I Still Don’t Understand the Sokovia Accords: A Non-Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Warning: Contains Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers, and, yes, I know I’m still being a huge dork about this particular aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I will complain about it until Marvel hires me as a consultant, so buckle in, friends.

This will probably make more sense if you know two things. (1) I think the UN is a relatively useless institution in the 21st century, because it was designed to deal with Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WWII and uses a mostly out-dated concept of the nation-state (thanks, transnational capitalism!) as the basis for operation; (2) I thought Captain America: Civil War was lame, but I wrote a piece on how its use of the UN inadvertently critiqued it in an interesting way.

spiderman-homecoming

I still want to know if he got a new backpack.

I enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming a lot more than I thought I would. For one, it was fun. It felt like a comic book movie and not another male revenge fantasy (someone I love died and/or was a brainwashed assassin for 70 years, let me lash out because I don’t know how to have feelings–Tony, Zemo, T’Challa, and Steve all had the same story line in Civil War and only T’Challa had a redemption arc) or a thinly veiled generic action movie (okay, fine, the airport scene was cool). For another, Peter Parker wasn’t angsty or brooding beyond typical awkward, teenage, how-do-I-talk-to-girls angst.

Continue reading

“Triple Banana, Bitch”: Or, McDanno and the Challenge to Heteronormativity

1. Introducing the Case

[1] Imagine a TV show where two co-workers/friends survived being trapped under a collapsed building and Person A sustained some pretty severe injuries. While trapped, the Person B says “I love you” to them. They are eventually rescued, and the following conversation ensues.

A: When we were in there, you said ah, y’know before you did the thing with the bomb, you said what you said … I want you to know, I feel the same way.
B: How is that exactly?
A: You’re making me say it? (B gives A a look.) Come here. (They hug.) I love you.

Now imagine a couple years later, a mutual acquaintance, Person C, is listening to them discuss Person A’s ex’s upcoming divorce.

B: What about therapy? It worked for us.
C: You two lovebirds have a therapist?
A: (Incredulous scoff.) Yes, we have a therapist.

Around the same time, imagine the couple arguing because Person B found out that Person A had been thinking about retirement without consulting Person B.

B: You didn’t feel the need to include me in the decision for you to retire. I trust you to bring me into big decisions like that.

You’d probably think that was a romantic couple, wouldn’t you? They got together, they expressed their love after a traumatic event forced them to, they’ve worked at their relationship, they still have spats over things like major life decisions.

What if I said that Person A is Detective Danny Williams and Person B is Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-0?

Continue reading

How Would I Know That This Could Be My Fate

Trigger warning: I talk about suicide in this. And to anyone reading this who knows me and thinks they should worry about me — I’m fine. Really. 

From the Euphoria Morning album artwork. 1999.

I was sad when I heard that David Bowie died. I felt blind-sided when Prince died. It just is sad when people who make music and art that reaches a lot of people die, because collectively we lose something that made existence better.

Thursday, when I heard that Chris Cornell died I felt my stomach drop, but when I found out that it was a suicide, something inside of me broke.

Obviously I didn’t know Cornell. I have no idea what he was like as a person. But I’ve loved his music since I was young. Superunknown and Down on the Upside are two of the most formidable albums for my emotional development, and I continued to follow Cornell’s career, even through Audioslave. I was listening to Euphoria Morning just last week (I still had it on cassette).

But this isn’t about his musical impact. It’s about what I got out of his words.

Continue reading

How A Plot Hole in “Captain America: Civil War” Inadvertently Critiqued the UN

Disclaimer: There are spoilers of Captain America: Civil War in what follows. I also realize I’m being a huge nerd about this, and it is necessary to suspend belief to watch superhero movies. Also, I’m a philosopher, not a political scientist, so my understanding of U.N. procedures is rudimentary.

Credit: Hypable.com

The fictional UN session in Vienna gone awry.

It was curious to me that in Captain America: Civil War the writers decided to use an existing organization–the United Nations–instead of continuing to use fictional groups like the World Security Council, S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.

