[Content Note: Ableism, ableist slurs, hostility to consent]
With Nick’s TMNT long since having crossed the line from being “occasionally problematic” to “actively immoral and loving it”, I haven’t felt the need to try and dissect the series in any great detail recently. The problems are the same as they’ve ever been, they’ve been discussed, and there’s really nothing new to say about them.
And then came the April Clone.
In the episode “The Kraang Conspiracy”, the turtles and April discover that series baddie The Kraang, who need April (or more specifically, her genes–because why else would a girl be valuable?) in order to further their plans, have attempted to clone her many times over. While incapable of furthering their plans, these clones are, with one exception, still perfect reproductions of April…all except for one. That single clone, which the episode and Michelangelo eventually end up calling April Derp after the most frequent word in her vocabulary, is set against the turtles, whom she keeps on the ropes until she is eventually, and accidentally, killed by April, whose powers are unleashed by the stress of the situation.
(Content Note: Nice-guyism, Consent, Sexual Assault, Rape, Stalking)
I’ve mentioned that the newest, Nickelodeon produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series displayed several problematic elements when it came to April O’Neil and women in general. While some of my concerns have been ameliorated somewhat—namely, Ms. O’Neil has obtained a modicum of some much-needed focus—the show still feels like the product of people blissfully unaware of their male privilege and how it can manifest. One of the reasons why this is the case is the continued lack of women in the universe—April continues to be an exception in an exclusively male world. Another is the way they’ve turned Donatello into a Nice Guy™.
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent movie. It is efficiently plotted, has excellent actors, and manages to be both exciting and fun. As I sat in the movie theater with my mother, enthralled, taking everything in and bristling every time my phone vibrated, forcing me to dedicate precious seconds to texting variations of “¡NO MOLESTE! ¡BATMAN!”, a though had settled into my head and refused to leave.
Why the hell couldn’t Blake be Reneé Montoya?
Note: For the uninitiated, here’s a quick and dirty (and severely abriged) Macross-to-Robotech dictionary. Japanese terms to the left, with Harmony Gold’s names at the right .
Super Dimension Fortress Macross –> Robotech
Hikaru Ichijou –> Rick Hunter
Misa Hayase –> Lisa Hayes
Lynn Minmay –> Lynn Minmei
Lynn Kaifun –> Lynn Kyle
In case it wasn’t obvious from my previous post on the subject, I’ve been thinking a lot about Robotech lately, rewatching the entire series on DVD and consuming whatever additional material the internet machine can provide, including material from its source material. Among that is Macross Flashback 2012, the charming OVA featuring Lynn Minmay’s final concert before her departure from Earth in the SDF-2 Megaroad 01. It’s cheery and optimistic, and it presents some interesting contrasts between the approaches Tatsunoko/Studio Nue and Harmony Gold’s took to the character.
While Macross and Robotech both tell the same basic story, the come at it from different places, and both take different things from it. While determining these differences presents some difficulties when they both share the same footage (although not impossible—see “protoculture”) it becomes a bit clearer when you look at what each company produced afterwards, particularly as they relate to the character of Minmei.
For the bulk of both series, Minmei is characterized is the brave, cheerful, inspiring woman whose spirit proves to be greatest single factor in the transformation of the SDF-1’s civilian population from a collection of refugees to a vibrant community, and whose fame helps bridge civilizations and end the war between the human and the Zentraedi. Without firing a single shot, Minmei became as great a war hero as Max Sterling, Lisa Hayes, or Henry Gloval.
If there’s one thing I’ve confirmed while watching Pixar’s Brave, it’s that I’m way more forgiving of things I consider to be good stories told in a flawed manner (see: Robotech) than I am of stories that I see as flawed but are told well. Brave feels like the latter, and while I was already predisposed to disliking it–partly because of hype backlash (I am not as enamored of Pixar as a lot of people are); partly because of its use of the “corsets are oppressive” trope, which suggested the writers and I would not exactly see eye to eye; and partly because of the fears raised in this thread seemed terribly justified–I was surprised to see how much I actually disliked it, in the end.
(Content Note: Body Policing)
So yesterday I came across this picture, depicting artist Claire Hummel‘s indignation at a particular scene in the U.S. trailer for Pixar’s new movie Brave. In it, the film’s hero, Mérida, complains as she is laced into a corset. And while I don’t agree with everything Hummel says–or possibly how she’s saying it–my first thought after finding out about this scene was “this again?”
Scenes like this one should be familiar*–women complaining about their corsets have appeared from films as old as 1944’s Meet Me In St. Louis to more recent fare like Pirates of the Caribbean, where it was used as a set-up for one of its more quotable lines. Nowadays, its main use appears to be as shorthand to depict how women were oppressed back then, and the hero’s dislike of them as a sign that she is a Strong Female Character.
I’m a big fan of women in corsets–I’ve found the garment fascinating since my age was in the single digits, and feel that there’s very little they can’t make sexier. Thanks to this fascination/fetish, I’ve gotten to learn about, and interact with, women who have worn them and who have a variety of opinions regarding the garment. Some indeed dislike it and find it uncomfortable. Others find it comfortable, beautiful, even confidence boosting. In essence, they’re no different from mountain climbing or high heels…and yet somehow this never seems to come across in movies.
Now, does western society have a history of hostility female agency? Yuppers–still does, in some very significant ways. Is forcing women to wear clothing they don’t wish to wear oppression? Affirmative. Is it a good thing that movies acknowledge this? What bothers me isn’t the attempt at highlighting oppression, but the way repeated use of the tropes has stripped all nuance out of the issue and turned it from “body policing and forcing people to wear clothing they may not wish to wear is bad ” to “corsets bad, disliking corsets good”. It reminds me of people who insist that coverings like hijabs and burqas are inherently oppressive and would seek to ban them, while ignoring the fact that it’s perfectly possible to wear those while still having and/or demanding agency.
In Brave‘s particular sense, the detail doesn’t appear to even make much sense. Like the drawing states, corsets like the one she wears didn’t exist in the era the film appears to be alluding to. It feels especially lazy here, particularly since it’s not like there’s a shortage of examples of oppression they could have drawn from. Granted, from the previews, the premise of the movie seems to be precisely about a girl who fights gendered cultural expectations oppressive norms, but if that’s the case, why is this particular element required? Mérida is perfectly justified in not liking corsets, but I feel there’s no reason why this should be an issue in this particular movie, other than as an easy way to score feminism points.
Sometimes I think that the reason why this particular trope is used is because corsets are no longer something women must wear, and therefore depicting them serves as a way to highlight oppression without suggesting that it continues to exist. It’s safe in a way that say, highlighting the way society–including, yes, Hollywood– continues to police women’s bodies isn’t.
So what do I want? Basically, I’d like corsets not to be treated as something that would garner a monolithic reaction. I’d like an acknowledgment that just as women who dislike corsets exist, then so do women who enjoy wearing them, and that where one falls on that spectrum isn’t an indicator of their worth as a person. Maybe then scenes like the one in Brave would feel organic, rather than pandering.
* Obligatory TV Trope Link: Of Corset Hurts. Fun fact: The trope picture? Mine.