcome.
Recap: On a sunny April morning, Miki prepares for her first day of school by resolving to be more assertive this year.
I’d blown my whole junior year obsessing over the expectations of others.
This year everyone would see a different Miki…… a Miki they’d never seen before.
I’m a big fan of starting stories at the middle. I like having to try to figure out what came before, and trying to follow a story that requires a flowchart to understand without having the actual flowchart handy; not only does it add a nice mystery element to the whole thing, it means re-watching/-playing/-reading it will make for a rather different experience. Still, I find Falls‘ approach rather peculiar, especially in conjunction with its point of view. We’re told Miki has decided to change, but given how we don’t get any perspective but her own, the reader has no way to know just what this means, just what it meant for her to “obsess over the expectations of others” or how different her new behavior is from her old one. For all we know, she didn’t change at all.
In fact, pretty much the only indication we get of Miki’s changes is her mother’s startled expression when she calls her daughter to the breakfast table, which earns a response of “I’ll come down when I’m ready to come down” from Miki.
As big a fan I am of self-improvement, I’m not entirely sure this qualifies.
I can totally get pushing back when pushed. I can support pushing back. But what Miki is doing here isn’t that: it’s pushing even when nobody is pushing. It’s not saying “my needs and wants are thoughts are just as important and deserving of respect as yours”, it’s “my needs and wants are thoughts are MORE important”. And this isn’t just a one-off, either: the plot of this volume explicitly requires to disregard other peoples’ feelings in favor of her own. While its thankfully not the only way she manages to express assertiveness–there are plenty of moments later on when she pushes back against people who would police her actions–this streak of “my feelings are more important than yours” sours the character for me, particularly in this volume–especially since the book doesn’t really try to call her on it: it’s always presented as a good thing, particularly since its her commitment to harassment that manages to break down The Guy’s mask of aloofness and allows their friendship to take hold.
And normally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. I don’t require my protagonists to be paragons of virtue, and given the first-person perspective and the fact that Miki is a teenager with lots of room for growth, this bit of selfishness doesn’t necessarily make her a horrible character. What does bother me is the packaging of jerkish tendencies as self-improvement, especially since we don’t actually know how she was before. Perhaps Old!Miki was indeed perfectly willing to push back when pushed, and “becoming more assertive” is actually her way of saying “I’m going to become a jerk”. Or perhaps old Miki was indeed the sort of person who wouldn’t push back when pushed, and her narration is entirely accurate: we don’t know, and there’s no way to know.
Thanks to a variety of circumstances, I had managed to avoid directly consuming the twin phenomenons that are the Twilight series and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic for the majority of their lifespans. Twilight never interested me except as something to dissect, and although I was interested in My Little Pony based on good word of mouth, I believed that it wasn’t available by legal means in my neck of the woods.
Last week though, circumstances changed when it came to both: dad rented Breaking Dawn Part. 1, giving me both the opportunity to watch it without having to spend three to six dollars and an impetus to watch the final movie in theaters. Better yet, I realized that another channel besides the unavailable The Hub carried Friendship is Magic, meaning I could watch two episodes per day if I so chose. So, throughout the week, I caught six random episodes of ponies, and watched vampires decapitate one another on Saturday.
It’s weird. Twilight, when taken as a whole, is an incredibly problematic work. As a work of cinema, breaking dawn has little to recommend it when it comes to pacing, character development, tone, plot, originality, camera work, visuals, etcetera, etcetera. Meanwhile, My Little Pony was created/developed by the woman behind the excellent Super-Best Friends Forever shorts on DC Nation, has a devious sense of humor, likeable characters, a nice aesthetic, and, according to others, a certain something that makes it appealing to groups outside of its original intended demographic. And yet, after watching them both, I can say without reservation which one captivated me more, and it’s not the that most people in my circle would consider good.
I’ve mentioned that I tend to appreciate interesting concepts coupled with flawed execution more than I like the opposite. Generator Rex may have squandered every opportunity it had to be awesome, but in the end, it was a show about a world in which every organism in the world had been infected by a virus that could randomly mutate them into random monsters at random moments, which meant that I was willing to forgive a whole lot of bullshit if it meant not missing the moment when all that promise was realized (it never did).
The power of that sort of premise, to me, is it’s ability to suggest. Now matter how comprehensive the show is, there will always be tons of stuff they won’t be able to cover, which allows my imagination to step in and fill in the gaps.
As relates to Twilight, my lack of familiarity with most of the story helps immeasurably. Breaking Dawn is a story about characters with a history; they have had specific interactions that have led them to become the people on the screen. Given the series, the canonical version of that history probably isn’t all that all that interesting, but in any case, my ignorance of it allows me to set it aside in favor of whatever I put my mind to. I can think of Alice and Bella as besties, or that Bella and Edwards’s relationship is actually based on mutual respect for one another. As far as I know, the Volturi, the awesomely campy cabal of vampire baddies in hoods that form the locus of conflict in the second movie have done nothing to make me doubt their competence. It makes it much easier to root for the characters, who are generally played by actors, who if nothing else, are very pretty and don’t take me out of the action–that’s the director’s job.
Sure, the first part, dealing mostly with Bella’s wedding, honeymoon is rather boring . But it’s an interesting kind of boring. It’s boring I’d never seen attempted before and features Ashley Greene as Alice and a cameo by Anna Kendrick, whom I’ll always have time for (I can’t believe I missed Pitch Perfect). The second part, on the other hand, deals with vampires all over the world (a lot of them with superpowers that come in addition to the standard vampire deal) choosing sides for the conflict that may ensue due to Bella and Edward’s half-vampire kid. It features the good guy vampires reuniting form a war council, which is a trope I have excessive amounts of love for, and actors like scruffy Lee Pace (love) and Rami Malek, who steals every scene he’s in as Benjamin, a vampire who is basically also the Avatar. Basically, there’s pretty people and oddball accents galore, culminating in a battle scene that ends in a way I think is both a cop-out and brilliant. By the end, when the credits start rolling in a really retrospective-y way that highlights, again, the history the actors have with each other, I was getting a little misty, not because I cared about Bella or Edward, but because I was saying goodbye to a ‘verse, that, with a little love and tender care, could have been something special. I may never get to see that spin-off movie where Alice and Benjamin travel across the world being awesome, but a guy can dream, can’t he?
Ironically, Friendship is Magic, which I feel is supposed to be about the power of imagination, doesn’t manage to press those buttons. Although the world-building is solid and surprisingly well thought out, and I have little doubt, way more coherent than Twilight’s, the episodes themselves feel too pat to elicit curiosity. Coupled with (as far as I’ve seen) rather predictable plotting, it does little to elicit my attention. It’s not a bad work, but its one that is clearly not aimed at me, and that’s fine.