George Takei Praises Taylor Swift’s All-Female “Bad Blood” Video While Calling Out Marvel
Band-Aids don't fix bullet holes.
George Takei knows what’s up. In this Tweet from a few days ago, Takei praises Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video for its all-girl cast (except for
token featured dude, Kendrick Lamar), while seemingly referencing Marvel’s lack of a Black Widow movie and/or any instance, really, of there being more than one or two women at a time doing anything action-y in a scene together without being otherwise surrounded by men.
Taylor Swift released her much anticipated video Bad Blood starring girl celebs as action stars. Come on Marvel, T. Swift is showing you up.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) May 18, 2015
His tweet got mostly support, but there were some people who cited Gamora, Kamala Khan, the ladies of SHIELD, and Lady Sif as examples that Marvel has their gender representation game on lock. However, we’re talking about live-action media, and Kamala Khan doesn’t have a movie (yet?!). Gamora is the only woman on an all-male team, and Lady Sif barely gets screen-time in the grand scheme of things. The women on Agents of SHIELD are definitely a better example, as they often work and fight together without their male cohorts, but even on that show it’s still majority-men. I think the point Takei was getting at wasn’t that there are no Marvel women, or even that there aren’t some really great ones – it’s that, despite everything, women are still not only a minority in these projects, but that they’re co-stars in stories about men. Agents of SHIELD, for all its diversity and its being an ensemble show, is still ultimately Coulson’s story. Guardians of the Galaxy, despite having both Gamora and Nebula, is still the story of Peter Quill. Marvel women still tend to be supporting players rather than leads with goals and desires of their own. That Captain Marvel movie can’t come fast enough. And seriously though, WHERE MY BLACK WIDOW MOVIE AT?
Meanwhile, check out Swift’s video for “Bad Blood”:
There are seriously ALL women in that video, except for Kendrick Lamar. ALL. That’s what that looks like. And it isn’t until you see something like this that you realize how often we take all-male action projects for granted as the default. It’s something that’s so normal, it doesn’t even warrant comment. And as all or mostly-male media trains us to, we think women don’t get involved in stuff like this. They don’t like action. They don’t have these stories to tell. They don’t want money or power. Not really. So it makes sense that action projects like this are predominantly male. Because that’s real life.
Um, first of all, none of this is real life, y’all. If any dudes reading this think they can be John McClane, you’re more than likely wrong. You’ve also more than likely never been a part of a heist or shot two guns at the same time whilst jumping through the air. Most people haven’t.
Now that we’ve established that action movies and TV shows are made up, let’s think about why we can imagine crazy plot twists and scenarios involving contortionists in bank safes and jumping motorcycles over roaring flames, but we seem to have trouble imagining women plotting or performing them. Motorcycle with rocket launchers – totally fine. Woman wanting to plan a bank heist – no one will believe it. Whut?
“Bad Blood” starts out with a betrayal after a heist. Swift plays Catastrophe, and her partner in this plot is Arsyn, played by Selena Gomez. They get what they were after, a briefcase, but just as Catastrophe’s about to celebrate their success, Arsyn turns the tables, chucks Catastrophe out a window, and takes the briefcase herself. Fireballs and action/sci-fi references ensue.
It’s a loose plot we’ve seen time and time again in other action movies, and I think it’s really cool to see all of this unfold with an all-female cast! It’s sad that this is a novelty, but I’m glad it exists. I love action films, and whereas I usually have to imagine myself in roles being played by men, it’s amazing when I get to see fellow women doing those things. Like, I love the fight between The Bride and Elle Driver in Kill Bill 2, because they are fighting for real, and I get to more fully imagine how I might fare in a fight like that (SPOILER ALERT: badly). They’re not pulling punches because “they’re girls,” despite the fact that there are touches that feel very female (throwing a can of tobacco spit in Elle’s face and having her go “Ugh! Gross,” for example) within the fight.
I will also defend Sucker Punch to the death. You can read more about why here, but I’ll just say that I think that film does a great job of examining problems women face through metaphor, and works really well as a war movie. The point is, “Bad Blood” is great, because it gives us an additional, much-needed view of women doing things other than loving/supporting men.
There’s a huge part of me that hates watching women fight each other. We’re taught to see each other as competition our whole lives, and I think that’s a pattern we all need to break. However, in “Bad Blood,” we see Catastrophe going up against her female rival….with the help of other women. This isn’t a catfight. This is a woman depending on the women alongside her to help her get back what’s hers. This is something male characters do in films and on TV all the time. And in the female-led action examples above – yes, they feature women fighting other women, but they also feature women helping other women.
And yes, there’s an argument to be made that’s goes something like: Why should women have to take part in narratives that value “masculine” traits/attributes/interests? Why should women be involved in promoting things like violence or crime? First of all, I don’t believe in gendering interests or personality traits. “Violence” isn’t male or female. “War” isn’t male or female. “Crime” isn’t male or female. And second, how I feel about real-life violence and how I feel about women being represented in stories are two separate things. Listen, I’m not a fan of violence and war and crime. But they’re things that we deal with in the world, and if we’re going to create media about them to examine and explore them, it makes zero sense not to create female-led stories with those things as a focus.
When it comes to media representation, something I think is valuable is allowing both men and women to have and take part in all available narratives. We should see more films in which good fathers stay home and bond with their children, and we should see more films in which women shoot guns, wield swords, and are heroes. And all of these narratives should be seen as valuable as windows into the human experience.
We should also acknowledge that there isn’t only one way to go about participating in those narratives. Yes, there are some women in the “Bad Blood” video who are applying lipstick and wearing strappy heels as they prepare to take on their nemeses. On the other hand, there are also women sharpening/preparing their weapons in clothing that provides more cover. Basically, there are women in every part of the story where we’d usually see a man: the shirtless, ripped hero; the tech guy; the one bankrolling the mission; the soldiers; the older mentor. They’re all there.
So yes, this is just a music video. And yes, because of that, there’s no actual character development or plot. I’m not saying that “Bad Blood” is the Goddess’ gift to feminism. What I am saying is that I agree with George Takei’s opinion of it. Good job, T-Swift. Way to give some talented women something to do other than pine for some love interest.
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