As I understand it, the purpose of the UN is to do things like mediate and maintain world peace, promote human rights, and protect the environment. So, ideally they are in the business of promoting humanitarianism.

The UN isn’t the world police, and there’s no such thing as a world army. The UN Security Council can use armed coalition forces to maintain peace and security, but those forces are voluntarily provided by nation-states (and the UN can’t force a nation to send troops). The UN also has an International Court of Justice, but it only looks at cases brought about by nation-states against other nation-states (and it doesn’t even really have jurisdiction over them).

So, to have a UN panel that would determine when a group of superheroes would–what? be used as a “peacekeepers”?–is dubious to begin with.

Continue reading

A Love Letter to Wilco

Last Sunday, I was sitting in DAR Constitution Hall waiting for Wilco to come on stage.

I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Wilco perform. But this was the first time I saw them play “Sunken Treasure.” Or at least, it was the first time since last spring when I lapsed into a funk so deep that the only music I could stand to listen to for a solid month was Being There. For a while, I could only listen to the first disk, but then for a time I could only listen to “Sunken Treasure” on repeat.

But there is no sunken treasure
Rumored to be
Wrapped inside my ribs
In a sea black with ink

I don’t know if this kind of thing happens to other people. I don’t know what other people mean when they say they feel alone.

Continue reading

Can I Still Be A Feminist and Like Fight Club?

My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX

My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX

This is a serious question I have been asking myself for a while now. Of course, I am a feminist and I do like Fight Club, so there’s an easy answer to the question. But have I been so brainwashed by the male gaze that I can’t see fiction through the critical lens it deserves? I was watching season 1 of Fargo on a trans-Atlantic flight a couple weeks ago, and I found myself thoroughly entertained. I also found myself feeling guilty for enjoying something so male, white, and heteronormative.[1] (Allison Tolman is great, but she doesn’t make up for it.)

Obviously this is the standard for fiction in all its forms, and anything else is given a special interest label—“chick” and “urban” among my favorites—and made into a “genre” (and thus deemed inferior). Such books are pushed into the corners of stores and such movies are advertised on Lifetime, BET and Logo, so hetero white men don’t have to know they exist.

Diversity in film recently has been addressed by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are a lot of reasons why diversity is important, but one of them is simply that having more variety makes for better quality of art overall. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I see the same movies and TV shows and books over and over again. I understand that for publishers and studios trying to fatten their pockets, doing something new is risky, but I’m bored with remakes and reboots and retellings.

Mostly.

My problem is that occasionally something will come along that I really like even if it’s reminiscent of the same old thing.

Continue reading

In Defense of Severus Snape

There are some fictional characters that end up being very divisive among fans: Holden Caulfield. Patrick Bateman. Humbert Humbert.

Severus Snape is one of these characters.

Critics remark that he was abusive to students, which is true, the way he treated Neville especially was abominable. They also claim that his “love” for Lily was an obsession, and he was angry and bitter for being “friendzoned.” But I recently came across this post which points out that the fact of the matter is Snape never told Lily how he felt. He never harassed her or forced himself on her.

He became a bad friend. He betrayed her. He regretted it. He tried to save her life. He failed. He tried to protect her child. He wanted to protect Harry for Lily’s sake. He wanted to at least partially make up for the way he treated Lily. That was his motivation, not ‘he was friendzoned.’”

Snape-Always

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Snape as a person. He is an asshole, and he should never be in charge of teaching children. He very clearly hates himself, thinks of himself as a failure (for Lily’s death, for not having achieved the coveted DADA position, maybe even for never telling Lily how he felt), and he projects that onto students.

But the thing about Snape as a character is that his psychology makes sense (much the same way that Harry annoyed the hell out of me in Order of the Phoenix as a whiny adolescent). Snape is a thoroughly three-dimensional character, which isn’t an easy thing to do in any work of fiction and especially hard in a fantasy world written for a young adult audience.

Continue reading