Deal with it. Historically.
While it sometimes takes a bit more effort to uncover their stories, women have contributed to every civilization in the world, and history-inspired pop culture like the Civseries can have a huge role in making that clearer.
By now, you know that Star Trek is officially returning to the airwaves in 2017, and by airwaves, I mean the kind of airwaves that travel to your home only via a $5.99-a-month digital streaming service. You may not agree with that mode of delivery, or with the franchise being put in the hands of Alex Kurtzman of Fringe and Sleepy Hollow fame, but one way or another, Star Trek is back, which means the series has a huge opportunity to boldly go beyond its past.
Take your final bow!
As the final episode of Freak Show begins, new owner/psychotic serial killer Dandy Mott thinks he's close to becoming what he's always wanted to be: someone who people pay money to see sing Cole Porter songs. Some of his new employees are already putting up new banners, advertising him as the show's star.
[Editor's Note: As promised in our AHS open thread, Dan is here with his recap of Neil Patrick Harris' debut!]
Pepper, the microcephalic “pinhead,” is the first American Horror Story character to ever appear in more than one season. Up until this episode, Pepper (a veteran of what I consider AHS' finest season, Asylum) functioned as little more than an extra in Freak Show. You could basically pretend it was a completely different Pepper and still keep the seasons separate in your mind.
Did Freak Show finally jump the shark?
You know what we haven't seen for a while on Freak Show? The freak show performers actually doing their performances, or really justifying their continued residency in Jupiter at all. In the opening scene of “Tupperware Party Massacre” we see fortune teller Maggie actually doing a reading for the first time in six episodes.
Things are getting a bit kill-y.
Gloria Mott's entire life revolves around her son. That doesn't change in the opening scene of “Blood Bath,” but for the first time we see her doing something for her own psyche, albeit as it relates to Dandy. She's lying on a therapist's couch, cigarette in hand, discussing her (quite well-founded) suspicions that her son is a murderous psychopath.
Picking up right where the last episode left off, “Test of Strength” opens with Jimmy finding Bette and Dot in Dandy's house. Jimmy appeals to the twins to return to the freak show. He says that with Dandy, they're just “freaks to be gawked at”; Bette astutely points out that that's not at all different from life at the freak show.
At the home of Dandy Mott and his mother Gloria, a new maid is serving lunch. “I liked Dora better,” Dandy says, referring to the housekeeper that he murdered two episodes ago. “Well, hindsight is 20/20, dear,” comes his mother's reply. Welcome to the twisted world of the Motts, where killing is chillingly normal, and has been for several generations.
The cupcakes are not delicious.
When “Pink Cupcakes” opens, we're back in the American Morbidity Museum, which, as several commenters pointed out, is a real place, more or less – it's just known as the Mütter Museum in real life. Is this a flashback to when Stanley and Esmeralda were there? No: It's actually a vision of the future in which they've succeeded in bringing one of the Jupiter freak show performers' bodies back there - for a price, of course.
300: Rise of An Empire
came out on Friday, and its release should give Queen Artemisia of Caria
some well-deserved public recognition. Played by Eva Green
in the film, Artemisia was a real-life naval commander for Xerxes the Great
's fearsome Persian military in the 5th century BCE. According to the writings of war historian Polyaenus
, Xerxes declared that she was the finest officer in his fleet. But she's far from the only amazing female military commander in history. Here are ten others, most (though not all) of whom have never had movies made about them... but definitely should someday soon.
When it comes to alien first contact stories, there's generally two impulses to follow. Some movies, like Contact
, focus on the awe that comes with learning something huge about our mysterious universe. Others, like Alien
, focus on the terror that could come from encountering a species unknown to humanity.
There are numerous good examples of each. But I don't think I've ever seen a film that simultaneously embodies both as well as Sebastian Cordero's Europa Report
*Contains minor spoilers of Star Trek Into Darkness*
Unlike our own Zoe Chevat
and Jill Pantozzi
, I was actually very happy with Star Trek Into Darkness
overall. Having been a Trekkie for as long as I can remember, I understand that it doesn't have the philosophical weight of some past Trek stories, as well as the contention that it heavily recycles old characters and plot points. But personally I look at the “Abramsverse” as a complete remake, and my view of the new films is that they're made differently but extremely well.
That's not to say that I don't agree with the gender issues-related criticisms
of the film. The now-infamous Carol Marcus undressed scene was, to be sure, gratuitous, offensive and completely inexcusable. I was equally disappointed by the scene of a Starfleet Command roundtable which shows a 20-person group that's between 70-75 percent male. But where equality appears even farther away, in Hollywood as a whole, is among another realm of film characters: villains.
I love Star Trek
. I don't think there's any franchise more central to my geek life. There's a lot of unreal universes out there that I enjoy learning about, but I'm sure there's none that I would more like to actually live in than the optimistic idea of our future that is Star Trek
The '60s-produced original series included a woman of color bridge officer who was cited as an inspiration by Mae Jemison
(who became the first black woman in space) and Whoopi Goldberg
(who ended up a Star Trek
star herself). The more recent series' increased speculative-science focus led Stephen Hawking
, on a visit to the Next Generation
set, to say “I'm working on that” when passing the warp core prop.
There's so much to feel positive about in Star Trek
, and over the decades it's generally done a fine job of showing us how we could, and should, be. But there's one particular area of social justice that the franchise has failed to live up to its standards on, and it remains a blight on the series in my estimation. I'm talking about the fact that there has never, despite years of promises and false starts, been an openly gay or lesbian character in the canon Star Trek
But I have a proposal to change that. J.J. Abrams
, if you're listening, I think you should make Sulu gay.
For A More Civilized Age
In my last post
, I argued that there's no excuse for excluding women from historically-inspired fantasy constructs — even if it means sacrificing “historical accuracy,” which is done away with in one way or another in all fantasy works anyway.
After reading through the post's many thought-provoking comments, I realized I hadn't emphasized something I should have: that historically-inspired stories with female protagonists certainly need not exist only
in the realm of fantasy.
With shows like The Tudors
, The Borgias
the past decade or so has seen the rise of a heretofore rare phenomenon: the historical TV series that is based around real historical figures. I love this trend. These shows let you see a bygone time and culture, while allowing for the deep character development you don't always get in similarly-set films.
But like most genres, there are not nearly enough female-centered ones. So I came up with some women in history whose lives, I thought, would adapt well to the format, along with some fantasy casting choices for each.
Are you aware that human history is full of examples of sexist, patriarchal societies where women were discriminated against? I'm sure you are, as a reader of The Mary Sue. I'm pretty sure you are as a person alive in the 21st
Century, too. Yet so many of the historically inspired fantasy worlds we love are remarkably intent on reminding us of this.
When I raise this issue with someone, I often get some variation of this
in reply. Sexism in (to pick the most obvious example) medieval fantasy is okay or even desirable, the thinking goes, because in the real European Middle Ages sexism was the status quo. There's no denying that, but fantasy is called fantasy because it's a fantasy. There were no dragons in the real Middle Ages either, but we don't have a problem including them.